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Date Posted:30/03/2010 1:11 PMCopy HTML

Early Pentecostalism in Australia

Compiled by Troy Waller


Mrs Janet Lancaster and the Good News Hall

In Australia, the first Pentecostal church began in Melbourne just three years after the Azuza Street Revival. Although it was not directly influenced by the Azuza Street events, it was not long before cross-currents of influence began to flow. It was started by a Methodist, Mrs Janet Lancaster, who was born in Williamstown, Melbourne. ...A pamphlet from England entitled Back to Pentecost convinced her of the possibility of a baptism of the Spirit similar to that experienced at the first Pentecost (Acts 2). She began to seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit in that way and in 1908 had a very special experience which included speaking in tongues. As she shared her experience, others were convinced of its reality. Together, these people purchased a Temperance Hall in North Melbourne which they renamed the Good News Hall, and described it as a meeting place of the Pentecostal Mission. The hall was opened on New Year's Eve, 1909.

In 1926 another Pentecostal evangelist arrived in Australia from South Africa. Fredrick Van Eyk was invited by the Good News Hall, and under its auspices, held meetings around Australia. He gave organisation and structure to the movement which the Good News Hall had influenced. He suggested that the Good News Hall should change its name to the Apostolic Faith Mission. In 1927 an annual conference was held in Melbourne where Van Eyk presented those present with a constitution. Van Eyk began travelling widely, developing new assemblies in various parts of Australia. He had particular success in several areas of Queensland and was able to form a State Advisory Committee for the new assemblies there. Eventually...most of the Queensland pastors disassociated themselves from him and from the Apostolic Faith Mission. They dropped the name in favour of 'Assemblies of God'.

In 1931, in other parts of the country, some of the assemblies reported they were experiencing a certain 'dryness'. Janet Lancaster, still a dominant influence in the Good News Hall, was aging. In 1932, at the age of seventy-three, she married Richard Hocking. She died two years later in 1934. ...The Apostolic Faith Mission dwindled quickly after the death of Janet Lancaster. in 1936 there were only six assemblies associated with it. The congregation which met at the all was forced to move in 1936. It met for some time in rented halls in Richmond, but eventually disappeared.

The Assemblies of God in Australia (AOG)

The Pentecostal movement in NSW also had its origins in the Good News Hall. William Jeffrey had been influenced by some people from the Good News hall while living in Wangaratta, Victoria. He had begun to speak in tongues and had held meetings in his home. In 1910 Jeffrey went to Melbourne and assisted in establishing the Good News Hall. In 1914 he went to Parkes, where several people had shown interest in the Good News Hall and had been corresponding with Janet Lancaster. Along with Mrs Milgate, a local person, and a small group that had gathered, Jeffrey began organising and pastoring the group at Parkes. In 1919 the group decided to build their own hall, which became the first Pentecostal church building, built as such, in Australia.

In WA, people from the Good News Hall again pioneered the Pentecostal movement. Two sisters gathered a small group together in 1926, and, when Van Eyk arrived, organised an assembly. However, without experienced leadership, the group splintered. One group became the Apostolic church in Perth. Another called itself the Elim Foursquare Church, and the third became the foundation for the Assemblies of God in Perth.

However, it was another stream of Pentecostal development which contributed most directly to the formation of the AOG, the largest of the Pentecostal denominations in Australia. In 1925 A.C. Valdez, an American Pentecostal preacher, arrived in Australia. He had felt the call to come, but had no plans of what to do when he arrived....Since 1916 (Charles) Greenwood had led a small group at Sunshine in prayer for revival. After holding meetings in his home for several years, the group built a timber hall which they named Sunshine Gospel Hall and which was opened in 1925. Valdez organised the church under the name of the Pentecostal Church of Australia, appointing deacons and elders, among them Charles Greenwood. Then the meetings were moved to Prahran Town Hall. A more permanent location had been found in a theatre in Bridge Road, Richmond, which was opened as the Richmond Temple. By 1928 about three hundred people were meeting regularly at the Richmond Temple for worship.

In 1926 another American Pentecostal preachers arrived. Kelso Glover was invited to take a series of special meetings at the Richmond Temple. Shortly after this time, Valdez felt he should return to the USA, and the Richmond Temple assembly invited Glover to take over the pastoral leadership. In 1927 Glover also returned to the USA, and Charles Greenwood became pastor, a position he held until his retirement in 1968.

By 1937 most of the Pentecostal churches in Queensland were describing themselves as Assemblies of God in Queensland. In other sates, may Pentecostal assemblies were either calling themselves Assemblies of God or the Pentecostal Church of Australia. In 1937 a national conference was convened at Redfern, Sydney, in order to unite the assemblies under one constitution. The conference was attended by more than 150 people. They elected Charles Greenwood, the pastor of the Richmond Temple in Melbourne, as the first President, and C.G. Enticknap, who was president of the Queensland conference, as vice president.

It should also be noted that none of the above groups taught that one must speak in tongues to be either saved or considered a Christian.


Source: Hughes, Philip J., The Pentecostals in Australia. Australian Government Publishing Service, 1996. pp2-6, 20-24

For a more detailed history of Pentecostalism in Australia see: Heart of Fire by Barry Chant. House of Tabor, 1984

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Re:1901 to 1941 - Early Pentecostalism in Australia

Date Posted:31/03/2010 3:50 AMCopy HTML

This absolutely brilliant online resource below by Monash University in Australia gives a very balanced history of Pentecostalism in Australia.  It is a fascinating and enlightening read for anyone wanting to know about the Pentecostal stream that so massively influenced the formation of the Revival Centres.


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