In Genesis 26: 18 we read
18 Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.
The second part of Genesis 26:22 reads “For now the LORD has made room for us and we shall be fruitful in the land.”
Our mission statement for Jesus Family Marrickville could appropriately be defined as “To re-dig the wells of salvation that were established in the municipalityof Marrickville in the second half of the nineteenth century for the Lord has made room for us and we shall be fruitful in the land.
A brief history lesson might explain this thought.
In the neighbouring suburb of Newtown at 378 King Street Newtown, now a Greek Orthodox church, John Alexander Dowie was the minister from 1875-8. It was here that he first moved into the healing ministry that was later to make him known around the world with his Leaves of Healing tract and his healing ministry in Chicago where he was arrested over 100 times “for practicing medicine without a licence”. If you want to learn more about Alexander Dowie I suggest you read more balanced information than that supplied on Wikipaedia!
Dowie was concerned that so many of his church members were dying from an outbreak of bubonic plague in 1877. In anguish of soul he came to the realisation as he read Acts 10:38 that the devil was oppressing people with sickness and death and that Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power to heal the sick.
In his own words as he, together with the local doctor, visited a sick teenage girl who was gravely ill from plague :
Can you pray, Doctor, can you pray the prayer of faith that saves the sick?” At once, offended at my words, my friend was changed, and saying, “you are too much excited, sir, ‘tis is best to say, God’s will be done,” he left the room. Excited! The word was quite inadequate for I was almost frenzied with divinely imparted anger and hatred of that foul destroyer, disease which was doing Satan’s will. “It is not so, I exclaimed, “No will of God sends such cruelty, and I shall never say God’s will be done to Satan’s works, which God’s own Son came to destroy, and this is one of them.” Oh, how the Word of God was burning in my heart: “Jesus of Nazareth went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil: For God was with Him.” And was not God with me? And was not Jesus there and all His promise true? I felt that it was even so, and turning to the mother, I inquired, “Why did you send for me?” To which she answered, “Do pray, oh, pray for her that God may raise her up.” And so we prayed.
The girl fell asleep and wake up later completely healed. Dowie records that no-one else in his church died from plague that year.
A history of Marrickville records:
By the 1880s the rise in population (and parishioners) at Marrickville saw the need for new church grounds. The land was purchased 18 November, 1882 for £800 and by 1883 a school-church was opened on the site. The first curate was W. A. Leach and in 1884 Reverend E. H. Wright became the officiating minister. On the 28 July, 1886 the Parish of St Clements was ordained.
In 1891 Reverend A. E. Bellingham took up the ministry of the church, leading a strong focus on developing the existing congregation as well as supporting the overseas work of the Church Missionary Society
At the end of the nineteenth century the St Clement’s church had a congregation of about 800 and built the present gothic revival style building which was completed in 1907.
In those days a trust in God was very much part of every day life when death was always lurking round the corner.
Records from the gravestones at St Peter’s Cooks River churchyard are available to us today.
Adjacent to the church is the graveyard which was in use from March 1839 till April 1896. Bishop Broughton consecrated the graveyard on December 26th, 1840. There are 2,515 people listed in the burial register. Two thirds of these burials are of children under the age ten. Of the two thirds, more than half are under three years. There are many memorials to the pioneers of the district and beyond. Symbols of a past era – draped urns, hourglasses and broken branches are carved on the headstones. The graveyard is not only a place of burial, but a great source of social history.
The second half of the nineteenth century grave records show us that in the Marrickville area over one third of deaths were of children under three years of age, almost another third were children over three and under ten years old. Many adults died relatively young also. Life was hard and short and many looked to God for help and comfort.
Over the next 100 years World War 1, followed by the Depression in the 1930s, then World War 2 and then Greek migration into Marrickville in the 1960s and Vietnamese migration in the 1970s caused population shifts and cultural changes that took people away from the established churches.
St Clement’s in 2009 started a new work to rebuild the church. The pastor welcomed us when we started JFM in 2011. Others too are re-digging the wells to bring life to those that are spiritually dry.
God is raising a people in Marrickville who are anointed with the Holy Spirit and power to do good and heal those who are oppressed by the devil for God is with them.
Andrew Plater 2014