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Jubilee History of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church of Carlton
The Sabbath School and other Organisations of the Congregation


 THE SABBATH SCHOOL.

On 4th June, 1854, the first Sabbath School classes in connection with the congregation were held in the Protestant Hall, the first teachers being Messrs. Malcolm McInnes and Duncan Sutherland. The Committee of Management, in resolving to take up this work, agreed that each member should specially exert himself to promote its success. The absence of airy records prevents one from judging what progress was made, but it appears that very little attention was given to this most important work, through the disorganised state of the congregation during the earlier period of its existence.

The School does not appear to have been placed under any system of organisation until 1864, shortly after the induction of the Rev. A. MacGregor, when an afternoon school was opened, the school having been previously carried on in the morning. Mr. John Manson was appointed Superintendent, and amongst the teachers were Messrs. Donald Ross and John Mackinnon, the latter having taught a class for some seven years previously. A Sabbath School Library was formed, and 5 were given by the Board of Management from the church funds towards defraying the cost of a book-case. Special services to celebrate the inauguration of the new state of affairs were held on 4th September, 1864, by the Rev. George Mackie, of South Yarra. That time-honoured institution, the Sunday School picnic, was also established.

Until 1873, the only record of Sabbath School work now to be found is a library register for the years 1864, 1865, and a passage in the annual report of the Board of Management for the year 1867, stating that at no previous time had the school been so smooth or so efficient in its working. The number of scholars on the roll was 140, the average attendance being about 120. There were 16 teachers - 8 ladies and 8 gentlemen - Mr. Ross being the Superintendent.

Since 1873, a complete record of all proceedings connected with the school has been preserved. Mr. Ross was succeeded in the office of Superintendent by Mr. D. H. Valantine, who, with Mr. Ross' aid, as assistant Superintendent, guided the destinies of the school until 1874, when both these gentlemen resigned, and Mr. John Tait was appointed their successor.

By this time the school had become an important institution, over 500 scholars being on the roll. There were 50 classes and 50 teachers, and a branch school was conducted for some time in Madeline Street by Mr. Ross and Mr. Robert Allan, another member of Session. Mr. Tait held the position of Superintendent until 1878. He had previously been the teacher of a splendid class of young men, one of the members being John Mac Neil, afterwards noted as an evangelist. The school, at this time, had many earnest workers, and Mr. Tait was a splendid general at their head. In 1876 the project of erecting a school building was taken up, and, as already mentioned, a handsome hall was opened entirely free of debt in 1884. After Mr. Tait's resignation, through removal from the district, Messrs. S. MacGregor and E. Chew were Superintendents until Mr. Tait's return to the church at the beginning of 1880, when he was unanimously re-elected to his old post. In April, 1881, he was obliged to remove to Geelong, where he has since resided, and so a most valued worker (whose name is still remembered) was lost to both school and church. Mr. W. H. Scott then acted for a short time, and was succeeded by Mr. William Howat, who, as already mentioned, was most energetic in the work of erecting the School Hall. With the opening of this building a change was effected in the musical portion of the proceedings by the introduction of a cabinet organ to lead the singing. Previously, no instrument had been used, and it was part of the duties of the church precentor to lead the children in their praise.

Since Mr. Howat's resignation the Rev. W. H. Cooper and Messrs. R. S. Kinlayside, W. I. Stewart and N. C. Whannell have occupied the position of Superintendent. Mr. Stewart, who died only a few months ago, will long be remembered by the scholars, having occupied the position for over twelve years. Sabbath School work was his delight, and he never spared himself in his efforts on behalf of the young. Among the many able teachers and officers who have assisted in the school, the name of Mr. A. W. MacLean, who filled the office of secretary for over ten years (1883-1893) should not easily be forgotten. Space prevents the mention of the names of a large number of others who have at different periods done good work for the school.

The foundation-stone of the School Hall was laid by Sir James MacBain, M.L.C., on 1st March, 1884. The Sabbath School, with the jubilee of its existence, is able to also celebrate the majority of the school building.

THE MISSION.

Reference has already been incidentally made to the good work carried on for many years by the various missionaries, aided by earnest Christian workers connected with the church. Much good was done amongst the people in the back lanes in Carlton by means of this important branch of aggressive Christian work. The work carried on in the various meetings was supplemented by the systematic visitation of every house and distribution of tracts. Many steady-going and prosperous young men have traced their success in life to S-,. Andrew's Mission, which helped to counteract other influences at work during their early years. The missionaries engaged from time to time, from 1870 to 1892, were nearly all theological students, and their training in the St. Andrew's Mission field has by no means been the least factor in laying the groundwork for their subsequent successful careers as ministers. The Mission has not now been carried on for some years, but it is to be hoped it will be started again in the not very distant future.

OTHER ORGANISATIONS.

One very potent factor in securing the interest of young people in spiritual things was the Tuesday evening Bible Class, which was carried on by the Rev. D. S. McEachran for many years. During the four years of Mr. Irwin's ministry, that gentleman conducted the meetings. This class was responsible for a large number of the young communicants who joined the church during Mr. McEachran's long ministry. Since Mr. Kelly's arrival the class has taken the form of an active Christian Endeavour Society. A Junior Christian Endeavour Society has also been recently formed.

The Fellowship Association is one of the live organisations connected with the congregation. Over thirty years ago, a number of young men connected with the congregation obtained leave from the Session to hold a prayer meeting every Tuesday evening. Afterwards, they held their meetings on the Sabbath morning before service. In 1881, ladies were allowed by the Session to attend the meetings, and in 1889 it was decided to continue the meetings as an Association belonging to the recently formed Fellowship Union. The Association contributes liberally to the Union's Korean Mission, having donated 49 during the last five years. It also conducts services at the Immigrants' Home, Royal Park, and gives the inmates there an annual treat.

The Literary and Debating Society was originally formed in July, 1872. In 1892 a Ladies' Literary Guild was started, and lasted for some years. Both Societies had, however, lapsed for some time, until last year, when a new society was formed, in which both the young men and young women take an active part.

A strong Total Abstinence Society and Band of Hope also met for many years, but there has been no organisation specially dealing with temperance matters in existence for some time past. Such a society might well be revived. A branch of the Ministering Children's League was also in existence some time ago.

The ladies of the congregation have at times held their Dorcas and Work Association meetings, and they take an interest in mission work in connection with the local branch of the Presbyterian Women's Missionary Union.

The Young Men's Class connected with the Sabbath School was for many years a very successful institution, and many excellent papers on the Biblical and Catechism lessons have been contributed there. The class has recently been reorganised by the present pastor, and for the past two years has held successful camps at Easter-tide.

It is interesting to note that another active organisation, the Church Choir, held its first practices in singing in November, 1857.

The young men and young women also attend to their physical well-being in their gymnastic clubs, and for years the young men have had a very successful cricket club.


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