ADELAIDE'S REPUTATION AS THE "'CITY OF CHURCHES" IS HALF MYTH. Hotels have always outnumbered churches in Adelaide. In the 21st Century, South Australians have been among the highest in the nation for answering “No religion” in the census.
But faith beliefs have profoundly shaped South Australia right from its founding on principles of freedom on worship and separating church and state.
This was the dream of the British Dissenters and nonconformists, who wished to move beyond the traditions of the state church: the Church of England. At the end of the English Civil Wars (1650), many became Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists and Quakers.
Although the 1689 Toleration Act allowed their own places of worship, Dissenters still faced economic and social intolerance into the 19th Century.
In the 1830s, prominent London Dissenters Robert Gouger and George Fife Angas became interested in the colonisation plan by a Quaker: Edward Gibbon Wakefield. They promoted a British colony with a founding ethos of religious freedom, no favoured state church and no curb on one religious group over another.
The more progressive Dissenters drew on philosophy and scientific legacy of the Renaissance and Enlightenment. This sat comfortably with faith beliefs that engaged with the world rather than mysticism.
The strength of Dissenters in South Australia is essential to explaining why, among its other social advances, the province was among the first in the world to give women the vote and right to stand for parliament. But Dissenting faiths, in their alternate facet of conservative family values, also contribute to explaining why South Australia was the last state to have women elected to parliament.
Another aspect of the freedom of beliefs underpinning South Australia was that it also brought other influences, such as Lutheran Germans, Afghan Muslims and Jews, to the cultural mix.
ROLE OF RELIGION IMPORTANT FROM START OF COLONY IN 1836
A PROGRESSIVE ELEMENT AMONG ADELAIDE CHURCHES
METHODISTS, PRESBYTERIANS, BAPTISTS, UNITARIANS
BISHOP AUGUSTUS SHORT A TOWERING INFLUENCE (1847-81)
The Anglican Holy Trinity in North Terrace is the oldest surviving church in South Australia. Although rebuilt in 1880s to architect E. John Woods’ design, it has elements of the original building from 1838. This was Adelaide’s establishment church. As the pro tempore cathedral church, it became the place of worship for governors, many prominent families and the military until Christ Church, North Adelaide, was opened. It tended to be high church in teaching and worship.
Anglican bishop John Harmer (1895-1905) was deeply involved was the unsuccessful campaign to introduce religious instruction in South Australian state schools.
Disappointed by the failure of a referendum on this issue in 1896,he became first president of the interdenominational Religious Education in State Schools League in1902 . Harmer was followed by Arthur Nutter Thomas, elected bishop of Adelaide by a panel in England and consecrated in Westminster Abbey in 1906.
IN MID 20th CENTURY
The great majority of early South Australian Catholics were of Irish and mostly poor. Initially, without priests or churches, they met for worship in private houses. Their first priest William Benson arrived in Adelaide in 1841. Replacing an earlier version on the West Terrace corner, St Patrick's Church in Grote Street was opened 1845 and replaced in 1914 by a bigger building idesigned by Walter Bagot in the mode of Brunelleschi’s renowned 15th Century Church of San Lorenzo in Florence.
The growing intensity of South Australian Roman Catholicism into the 20th Century was centred around having Catholic schools for all Catholic children. Australian bishops regarded the government (secular) education systems in each colony in the late 19th Century as a danger to their faith. They set up an alternative system and ordered Catholic parents to send their children to church schools. Children in Catholic schools in South Australia grew from 1100 in 1866 to 5300 in 1900.
FREEDON OF RELIGION ATTRACTS DIVERSITY
A strong Lutheran presence started in 1838 when Pastor August Kavel brought out a large group of German migrants to South Australia. They came to escape religious persecution in Silesia, Prussia. A strong Dissenter, George Fife Angas, the wealthy Scot chairman of the South Australian Company chairman, gave a £8,000 for Kavel’s group to migrate. Captain Dirk Hahn brought another 187 Lutheran migrants who settled in the Adelaide Hills at what became Hahndorf.
PREMIERS COLTON, HOLDER, PRICE, VERRAN ALSO METHODIST LAY PREACHERS
The nexus of church ministers, newspaper editors, members of parliament and businessmen kept religion at the forefront of 19th Century South Australia. Premiers John Colton, Frederick Holder, Thomas Price and John Verran were all Methodist lay preachers. Holder owned the Burra Record newspaper. The Advertiser was founded byJohn Henry Barrow, a former Register journalist and Congregational minister. Baptist minister James (“Dismal Jimmy”) Allen owned the Register.
The homeopathy phenomenon in Adelaide during the 1860s/70s was part of a social/medical reform movement linked with religious revival and philanthropy. Bible Christian church members, chief justice Samuel Way and homeopathic practitioner Dr Allan Campbell, were key figures, along with prominent figures such as George Fife Angas, premier John Colton, church ministers including the Anglican archbishop, businessmen and women active in church and other causes.
The Anglican church has educated the children of the South Australia’s wealthier conservative class. But it has a tradition of support for the disadvantaged goes back to St Luke’s Church, built in 1856 in Whitmore Square. George Farr, former St Peter's College headmaster (1854-79), was later rector at St Luke’s. His wife Julia created and ran the Anglican Church home for parentless girls. Anglicare remains one of the state's biggest welfare agencies.
1915 REFERENDUM A WIN FOR 'WOWERISM'
The South Australian temperance movement’s biggest win was in the 1915 referendum when 100,000 people out of 176,000 voted for 6pm closing of hotels. The temperance movement had strong support from Methodists and other nonconformist Christians who had kept to total abstinence and hostility to the liquor trade from the 19th Century. An attempt in 1938 to revoke 6pm closing faced a major backlash. The 6pm closing continued until 1967.
Adelaide’s morality and welfare crusade was boosted in the 1880s by the first official Salvation Army Corps in Australia. John Gore and Edward Saunders were both converts of the early Christian Mission. They met in Adelaide and decided to form a Salvation Army Corps. Gore and Saunders held a street meeting in Adelaide Botanic Garden on September 5, 1880. Gore became a temporary leader until, after an appeal to William Booth to London, Captain Thomas Sutherland and wife Adelaide were despatched on the Aconcagua, arriving at Adelaide in 1881. The new officers arrived wearing the first Salvation Army uniforms seen in Australia. Within three years, 32 officers were commissioned and 12 corps formed, and on the third anniversary 3,600 soldiers mustered for celebrations. The early Salvos found fertile ground for their work around Hindley and Waymouth streets, where prostitution thrived. But the welfare side of Salvos' work in Adelaide city centre also kept growing and continues today at its headquarters in Pirie Street. If offers many activities along with its emergency relief and counselling plus Do Unto Others nightly care for homeless and Market Place offerings for the needy.
PROGRESSIVES AND CONSERVATIVES FIND NEW EXPRESSION IN 20th CENTURY