Warburton Adventists
Since 1906

Adventists mark 100 years in Warburton

More than 1200 church members and visitors gathered in Warburton on the weekend of April 7-9, 2006, to remember 100 years of Adventists in Warburton.

"One of the most common comments I heard was ‘This is like the good old days,'" says Alvin Knight, head elder of the Warburton church. "Everybody wanted to talk with each other.

"All the background work came together so well," he reports. "The programs were sensational. The worship program on Sabbath morning ran for almost two hours but no-one complained. It celebrated what the Warburton church has been. Everybody was smiling. Thank you to everyone who contributed."

The celebrations began with a Friday night focused on the history of Signs Publishing Company. Llywellen Jones (pictured), a former Signs employee and retired printing company proprietor, recounted the early days of the church's publishing work. "The Signs heritage is one well worth remembering," he said. "There is a great heritage that has come from the Echo, and a great deal of benefit has come from the forethought of the people who established the company."

The movement of Adventists to Warburton in 1906 was initiated by the publishing company. Originally known as the Echo Publishing Company, the church's publishing work in the South Pacific began in the inner-Melbourne suburb of North Fitzroy in 1885. The early printing business was almost too successful and there were fears that their burgeoning commercial work would distract them from the core purpose of spreading the gospel through printing. Accordingly, after a search of surrounding regions, the decision was made to move the printing business to Warburton, about 75 kilometres east of Melbourne.

Establishing a new printing plant in the small township of Warburton brought with it many workers and their families, who soon formed the Warburton church in 1906, established a school and in following years developed a hospital and health-care centre, a Sanitarium Health Food factory and more recently an aged-care hostel. With such a concentration of institutions, Warburton grew to be a major centre for Adventism in the South Pacific.

After the closure of two of these major institutions in the past decade, many Adventist families have moved away and the influence of the church in the Warburton community has diminished. But the centenary weekend provided an opportunity for many of those who had moved away to return, revisiting places of worship, education and employment, and reuniting with friends and colleagues of years past.

Chief financial officer for the Victorian Conference Steve Whitson congratulated the Warburton church on behalf of the wider church, and state member for Gembrook Tammy Lobato paid tribute to the role the Adventist Church has played in the Warburton and Yarra Valley community during the past century. On behalf of the Warburton church, Ms Lobato presented a community-service award to local identity Ted Chisholm, recognising his leadership of a group of volunteers who have worked to beautify the Warburton environment over more than 10 years.

The church also paid tribute to long-time member Keith Johanson (pictured) for his contribution to the church and community. Mr Johanson's parents and grandparents were among the first group of Adventists to move to Warburton. Since that time, Mr Johanson has served as a church elder for more than 50 years, as well as working in most departments of the church and contributing to the development of the church school and aged-care facilities. He also served as a member and-for a period- president of the local shire.

After lunch for about 1000 people, the focus shifted to Warburton Christian School with a reunion of class groups. "The school was packed," reports principal Nathan Hill. "We had so many positive comments about being able to catch up with old classmates and looking at the old photos."

The reunion included a student from 1918 as well as four from the 1920s. Former student and associate director of education for the Australian Union Conference Phil Knight gave a history of the school and Ms Lobato unveiled a centenary plaque to mark the occasion.
On April 9, a community breakfast provided by Sanitarium highlighted the health food company's history in Warburton. The school held a centenary fair day and more than 350 people-including former employees, church members and residents of the Warburton community-took the opportunity to see Signs Publishing Company at work, with guided tours led by Signs office staff.

"Our open day went very well and we enjoyed being able to show visitors what we do," says Signs manager Glen Reed. "Everyone at Signs participated, either by working or leading tours, and demonstrated the good teamwork we have at Signs.

Mr Reed believes marking the centenary has been positive for Signs and Adventists in Warburton. "As we celebrate our heritage and recognise God's leading, it gives us confidence for the future and inspiration to continue this important aspect of God's work," he comments.
-Nathan Brown/Adele Nash

New Signs book launched at Warburton centenary

Among the many visitors at the events to mark the centenary of Adventists in Warburton on the weekend of April 7-9 was Pastor Jim Coffin (pictured, left). Pastor Coffin was editor of Signs Publishing Company and Record from 1987 to 1992. And Signs took the opportunity to launch a new book by Pastor Coffin.

A Different Church for a Different World connects with Pastor Coffin's current role as director of the Global Mission Center for Secular/Postmodern Mission. The study center is based at the local church at which Pastor Coffin now ministers in Markham Woods, Florida, USA.

"As well as being a good writer and insightful thinker, in this role, Jim is in a unique position to comment on the church as it relates to today's world and to reflect on how we can better reach out to our communities," says current Signs editor and chairman of the Signs book committee Nathan Brown (right). "It has been a privilege to work with Jim on this project and it was great he was able to be part of the centenary weekend and we were able to launch the book with him here."

The book was launched during the Saturday-evening concert at the Warburton centenary weekend. Pastor Coffin thanked Signs staff at a book dedication on April 10. "We have good memories of our time in Warburton," he told Signs staff, including many with whom he worked 15 years ago. "So I'm glad Signs has been able to do this book-and you have done a wonderful job."

A Different Church for a Different World is the ninth book published by Signs Publishing Company in the past two years and is available from Adventist Book Centres.-Record staff

Why a Centenary?

One hundred years is a long time! Very few of us will live long enough to reach that mark. None of us are old enough to remember the significant events that marked the early years of Warburton's 100 years. But the celebration of a centenary does give us an opportunity for exploring, remembering and understanding the past and how it has shaped us and made us what we are today.

As members of the Warburton church family, the celebration of our centenary gives us an opportunity to discover our past, again meet some of the significant people who were a part of that past, as well as celebrate God's leading over past years. We need, perhaps, to remember the words of Ellen White when she wrote, "We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history" (Life Sketches, page 196).

As a community we have an opportunity to reflect on the things that have shaped both church and community in Warburton, and to renew our partnership with the community as we look towards the future.

-Pastor Eric Kingdon
Warburton Seventh-day Adventist Church