No. 414 - Riverbank Christian Church at Riverside

Launceston’s Riverbank Christian Church is part of the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia (CRCA), formerly known as the Reformed Churches of Australia. The denomination is broadly associated with the Reformed Presbyterian tradition.

In the post-war years Dutch immigrants from the Netherlands settled in northern Tasmania. Unlike Dutch communities on the Australian mainland, whose members were predominantly Catholic, the majority of the Dutch in Tasmania are Protestant. Approximately 3500 Dutch migrants settled in Tasmania in the 1950’s forming the States largest non-English speaking migrant community.

Initially Dutch migrants intended to join Presbyterian churches to help integrate into Tasmanian society. These sentiments were outlined in a report in the Examiner following the arrival of Reverend J.A. Schep in June 1951:

“The hope that they would eventually make good Australians was expressed by the Rev. J. A. Schep, one of 40 Dutch migrants who arrived at Wynyard on Saturday…. They were met at the 'drome by about 20 countrymen who have already settled in Tasmania. The migrants are from all parts of Holland. They include factory workers, carpenters, other tradesmen and labourers. The majority of the men are married. There were several wives with children who came out to join their husbands already settled here. Rev. Schep said there was no Dutch Reformed Church in Tasmania. The migrants of that religion would probably join up with one of the Protestant churches. Rev Schep will conduct regular services in Dutch and English”.

Another newly arrived Dutch minister, the Reverend Johannes Roodenburg, minister of the North Launceston Presbyterian Church, (formerly a minister of the Netherlands Reformed Church) ministered to Dutch residents along the north west coast.

Although there was no intention of forming a new church; liturgy, logistics and language made this inevitable. For these reasons, a new denomination, initially comprising of Reformed Churches in Sydney, Penguin-Ulverstone and Melbourne, was formed in December 1951. Writing in the Advocate, Reverend Schep explained the hopes and principles of the new Christian Reformed Church.

“…We Dutch migrants of the Reformed persuasion want to stick to that good principle. We must become and want to become real Australians. Therefore our denomination has not been called the "Dutch Reformed Churches" but the "Reformed Churches of Australia." Therefore, too, I preach in English once a month, and it will be oftener in future. But we want to remain Reformed Christians first of all. We shall join wholeheartedly in the social and religious customs of the Australians only so far as these customs are in conformity with the word of God. We say wholeheartedly "No" to the Australian customs of gambling, dancing and frequenting ‘pubs.'; …We are building up our own church life not because we are Dutchmen and want to remain Dutchmen, but because we are Christians, who want to stick to the scriptures as Maarten Luther and John Calvin did…. We are living in a country that is proud of its freedom. We want freedom to serve the Lord after our conscience”.

The Riverbank Christian Church is one of approximately 50 Christian Reformed Churches in Australia having about 9,000 members. A group was established in Launceston in 1954 and a Reformed Church was later built on Frederick Street in the city. The Frederick Street Church closed about 8 years ago. The new Riverbanks church is located next to the Launceston Christian School (established in 1976) with which it is associated.

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019


Sources:

The Examiner, Monday 18 June 1951,  page 5
The Advocate, Saturday 20 December 1952, page 4

https://riverbankcc.org.au
http://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/R/Reformed%20churches.htm
https://crca.org.au/about-the-crca/history.html

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