History of Williamstown Baptist Church 1868 to 1968
Page 2: Before 1868
The first sign of Baptist influence in Williamstown appeared in the form of an advertisement in the Williamstown Chronicle dated Saturday, 24th, November, 1860.
“BAPTIST CHURCH FORMED
The members of this body beg to inform the inhabitants of Williamstown that they have arranged to hold Divine Service in the Mechanics’ Institute Reading-room every Sabath (Sic) at eleven a.m. and at half-past six in the evening.
All denominations of professing Christians, especially those connected with this branch of the Church, are respectfully invited to attend.”
The minute books of the Mechanics’ Institute show that the earliest Baptist Services were held in the main hall which is still standing. Founders of the local Baptist movement were the Rev. W. Poole, and Messrs. Armstrong, Bryant, Cole and Taylor.
The first meeting after those conducted at the Mechanics’ Institute took place at the home of Isaac Hopkins in 1861. Isaac was a contractor and builder. His home at the time of his death was Rheola, Lyons Street. Later services were held at the home of Emery Arm-strong who conducted a grocery business in Cecil Street for half a century.
In those days there was no Home Missionary Society or Church Extension Committee in connection with the Baptist denomination of Victoria to which those who desired to begin a new cause could apply for guidance or monetary aid. There was, therefore, no other course open for the little band of earnest people than to make a start as well as they were able with the’ aid of other Baptist Churches and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The first baptismal service was performed at the back beach at Williamstown on Sunday, 10th March, 1861, by the Rev. David Rees of South Yarra. There were four candidates immersed, one of whom, Mrs. Margaret Taylor, was for many years afterwards associated with the work of the Church. The names of the other three have not been traced in the available records, but it is reasonable to assume they were amongst the original founders in 1868.
Further baptisms took place at that locality until March 28th, 1868.