The vision of a Baptist Church in Armidale
On Tuesday 19 February 1884 a special Baptist business meeting was held in the Baptist’s ‘Bedford Chapel’ at Saumarez Ponds. The meeting resolved that Rev Hibberd form a Baptist Church in Armidale. The motion was moved by George Frazier and seconded by James Tysoe.
The motion specifically stated that: ‘Rev F Hibberd form a Baptist Church in Armidale’, possibly with the expectation the first New England church would be that in Armidale. Even so, although the formation service itself did take place in the Baptist building in Brown Street, the name chosen for the new church revealed a much wider vision than that of the township of Armidale. In 1884 the population of the rural districts surrounding Armidale was 9,700 scattered over a wide area. The population of New England as a whole was larger again, and ministering to that entire region was the courageous faith commitment of this yet to be formed Baptist church.
Sunday 24 February was chosen as the day for the church formation service. The morning and evening worship services were publicised in the local press. The formation ceremony would take place after the 11 am service, while the evening service would be ‘especially addressed to the young.’
The formation of the New England Baptist Church was followed by the Induction of Rev WR Harvison as pastor and these two significant events were recorded in the Minutes of the day as follows:
The church was accordingly formed by the Rev F. Hibberd, Hon. Sec. of the Baptist Union of New South Wales on the Lord’s Day, February 24th 1884, in the Brown Street Baptist Church, Armidale. After Divine Service had been held the formation of the church was proceeded with in the following manner: After singing and prayer, the Rev F. Hibberd gave an address setting forth the objects for which a Christian church existed:
1. To manifest the unity of believers
2. To facilitate co-operation in Christian work
3. To promote practical sympathy amongst Christians
4. To stimulate to mutual watchfulness over each other’s interests
5. To permit of personal assistance in the support of the ministry.
The Word of God was the foundation of faith, practice and discipline and in token of their willingness to enter into church fellowship with that and for that Word for their guide in all these things, they were requested to stand up.
The right hand of fellowship was then given to the foundation members while they were standing:
Brothers J. Tysoe, J. Hutton J. Bell, J. Frost, Rev W. Harvison,
Sisters Lane, Harvison, Warner, Hutton and Miss Warner.