St Paul’s Women’s Fellowship, Beaudesert 1951–2020

Where were you in 1951? I was a little kid then, running off to the local school across the road from our church: St Paul’s. Lunch times I’d sometimes spend at my grandparents’ house.

Up the back steps in time to hear my grandmother’s favourite radio serial “Blue Hills” and the smell of some freshly cooked sultana cake. But that wasn’t her only passion. She was a regular church member – a leader in her time. How fitting that she should be the very first president of our ladies guild. It was something that I was totally oblivious to back then, but she, along with some of the other women, were making a move in the church.

A special meeting was arranged and St Paul’s Ladies Guild came into being on 7 November 1951.

In those days it was very official with the women being mentioned in the minutes as “Mrs”, and their husband’s initials. The ladies did hospital visiting and sewed dresses, loin cloths and shirts for missions. Boxes of “Christmas Cheer” were packed each year and money sent off to various projects of the church. St Peter’s College received dozens of eggs (19 dozen were sent from one Harvest Thanksgiving). Financial support was given to many projects, Brisbane City Mission, New Guinea, Hope Vale and Coolum Youth Camp.

Cleaning and beautification of the church was a priority. Numerous things were bought and placed in the church building. When the hall was built, the task of improvements there was addressed. The first guild meeting held in the hall was in 1957 and in 1958 Bible Study was introduced and conducted by the pastor. Even before the hall was built, the guild organised many socials for the congregation, providing ice-creams and soft drinks for many of these functions.

In the sixties and seventies, the ladies continued to work, raising funds for the set projects. Sewing continued for the Brisbane City Mission and New Guinea. Second-hand clothing was sent off to Hope Vale. Trinder Park Rest Home became a focal point with cooking and window cleaning along with support for the annual fete. It is recorded in the minutes that “Each lady working in the stalls is to have a card marked ‘STALL WORKER’ pinned to her frock”. (Obviously, no slacks or jeans in those days!)

Younger members joined in the late sixties and early seventies with a number of them being in their twenties, of which I was one. (Something that isn’t the case these days.) In those years, some things changed. In our meetings, more members took an active part. In 1974, each member took turns leading the devotion before pastor conducted Bible Study and, from 1976, we even led the prepared Bible Study when the pastor was away. The women were still referred to by their husband’s name until 1980 when we finally used Christian names.

In August 1981, we ventured into uncharted waters with the introduction of a fellowship luncheon with hot dishes. Money raised through street stalls helped provide many items for the church and the hall. The list seemed endless.

It was in this era that the ladies were fit enough to climb about the Rocky Point Sugar Mill on a tour and to various other places, taking along our Bible Study. Trinder Park Fete was still a feature and cooking was in full swing as we commenced to run an annual street stall (something that had been frowned on in former years by one of the pastors).

During the eighties the guild continued to work on the beautification of the church, the hall and the garden. Our annual luncheon was a highlight each year, as was a Christmas luncheon for the congregation. In 1987, Day Care began in Beaudesert and our guild joined the volunteer roster.

The nineties – the years seem to have flown by. The guild had a name change towards the end of this era. The word “Guild” was discontinued, and “Fellowship” came into being and things became even more informal. Imagine! Our pastors now had Christian names! The meetings had not changed all that much although a course in Bible Study preparation, enabled a couple of us to prepare our own Bible studies in various forms

We continued making hot dishes for our Annual Luncheon and “finger food” for Advent Tea each Christmas. The members baked furiously for our annual street stall until the last one in 1998. In 1999 we had fun putting a recipe book together with the proceeds going to the parish funds. We sold around 200.

Into the new millennium – during these years, our membership increased with it reaching the highest in 2006 with 17 members. Members were busy raising funds as well as taking time out to make birthing kits for PNG and Shoe Boxes for the Christmas Child Project.

By 2011 our members were beginning to age and membership had fallen to 10.

Our fund raising was reduced to one major event a year instead of two but still we managed to continue to support the congregation and provide more equipment in the hall and even replacing the old water tank. Various LWA, LWQ, zone and local projects have been supported each year and with the help of women from the congregation, we were able to supply pamper packs for our drought-affected sisters in western Qld in 2019. In the last few years, we have managed without a pastor, but our heavenly Father has been there throughout our whole journey.

Our final year has been again in unchartered waters, with the COVID-19 virus wreaking havoc across the world, we have had to find alternate ways to do things. With our numbers further depleted, we found we were unable to continue as a fellowship and it was with much sadness that we sent off our final donations to our much-loved projects in November 2020.

Through the many years, the Lord has certainly blessed us richly and, whatever we have done and what we do in his service, it can never come close to what we owe.

He tells us that the debt is paid – how great is that!

Praise the Lord!

Shirley Hardke, President, St Paul’s Women’s Fellowship, Beaudesert

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