Early History of St. Pauls Lutheran Church, Nundah, Queensland
Most of the following is taken from the Centenary Anniversary book of St. Paul's, Nundah (1863-1963) some quotes also came from an article appearing in the 1981 Year Book of the Lutheran Church of Australia written by Dr L.B. Grope
GOSSNER MISSIONARIES AT ZION'S HILL, 1838
Although Queensland's first free settlers who came to the district now known as Nundah were of Lutheran background, no permanent organization of a Lutheran congregation resulted from the efforts of those free settlers. They were, in fact, missionaries, lay and ordained, who came to Queensland for the purpose of winning for Christ the many aborigines who lived in this country.
The impetus for the mission came from Dr. John Dunmore Lang, an admirable Scotchman and leader of the Presbyterian Church in Australia, who for over 50 years from 1822-1878 made his influence felt in all phases of development that took place in the new colony. Dr. Lang, who lived in Sydney, had a deep concern for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the aborigines. During a visit to Europe in 1836-37 he made an approach to the British Government to subsidise mission work among the native population of New South Wales. The Government provided 150 for equipment and transport for each of three fully-trained missionaries, who were to proceed to. Australia. It further undertook to subsidise pound for pound any free-will offerings for the purposes of the proposed Mission, received from the members of the Presbyterian Church of New South Wales. Having made arrangements for financial assistance, he appealed to Pastor Johannes Gossner of Berlin to help him secure the necessary missionaries, for he had previously appealed to his own countrymen without success. Pastor Gossner believed that the most effective mission work could be done by establishing a colony of earnest Christians, farmers and artisans, and settle it among heathen people, who would then be led to follow the example set by the members of the colony. Pastor Gossner gathered a party, including
- Peter Niquet, mason (married)
- August Rode, cabinet-maker (married)
- Leopold Zillmann, blacksmith (married)
- Gottfried Haussmann, farmer (married)
- Wilhelm Hartenstein, weaver (married)
- Carl Franz, tailor
- Gottfried Wagner, shoemaker
- August Olbrecht, shoemaker
- Ludwig Doege, gardener
- Moritz Schneider, medical missionary (married)
- Wilhelm Schmidt, ordained Missionary
- Christoph Eipper, ordained Missionary
The commissioning of this party of 20 adults took place in Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Berlin on July 9, 1837. They arrived in Sydney in January 1838. Some members left fort Moreton Bay in March 1838 and the remainder in June. When they landed at Humpy Bong (now Redcliffe) Niquet wrote in the sand: 'The Lordis with us', and they gathered in the shadow of a rock to pray for God's blessing on their endeavours.
The New South Wales Government granted the mission the use of 650 acres of land about 6 miles north of the center of Brisbane, (this land is now part of the suburbs of Nundah and Toombul). the missionaries named the stream which divided the property Kidron (It's known today as Kedron Brook). The rise on which the members of the party erected their huts was given the name of Zion's Hill.
The missionaries experienced many difficulties and suffered severe privations in their colony. Their enterprise was poorly supported, and they were forced to curtail their missionary activities in order to undertake manual work to supply themselves with the basic necessities of life.
Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt was a guest at the mission during part of 1843. and gives a description of the station as he then found it in a letter to his friend. R. Lynd.
"The philanthropist, could never find a purer and better nucleus for the commencement of a colony than these seven families of the missionaries; they are themselves excellent, tolerably well-educated men, industrious, with industrious wives. They have twenty-two children, though very young, yet educated with the greatest care the most obedient, the least troublesome children I have seen in this colony or else where.
"If the Governor was in any way a man of more comprehensive views, and if he considered the moral influence of such a little colony on the surrounding settlers, he would not grudge them the few acres of land which they are at present in possession of - he would grant it to them for the five years of suffering through which they had to pass.
"The missionaries have converted no blackfellows to Christianity; but they have commenced a friendly intercourse with the savage children of the bush, and have shown to them the white-fellow in his best colour. They were always kind, and, perhaps, too kind; for they threatened without executing their threatenings and the blackfellows knew well that it was only gammon."
The missionaries too found their surroundings to be very pleasant. Missionary Schmidt wrote to his father that "the place is admirable, the soil excellent; the water near our houses good and the climate very pleasant; in short, we can say that in every respect our lines have fallen upon pleasant places. Niquet's described things like this, "Here there is a superabundance of trees, including cedar and even better timber, to which everyone can freely help themselves. Hartenstein wrote, "We cannot describe the beauty of the land around Moreton Bay ... Cactus, pineapples (pineapples were first grown commercially in Australia at Zion's Hill, the pineapple having been introduced from Samoa by the chaplain of the convict settlement, Rev J. S. C. Handt, a pastor of Lutheran background working for the Church of England.) figs, lemons, oranges, pomegranates, melons, peaches flourish here throughout the year."
Even the Aborigines made a favourable early impression. Schmidt wrote:
There are numerous natives in the vicinity. They go about quite naked and make their bodies, which are already fairly black, even blacker. They are a quite different, better tribe than the one at Sydney. They do not seem to be anywhere near as backward and hostile as we had generally heard. Many of them already speak a little English. Their language seems to be very deficient and some sounds have a resemblance to German. They do not worship any gods. This is an indication of their depravity and their alienation from God. Their first questions are always of our names and as to which husband and which wife belong together. They seem to be jealous of our unmarried brothers. They do not allow their wives to be seen very much and they treat them very disdainfully. They love their children very much.
They eat the meat of the animals of the countryside, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea. They are unstable and nomadic. In the evenings they withdraw into the forest where they make a fire and sleep next to it. Many are well-intentioned people who are in the service of many Englishmen. Thus in our mission activity we have found more that is attractive than is repelling, even in external matters. We are feeling very content in our hearts in every respect. We cannot thank the Lord our God sufficiently for the fullness of his merdes with which he showers us in physical as well as spiritual matters, the longer we are here. In this way he strengthens our faith mightily to continue to walk confidently on the once-trodden narrow way. He will certainly continue to lead and help us, whatever may befall us.
You would not have imagined that we weak creatures would have achieved so much. You see the truth of the words: 'My strength is made perfect in weakness'. That is why we put our confidence in him. He will do all things well. His am has not been shortened. His hand was not grown weak from old age, and his word has not been broken: No-one shall pluck you out of my hand'. May this verse comfort you as you think of us living among 'a heathen people. 'No hair shall fall from our heads without the will of the Father in heaven.' This is the staff with which we want to continue our pilgrimage. This is the honey with which we want to refresh ourselves. This is the pillow upon which we want to rest our heads and let him direct us in the future. He will act in a way that will surprise you. (May all fathers and worried mothers allow this to be said to them.)
A building project was immediately begun on this pleasant site. Pastor Eipper describes the first settlement as it developed over the first two years:
Their settlement is situated on a hill, from which they have given it the name of Zion's Hill. It consists of eleven cottages with enclosed yards, kitchens, storehouses. These cottages are built in a line on the ridge of the hill from east to west. In front of the houses small gardens are laid out down the hill towards a lagoon: at its base and in the rear of the yards larger gardens run down on the opposite descent. Their houses are either thatched or covered with bark; the walls are built with slabs and plastered with clay both inside and outside, being whitewashed with a species of white clay found on the spot and mixed with sand. The ceilings are formed of plaits of grass and clay wound about sticks laid across the tie-beams, and the floors of slabs smoothed with the adze, each cottage having two or three rooms and one fireplace.
THE END OF THE MISSION
Much good will built up between the missionaries and the aborigines was lost when the Moreton Bay District was opened to settlement by free immigrants. At the same time all good Government subsidies to missions ceased, and so the mission work virtually had to be abandoned. Pastor Eipper left the mission in 1844, accepting a position. with the Presbyterian Church at Braidwood, near Maitland, New South Wales. Pastor Schmidt left in 1845 and went to Samoa as a Missionary of the London Missionary Society. The lay-men who remained at the original settlement established their own farms, although Haussmann and Niquet persevered with their work among the aborigines until 1848 when they travelled to Sydney to take a theological course in Dr. Lang's college, after which they were ordained to the ministry.
Soon after their arrival missionary settlers erected a small church where they gathered for worship. It seems to have been open to all who desired to conduct no matter what denomination they represented.. Reports exist that the Methodists, Baptists, Anglicans, and other denominations and sects made use of this little church. All were ministering to and trying to win the same few families. It is not surprising then that dissensions and doctrinal controversies arose. Some of the group developed un-Lutheran views regaining Baptism, and strongly disapproved of the sacramental and liturgical emphasis of orthodox Lutheranism. In 1856 Pastor Goethe of Melbourne came to Zion's Hill, and organized a Lutheran congregation, and ordaining Pastor C. Gerler whom he placed in charge. But there is no evidence to suggest that this congregation continued to exist for any length of time.
In 1857, Pastor C. F. A. Schirmeister, "the Father of the Lutheran Church in Queensland," arrived in Zion's Hill. He found that the newly organized congregation had become disintegrated, with different members joining other churches and sects. However, he ministered to Lutherans over a vast area and organized Lutheran congregations at North Brisbane (1858), Ipswich (1860), South Brisbane (1862) and Toowoomba (1863).
ST. PAUL'S CONGREGATION IS ORGANIZED, 1863
Meantime new settlers also came to German Station in larger numbers. Mostly they were emigrants from Wuerttemberg. They took objection to the conditions which they found in the Church at Zion's Hill. They wished to retain the faith of their fathers, and remain Lutherans. Therefore they established their own congregation. According to Pugh's Almanac, Pastor J. P. Niquet, one of the original Gossner missionaries who had been ordained in Sydney by Dr Lang) was registered as pastor of German Station in 1863. However, he only stayed for a few months, after which he returned to the southern states.
The records of this period are extremely meagre and little is known of the origin of the congregation, other than that it existed in 1863. In 1869 the new settlers built their new church on the other side of the Kedron Brook, about a mile to the east of Zion's Hill, facing Nudgee Road. On account of financial difficulties the congregation found it hard to establish itself. Pastor Fredrich Copas, from the Gossner Missionary Society of Berlin, arrived on September, 1866, and ministered to the wants of the congregation. It was about this time that the congregation at Zillmere came into being. The going was hard and there were no funds to erect a dwelling for the pastor, and the salary offered was meagre.
After ten months Pastor Copas accepted a call to Maryborough. He was succeeded by Pastor Willhelm Burghardt, who also was a member of a party of Gossner missionaries which arrived in September 1866. Not long after his arrival a three roomed residence for the pastor was built on church grounds. Some time later the congregation purchased a bell to call worshippers to services. The bell is still in use today in the St. Paul's church. In 1867 the church register shows that 9 children were baptised, by 1868 there were 20, and in 1870, 30.
In 1873, Pastor Burghardt accepted a call to St. Paul's congregation Toowoomba. He was replaced by a layman, August Daniel Hartwig. After two years of probation he was ordained in 1875. During this time a church was built at Caboolture.
In 1877 Pastor Hartwig moved to Douglas and Pastor Ernst Otto Maier was sent directly from a Seminary for Missionaries at Basle, Switzerland.
A NEW CHURCH IS BUILT 1883
The financial position of the congregation began to improve. More rooms were added to the manse. Since the church erected in 1866 was no longer adequate a new church was constructed and dedicated in June 1883. (The roof structure of this church has been embodied in the present day St. Paul's church)
The total cost of the new building was 420. In November of the same year a new organ was purchased to commemorate the event of Luther's birthday. In 1886 there was another change of pastors. Pastor Maier accepted a call to Charters Towers, and he was followed by Pastor Theodore Immanuel Egen, who was called from the Riverina District of New South Wales, and inducted by Pastor Maier into his new pastorate.
At that time Nazareth congregation, South Brisbane, was also attached to the parish. Pastor Egen's work was far flung. The Church Register shows that in 1888 Pastor Egen had 74 baptisms spread from Rocklea to Caboolture.
THE CONGREGATION IS DIVIDED, 1894
Quietly and peacefully the work was carried on by Pastor Egen for the first years of his labour in German Station. Then in the year 1891, South Brisbane withdrew from the parish and called as its own resident pastor, Mr. Erwin Becker. Then three years later trouble arose at German Station for various reasons and in September, 1894, the trustees handed Pastor Egen his notice of dismissal. This brought about a split in the congregation, and about 39 families believing a great injustice had been done to their pastor remained faithful to him. In October, they formed a congregation called "Nundah St. Paul's Lutheran Church," and decided to purchase a block of land in Nundah Street, near the Railway Station, about a mile from the German Station Church:
Plans were drawn up for the building of a church measuring 40 feet by 25 feet. It was built by F. Gentner, and without lining cost 155. The lining and gallery were added in 1905 at the cost of 42. The church was opened and dedicated to God by Pastors Langebeeker and Haussmann on May 12, 1895.
In the meantime the rift that had taken place in 1894 signalled the gradual decline of the congregation at German Station. The Church which had been practically filled to overflowing under Pastor Maier's ministry was. now again partially empty. Some difficulty was experienced in getting a pastor and the two congregations of German Station and Zillmere severed their connection with the Evanglical Lutheran Synod of Queensland, which they had joined in 1885, and they sent a call to Pastor Burghardt of Highfields, who had. been their pastor twenty years earlier, and who was now a member of the then formed United German and Scandinavian Lutheran Synod of Queensland. Pastor Burghardt was inducted in October, 1895. After four and a half years Pastor Burghardt returned to Highfields. Then the parish in order to get another pastor joined the United German and Scandinavian Lutheran Synod. Through Pastor Heuer, the President of the Synod, the parish procured a. successor in Pastor Peter Bonifacius Hoefner, who was inducted into his charge in May, 1901.
At first the congregations of the parish seemed to rally round their Church, and in 1906 they were able to invite Synod for its Annual Convention. But the work of caring for the spiritual needs of the people was by no means an easy one. Times and conditions were changing. The language question was becoming acute with the growing generation. Up to this time services, instruction and meetings were all in German. All the early church records and minute books till 1925 are in German. But the leaders of the congregations would not or could not adequately use the English language, and many of the growing generation either joined other churches, or drifted from the. church. The old people who once guided the congregation were fast dying away and the young people taking their places were never so bound to their church and her doctrines.
WAR YEARS AND DIFFICULTIES
Then came the world upheaval and catastrophe of 1914 which practically spelt the closing of St. Paul's at German Station. Smaller and smaller the number of worshippers grew until in the years of 1920-1923 it was a question of whether the congregation could any longer continue its existence. Meetings were called and the position discussed. Pastor Hoefner was advised to introduce English services, seeking the help of younger men to co-operate with him in this work. But to this advice he would not concede. He deemed it unnecessary to make any further attempts for English services than he was already doing himself. Then when the stipend receipts were falling below all expectations it was thought advisable to ask Pastor Hoefner to retire, and give another man the opportunity to attempt to rebuild the congregation again by employing the English language entirely. However, before this move was taken, Pastor Hoefner resigned of his own accord. This was in the year, 1923. Because of financial difficulties, there were serious thoughts in the minds of the few faithful members whether it would be best not to attempt to get another pastor.
The two Synods had now united, forming the Queensland District of the. U.E.L.C.A. Synod was applied to for help and advice and with the help of Synod's pastors the little congregation rallied again. Pastor F. O. Theile, at that time Director of Missions, took upon himself thecare of the parish as far as he was able. Quite regularly every month he held services with them and encouraged them for the future. Pastor Theile did much to save German Station from complete disintegration.
The congregation of St. Paul's, Nundah, had also declined as the result of the war. At the end of 1924 on account of failing health and advanced age, Pastor Egen resigned, and a move was at once made to have the congregation at Nundah incorporated with the parish at German Station and Zillmere, which was then negotiating with Synod concerning the possibility of calling a new pastor to the parish. Consequently another meeting was called of all three congregations and it was agreed to form a parish unit, known as the parish of German Station. At this meeting a mutual understanding in regard to matters governing the parish was arrived at and everything was set in order to have the new incumbent inducted as pastor of all three congregations.
NEW LIFE INTO A DYING CAUSE
The new Pastor was Rev. Otto Herman Adler, who had just returned from training in the United States. He was installed on 22nd March, 1925, by the President of Synod, Pastor Eugen Hiller. To Pastor Hiller must be given the credit of helping to mend the rift that had occurred 30 years earlier and laying the foundations for the rebuilding of the parish, which had become sadly depleted over the years.
From 1925 the German Station congregation was known as "St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Nudgee Road." English was adopted as the language of worship and instruction throughout the parish. The late Pastor Krause occasionally took the pulpit and conducted a German service and Holy Communion for the few remaining old folk, but by 1932 very few German services were held any more.
The two congregations of St. Paul's, Nundah, and St. Paul's, Nudgee Road, situated only a mile apart maintained a friendly spirit of rivalry, co-operated together and the former difficulties were gradually forgotten.
It was Pastor Adler's wish and aim to reunite the two congregations but the wish took almost a generation before it was realised.
At the close of 1925 a new residence for the pastor, situated in Park Road, Nundah, was erected at the cost of £825. That same year, St. Paul's, Nudgee Road, removed its shingle roof and replaced it with iron at the cost of £56. In 1926 the interior of the church was beautified and an altar window added. A new organ also was installed, a gift of one of the members. Before long the congregation had again built itself up to almost its former strength.