Warburton Adventists
Since 1906

Warburton Seventh-day Adventist Church Articles

Providence and Heroism at Warburton

Howard G Davis, April 15, 1944

Exactly a week ago to the hour, as I begin this story, our Warburton church hall was in flames, and valiant efforts were being made to save the church building itself. With hands and faces scorched by the searing flames as they billowed through into the church, willing helpers did their utmost to win the unequal struggle, and with the arrival of the local fire brigade a few minutes later the tide turned. The hall, with its furnishings, library and equipment, is a total loss, but the church was saved, though damaged to the possible extent of several hundreds of pounds.

Last week we promised our readers the full story of the fire; but so many were the evidences that Providence had taken the situation in hand, and so thrilling the instances of individual heroism and devotion, that we must needs leave part unwritten.

On Saturday night April 8, the hall adjoining the church was filled to capacity. The occasion was a benefit evening arranged by the Opportunity Club for one of our members who recently lost her husband, and who was being given a very welcome holiday. As the first of a series of travelogue and other films was about to be loaded into the projector, a film ignited, from a cause yet to be explained.

In a few moments flames were shooting up to the ceiling with a crackle and roar, and though attempts were made to control the blaze, it became apparent in less that a minute that nothing could save the building.

It all happed as suddenly and as unexpectedly as a flash of lightning, but the lack of panic and the orderly exit of the 250 persons present were remarkable to see. Most of the children were seated in the front rows, and it was they who opened the escape doors and left the hall in a matter of moments, as though drilled for the occasion, leaving the way clear for the adults to make their escape.

Although a number made their escape through the main entrance, this means of exit was soon cut off. A definite providence was now in evidence. It is the usual practice for the deacons to lock the doors between the hall and the church. At the conclusion of the Sabbath the deacon responsible had failed to lock these “No Exit” doors, and thus a way of escape was unexpectedly provided for many who otherwise would have seriously congested the main exit.

The flames and choking fumes spread so rapidly throughout the hall, and the heat became so intense in almost a matter of seconds, especially down the centre of the hall, that a number made their escape through the side windows, which are from 10 to 15 feet above the ground. It was here that a number of sprains occurred and that Sister Jarvis, a visitor from Melbourne, received an impacted fracture of the ankle. With others, she became trapped in the corner near the fire, and was severely burned before making her escape.

It was in this corner that Sister R Paterson showed wonderful heroism and devotion, when she remained to encourage and assist Sister R Wise, who had with her little Verona. And right here we must mention our Union Conference President, Pastor E B Rudge. Among the last to leave the building, he was escaping through a side window, when he noticed Sister Paterson endeavouring to help Sister Wise and the baby. Immediately he jumped back into the hall, and ran to assist them. As he neared the women, facing as he did so the roaring, scorching inferno, an explosion occurred, and a great tongue of flames shot out, severely maiming his right hand and igniting his clothing. He continued on and took the baby from Sister Wise, who then managed to make her escape down the centre of the hall, helped along by unseen hands while stumbling over her coat which she providentially still clung to, thus keeping her head below the mass of flame and fumes. As surprised eyes saw her emerge from the inferno, she suddenly fell headlong near the stage. But willing hands soon removed her to safety. Sister Paterson made her escape by jumping about 12 feet from a window. She was extensively burned on the back, and also burned on the face, arms and hands. Sister Wise suffered burns to the face, hands, back and legs; while little Verona was burned on the face, hands and leg.

As Pastor Rudge later described the occurrence, he said it was wonderful to see Sister Paterson, with face calm and serene, looking about, seeking a way out of their terrible predicament, while the flames roared inches behind them, and billowed down upon their heads!

Rescuing Verona from that furnace, Pastor Rudge was undecided whether to make for the windows, so high above the ground, or endeavour to find the door, now hidden from view. Before he decided, he was urged into moving towards the window and even as he did so a further explosion took place, and a long tongue of white-hot flame and gas shot past where he had been standing. Reaching the window, he called for someone to catch the baby, whom he was holding in his uninjured hand. With the flames from his own clothing pouring out through the window and unable to see or hear anyone below, his hand at last refused duty and the baby dropped into outstretched hands below. He himself then fell headfirst from the window 10 feet to the concrete path but sustained no further injury when he landed on his back. Pastor Rudge’s right hand was severely burned, and he suffered burns to the head, face and arm.

Great credit is due Dr T A Sherwin and Matron D’Ray, who with their willing helpers worked untiringly to deal with the sudden influx of casualties. Dr Parker, who was staying at the Hydro at the time, rendered most valuable assistance.

Brother R Robinson (brother of Pastor Gordon Robinson) was also severely burned on the hands, face and head when he re-entered the burning hall in an endeavour to rescue someone whom he thought was trapped near the seat of the fire. He was, however, beaten back by the flames, and managed to crawl to safety. The man whom he had previously seen was probably brother Whynam, an elderly man, who made his escape through a narrow window at the front of the hall.

Many townspeople and visitors have added their witness that it was a miracle that all were able to escape from the blazing building, and in so short a time and without panic. It was truly remarkable that not one person fainted—for indeed the sight of the spreading flames was appalling, and fumes and flames reached out like a grasping hand to overcome those who were escaping. God indeed is to be praised for He fulfilled His promise as given in the morning service preached by Pastor Rudge: “Thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.” Jer 45:5. And there were many that night who lifted their voices in heartfelt praise to the God who answers prayer.

In saving the church building, from which the seats, instruments and other furnishings were removed, a definite providence was witnessed in the extinguishing of one fire in the roof, thus confining it to the ridge, which it had already reached. While one brother held a fire extinguisher aloft as high as possible, another directed the stream onto the blaze high above and just at the moment the gas in that last container failed, the blaze was extinguished. The brigade worked hard with an unexpectedly low supply of water, to deal with the fire in the high ridge, and finally were able to carry a hose to the top by ripping off tiles, thus making an extra “extension” ladder.

And what were the children doing that night, while the hall was burning from which they had so wonderfully escaped? Let me tell you.

When late that night, after returning to her home a young person injured in her jump from a window, Brother Maurice Earles drove me back to the church, it was with a sad heart that I remarked to Brother Edwin Start, who was on fire duty for the rest of the night, “I feel badly about the dear little youngsters' kindergarten. It makes a person's heart ache to think of it!”

“You come with me and see,” he volunteered, and turning to the corner of the ruined hall he flashed his torch upon the door, yes, and the wall and window of the little kindergarten! He opened the door, and we walked in—I, almost as one in a dream. There were the little tables, the kindergarten chairs around them, though some were piled with blackened coals—coals that had been alight when they had fallen through the fractured fibrocement ceiling, for two of the chair seats after their removal were found to have been charred into charcoal but had not burst into flame! Yes, and there was the much loved birthday chair, with the Cradle Roll hanging on the wall above; and the table with all its devices to delight the hearts of children. The little shepherd was still caring for his sheep safe in their little fold. And the great Shepherd, the Friend of little children, had heard the cry of His little ones; for while the flames roared they prayed, “Dear Jesus, please save our kindergarten!” The lesson learned in that little room beneath the hall bore fruit that night. To the Shepherd Divine is indeed the glory!

The whole occurrence is not without its lessons for us as individuals and as a community. Leaving the church grounds the following day after photographing the ruins, I picked up a scrap of a burned Bible, and this is the completed text of that charred portion: “In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.” Jer 23:6.

God grant that the “Lord Our Righteousness” may burn from our hearts all dross of sin, and abide there continually. In the glad hereafter, when all is made clear, our now imperfect praise for His providence will be compete.

Warburton Church Hall Fire Follow Up . . .

April 26, 1944

Dear fellow workers in the Forces,

I take up the pen, not of a ready writer, but to fill a vacancy.

No doubt you have all heard further details of the fire, as it has been broadcast. We are glad to say that the patients are all progressing favourably. So far we have not been able to do much to repairs and renewals except talk and plan. A church business meeting this evening will decide certain matters, and then the architect and builder will be busy. In the meantime we are holding senior Sabbath school and church services in the SHF assembly hall. The intermediate meet in the Masonic Hall, and the primary in the Signs chapel, while the kindergarten are catered for in the SHF dining room.

A very definite answer to prayer was given us in the saving of the kindergarten Sabbath school. It was situated underneath the hall, the burning timber seats and floor of the hall above failed to spoil the equipment of the children’s room, divided only by a fibrous-cement ceiling. While we adults were busy saving life and property, the children were praying, “Dear Jesus, please save our Sabbath school.”

Short, simple, sincere—saved! “Except ye . . . become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom.” Matt 18:3.

To show our appreciation of God's mercy, we have taken up a thank offering to assist those of our people who lost private property, and to help with the medical expenses of those who suffered in the fire.

The Sabbath service was conducted by Paster Piper, who used the scripture found in Lamentations 3:22-40: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. . . . Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord.” The anthem, “He Leadeth Me,” reminds us of God’s protection and guidance.

The afternoon program, which was planned weeks ahead, was also very appropriate, as it was Harvest Thanksgiving Day. The tables of fruit and vegetables decorated with flowers enables us to realise God’s goodness and care for His children, as the choir sang, “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest . . . summer and winter . . . shall not cease.”

This week we are having an abundance or rain and a heavy fall of snow.

During the weekend we had the pleasure of welcoming Pastor Lawson and Brother Tempest. In the Sabbath service Pastor Rosendahl spoke very earnestly on the need for decision—the question, Christ or Barabbas? must be answered, and each of us must decide for good or evil. After several special invitations almost the whole church decided to stand for Jesus. This was a good prelude to the Week of Prayer, which commences this Friday evening. We hope to have Pastor H E Piper with us, also Pastor T A Mitchell from the Union.

Our smiling missionary, Sister Wiles, encouraged us with experiences of native believers, in harmony with the suggestion given in Young People’s meeting—

  1. Live one day at a time.
  2. Keep your aim high.
  3. Make no provision to fail.
  4. Don’t stay down if you fall. Rise up again.

The wheels of industry are again revolving after a short spell during Anzac Day, and so to work again. But while we must needs be busy about our work, and be running hither and yon, we remember you all very often before the throne of grace, and trust that before long you will again be with us. May God keep you safe and true to Him as you serve your King and witness for your Maker.

Yours for your friends back home, W Hodder -  R Wise, Secretary

A New Sanctuary Dedicated

Marian Hay, Australasian Record, 26/8/1940

The dedication of our new church at Warburton, Victoria, was the recompense for the years of preparation and labour, the realisation of our hopes, the answer to our prayers. At first it was the need of repairing the old church that turned our thoughts to the desirability of a new one; but for the past two years our rapidly growing membership has made the questions of space an increasingly urgent matter.

At last the necessary preliminaries of the raising of money, the drawing of plans, and the calling of tenders were over, and in the late summer the building itself began to rise. How eagerly we watched as the plan took shape and grew day by day into a structure of beauty and symmetry! The dedication was set for the first weekend in August, to coincide with a Young People’s convention arranged by the Victorian Missionary Volunteer Department.

Working bees of menfolk cleared and graded the ground, and put down concrete and gravel paths, while the womenfolk saw to it that the inside was spotless and ready. Weeks of dull, drizzly weather preceded the opening date, and on the Friday the wireless foretold a wet weekend. But earnest prayers had been ascending to Heaven that a fine weekend might be granted to us, and how wonderfully those prayers were answered! Nights clear and crisp, sparkling with star shine and frost, ushered in days all blue and golden—blue of sky and gold of sunshine and early wattle. It seemed like God’s smile of approval as He accepted the house we were dedicating to His service. The weather broke on Monday, and by evening heavy rain with sleet, and abundant snow on the hills, made everything cold and bleak.

The first meeting was held on Friday night, when Pastor S T Leeder spoke on the meaning of the judgment-hour message to us as Adventist young people. There was also a prayer meeting at dawn on Sabbath morning.

The dedication service was held at the hour of worship. With the ministers and elders on the platform were Mr Duncan McCallum, president of the shire, who in sincere and well-chosen words spoke of his pleasure at being present; and the Rev A Langhorne, minister of the local Presbyterian church, who offered the dedicatory prayer. Pastor J Pascoe, president of the Victorian Conference, preached the dedicatory sermon. He gave us an inspiring and appropriate message upon the willingness of God to dwell with men. He deigns to meet with them in the houses they erect to His honour; best of all, He has promised to dwell in the hearts of all who are humble and contrite. The male choir and a male quartet provided music in keeping with the sacred service.

The new church is situated just across the road from the publishing house, on a beautiful block of land running back to La La Creek. As will be seen by the illustration, it is of light brick, with low walls, and a high, steep roof of dark tiles. The seating is arranged in three sections, with two aisles. Normally there is seating for 480; but for the dedication service seats from the Signs chapel were borrowed, and about 80 chairs were also used, until it was estimated that over 600 were comfortably seated.

Dignity and simplicity are the keynotes of the church and its appointments. Three tall windows behind the platform carry the glance upward, and in the body of the church one’s glance may travel above the great beams to the very peak of the roof. We are deeply appreciative of the work of the architect, Mr Edward Billson, and the builders, Messrs Owen and Hams, for every detail of the workmanship is sound and true and each who had a part in it put his best into it. Brother H H Rowell was responsible for the installation of electric light. We must mention that gift of Mr Billson: plain amber glass was specified for the three tall windows behind the platform, but at his own expense he put in three lead lights of amber and blue.

The platform, aisles, front and back of the church are covered with rubber flooring, laid on sponge rubber to absorb the noise of footsteps. This, with two palm stands, was donated by the Ladies Sewing circle. The chairs for the platform were given by the Ladies Guild, while the copper jardiniere and the two chairs for Sabbath school were given by the children.

We have dedicated our church to the worship and service of God; and we have also dedicated our lives anew, that He may dwell within our hearts, and carry out His holy will in our lives.

Final Result of Warburton Church Ingathering Effort

Australasian Record, 9/9/1918
IF you wish to know why we want to report these results, just look carefully at the accompanying miniature reproduction of the blackboard in our office chapel, and then follow us in a short explanation of the diagrams and a brief account of our interesting experiences. The aim set for us 'by the conference was £40. The chart shown to the extreme left contained forty squares, each representing £1. How could we possibly manage to collect £40? This was the query of all on the missionary committee and was the thought in the minds of many others who knew the scattered district and poor homesteads com prising our territory. Some other opportunity further a field must be discovered. But what would be the most successful? That was the problem. However, a start was made first at "Jerusalem." On June 11, sixteen missionary workers, ten young people and six adults visited every home in the township near by. In two hours the territory was finished, but an excellent start had been made, namely, £10 5s. which was increased by a 'few call back visits some days later, to £12. As 135 magazines were used, this made the amount per copy ls. 9d. That gave us great heart. We "thanked God and took courage." Private letters sent by members to friends soon began to bring responses. On the sixth day the total had reached £30, so only ten squares remained on the board facing us. That night a bold attack was launched. Twenty busy hands prepared for mailing, about five hundred neat, printed letters and a corresponding number of magazines (letters, envelopes and wraps, all neatly printed, given free by the publishing house.) These were sent to entire strangers whose names we obtained from various sources canvassers' order stubs, magazine lists, directories, etc. Here was an outlet for the pent up desire of many who had no friends or relatives to approach and for whom we had no territory. The cost of postage on this section of the effort was gladly sub scribed to. It was certainly a shot at a venture. But that little company bowed earnestly around those precious bundles of mail, sending them forth on the wings of faith and prayer. Numbers of the "strangers " proved to be friends. Over seventy opened their purse strings and gave liberally, remitting to us through the post. Eighty replies were received, the total amount sent being £26 10s. an average rerpittance of 6s. 8d., or ls. ld. for every one of the 487 persons thus approached. But what about our blackboard? The diagrams were watched daily with increasing interest. The receipts had reached al most to £39 when the response to letters sent by the publishing house to business men began to tell in downright earnest, ten guineas, five guineas. The aim must be set at £60. Very well then. What happened next? the record donation of the campaign, £25 all in one lump. That was Friday afternoon. With our aim already more than doubled we waited almost breathlessly for the next surprise Could we dare make our aim £100? Well, by the next Tuesday we were beyond the £100, and had the thermometer set for a good finish at £115 by July 31. July 24 the thermometer burst. A week still to go, so to make the aim £120, treble "the original aim, was the wish of every one. A flagpole was erected. By three o'clock on the closing day the flag was flying 5s. below the top. One of our young people cycled out to half a dozen homes which had not been visited in a township a few miles distant, and brought back 8s. Next morning we had a praise-service, a fitting close to this important effort. A couple, of amounts were afterward received, making the final result £123. Of this the manager of the publishing house collected £54—an average of £6 per magazine. Another worker in very poor health, saw in this campaign an opportunity for service, and collected through private correspondence £14. The average amount received per copy all round, was 2s. 3d. All heartily cooperated. The hearing of personal reports from those chose to work the small townships of the valley and the scattered homesteads among the mountains was always enjoyed That God may add His blessing fo these offerings from friends of our cause, and stimulate us to still greater earnestness and faith in His mighty work, in our prayer. -S. V. STRATFORD.

Week of Prayer Report

J. P. GREGORY, Union Conference Record, 28/5/1906

THE week of prayer has been both pleasant and profitable for the little company at Warburton. The meetings were held in the evenings at the different homes. They were characterized by an earnest spirit; and were well attended. The annual offering was a good one. Our regular Sabbath services are held in a corner of the factory. Although our surroundings are not ideal, our gatherings are well at tended and always interesting. Our church has now an enrolment of twenty-five, and the Sabbath-school an average attendance of fifty-six. On May 7, we opened our church- school in temporary premises, with an enrolment of twelve pupils. Mrs. Pretyman is acting as teacher, and the school session is held in the after noon for the present. The work at the printing office is progressing slowly but surely. Every week sees some progress and improvement made about the factory and the surrounding homes. A chapel is now in course of erection at the rear of the factory, which when finished will be a great convenience. Just before the dinner- hour on three days in the week, the workers gather for a short study and prayer service, and an excellent spirit of harmony and cooperation pervades the whole institution. A fund has been started for the erection of a church building, and we hope soon to have sufficient to start the work. The circulation of our literature has a very important part to play in proclaiming to the world the third angel's message, and we would ask the readers of the RECORD to do all in their power, both by their prayers and influence, for the up building of our publishing work. -J. P. GREGORY.