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Jubilee History of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church of Carlton
The Collegiate PastorateóRev. C. H. Irwin


The new minister was warmly welcomed by the people. Coming to them with a good record as a pastor, preacher and scholar, it appeared that good times were in store, with two pastors of experience and worth to guide the destinies of the congregation. The junior pastor was an Irishman by birth, a graduate of the Royal University of Ireland, and a son of the veteran Rev. Dr. William Irwin, of Castlerock, County Derry. In addition to his fame as a preacher, he had also won some distinction in the literary world, and had published, amongst other works, a History of Presbyterianism in Dublin and the South and West of Ireland. He preached his first sermons in St. Andrew's to crowded congregations on Sunday, 13th March, 1892, and was warmly welcomed at a social meeting of the congregation, held the same week, when a handsome Geneva gown was presented to each of the ministers.

The pastors arranged between them to equally divide the Sabbath services and mission work, whilst the bulk of the pastoral duties were to be performed by the younger. Things went on well for a while, and, under different circumstances would have prospered, but it was a sad time for everybody in the colony. The financial crash came; many lost their all, and had to start life over again, and St. Andrew's congregation suffered equally with others. Many had to leave the colony to obtain work, and so, from that time till now, the congregation has had a hard struggle to make both ends meet. In addition to this general reason for the congregation falling off, other causes had also been at work, a number of people having left through new churches having been opened nearer their homes, and so, in a year or two, the once prosperous congregation was reduced to a low ebb. The ministers did their best; the spiritual tone of everything was good ; the elders and members of the Board of Management were earnest in their work; but the fact remained that they could not pay their way, and were getting more and more into debt. At length, the muniments of title to the property had to be deposited with the bank to secure an overdraft, which increased visibly day by day. The junior minister submitted to a very substantial reduction in his stipend, but still the liabilities could not be met. At last, after four years of faithful service, Mr. Irwin stated that as the congregation, under the circumstances, could not support two ministers, and he was the younger of the two, the best thing he could do was to resign. This proposal was considered at a meeting of the congregation, on 18th December, 1895, when the following resolutions were carried :

1. "The congregation of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Carlton, have received with sincere sorrow and a deep sense of discouragement the intimation conveyed by the Rev. C. H. Irwin, M.A., that he intends to resign the pastorate of St. Andrew's Church, and to return to the old land. The congregation assure Mr. Irwin of their unabated loyalty and love for himself, and attachment to and kindly interest in Mrs. Irwin and their family. They look back with the liveliest feelings of trust and gratitude upon Mr. Irwin's incumbency of their church. They still have the same undiminished confidence in him as a Christian leader, minister, and friend, and the same sincere regard for his high character. As a preacher he still occupies the same attractive position in their esteem. They would, were it possible, gladly use any means in their power to induce him to remain as their minister. They will regard his departure as a most serious blow to their church, and a personal loss to themselves individually.

2. "As, however, Mr. Irwin has intimated his fixed determination to return to the old country, the congregation resolve to ask him to accept, in token of their unchanging friendship and regard, the sum of £300, so as to secure him, as far as possible, from monetary loss in his removal from his church and people."

On the following day, Mr. Irwin's resignation was accepted by the Presbytery of Melbourne North. At the last meeting of Session, at which he was present, on 8th January, 1896, the elders spoke regretting their pastor's departure, and wishing him God-speed, whilst the aged minister, who was left to carry on the whole work again unaided, spoke of the great harmony that had ever existed between his colleague and himself, and the pleasure and profit he had ever received from Mr. Irwin's preaching. On 30th January, the congregation gave a farewell social to Mr. and Mrs. Irwin, and their three children, when, in addition to a cheque for £300, a number of handsome presents were given to the minister and his family. The presentation of the sum of £300 was only an act of justice, as Mr. Irwin had cheerfully refunded a large portion of his stipend, amounting during the previous couple of years to £150 per annum. The money for this gift had, however, to be borrowed by the congregation, as the people were not in a position to subscribe the amount. A few days afterwards, Mr. Irwin and his family set sail for the Old Country, to the great regret of many friends.

During his stay in Victoria, Mr. Irwin took a prominent part in the public concerns of the Presbyterian Church, and also benefited the community by his literary labours For twelve months he successfully edited a weekly religious newspaper, called " The Australian Weekly," but the depressed state of the people prevented it being a financial success, and after Mr. Irwin's departure the paper was incorporated with "The Australian Christian World," a Sydney publication.

Mr. Irwin, since his return to the Old Country, has devoted himself mainly to literary work. He occupies a good place in the world of letters in the metropolis of the Empire, amongst other positions holding that of editor to the well-known magazine, "The Leisure Hour." He has now, according to news just received, been appointed to take charge of the Colonial work of the Religious Tract Society, for which position his Australian experience will make him specially fit.

During Mr. Irwin's pastorate, an American organ was introduced in connection with the public worship, St. Andrew's being the last of the congregations connected with the Presbyterian Church of Victoria to adopt instrumental music as an aid to the congregational singing. This change was effected towards the end of 1892. About the same time another change was made with respect to the means of giving in aid of the congregational funds, by the introduction of the method of regular weekly offerings in envelopes as an alternative to the former method of contributing by means of seat rents and ordinary Sabbath collections. A congregational magazine was published for a short time during Mr. Irwin's ministry, but had to be abandoned for want of funds.


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