People of all ages and walks of life enjoy worshipping God together at MBC. Over almost 70 years, the church has seen God work in many ways, including the sending out of more than 40 people into overseas mission work and more than 20 members entering the ministry.
But this lively faith community grew from small beginnings in the years following the end of World War II.
It all started in 1947 when Sid and Faith Jordan began a small Sunday School in their home, which was on the corner of Pembroke and Taylor roads in Mooroolbark.
In 1948 Lilydale Baptist Church arranged for fortnightly services to be held at the public hall in Station Street, Mooroolbark, alternating with services conducted by the Presbyterians. Incidentally, when student pastor Doug Turley was assigned to Mooroolbark, he lived in a backyard tent at the home of Arthur and Lydia Dodge.
The Jordans moved in 1951 to a home in Hull Road, directly opposite our current church property. They started up another Sunday School there, while their first group continued to meet under Mr & Mrs Widdows. (It’s interesting to note that the first group eventually started the Mooroolbark Anglican Church, St Francis in the Fields.)
In 1951, an old farm shed was bought and relocated to a block of land that had been purchased in Manchester Road. This became the first church building. Unfortunately, the shed was badly damaged in a storm during the process of being moved, and it required extensive rebuilding.
Despite these challenges, the Mooroolbark Baptist Church was officially opened on March 30th, 1952, by the Rev J D Manning. Its first business meeting was held a couple of months later in May, when a motion was moved to thank the “members of Lilydale Baptist who have made it possible to gather and worship in this place”.
In late 1960, Rev Geoff Malins became the church’s first full-time pastor. In 1962 a new hall was built to accommodate the growing membership. In June of 1964, Rev Malins announced his resignation and the church called Rev E C Smith in September of that year.
Rev Smith began an All Age Sunday School program in 1966, with adults studying the Bible together in small groups as well as children learning on Sundays. Over the years this program has been a vibrant and vital part of church life and outreach, with a maximum attendance in 524 members (in 1971) and an average weekly attendance of 270 children and adults.
The church celebrated its 12th anniversary on Sunday, March 20th 1966, and a new nursery building was opened. A number of singing groups had significant ministries at this time. Boys’ Brigade started at MBC in 1963, and Girls’ Brigade in 1969, and these are still thriving ministries today.
Rev Smith accepted a call to Orange, NSW, in late 1970, and the following year Rev Jim Finch was called from Pleasant St, Ballarat. Over the next few years a new church sanctuary was built and officially opened, and Rev Finch accepted a call from Albury Baptist in 1977.
The church continued to grow and branch out in many new areas. In 1978 Rev Len Lewis began a 12-year ministry. At this time the church began a play group, a drop-in centre at the local community hall, a ministry to divorced or widowed people, a wayside pulpit and teams in basketball, cricket and netball.
The youth group was a great encouragement, with a number of young people following God’s call into ministry in later years. Youth Pastor Neville Taylor was commissioned to take 36 members from MBC to plant a church at Croydon Hills.
Rev Darrell McKerlie commenced his ministry as senior pastor in 1992. The church again acted upon God’s leading to extend the buildings, including more car parking and new upstairs meeting rooms. As part of the extensions, the original farm shed which had served in many capacities, from sanctuary to Sunday School building, was moved in 2001. It became part of a new home in Geelong.
Mr Sid Jordan was appointed as the church’s first treasurer, and Grace Dodge as the first organist. Rev J H Baker was the pastor, but his time was shared with Lilydale and Picnic Hills (now Wandin) as well.
In its first official year, MBC laid firm foundations as the church committed to some key areas: the introduction of regular evening services, support for overseas missions, growth through sharing God’s Word and baptism, and a Sunday School program (superintended by Mr Jordan). The church held Vacation Bible Schools as an outreach to the community.
By 1953, the building was almost bursting at the seams with 38 children attending Sunday School. The church started to plan extensions. Rev W Stelling succeeded Rev Baker in September 1954, and by 1955 the church had added a new kindergarten building, given the church a fresh coat of paint, laid concrete paths and planted trees along the Manchester Road boundary. This was a wonderful accomplishment for a congregation numbering about 20.
When Manchester Road was duplicated in the late 1950s, MBC lost 12 feet of its frontage and therefore needed to relocate. At the same time a subdivision was taking place in Hull Road, so with God’s leading and help, the church of 67 members bought four blocks of land for $9000. The new property had the benefit of frontages on both East Court and Hull Road.
The church building was shifted from the Manchester Road site in 1960 and was installed in East Court. A new brick veneer house two doors away was also purchased for a manse. The Christian Endeavour Society was formed around this time, and it had a significant impact on many lives.
The church community praised God for the extensions and refurbishments at an official opening in 2002. This coincided with celebrations for MBC’s 50-year anniversary.
The church began a variety of ministries such as a soccer club, community kitchen, new play group, Kids’ Hope ministry, Mooroolbark Explorers touring group and a drama club. Weekly evening services began again, including a monthly service run by the youth. A prayer chain was set up, as well as a CD ministry to record services for those who were unable to physically attend.
MBC participated in church exchange missions both in country Victoria and interstate. A system of Faith Promise Giving was introduced to enhance support for missions, and a midweek worship service was held once a month particularly to minister to people over 55.
Rev McKerlie accepted a call to Broome Baptist Church, WA, and resigned from MBC in February 2010. The following year the church called as senior pastor Rev Michael Drennan, who had been serving at Portland Baptist Church.
In recent years, the church participated in the Stable One winter accommodation support and the Prison Fellowship Australia biscuit bake. It began running an annual children’s holiday program and the Mainly Music program. MBC also purchased an adjacent property. Rev Drennan announced his resignation in March 2020.
We look back on the previous decades and thank God for his faithfulness as he has built his church at Mooroolbark Baptist. We look to the future with confidence, believing that with God’s grace, the best is yet to come!