The Albury Baptist Fellowship was started in 1928 when Mrs Margaret Hedges, recently arrived from Wangaratta, and Mr E J Passant, a Welsh immigrant decided a distinctively Baptist church was needed in the town.
Mrs Hedges asked Rev A H Brooks, of the Wangaratta Baptist Church, to visit Albury families, which led to evening services in the Albury Town Hall.
Rev J H Baker was the first permanent minister, arriving in May 1929. The Church was officially constituted on November 17, 1929. There were eight founding members – Rev Baker, Mrs A Baker, Mrs Hedges, her sister Mrs M Sullivan, Mrs Pope, Mr Fred Howard and brothers Ted and Percy Passant.
Mrs Hedges’ daughters, Alma and Marj Hedges remained members of the Church until they passed away (2016 and 2014 respectively). By 1935, the Sunday School reached 110 & the church decided to add the hall. On one single occasion 33 children were saved! This was the height of the Sunday School era (attendance of adults at the time was around 40 people).
Albury Baptist Church has so far planted two other churches:
- Wodonga District Baptist Church: begun as an outreach in the 1940s; regular services commencing in the 1950s & five members transferring from Albury to start the fellowship.
- In the early 80s the Thurgoona fellowship was begun. This work commenced first as a Sunday School. Once again several Albury members transferred to get the work underway.
- In the late 60s monthly cottage fellowship meetings were started at Mt Beauty and during that decade Albury members regularly preached at the small Beechworth Baptist Church.
Other highlights in the history of our church include:
All-age Sunday School, Commencement of Albury’s Meals on Wheels service in Albury, Christian Endeavour, vacation bible schools, Boys’ Brigade (1962), Scouts and Cubs (1963-81), 4.30 Club for primary school children (1994-98), Saturday Nite Live for teenagers (1994-95), and Playgroups and women’s guild. As well as Sunday School, the Church was active among young people with The ABC Foster Care Program beginning in 1984 & continuing for 12 years
In 1980, the sanctuary was extended and connected to the Sunday School Hall with an entrance lobby, and the baptistry and pulpit were moved to the opposite end of the Church.
Albury Baptist Church has supported mission work and theological study
Sadly by August 2004 after a period of decline Albury Baptist Church had come to the place of being described as “in “survival mode”. As recorded: This is defined as keeping our head above water, but the Baptist presence in Albury, and thus the Lord’s work, is not growing. We are financially viable, at least for the present, but our congregation is static, the average age is high, we have no youth and no young families. Sunday attendance had declined to single digits at times.
In 2006 with the closure being a very real option a new pastor was called. This was a part-time appointment with the understanding that the church would pay a salary of 3 days a week & at the end of 6 months the church would be broke unless God intervened. This was a step of faith for all concerned.
Thus began the slow process of rebuilding. God is at work and has brought new life and health to our church. Pioneering is not for the fainthearted & it is not often that a church in serious decline turns around. We are seeing God transform lives and families. We have seen people come to Christ & be baptised. We have also seen people who have called themselves Christians for decades become fruitful enthusiastic disciples of Christ. Our community continues to grow younger (and thankfully our older members remain a vital part of our intergenerational community). For the first time ever we also have people from different cultural backgrounds in our church community – reflecting changes that have taken place in local demographics. We have much to thank God for – but this is just the tip of the iceberg! God saved this local church from closure for a purpose. It’s hard to describe but there’s a sense of anticipation and a buzz in the air now.
The next chapter is yet to be written!