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Baptist Church

Melbourne's first Baptist worship took place in 1838 when tent meetings, led by laymen, were held on vacant land in Collins Street. The Rev. John Mouritz, who arrived in 1840, held regular services in the city before taking up a property in Fitzroy where he later built a chapel and garden baptistery. The Melbourne congregation, however, traces its origins to the 1842 arrival of the Reverend John Ham who, unlike his predecessors, was prepared to accept state aid to establish the Collins Street Baptist Church in 1845.

Doctrinal differences were common in the early years. The Particular Baptists began conducting services in a building in Brian Lane in 1849, and in the following year opened a church on the corner of Lonsdale and Stephen streets. General and Particular Baptist congregations developed throughout the suburbs and many were active in outreach work. The inner-city mission established in Bouverie Street, Carlton, in 1868 was, by 1901, the site of one of the city's first kindergartens.

Continuing ambivalence towards state aid limited the Baptist involvement with education. Most young Baptists were introduced to their faith through Sunday Schools and, later, youth movements like Christian Endeavour and the Girls and Boys Brigades. Theological education began with the foundation of the Baptist Union of Victoria in 1862 and moved to a new Baptist Theological College in 1891. But it was 1923 before the denomination established Carey Grammar, its first independent school.

Baptists fared well in the second half of the 20th century, drawing strongly on American influences introduced through the Billy Graham crusade and the charismatic movement. Although in 1996 Baptists represented only 1.34% of Melbourne's population, more than 40% were regular churchgoers, making the denomination one of the most vital and youthful in the city.

Shurlee Swain

See also

Baptist Place