Friday, 2 November 2012

The Australian Inland Mission and the Pakenham connection

It is the centenary of the Presbyterian Inland Mission this year. It was established in 1912 as the Australian Inland Mission  by the Presbyterian Church with the Reverend  John  Flynn as the first Superintendent. Flynn’s  idea was to provide spiritual  support to those in the outback and this later developed to providing  medical facilities  as well.  Thus from  1917 he founded nursing services in remote areas and in 1928 he formed the AIM Aerial medical services. This service changed its name to the Royal Flying Doctor Service in 1954 and is still providing medical services  or the mantle of safety  as Flynn described it,  in the outback today. The Presbyterian Inland Mission has an interesting website

There are two local links to the Australian Inland  Mission.  Firstly, John Flynn  was a Home Missionary at the Pakenham Presbyterian  Church in 1908-1909. I believe  a Home Missionary was sent to smaller churches, usually in country areas, who couldn't support an ordained  Minister.  John Flynn was was born in 1880 in  Moliagul Victoria to Thomas  and Rosetta (nee Lester ) Flynn . He was a ‘pupil teacher’ with the Education Department from 1898 to 1902. He began study as a ‘student lay pastor’ in 1903 and  did further study at the Presbyterian Theological Hall and was ordained in 1911. He died in 1951.

I have found two references to the Reverend  Flynn and his time at Pakenham  in the South Bourke and Mornington Journal available on Trove.  The first was from  February 3 1909  and is a  report of the St James Church of England Sunday School  picnic where  amongst the visitors was  Mr Flynn, the Presbyterian Minister and many of our Romans Catholic and other denominational friends. Pakenham was obviously a very ecumenical town. The second report from May 12 1909 (reproduced below)   was of  a very  pleasing and instructive evening held at the Pakenham Mechanics Institute when Mr J. Flynn delivered his lecture  Along the Snowy River.

South Bourke and Mornington Journal, May 12 1909, page 2 

There is another Pakenham connection to the AIM. The Reverend Victor Murrell was the Presbyterian minister there from 1963 until his death in May 1969. The Murrell family was in Beltana, South Australia as part of the Australian Inland Mission from 1949 until 1957. There is a memorial to the Reverend Murrell outside the Uniting Church in Main Street Pakenham. The memorial has been photographed and transcribed as part of the Casey Cardinia Remembers project, a project of the Narre Warren and District Family History Group.

The memorial to the Reverend Victor Murrell outside the  Uniting Church at Pakenham. These photographs are from the Casey Cardinia Remembers website and are used with permission.

According to  a report in the South Bourke and Mornington Journal of February 13, 1907 the Presbyterian Church in Pakenham was officially opened on Sunday, January 27 1907, so when John Flynn arrived sometime in 1908 it would have been a very new building. The Presbyterians had  previously met at the Mechanics' Institute.  The Church was was built by Alex Miller of Berwick and painted and varnished by C. and J. Warne also of Berwick. It was a weatherboard building and could seat one hundred people. The building cost £125 and  initially the congregation had to supply £35 and the Home Mission Committee £100 which would cost £10 in interest over ten years, however  £80 was raised by the congregation so they could start their worship in their church really free from any anxiety as to ways and means.  A new brick church was opened in October 1960 and the original church was moved back on the block and used as a Sunday School and it was demolished around 1987 to accommodate extensions to the Church.

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