Luz Press, Malachi Grey (6), Cassie Wilson, Pastor John Wilson, and John McDermott at the Lismore Baptiste Church Celebrating 100 years of the church.
Luz Press, Malachi Grey (6), Cassie Wilson, Pastor John Wilson, and John McDermott at the Lismore Baptiste Church Celebrating 100 years of the church. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Baptist church celebrate 100th birthday

AT 100 years old the Lismore Baptist Church is still young - as far as churches go.

But it's come a long way since a humble South Lismore home was the venue for its inaugural service a century ago this month.

More than 200 past and present congregation members came together to celebrate the big birthday over the weekend.

Marie Turnbull first came to the Lismore Baptist Church in 1959 before leaving for Sydney in 1968, returning to Lismore four years ago.

"We used to have to come formally dressed for church," Mrs Turnbull said.

"Some of the ladies were joking about whether we should wear our gloves, hats and stockings today - but we decided it was going to be too hot," she laughed.

Mrs Turnbull said the church used to have a big old Hammond organ and a choir, which she sung in. Now it's guitars, drums, microphones and a keyboard.

"I wasn't a particularly good singer," Mrs Turnbull joked.

"I was in the choir because I liked the choirmaster - whom I married."

The church has evolved through three buildings in its lifetime, with today's iconic light-filled "triangle" on Uralba St opening in 1967.

That followed a golden era of high-profile community engagement for the church - the Koinonia youth camp in Evans Head opened in 1953, the Maranoa Nursing Home in 1961, and the Christian Book Centre in 1962.

The Lismore congregation also seeded the Alstonville Baptist Church in 1947.

"There was a time when this church was involved in so many different avenues of community service," Pastor John Wilson said.

"It's impacted a lot of people."

Today the church has adapted with the times to challenges to its "institutionalism" which took root in the 1970s.

In 1977 then Pastor Hill announced a new emphasis on "personal spiritual maturity".

"Where back in the 50s and 60s it was a lot of high-profile building ... now the focus is more now on people making connections with others in the community - assisting people; going to visit people who are shut in," Pastor Wilson said.

"It's not seen in the community as much, but you hear the stories. I think in some ways that's the real fruit. It's still about being part of a dynamic and lively community, and that's where most people get engaged and committed."

Mrs Turnbull agreed that the birthday wasn't all about looking back with nostalgia at the past.

"Women are more free today to be involved in the ministry," she said.

"I would never have been considered to be an elder then, now I am," she said proudly.

"This is not the end - it's the beginning of a new era."

"Let's look forward to the next 100 years."



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