History of Williamstown Baptist Church 1868 to 1968
Page 6: 1887 to 1895
5th MINISTRY—Rev. H. Coombs—8 years.
Secretary Sinclair continued:
After a short interval Rev. H. Coombs, now of Mile End, South Australia, became Pastor. Mr. Coombs was heartily welcomed and he cheerfully entered upon a difficult task for there was a debt of £1,200 and a small members rip. Mr. Coombs ministered for 8 years and at the close the work was firmly consolidated, the Church was finished by the erection of the new vestries and the choir platform greatly improved, the membership was largely increased by many additions who still remain a power of strength. Mr. Vines deserves to be mentioned for the fine unselfish work he did among the young and strengthening the Church Choir which became a great help in the services. In all Mr. Coombs’ work he was greatly assisted by Mrs. Coombs who was a fine visitor, and a tireless worker in the Church.
This completed Secretary Sinclair’s comments about Mr. Coombs’ Ministry.
It is indeed fortunate that the records include another hand-written account, an autobiography by Mr. Coombs of his period in the pastorate. It was entitled: “Brief Sketch of Pastorate of Rev . H. Coombs at Williamstown” and reads as follows:
My pastorate of the W.T.B.C. extended over the 8 years terminating January 1895. These years were full of incidents mainly of a pleasing kind. When I accepted the Pastorate the Church was very low and weak. The new building had been erected but was not complete. There was a total debt of over £1,200 and as the interest was at the rate of 8% this represented a very heavy burden resting upon a handful of working people.
They were, however, very devoted and enterprising and set themselves bravely to the task before them. The work of God speedily showed signs of revival and candidates for baptism were coming forward. It was therefore needful to complete the building by the erection of vestries, a new organ was also necessary. This meant a total sum of £200 which was at once raised by liberal donations and a very successful sale of gifts. Shortly after the Baptist Fund was brought into operation, and the trustees loaned the Church £1,000, this being the highest amount permitted by the regulations. The balance of the debt-£200-was lent without interest by members and friends. This eliminated the item of interest; but there was a necessity for heroic giving in order to pay off the principal.
The £200 due to members and friends was speedily repaid; and the repayments to the Baptist Fund were made with regularity, so that at the close of my pastorate the total liabilities-of the Church had been reduced to about £600. Meanwhile congregations were rapidly increasing until the building was filled and there were many conversions. While deliberating as to how to keep the young converts news came that a new kind of society had been formed in connection with the Church of which I had formerly been pastor in Brisbane. This was either the first or second C. E.. Society in Australia. As soon as I could obtain particulars I formed a Y.P.S.C.E. at Williamstown. We had fully fifty members the first year and the society continued with unvarying success during my pastorate. Our first Secretary was Miss May Gould who afterwards became a Missionary in connection with the Poona Village Mission. A.I.C.E. was soon afterwards started, of this Mrs. Galt was for a long time the successful Superintendent.
Meanwhile, Young Men’s Literary and Debating Society was carried on without flagging with an average attendance of about 30. Some of these young men were specially fine fellows. Our Secretary Fred Claughton, became a Deacon of the Church, but died at an early age at Footscray, after my time. Another very talented member was Charlie Evarest. He became well known in industrial circles and visited me when a delegate to Union meetings in Adelaide. He remembered the old days at Williamstown and spoke of them with great enthusiasm, but he also has massed away. The Sunday School was splendidly officered-a special feature was the Young Men’s Bible Class. Mr. Scott who was our devoted Superintendent, died many years ago at a comparatively early stage. The prayer meetings were a very fine feature of the work at this time. The room in which we met was by no means ideal, but it held a goodly number and was crowded week by week. The spirit of prayer was very strong, many brief prayers being offered at each meeting. It is not to be wondered at that there were many conversions of a very interesting character.
The great financial crisis known as the “bursting of the land boom”, took place when I had been about 5 years in the pastorate. Some members were in Government employment and their means were much curtailed. Many were “put on half time”, others had even less, some were thrown out of work altogether; savings invested in ‘boom banks’ & building Societies, were swept away. The courage of the church was by no means lowered; but it was evident that the liberal stipend they were paying me could not be continued and other claims honoured. After much thought and prayer I decided to re-enter business life in conjunction with the pastorate. This step succeeded from every point of view.
The Church finances were relieved of strain, my own means were conserved and best of all the seal of divine approval was set upon what seemed to some strange innovation. During the following years I was able to record over 50 conversions. It is only fair to state that the Church in every way showed its appreciation and through the blessing of God the additional strain did not in any degree injure my health.
During the whole term of my pastorate my wife did much strenuous work and especially after I conjoined business with the pastorate. This was highly valued by the Church and we shall never forget the prayer meeting held by the sisters of the Church during the time when she was undergoing a serious operation, we firmly believe that it was in answer to those prayers that my dear wife’s life was spared.
In closing, I have had pastorates in which there was more prominence and eclat in the work, but none where there was more kindness manifested, or true and lasting blessing bestowed. I pray that God may continue to bless the Church at Cecil Street, Williamstown.
(signed) Henry Coombs.
P.S. 1 should have mentioned the valuable services of the Deacons, who were a fine body of men. Mr. Haywood the Treasurer, and Mr. Sinclair the Secretary, showed exceptional ability and zeal in ‘their work’.
So ends this historic document.