Our Church was first launched at the Albury Public School Hall on Smollett St at 10am on October 28, 2001 with four people – Myself, my amazing wife Treena and our two beautiful daughters Anna (5 at the time) and Hollie (2 at the time).
September 2000 – Revelation
God first began to reveal a revelation to me for a new Church in the twin cities of Albury Wodonga in September of 2000. At this time, my wife and I were the Assistant Pastors to our very good friends, Ps Shane and Georgie Baxter at Brimbank Christian Church (Now known as Enjoy Church) in Melbourne. After much discussion, prayer and consideration, we accepted God’s call to cold start a new Church in Albury Wodonga.
July 2001 – Preparation
When we arrived in Albury Wodonga, we didn’t have a Church planting team, a budget or resources, which would have been great since we’re team oriented people, however, my wife and I look back now and believe that it pleased God for us to start out this way, because not only was God building a local Church, but a local story, that we believe will encourage other Church planters and leaders around the world.
Before our official Church launch, we prepared as much as we could – We prayed, we read books, we had a Church logo designed, we purchased a small sound system, a 1 x 3 meter promotional banner, a 20 litre hot water urn and we hired the Albury Public School Hall as our first Church venue, which was built back in 1850. We were also very grateful to receive donations such as an overhead projector, a Peavey speaker, a communion tray and communion cups.
Friday September 14, 2001 – Introduction
We held our first public gathering, which was an introduction to our Church that gave people the opportunity to come along and hear about our vision, mission and values. We provided welcome packs and hospitality with 12 people in attendance.
Saturday October 27, 2001 – One More Sleep
It was one more sleep to the launch of our first official Church service as we set up the Albury Public School Hall on Saturday night… It was an exciting time as we considered the countdown to a new day and for the people whose lives were about to be changed forever including our own.
Special mention goes out to Ps Shane and Georgie Baxter and Ps Louise and Anton Arioka from Enjoy Church in Melbourne who came along to support and encourage us at our launch – We so love and appreciate the ongoing relationship and connection that we have with them and the people of Enjoy Church.
10am Sunday October 28, 2001 – The Launch
And so we launched our first service (WOOP) with my wife Treena leading us in worship to CD backing tracks. (She always made it sound so much bigger than what it was with her beautiful booming voice). 34 people in total attended our first gathering including members of my extended family who came to support the launch and we also had 11 new visitors. That day, 2 people recommitted their lives back to Jesus Christ having wandered from the faith and another man sought God’s forgiveness for the first time in his life – That man was my father Bob Mannering (BOOM). Not only was my dad our first genuine convert, but he was also the first person we water baptized in the history of our Church. It wasn’t unusual for my family and I to come home from Church on Sunday afternoons to find phone messages from my dad, telling us how proud he was of us and what a great job we were doing… I’m personally so amazed and beyond grateful to God for the miracle of his Salvation, especially since my dad is still very much a part of our Church family today.
10am Sunday November 4, 2001 – We Waited
At our second service, I was standing at the door at 9.40am with 30 freshly printed newsletters in my hands with my daughter Anna (5) standing alongside me as we waited for people to arrive… We waited and waited but no one showed and by now, it was 9.58am – At that moment, Anna looks up at me so innocently and says… “You know dad, I don’t think that anyone is seeing our church banner today.” I laughed and agreed… For some reason, I knew that I had just captured a moment in time, which also gave me a lump in my throat. (I still remember that moment so clearly today). Anyway, it was 10am and no one else in the building except us, so, I said to my wife. “Well its 10am hon, time to start church – let’s show God today that we’re moved by what we believe, and not by what we see!” So we did exactly that – My wife passionately welcomed the masses (by faith) to Church and with the 4 of us, we praised and sang to God, while I was also using the overhead projector (for all those people behind me, lol – by faith)… I’m so glad that we made the choice to start on time, because before the first song ended, 2 families (1 new) walked in and they were so blessed and encouraged by our faith… We also, were encouraged, to keep on believing and stepping out.
10am Sunday November 11, 2001 – Man Dies
At our third and only Church service, something very unexpected happened – We began service on this day with 12 people but concluded with 11… (How come?) – A 28-year-old man who had a long history of heart problems died in our Church service. This man responded to the gospel of Jesus Christ at our launch service by asking for God’s forgiveness and getting his life right…. And in our third service, we had just finished receiving communion and as I looked over towards this man, he gave me such a radiant and beaming smile, that I couldn’t help but just smile back, but then, within seconds, he collapsed and died… The ambulance came and worked on him for over an hour in our small auditorium but this man’s spirit had already departed and gone into eternity.
We had only met this man twice in our lives and we were now meeting his wife and members of his family for the first time at the hospital that afternoon… We introduced ourselves to them, gave them my card and explained what took place that morning – The family then contacted me the next day and asked if I could conduct the funeral service… So, 3 weeks into our Church history and I’m now conducting my first funeral service to over 250 people for one of our own congregational members and to be honest, I had never done a funeral service before, (I really didn’t have a clue), so, I asked God, “What should I say to all these people?” – And I felt the Lord say – “Talk about the last words that this man ever heard on earth – Your communion message” – And I was like, “Yes, good one!” So, Treena sang at the funeral and I had the great opportunity to communicate a gospel message of love, grace, truth and hope!
The Story – To Be Continued…
Well, that’s a little bit of our history, thanks for reading it. We have lots of faith-building stories to share of God’s faithfulness throughout the years – And the same God who was faithful to us in the past, is the same God who will be faithful to all of us in the future!
To be continued…
Love and blessings