Keeping Hope Alive
George Town Baptist Church is like many of our regional fellowships. They hold onto hope for the future, in fellowship with other churches in the area. Pastor Bob Goolsby reflects on this faithful fellowship, taking the opportunity to chat to a few of the George Town Baptist members.
There has been a Baptist Church in George Town since circa 1958. Technically, we count our establishment in 1961, so we had an uncelebrated 60th anniversary last year. We are going to have a commemoration service as soon as we think Covid conditions will allow it – might as well do it right!
When Sylvie and I arrived in George Town, we decided to look for a church to attend. The Baptist Church was small, and the first Sunday we tried to attend, they were in a service with the Uniting and Anglican Churches off premises. When we finally attended, we met a church that had heroically survived without a pastor for about eight years. Anne Godman and Pauline Heppel were keeping hope alive.
Then Anne moved to New Zealand, leaving Pauline to handle things on her own. It was not just the Baptist Church. Every church in George Town suffered declining membership and attendance during those years, but it was particularly hard to overcome the lack of a pastor. Graeme Goninon was the last pastor of record. He was loved and regarded highly by all. He left in 2010.
George Town Baptist Church
Faith Millen is a faithful member who arrived in George Town from England in 1972. She recalled the better days of the church, including the years in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when the Baptist Church had over 40 children in Sunday School, and a vibrant youth group.
But times change, and as always, the church must re-evaluate the way it interfaces with the world around us. (I owe much of the information about the past to Faith, and Dawn Leslie, both of whom are serving as Deacons.)
Let’s press in
Sylvie and I did not move to George Town to take on a church, but it seemed to be “manifest destiny”. Since that time, we have made progress in reaching new people in town. Pre-Covid, things were looking up. These days we have had to retool, like everyone else. Nevertheless, all we know to do is press in.
We saw a youth ministry start, which struggled along for a while. Lately we have had an increase in attendance at the once-a-month youth meeting, which we find very exciting. Our visitation program is allowing us to become acquainted throughout the area, making friends in high places and in low ones, too.
The church is working with the Salvo’s to help collect food for needy people; the Seafarer’s Mission to find ways to touch people who work on the ships that come into the local harbor; and Vinnie’s, where we participate in a community meal served at the local Catholic fellowship hall.
Path to growth ahead
When you are small, there are so many things you want to do, but simply cannot, because the money or the resources are not there. We are asking ourselves the same question Elisha asked a needy widow, “What do we have in our house?” If we present it, God can use it.
Thus the saying “One sows and another reaps” is true.John 4:37
We are growing, albeit slowly, as God brings people in. Some we reached out to in the past, and others who simply found their way to us. No matter whether our evangelistic efforts are the key, or simply continuing to be “open for business” to serve and help equip those the Lord is calling, we believe in “one sows, another waters, but God gives the increase” (John 4:36-38).
Current member Peter Gross wrote the following, that sums up our current position quite well:
I am a retired engineer, living in the George Town – Low Head area for 16 years. I started at the Baptist Church two years ago and have enjoyed worship and fellowship with others who love the Lord and long to see others find new life in Him.
Like the other churches in George Town, we are small in number but work well together in sharing times of combined worship, Bible study, outreach and building relationships with the community. As a smaller fellowship many of us wear several hats, but it is great to have the opportunity to explore our gifts and abilities in both spiritual and practical ways.
Bob and Sylvie have shown great dedication and leadership in challenging us to reach beyond our comfort zone to serve the Lord and honour Him in worship and applying the Word to our lives.
Making Him known
We are also blessed to have long-standing members who have served the Lord faithfully at George Town Baptist for many decades. Their commitment to knowing the Lord and making Him known is a continuing challenge to all of us, including a youngster like me.
Speaking for established, but numerically challenged Churches of Tasmania, I recall the parable of the fig tree in the vineyard. Rather than cut it down, the vinedresser (Jesus in parable form) asked for some time to give it special attention, fertilizer and time.
Obviously the first task is to secure viability. After that is accomplished, become influencers in the community. As a great leader once said, “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care”.
From that standpoint, we at George Town Baptist feel we are well situated to face the future.
Originally from Calvary Temple in Eastern Illinois, USA, Bob Goolsby and Sylvie have pastored at George Town Baptist since 2019.