History of Williamstown Baptist Church 1868 to 1968
Page 5: 1880 to 1887
4th MINISTRY—Rev. J. Downing—4 years
At a meeting on lst February, 1883, presided over by the Rev. S. Chapman, it was unanimously decided to call the Rev. J. Downing on 27th March, 1883. Mr. Downing accepted the call to the Church for a period of 12 months on the understanding they used their best efforts towards erecting a building. He stayed 4 years. The Rev. J. Downing was the first pastor to stay longer than two years and, all the credit for the forward movement of the local Baptist Church is due to him, for he coordinated the efforts of all interested parties within the Municipality until he resigned in 1887 and spent a considerable time in England and Tasmania before returning to Melbourne. His earnest and steady work resulted in many being brought into the fellowship, the consolidation of the work in all organisations, and general improvements in the prospects of the Church. The great need for a church building received his attention and by 1884 it was opened. The Senior Deacon, Isaac Hopkins, was faraway responsible for the planning of the new building in conjunction with a rising young Architect, Mr. Gibbon. It was opened in May 1884 with a debt of over £1,200 at 9 per cent interest.
Their courage evokes our admiration! Things moved forward, however, and it was not long before a branch Sunday School was started at the south end of Town, under the leadership of Miss M. J. Taylor (Mrs. S. E. Findlay). Another branch school was undertaken at Newport, Mr. Osmond and Mr. Prosser being the principal workers connected therewith. The latter branch was the beginning of the present Newport Church.
The Church’s records contain a hand written account by Mr. J. Sinclair who became Secretary in 1887 during the Rev. Coomb’s ministry and occupied that position for 22 years until 1907. This portion which records:–
The new building project aroused a good deal of enthusiasm. The members were most self denying workers in those days and much voluntary labour was given to make the new building suitable. As the plan was not completed in the first contract, the heavy debt proved a great drag on the people and hindered the increase in membership, but several additions were made that benefited the future of the Church, including Mr. and Mrs. Haywood now of Kew and the Misses Neil, Mr. and Mrs. Sinclair, Mr. and Mrs. Claughton and family and most heroic efforts were made to pay the yearly interest bill of £80 until Mr. Downing accepted a call to the Church at Kyneton.