by Ian Vippond
A recent ABC series titled, Outback ER described Broken Hill as “one of the remotest places on the planet”. It certainly must have felt that way back in 1888 when the first Baptist Church was planted in Broken Hill.
The tyranny of distance was not tamed by good roads, railways, aircraft, telephones or the internet back in those days. Nonetheless, the fortunes of the town grew dramatically along with the population. At one stage Broken Hill boasted four Baptist Churches. During the 127 years of Baptist witness in Broken Hill there have been some exciting times of growth and vigorous fellowship in the churches.
The population and the wealth of the city peaked in the 1960’s. Since that time the population has been in a slow decline with the last two Baptist Churches (Gypsum St & Chapple St) combining in 1982. The Broken Hill Baptist Church continued as a healthy and vibrant church for many years and became the spiritual home of most of the “itinerants” (mostly school teachers) who took up employment in the city.
The last pastor, Rev Ken Godfrey, retired around 8 years ago and the church has not been able to employ a pastor since. With a continuing decline in numbers and an aging congregation life has been tough for the small but faithful congregation. Being such a long distance from other towns of reasonable size the Broken Hill community has a long history of being self-reliant and the Baptist Church is no different. On many occasions there were no music resources and few people who felt they could teach or preach but with faithful hearts they worshipped, fellowshipped and learnt together as best they could.
A little over 2 years ago Dubbo Baptist Church offered a partnership of help and encouragement to their brothers and sisters in Broken Hill. Several people from Dubbo Baptist made the 750 km trip to Broken Hill to preach and share fellowship, others were recruited for more extended periods.
Towards the end of last year Noah Little, who had just completed some units of theological training was seeking some practical experience, he was lead to approach Dubbo Baptist Church for a three month internship. One of Noah’s tasks was to head out to Broken Hill for a couple of weeks of preaching and to bring encouragement to the church. While he was there the Lord laid on Noah’s heart a burden for the church, while at the same time the church began to dream about the possibility of Noah being their pastor.
On 19 April Noah was inducted as pastor of Broken Hill Baptist Church for 2.5 days while he continues his studies. This is a great opportunity for the church to raise its profile in the community and continue the 127 years of ministry in the city. Noah is a young man and would benefit greatly from your prayers as he enters a steep learning curve and is stretched by his new role. Noah has established a church website where you can check out what is happening and pray for the church (www.brokenhillbaptist.org.au).
Dubbo Baptist Church is continuing in partnership with Noah and with the Broken Hill Church. They are providing a significant level of administrative support as well as mentoring and supervising Noah. It is great to be part of an association where churches who are in a strong position can help churches who are going through a difficult time. It is our prayer that Noah will develop his ministry gifts and the Broken Hill Baptist Church will once again be a beacon of hope in the city of Broken Hill.