No. 232 - St Columba's Presbyterian Church at Devonport - 'Reasonable Christianity'

The Presbyterians were active in the Devonport area as early as the 1870’s and a church was opened at Don in 1891. In 1903, a small Presbyterian congregation at Devonport amalgamated with the Congregationalists to form a single church. The Congregationalist minister, Reverend D. Brown joined the Presbyterians and continued to serve as minister. Meetings were held in the Devonport Town Hall until a church was built in 1906

The amalgamation of the two congregations soon gave way to doctrinal controversy with Reverend Brown clashing with the Presbyterian hierarchy, leading to his resignation in 1906. The conflict was divisive as may be determined from a newspaper report on Brown’s last sermon:

“There was a large congregation at the Devonport Town Hall last evening, when the Rev D. Brown gave his farewell address to the Presbyterian charge. A considerable portion of the attendance was composed of ladies and non-church-goers, one of the latter, a well-known figure in sporting circles, affirming he had “come out of respect to Parson Brown”. The church managers and other prominent members of the congregation were conspicuous by their absence, and the choir lacked its usual strength”. 

A clue as to the nature of the clash may be found in Reverend Brown’s farewell social at the Town Hall held a few days after his final sermon. A report in the North Western Advocate provides a record of Brown's position:

“He had endeavoured to present a sane, reasonable, and intelligent Christianity, and he would allow his long ministry to bear its own witness as to his work. He tried to look at the old gospel through modern eyes, and express it in such a way as he was able. He was never so fully convinced as he was today, after twenty years of study of the matter, of the glorious gospel…and its grandeur and simplicity, and adaptability to human needs”.

Four months after Brown’s departure the new Presbyterian church and ‘Sabbath school’ on Edward Street was opened in December 1906. The North West Post reported:

“The new edifice was opened on Sunday, and on Monday night the event was celebrated by a public gathering, at which the moderator (the Rev. E. Beck) presided"



A few details about the building were described in another report:

“The church will comfortably seat 200. It is from the designs of Mr A.G.H. Black., and the builder is Mr S. Priest. The interior is bright and tasteful, and well installed with electric light". 

While Reverend Brown’s ‘reasonable and adaptable’ form of Christianity may have been ahead of its time, the Presbyterian church nevertheless thrived and grew and St Columba’s continues to serve the Presbyterians of the city. The fa├žade of the original building is virtually unchanged (see photograph below) apart from the extension built on the northern side in the mid 1950's.


Link to the blog entry on the Don Presbyterian Church HERE


                             An early photo of the church (undated) Original source not known.

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018


Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2018



Sources:

The Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 14 July 1903, page 4.
The Examiner, Saturday 18 August 1906, page 8.
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Monday 27 August 1906, page 2.
North West Post, Saturday 1 September 1906, page 2.
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Saturday 15 December 1906, page 6.
North West Post 19 December 1906, page 2.
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Wednesday 19 December 1906.
The North Western Advocate and Emu Bay Times Saturday 15 December 1906.
The Mercury, Friday 28 December 1906, page 2.
The Advocate, Wednesday 6 November 1935, page 5.

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