– People in remote areas wanted to be able to worship according to their faith. And they wanted their ministers, pastors or priests to conduct services for life rituals like baptism, marriage and funerals.
– At first, services were held wherever they could find room – in homes halls or hotels.
- School was sometimes held in churches, and sometimes church services were held in schools.
– Communities set to work very early to build more appropriate places for worship in the towns.
- Simple buildings went up first, and were then often replaced by bigger, grander, stone churches. A website on Quorn churches shows some examples of this pattern.
– Congregations were mostly Anglican, Catholic or Methodist. Presbyterians set up the Smith of Dunesk mission at Beltana.
– Having a church didn’t always mean there would be church services. – Ministers from most denominations were based at one centre and travelled on long ‘circuits’ to bring services to their congregations.
– In the days of horse and cart this was much more difficult than it is now, when ministers travel between towns by car.
– In hard years, it was difficult for communities to find the salary for a minister.
– The Flinders Ranges are part of the Anglican Diocese of Willochra which covers over 90% of the State. It is mainly a rural diocese, but industry, mining and tourism are an important part of its life and economy.
– The area of the diocese is huge, but its small population is scattered in 80 little congregations. The diocese logo is: “Little Tribe, Big Vision” and we hope it says something about our life, mission and ministry. Although we are so small in number, we are big in hope and big in
– The Bishop’s home is in Gladstone.
– The Diocese opened a home for the aged in 1964.
– A Diocesan Centre at Melrose was built in the early 1960s to provide a place for members of the scattered communities of the region to come together for camps and conferences.
- The first buildings have been replaced and the centre expanded. o It has been known as Camp Willochra since 2004.
Anglican Diocese of Willochra
The first Anglican Bishop of Willochra was the Right Reverend Gilbert White, who was enthroned in 1914 and travelled around his enormous Diocese for 10 years.
Bishop White ‘spent most of [his] time travelling around scattered congregations, over dirt roads by mail-van or motor car, by train or coastal steamer, conducting confirmations, celebrating Holy Communion, and preaching to congregations in schoolrooms, public halls and woolsheds’.
One can only hazard a guess as to what life was like in the fledgling Diocese in that first year of World War I. Although Gilbert White came to this Diocese from having been an Archdeacon and a Bishop in north Queensland, the move must have been difficult.
Not even a permanent home was available, and the Rectory at Petersburgh (later Peterborough) was to be the base for some time. The new Diocese stretched from somewhere north of Clare to the Queensland/Northern Territory border, but there were just a tiny handful of parishes involved. As time passed, so the Bishop moved from Peterborough to Gladstone, once thought to become a major centre in the Mid North.
The boundaries of the Diocese then covered such areas as the Birdsville and Strzelecki Tracks, as well as the vast area to the west of the Lake Eyre basin. The many cattle and sheep stations in that area and the northern Flinders would have had intermittent but constant attention from a Bishop who travelled far and wide, under harsh conditions.
The second Bishop of Willochra, (Richard Thomas 1926-1958) was best known in the bush – stories abound still of his journeys and entrapments in sand and flood. As the years went by, he managed to drive better vehicles, but he still managed to get lost, and bogged …. And rescued. His ministry was vastly wide-spread, and old service registers bear testimony to his travels. Baptisms, confirmations, weddings and funerals all fell within the gambit of this peripatetic preacher, and in spite of his somewhat eccentric ways, he was loved all through the bush.’
Bishop Thomas was a keen conservationist. He was an early advocate of planting trees to avoid erosion, and planted many himself during the drought years of the Depression.
The diocese website has more information about the bishops, their lives, where they lived and changes to the Diocese boundaries over time http://www.diowillochra.org.au/HTML%20pages/History.htm
Anglican Church of Australia. Diocese of Willochra: http://www.diowillochra.org.au/
– Methodists of all shades converged on the Hundred of Arkaba (Wonoka Creek) in the late nineteenth century: Wesleyans from Melrose, Bible Christians from Port Augusta and the Primitive Methodists from Redhill and Orroroo.
– They were the first to build a church in Hawker, followed by the Catholics in 1892. ‘Methodists, whatever their branch, by freely drawing on the laity to conduct services, were well adapted to foster their faith among the settlers” (Mincham 1980:60).
– The Bible Christians were strong in Port Augusta, Wilmington and Quorn, but their advance into the wheat lands seems to have ended at Gordon, where their chapel was one of about 30 buildings there by 1880. Roman Catholic Church
– The Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception was built at Quorn in 1883.
– The Quorn parish was under the care of the Bishop of Port Augusta until 1957. The name of the diocese was changed then to Port Pirie.
– Irish Catholic strength in Pekina, led to it being called immediate district being dubbed “Vatican Valley”.
– Catholic communities in Cradock and Hookina raised funds to build churches in 1883 and 1886 respectively. Wilson and Gordon also had Catholic congregations.
– Hawker’s Catholic Church was opened in 1892.
- The ceremony was attended by three priests and the Bishop of Port Augusta.
– The order founded by Saint Mary MacKillop, the Sisters of St Joseph, ran a school for local children in Quorn from 1890 until 1958.
– Through the Catholic Motor Mission, set up during the early 1960s, two Sisters of St Joseph travelled widely to visit schools, parents and people on stations far from towns.
- They also visited the sick at home and in hospital. o The headquarters of the Motor Mission were originally at Peterborough but later moved to Port Augusta.
– The Quorn branch (Corps) of the Salvation Army was strongly established enough to support a new outpost in Hawker, where a Corps was officially opened in 1892.
– The Hawker Salvation Army corrugated iron church building was known as the Barracks. The Corps later closed for a few years, reopened in 1916 and finally left Hawker in 1917. No trace is left of their buildings.
Resources for Spiritual Life and Pastoral Care
- McCall, David 1990. Willochra 75: Celebrating 75 years as a diocese. Church of England. Diocese of Willochra, South Australia
- Mincham, Hans 1980. Hawker … Hub of the Flinders. Hawker Centenary Committee. Adelaide.
- Mincham, Hans 1983. The Story of the Flinders Ranges. (3rd ed). Adelaide, Rigby.
- Quorn and District Centenary 1878-1978, 1978. Quorn Centenary Book Committee, Quorn.