Collins Street Baptist Church
|Collins Street Baptist Church|
|Location||174 Collins Street, Melbourne|
|Architectural type||Greek Revival architecture|
Collins Street Baptist Church is a Baptist church in central Melbourne, Australia. Founded on this site in 1845, it is the oldest Baptist church in Victoria. It is known as the former church of the outspoken minister Tim Costello, brother of the former Treasurer of Australia, Peter Costello.
The first Baptist service in Melbourne was held in 1838 in a tent on a vacant allotment of land opposite the present church. The first chapel was built on the current site in 1845. In the late 1850s it was decided to enlarge the building. The current church was designed Joseph Reed, the architect who designed the Melbourne Town Hall and several other prominent Melbourne churches, and the new church was opened in 1862. Unlike most Melbourne churches of the period, which are either Gothic or Romanesque, Collins St Baptist is in the form of a classical temple, with four Corinthian columns facing the street. According to the church's website, this "reflects the Baptist understanding of the church as a gathered community of believers rather than as a special building."
In conformity with the Baptist dislike of decoration in churches, the interior has plain plastered walls. It has arched moulded windows, a double aisle and side seats facing the pulpit. A central raised pulpit emphasises the stress in Baptist theology on the Word of God being read and preached as central features of the services of worship. Seating is arranged in a "U" shape around the central axis determined by the pulpit and the Communion table. There is no form of decoration other than some detail in the windows and carving on the pulpit and Communion furniture. No cross or symbol appears in the church.
Baptist tradition also disapproved of music in churches, but in 1854 a small organ was installed. In 1885 the a larger organ was installed. This was restored and expanded in 1974.
Jim Barr was appointed a minister of Collins Street Baptist Church in 1991, when he established the Urban Mission Unit (now known as Urban Seed), recruited the first group of mission interns and implemented the SEEDS training program. This time was followed by his appointment as the Pastor at Collins Street Baptist Church from 1994 to 2000. During this time Jim was responsible for the pastoral and liturgical leadership of the Church community as well as taking a keen interest in the world around the Collins Street church.
Tim Costello, a lawyer, republican activist and former Mayor of St Kilda as well as a Baptist minister, was appointed the minister of the Collins Street Baptist Church and director of the Urban Mission Unit in 1995, the year before his brother, Peter Costello, became the federal treasurer. Tim Costello's outspoken comments on many social and political issues brought new attention to the church. Under his leadership, the Urban Mission Unit rose to prominence as a leading voice on urban, business, social and political issues including homelessness, drug addiction, problem gambling and poverty. The Urban Mission Unit changed its name to Urban Seed in 2001. Costello left the position in 2004 on being appointed chief executive officer of World Vision Australia. The senior minister is now the Revd Simon Holt.
Several historically notable people have been members of the church. During the early 20th century numerous women active in the Victorian women's movement were members, including Cecilia Downing, Margaret McLean and Bessie Rees. The politicians Denis Lovegrove and Robert Reid were members as were the prominent Melbourne Syme family, including the owner of The Age, David Syme.
- Smart, J. Downing, Cecilia (1858 - 1952), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, Melbourne University Press, 1996, pp 28-30.
- Hyslop, A. McLean, Margaret (1845 - 1923), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, Melbourne University Press, 1986, p. 331.
- Smart, J, Rees, Elizabeth Laurie (Bessie) (1865 - 1939), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, Melbourne University Press, 2005, pp 335-336.