Murwillumbah celebrates 100 years

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Pastors of Murwillumbah and their wives. (Credit: Adrian Bailey)

Murwillumbah Seventh-day Adventist Church (NSW) took time to reminisce and reflect over the past 100 years, and to reconnect with members past and present on the weekend of August 23–24.

More than 600 people gathered for the weekend, including 16 previous ministers, to give praise to God for His leading in the past and to acknowledge faith in His future leading.

The day of celebration was not just inward focused; a special offering was taken up for a fresh water bore in Kenya—$A9000 was received.

Current Murwillumbah church pastor Ashley Smith addresses the church. (Credit: Adrian Bailey)

On Friday evening, Pastor Eric Winter emphasised “our pedigree, our restoration, our direction” and that Jesus is coming again soon. This message was also emphasised on Sabbath morning, with Murwillumbah’s current pastor, Ashley Smith, reminding attendees the sure hope of the second coming of Jesus.

Across the weekend, attendees enjoyed histories and stories recounted, a smorgasbord of music—singing groups, a brass ensemble, a string trio and the choir from Tweed Valley Adventist College—an abundance of delicious food, and the pleasure of rekindling past friendships.

Timeline

1911: First Adventist presence in Murwillumbah as Percival and Margaret Ward and their five children arrive from Parkes. The Wards were people of generous spirit and very hospitable. Church services, Bible readings and socials were all held in their home before there was a church. Mum Ward, as Margaret was known, visited the hospital, caring for the needs of the patients and their relatives. Their home was open to all—visiting ministers, relatives of patients and fellow believers.

1918, 1919: A tent mission was held in the town. Mission staff were Pastors Ben Cormack, David Patching and Jim Crammond, and later Nurse Hilda Markey.

1919: As a result, the first baptism was held in the Tweed River and the first Seventh-day Adventist church was established in Murwillumbah on the August 27, 1919, with 11 charter members and 37 newly-baptised members.

1920: The little wooden church was dedicated the following year on May 23. Descendants of the original pioneer families are still worshipping or living in the area today.

1950s: By now Pastor Arthur Needham persuaded the members that it was time to build a more representative church. The frequent floods were always a threat. However, it was decided that it would be more economical to build on the land that the church already had but to go up a storey, out of flood reach. The two churches stood side by side. Downstairs there would be space for a classroom. Provision was also made for a school! Two years later this dream became a reality when Mrs Verona White became the first teacher of our primary school. This school has now grown into the present Tweed Valley Adventist College.

The new church took three years to build. The devastating floods of 1954 and 1956 entered both churches. However, a hole was cut in the floor of the elders’ room in the new church so that the piano could be raised out of reach of the flood waters.

1956: The new church was dedicated in August. Church membership continued to grow. Eventually two services were held—at 8:00am and 11:00am.

1978: Two sister churches were spawned—Bray Park and Tumbulgum.

1980s: Church numbers required two services again; it was time to relocate.

1986: A farm acreage was bought at Racecourse Road. God’s leading was evident in both the sale of the old properties and in the purchase of the new. Once again, all church members were called on to contribute. Members gave financially and with their labour, and God blessed. (Clive Butcher was the pastor, Kelvin Dobson drew up the plans, Neville Southon and Bill Godfrey supervised, and David North organised the many working bees. Malcolm Graffin drew plans for the hall and supervised the hall work.)

1989: November 4 saw the culmination of the hard work as the new Seventh-day Adventist church building on Racecourse Road was dedicated to the glory of God.

Choir performs during the service. (Credit: Adrian Bailey)