Celebrating 150 years of Evangelical Witness in Queensland
1 May 1999
Reports and Pictures
The United Evangelical Church
William Street, Brisbane, Queensland Australia
opened 13 April 1851
Minister: Rev. Charles Stewart
From 1849-1854, Mr Stewart served as minister of a united congregation Baptists, Congregationalists and Presbyterians which met in the chapel from 1851. After his departure in ill health in Jan 1855, separate churches of the three denominations were formed.
The chapel was sold in 1857 and was eventually used as the Telegraph Office and for the Government Printer. It was demolished 1899 to make way for Land Administration/Executive Building (now Conrad International Hotel)
Photo by Walter C. Voller shortly before demolition
The full story of this church and minister is told in Strange Bedfellows: Rev. Charles Stewart and the United Evangelical Church, by David Parker, published by Baptist Historical Society of Queensland (ISB 0-9586622-6-6) $12 + $2.20 postage in Australia
An illustrated book with a shorter version of the story and an extra chapter on Dr Lang has also been published by the Society - "Fortitude: Dr Lang's Vision for Queensland and the United Evangelical Church", - cost $8 plus $1.10 in Australia
Both are available from BHSQ Publications, 98 Yallambee Rd, Jindalee Q 4074 Inquiries phone 07-3376 4339 or 07-3878 3178
A plaque was unveiled on the Conrad International Hotel, William St Brisbane
to mark the site of the UEC Chapel on 11am 13 April 1999
Building originally opened, 11am 13 April, 1851
The United Evangelical Church
When Brisbane was thrown open to free settlement in 1842, it had a sad past as a penal colony, but Dr John Dunmore Lang, pioneer minister of the Scots Church, Sydney was one who saw its potential. After a fact-finding visit to the area in November 1845, he travelled to Britain to organise his controversial migration scheme which eventually brought 600 'industrious and virtuous' migrants to Moreton Bay in three ships during 1849. Many were 'in full communion with the different evangelical churches', and they amply fulfilled Lang's intentions by making a beneficial impact on the religious and moral life of the community.
Local Presbyterians expected Lang to send them a minister of their denomination as he had promised. Unable to find one, he sent a Baptist, Rev Charles Stewart, instead. He was a Scot and after being educated at the University of Glasgow entered Horton Academy, a Baptist theological college near Bradford. He served then as minister of Zion Chapel, Newhall Street Birmingham and at a small Baptist chapel at Toll End Tipton.
After filling the role of chaplain on the Fortitude, the first of Lang’s migrant ships, Stewart began united services at the Court House on Feb 11, 1849; a church was formally organised on Mar 21. At the end of the year, some Presbyterians established their own church in South Brisbane (which later formed a second church in Ann St). The remaining Presbyterians, with the Baptists and Congregationalists continued to meet as the United Evangelical Church (UEC) with Stewart as minister. It was a strong and influential congregation, especially after its 400 seat chapel was opened in William Street on 13 April 1851. Stewart also visited Ipswich for services until a united church was established there in 1853.
Stewart was a capable and respected preacher; he set high spiritual standards for himself and the church (which were sometimes misunderstood). Illness took him away from Moreton Bay for several months in 1852 and finally caused him to resign at the end of December 1854. He left the colony for treatment in Britain and Europe, but died at his sister's home in Bermuda on March 2, 1858.
Meanwhile there was no one to succeed him, but by now the three groups were ready to form their own churches - the Baptists in August 1855 and the Congregationalists in June 1859. The Presbyterians continued to meet in the UEC chapel, but in 1859 moved to a new building in Creek Street, only to disperse after the death of their minister later that year; another congregation, which became St Paul's, took possession of this building from 1864.
The UEC chapel was sold to Dr Lang in April 1857. According to a prior agreement, the proceeds were divided amongst the three churches, which enabled them to erect buildings of their own (Baptist 1858, Presbyterian in Creek St 1859, Congregational 1860). The old chapel was sold by Lang to the Queensland Government in 1860 for use as the first Telegraph Office; later it became part of the Government Printing office. It was demolished in mid-1899 to make way for the Lands (Executive) Building. A plaque now marks its site.
Thus the vision of Lang and Stewart for a united church on "broad Scriptural" principles was not sustained, but the three denominations which grew out of it, together with other Lang migrants, made invaluable contributions to social and political life of Queensland. Lang himself was at the forefront of efforts for the separation of the "northern districts", which was finally accomplished in 1859; Lang's vision and influence were belatedly acknowledged by the state but he has always been remembered with thankfulness by these churches.
Unveiling of Historical Plaque to Mark Site of United Evangelical Church
13 April 1999
W. Gynther, President Baptist Union of Queensland; H. Dreitzer, General Manager, Conrad International, Cnr. D Herbert Brisbane City Council (Deagon) Chair BCC Heritage Committee, A. Edmunds, Emmanuel College, University of Queensland
Copyright D. Parker and Baptist Historical Society © 1999
Site of Pioneer Evangelical Church in Brisbane Marked
The site of the church used by the first large group of evangelical Christians in Brisbane has been marked with a plaque, almost 150 years after it was opened. Mr Bill Gynther, President of the Baptist Union of Queensland offered the dedication prayer for the plaque which is in a prominent place on the William Street facade of the Lands or old Executive Building (now the Conrad International Hotel).
It was unveiled by Councillor Denise Herbert, Chair of the Brisbane City Council Heritage Committee as part of a short function attended by representatives of historical and cultural bodies. Also present were the heads and other representatives of the Baptist, Congregational and Presbyterian churches whose members formed the original congregation of Charles Stewart's "United Evangelical Church." The unveiling and dedication took place at 11am on 13 April, the same time and date as the first service held in the church in 1851.
The chapel was used by the United Evangelical Church from 1851 to 1855. After this church disbanded, various Presbyterian and other congregations worshipped in the chapel. It was sold to the Queensland Government in 1861 to become the first Central Telegraph Office. Proceeds from the sale of the 400 seat chapel, which was in a choice location in the government precinct beside the river, enabled the three denominations to erect buildings of their own. The old chapel was later part of the Government Printing Office, but it was demolished along with other historic buildings in the area in 1899 to make way for the present Lands Office.
The unveiling function was the first event in the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the United Evangelical Church. It was formed early in 1849 immediately after the arrival of the Fortitude, the first of three migrant ships organised by Dr John Dunmore Lang. Stewart was the chaplain on this vessel, and his initial congregation was supplemented by local Christians and others who arrived on Lang's remaining ships, the Chaseley and the Lima. Dr Lang, an enterprising Presbyterian minister from Sydney, saw the potential of the Moreton Bay district and organised his party of "industrious and virtuous" migrants to populate and develop the area. He was particularly concerned that their devout evangelical faith would make an impact on the moral and religious needs of the district. In the years that followed they made far reaching contributions to the social, political and commercial life of the district as well.
The commemoration of the arrival of the migrants and the establishment of the church will also be marked by a dinner and thanksgiving service to be held on 1 May (the date of the arrival of the second of Lang's ships) at the historic Ann Street Presbyterian Church. Mr Angus Edmonds, Principal of Emmanuel College, University of Queensland, an authority on Lang, and Dr David Parker, Queensland Baptist theologian and author, will present addresses on the background of the event. The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, Rt. Rev. David Secomb, will conclude the service with a message on the legacy of the United Evangelical Church. A book telling the full story of Dr Lang's vision for Queensland and of Charles Stewart's six year ministry in Brisbane will be launched at this function.
The anniversary was arranged by a joint committee representing the three denominations. Inquiries for the book are welcome and can be directed to Baptist Historical Society Publications, 98 Yallambee Road, Jindalee 4074.
150th Anniversary Celebration Report and Pictures
Rt Rev David Secomb, Moderator Presbyterian Church of Qld
Rev Dr David Parker, Baptist Church Theologian
Lyn Dickman as "Mrs Wilhelmina Lang"
Samoan Congregational Choir
Call for Evangelical Cooperation at Historic Anniversary
Effective cooperation in gospel witness was the legacy of the United Evangelical Church 150 years after its establishment, according to the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Queensland, Rt Rev. David Secomb. He was addressing the Thanksgiving Service on 1 May, 1999 to celebrate the sequi-centenary of the United Evangelical Church in Brisbane in 1849. Mr Secomb said that with the coming of the new millennium, the need for evangelical witness was urgent and the United Evangelical Church provided a model of how the churches could work together again without compromise in the present context.
The United Evangelical Church was composed of Baptist, Congregationalists and Presbyterians migrants who had been brought to Queensland in an ambitious migration scheme by Dr John Dunmore Lang. Earlier residents of the district also made up this church which was led by the Baptist minister, Rev. Charles Stewart, the chaplain on the first of Dr Lang's three migrant ships, the "Fortitude". After six years of influential ministry, the church was disbanded to allow for the establishment of the three denominations.
The 150th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service also featured a Presbyterian Choir singing psalms unaccompanied, a Samoan Congregational Choir bringing items in their own language and a drama by Lyn Dickman representing Mrs Lang reading an imaginary letter to the future residents of Brisbane. Mr Angus Edmonds, Principal of Emmanuel College, University of Queensland, delivered an comprehensive insightful address on Dr Lang's vision for "Cooksland" and Rev Dr David Parker of the Baptist Church spoke about the life of Charles Stewart and his ministry in Brisbane.
The service was held in the historic Ann Street Presbyterian Church, Brisbane, a site occupied by this congregation since the time of the United Evangelical Church. The capacity congregation sang hymns associated with the life of United Evangelical Church and the Lang migrants. Heads and other official representatives of all three denominations were present at the service, bringing greetings for the occasion.
The service was preceded by a Dinner when 120 people enjoyed listening to details of the voyages of the migrants and their settlement in Brisbane. The soloist was Mr Cedric Johnson. Several of those attending were descendants of the original migrants and a number had attended a large reunion held earlier in the day at Mt Gravatt.
The dinner and thanksgiving service, which were led by Dr Joe Goodall, Moderator of the Queensland Congregational Fellowship, also featured large displays of photographs and documents on the United Evangelical Church and the denominational churches which emerged from it.
An illustrated book featuring expanded versions of the historical addresses was available during the evening. Titled, "Fortitude: Dr Lang's Vision for Queensland and the United Evangelical Church", it is available from BHSQ Publications, 98 Yallambee Rd, Jindalee Q 4074 for $8 plus $1.10 post. Inquiries phone 07-3376 4339 or 07-3878 3178
Purchase this book!
(see details above)
Banner loaned by Lang Ship Reunion Committee for UEC 150th Celebration