“…I do not think that I shall greatly exaggerate if I state that there were from two to three hundred persons assembled on the occasion- a good gathering for ‘George’s River’, considering that the ceremony occurred on a week-day, and that the majority of settlers here are of that hard-handed but respectable class who maintain themselves by the sweat of their brow…”
These words were taken from the Sydney Morning Herald on 31st December 1856, from a letter to the editor titled ‘The Church in the Bush’. The letter recorded a service to celebrate the commencement of the first church building on the site of what is now St George’s Anglican Church at Hurstville.
The vision to commence a church ‘in the bush’ 157 years ago was by inspiration. The then Bishop Barker responded to a plea from one of his clergymen, Rev. Dr Steele, who was a Rector of St Peter’s Cooks River. His huge parish extended from Newtown, south to the Georges River and out to Liverpool, and he would venture out on horseback into the thick forests south of Tempe between the Cooks and Georges Rivers. These ‘forests’ covered what is now the city of Hurstville. He was burdened for the spiritual needs of the people beginning to settle in the area.
From its humble beginnings as a ‘church in the bush’ over 157 years ago, St George’s Hurstville has become a ‘church in the city’. Though the church itself has changed dramatically, the focus on God’s Word has not. The gospel continues to be faithfully proclaimed and many people have come to believe in the Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The Chinese ministry began in July 1995 in response to the rapid growth of the Chinese population in the Hurstville area, under the leadership of Rev. Irene Mok with the support from the English congregation led by Rev. David West. Two years later, when Rev. Albert Leung with his family were called to take up the ministry, there was one service with 40 regular attendees. The service was bilingual (Cantonese and Mandarin).
In 2001, Rev. Allan Beaven became the Rector of the church. Under his leadership, the congregations were built up as one church, governed by a single Parish Council made up of representatives from each congregation, following the church mission statement: “Honouring God, Sharing Jesus Christ, caring for all people, preparing each other to serve Him”.
By July 2003 the Chinese congregation had grown significantly with over 120 people, highlighting the need to divide the service into two: a Cantonese and a Mandarin congregation with two sets of core lay leaders groups, Sunday services, Sunday schools, adult Bible studies and different age fellowship groups. In the past 10 years the Chinese congregations has grown to over 200 members regularly attending the Cantonese service and 120 members in the Mandarin service, through the faithful sharing of the Good News of Jesus Christ and equipping believers to serve. The part-time assistant minister Rev. Selina Li assists with the Mandarin service.
In March 2008, a new contemporary English service was started to cater for the needs of the young adults and youth of the church. Combined with weekly young adult’s bible studies and youth ministry activities, this service has been strategically targeting the growing youth and young adults population in the Hurstville community. As part of a relaunch of the service in 2011, the service was renamed ‘Church on The Avenue’ or CoTA, to provide a distinctive brand and identity.
Today, St George’s Hurstville is a culturally diverse bible-believing church with a vibrant mix of adults, youth and infants. On any given Sunday, five congregations worship in one of three languages: English, Cantonese and Mandarin. Even though they may greatly differ culturally, socially and economically from the first gathering back in 1856, they still gather around the same Saviour, Jesus Christ, in unity and equality and seek to make Him known.
We praise God for His work through faithful ministers to bring unity out of diversity in our church. Each minister has uniquely contributed to the build-up of God’s people through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word and through their love of others.
“Great and wonderful are Your deeds, Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are Your ways, King of the ages.
Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to Your name?
For You alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed.”