Basically, Coburg (the suburb) started way back in the gold rush times. A short walk from the church is Merri Creek, and you can see there the last of the remaining marked gardens which were started by the Chinese gold rush immigrants. These Chinese market gardens were some of the earliest suppliers to the Victoria Markets in the city. You can see the Chinese influence all over Coburg with many Asian shops everywhere.
The Church is Started
Our first building is still standing just a stone throw from the current building. Our church started out of Brunswick Baptist Church way back in around 1890, when Coburg started to really grow and get its own identity.
The New Church Building
The ‘new’ church building is actually over 80 years old!!! The founders of the church realized that getting a good profile on Sydney Road was very important for the future of the church and for having an impact on the community. So, in spite of the depression and the fact that the church was in financial difficulties, they stepped out in faith and purchased land and started to build the new church building. Over the years, more buildings have been added to the sanctuary, and also the stained glass windows, etc.
Laying the foundation stone and opening the new building in 1918
Cool kids in youth group perhaps?
Like many churches during and after World War 2, Coburg Baptist Church boomed. It grew to over 300 people and had several services on a Sunday. The Sunday School was famous and there are stories of Special Sunday School services where scaffolding was erected in the church to hold all the kids, with a hundred children hanging off the scaffolding in the church hall (over 20 feet high!!). Modern health and safety inspectors would die from massive heart attack I’m sure!! During this time, Coburg Baptist Church helped plant several other churches in the area. One of those is Moreland West Baptist Church on Moreland road, which is still running today.
After the war many families found they were able to buy new cheap housing in the suburbs, so they moved away from Coburg. Also, now that the war was a passing memory, there was a natural decline in religious interest. Most of the people moving into Coburg were from European backgrounds, so Catholic churches became more and more prominent (and coffee shops… yay!!!), while all the protestant churches in the area struggled.
Sydney Road in the early 1900s
Pastor Jack and co. scrubbing mold off roof and repainting.
During the 80’s and 90’s it seemed the church was going to die, and on more than one occasion the church was in danger of closing its doors forever. Jack Blankley was the pastor at the time, and he tells the story that one day he was sitting in the front garden of the church praying about what to do, when he saw something hidden under a bush. It was an 8-ball from the local billiard hall down the road. As he was praying he felt God was telling him to dig in. He felt God was saying that although the church was ‘up against it’ (like a billiard ball against the cushion… it would take a miracle to be sucessful) God was calling him to ride it out and trust God to deliver in the end.
Jack never saw that deliverance himself, but his faithfulness and courage during the darkest days of the church have been rewarded with a new birth and bright future for Coburg Baptist Church.
The congregation in 1990
With faith and determination, Jack began the difficult project of renovating the rundown church buildings. This was finally completed over 10 years later in 2006.
Turning the Corner
In 2002, Pastor Allan Parker-Benton experienced some disappointments in his ministry. Through this time he decided he wanted to see God do something amazing. He resigned from the church he was at and approached the Baptist Union asking them for a challenge. He wanted to go to a church that was not expected to survive. Coburg Baptist Church was the place.
He became the pastor here, and was soon joined by his friend, Simon Beasy. Both realized that in order to make a difference in this area of Melbourne, the church had to seriously look at the way ministry is done. So they adopted a tentmaking style of ministry. This meant that they both were part time pastors, and had their own businesses as well.
During this period, God clearly showed his hand on the church, both protecting and providing. The church has started to grow again, and God showed he has a future for the church.
In 2009, Simon became the Senior Pastor until 2013. One of Simon's passions was for intentional and individusal decipleship and helping the church break down the traditional barriers to change. He was also a bridge builder and helped make great inroads between ther church and Whitley College.
Simon also had a heart for the wider community of Coburg and helped open the church's eyes to finding ways of blessing the local community. The building of the playground and rotunder are examples of finding and meeting felt needs in our direct community.
In Feburary 2014 John Betts accepted a call to the position of Senior Pastor. When so many people are looking fro a 'seachange', John and his family have made a 'city-change' coming the Melbourne from NSW. John is leading our Church as we follow God's leading for the future.
The possibilities are very exciting!! The suburb of Coburg is changing, and there are plans for major shopping and residential developments right near the church. The sacrifice of the original church founders in building the church on its current site in spite of having no money at the time has proved to be a crucial decision.
We are looking forward to getting more involved with the community as it grows in the next decade, and are very excited about the plans and possibilities God has for us that we don’t even know about yet!!