CWCI Adelaide Committee has been a part of the South Australian scene for over 50 years and for many years arranged a city day convention and a weekend convention. While the weekend convention was traditionally held annually in the beautiful south coast town of Victor Harbor, the 2016 Convention was located at Westminster School.
We have been blessed, over the years, with excellent speakers from overseas as well as our own home-grown Aussie speakers.
After 21 years of CWCI in Australia, the founder, Grace Collins, recorded the events leading to the establishment of the ministry in South Australia…
In my mail one September morning in 1963, there were two letters from SA which were to start the ripples moving even further out in Convention work. One came from a young woman and the other from a minister’s wife.
The young woman wrote, “For some time now several of us in this area have wondered whether there was any possibility of a small Convention weekend being held here in South Australia, similar to those you have described in the magazine, ‘Christian Woman’. Distance is a problem, but perhaps one or two of your personnel may be able to come over.” She gave the names and addresses of three other women who were interested and prepared to do some organising.
The minister’s wife, who lived in another area, said, “I have in my possession two addresses given by Miss Cook and Mrs Chambers at your Sydney convention. I have never read anything so vital and alive as these two messages for women by women. I am convinced that such conventions with their special ministry provide the answer to women’s needs. So many speakers at women’s meetings give topical and travel talks, but there is a real seeking for the things that count most. Your conventions are on our daily prayer list. We are praying that God will raise up someone in South Australia to whom he will give a vision of what conventions could do for women here.”
I replied to both women that CWCI would be praying with them about this.
Two years later I wrote again saying I was now able to come to Adelaide to explain convention work to any women who were interested. The young woman replied, “We are still vitally interested, although may not be able to work on a committee. Since writing to you two years ago, three of us have had babies and we all have young families. However we are keen to meet you and have friends who would like to also.”
As it turned out, two of them were on the first committee of seven in Adelaide, as was the minister’s wife. A missionary-hearted couple at Victor Harbor took the trouble to write a list of more than thirty names and addresses of women they thought would be interested. The secretary of the Evangelisation Society of SA gladly gave permission to use their meeting room in the city.
On my arrival in Adelaide, the women who gathered were very interested in the possibilities of CWCI, but not all were sure that this new idea would take off in SA as it had in NSW and Qld. One woman said to me, “We don’t get as excited about things here as you do in the eastern states,” I had not realised we were excitable, but I have smiled to myself many times since, on hearing of the enthusiasm and wonderful attendances at SA conventions in the years that followed.
The committee decided to start in a small way. They chose Port Elliot as the venue, booked a Christian boarding house and the smaller of two halls in the town, and had brochures printed to advertise the convention. After several weeks there were none left to give to women who were still asking for them. 78 women lived in for that first convention, and extra beds were put up everywhere. They encountered other difficulties. They had to clean the hall, and there was no microphone for the speakers. The following year they booked four guest houses and the Town Hall, and the registrations more than doubled.
A report of the first committee meeting after the convention in 1966 says, ‘time was spent reflecting on the wonderful convention held at Amerta Guest House and the RSL hall, Port Elliot, when Mrs Chambers and Miss Cook spoke on the theme, Christ pre-eminent in all things.’
At the first convention the chairman suggested that the women put aside twenty cents each week to help pay for their next weekend away. Shortly afterwards she wrote, “The word is spreading around. The other day I was walking along the street and a woman called out to me, “I’ve put aside my first twenty cents.’ She missed out the first time but is determined to come next year.”
From the first convention in 1966, there has been a focus on missions. This programme included a missionary session with a speaker from Borneo. Another year a panel of missionaries took part, answering questions from the women about their work and witness in various missions fields. And so it has continued.
A day Convention was launched in 1968 in a suburban area at Unley Park Baptist Church. It was a great day and the outreach was encouraging. This Convention moved in 1973 into Maugham Methodist Church in the city, and large numbers attended each year.
In the same year, 1973, the Central Weekend Convention moved to Victor Harbor for more accommodation. The auditorium at the Bible College of South Australia was so crowded with women that committee members were informed that not only did the meeting create a fire hazard, but that if any more were packed in the floor would probably give way! The following year they booked the theatre in Victor Harbor, which was another venture of faith, because they had no idea whether or not it would be filled. In fact, the theatre was almost full that first time, and was packed to capacity in the years that followed.
A valuable outreach developed through large sales of books at the Conventions. Recordings of addresses were also popular and now many thousands, including men, have been reached by the messages recorded on cassettes and CDs. Two women at least are known to have been converted through listening to these recordings.
In 1971 there was a general move into country areas – Mount Gambier, Port Wakefield, Mannum, and later to the Riverland, Naracoorte, Port Lincoln and Whyalla, and in 1976 to Murray Bridge. These country conventions became a great blessing to many women and their families.
One of the country Weekend Conventions was held in a picturesque spot at Melrose in the Flinders Ranges, looking out onto glorious mountains. Here, far removed from other distractions, women were able to listen to what God had to say to them.
In the early days, bringing speakers from another state was a big step in faith. When budgeting for expenses at one of the first conventions the committee quite forgot to include the speaker’s travel. After all, none of them had ever arranged anything like this before. After a hasty consultation the committee decided to take up a thank offering and were full of praise when this covered all the expenses.
And so conventions in SA went on from strength to strength. People have been converted, homes have been transformed, missionary interest has been increased, and women have attempted great things for God. We have traced the many avenues into which God has led CWCI in South Australia. They thought in the beginning, “How can we start?” They stepped out bravely with God, and proved that working in this way with him was certainly beyond expectations.
Excerpts from “Beyond Expectations”
by Grace Collins and Jean Raddon
Published by CWCI ©1977