A 2018 video reflecting on 90 years of faithful witness at Palm Beach/Reedy Creek Baptist Church on the Gold Coast, Australia.
It was the 1920s and the southern Gold Coast was largely undeveloped except for the main beach suburbs like Tugun and Burleigh. Coolangatta had a population of just a couple of thousand people. Tugun Baptist commenced in the early 1920s, yet they had the vision to plant a church at Palm Beach. The area was swampy and yet the government planned for great growth. In 1928 land was bought in 9th Avenue Palm Beach and soon after a church was established and a building erected.
Struggle in the early years
The church at Palm Beach remained small for the first 40-years. It was known as a Home Mission Church meaning that the Queensland Baptist Union subsidised the pastor’s salary. In fact, it wasn’t until 1971 that the church was able to have its first fully supported minister - Rev Arthur Hooker. With not many people in the area, the church struggled to grow during those years. At one stage there was no one in membership until Geoff Ardill, transferred his membership from Tugun Baptist just to keep Palm Beach going.
The late 1960s through to the 1990s saw growth in several areas. As the area of Palm Beach and the Gold Coast grew in population, so to did the church. During these years the church has much foresight, faith, and generosity. 1969 was a pivotal year in the life of the church as the original building was demolished and a new brick building was constructed. In 1981 Palm Beach Baptist initiated the purchase of properties in Mudgeeraba for future Baptist work. This site was later exchanged with the Baptist Union for a ten-acre site at Bridgman Drive, Reedy Creek. Also, in 1980 and 81 two houses were purchased on the Gold Coast Highway along with extensions made to the main auditorium and youth, school and preschool facilities. In 1983 four allotments, including a residence and shop on the Gold Coast Highway and 10th Ave were purchased to accommodate for further growth. In 1991 an additional 10 acres at Bridgman Drive, Reedy Creek were purchased in conjunction with Hillcrest Christian College. In 2000 the property at Palm Beach was sold and property along Gemvale Road was purchased and construction on the present building commenced. Then in 2001, Palm Beach Baptist relocated to a new location and changed its name to Reedy Creek Baptist Church where the facilities were officially dedicated and opened new on 21st July.
A bit different
Palm Beach Baptist always had a strong affiliation with the Baptist Union of Queensland. However, there were times when things were done somewhat differently to what was then conservative Queensland Baptists. In the early days when denominations were quite territorial, there was a strong spirit of co-operation existed with other denominations with other churches using the church building. The Anglican Church for example used it on the proviso that they had a communion rail which they packed away after their service. During the difficult days of the 1960s, when the church was small and there was no pastor, however the church was led by a lady – deaconess McMahon who preached and made an important contribution to the church. In 1985, Ron Frankland who was a successful builder was asked to be the church’s Senior Pastor. At the time though, Ron wasn’t a trained pastor something the Baptist Union may have asked some questions? But Ron ably led the church.
Children and Youth Focus
Since the 1960s the Gold Coast has grown significantly with young families moving into this beautiful part of the world. And the church responded over the years by emphasising outreaches and ministries for children, not least establishing a school. Many people share fond memories growing up in Sunday School and completing those Sunday School exams, competing at the Sunday School Picnic and participating at the annual Sunday School Anniversary. Others have great memories of fun times attending youth group and dating each other. We even commenced our own groups like Big Arvo.
Hillcrest Christian College
A major vision and ministry of the church is our school. The early concept for Hillcrest Christian College began in the late 1970s, when members of Palm Beach Baptist Church raised concerns about the standards they saw in secular education. A steering committee was established to plan for the formation of a Christian school. Then in 1982 Southern Gold Coast Christian Community School enrolled its inaugural cohort of students with 37 children from Years 1 – 7. We have been served well by four wonderful principals and today the school has 1500 students, continuing living out the motto – Excellence in Christ.
Throughout the years the church has been served well by many pastors, each bringing their unique visions, gifts, pastoral skills, and faithfully preaching the Word of God. These pastors, plus staff and other key laypeople commenced and coordinated several key ministries that disciple believers and reach out to the community: Playgroups, Kids Clubs, OP Shop, Gymnasium, Home Groups, Journey Through The Bible, Sunday School, Reedy Bikers, Bowls Groups, Photography Groups, and many age-related fellowship groups. Events like church camps, carols services, holiday clubs. We have been most blessed to partner with chaplains that have to serve Christ in schools and universities around the coast and missionaries that have served in outback Queensland and around the world, faithful leading many to Christ through planting churches, bible study groups and translating God’s Word, The Bible. As with most Baptist Churches, worship styles at our church have changed over the past 40 years causing conflict and but also freedom. Over the past two decades, Reedy has been innovative with his worship.
The church over the past 10 or so years has gone through various struggles resulting in declining attendances at services. However, as it's been in our history, God in His grace has again turned the church around blessing us with a new generation of people, ministries, and vision causing new growth. The generosity, faith and hard work of many over the years have enabled the church to continue to be a light for Jesus and His Kingdom. By God’s grace, with similar faith, generosity and hard work, the next ten years leading up to our centenary in 2028 will further tell wonderful stories of God’s faithfulness and people finding Jesus Christ.