Chapter 7 - Religious Education & Matters Theological
The other area of education I undertook was in matters religious. During the ministry of Rev R.C.Barlow at Granville Methodist I undertook studies with several others to prepare for the Local Preachers Examination. That would have been about 1941 and 1942. There was a special incentive for Mr. Barlow as Jack Chegwidden had received a call to the Ministry and had to become an accredited Local Preacher before he could be considered. So we spent a lot of time at the Parsonage studying the set books. As part of this training a Granville Methodist Mission Team was formed comprising Jack Chegwidden, Harry Gorton and myself. Jack did most of the actual preaching but we were “on the plan” and took many services in the Granville Circuit, mainly at the smaller Churches at Merrylands and Holroyd.
Later on I also joined some classes being conducted by Rev. George Wheen who was the then Director of the Young Peoples Department of the Methodist Church, and later still I took some classes held at the Presbyterian “Assembly Hall” in Sydney where one of the lecturers was Rev. (later Dr.) Malcolm Mackay. Both of these were excellent educators and they gave us a good grounding in Christian Psychology, Old Testament Theology and Church History. Jack Chegwidden, who owned his own grocers shop at Merrylands left the world of business and entered the Methodist Ministry as a Probationer in 1942, being appointed to the North-West Mission and stationed at Boggabri.
I was appointed Superintendent of the Granville Methodist Sunday School early in 1942, replacing Jack Chegwidden who had been Superintendent for a couple of years. Earlier Superintendents in the time I was associated with Granville Church were Mr. G..Gorton, Mr. R. Hayes and my Father, Mr. G.. Hunt. In all of the activities in the Church that I have undertaken, the position in the Sunday School was the one I enjoyed most and found most rewarding. I think it was about 1939 that I graduated from the Senior Bible Class to the teaching staff with a class of nine or ten year old boys which included my young brother Neil. I am sure I was ill-prepared for the task but probably learned quickly as I got “on-the-job” experience with boys, and later, girls of that age. It was a surprise to me when, on Jack Chegwidden's departure, I was asked to lead the Sunday School and I recall that I was reluctant to accept, but was persuaded to do so by Rev. R.C. Barlow.
My main activity in the Church up to that point had been in the Intermediate Christian Endeavour Society of which I had been secretary for some years. I was therefore very involved in arranging a Christian Endeavour Anniversary weekend on 17th and 18th September 1938 for which the theme was “Jesus, the Light of the World.” It was during that weekend, which culminated in an address by Mr. Alex Gilchrist of the Campaigners for Christ that I really realised that I was in need of a Saviour and, after the evening service I went to the front and confessed that need. Up to that point in my life I had believed in God and the creeds of the Church, but it was then that it became a personal commitment. There was quite a “Revival” in the Granville Church about that time under the Ministry of Rev. R.C. Barlow and, with my new-found personal experience I, with others, threw ourselves with enthusiasm into the work. Christian Endeavour was in the centre of things and I was quickly involved with a group, most of whom were a few years older than myself. I recall that an Outreach Committee was formed, its members including Jack Chegwidden, Harry Gorton, Jean Jackson (who was Harry's girlfriend at the time), Grace Tregear and myself. From that time on I seemed to move in a social group who were at least four or five years older than myself and in some cases like Grace Tregear and Mr. G.W.Gorton, a good deal older. A very close friendship developed between Jack Chegwidden and myself.
In the three or four ensuing years, that is from 1938 to 1942, Jack Chegwidden and I ran a duplicating and publishing service called “The Endeavour Print”. It was born out of an idea conceived in the Intermediate Endeavour Society when Harry Gorton was Superintendent and I was Secretary and we were seeking outreach opportunities. With our new-found enthusiasm we were also casting about for ways to raise money for Missions and decided that a printing service would be one way to achieve this. At first we thought of getting a little printing machine, but we had insufficient capital and no-one with the required type-setting skills, so we bought a very, very cheap duplicator instead. It printed a half-foolscap sheet at a time and was entirely hand operated. But it got us into business. Jack Chegwidden had a small room at the back of his grocery shop at Merrylands and that became our “printery”. We printed tickets, dodgers, reports, hymn sheets, etc., and became quite useful in the Church.
Several of the girls were willing to type up the stencils on a very old “Noiseless” Remington typewriter that we bought second-hand. The most faithful typists were Betty Tozer, Pat Fleming and Joan Chegwidden, a cousin of Jack's. Most of the printing was done by Jack Chegwidden and myself. Many a Saturday afternoon would be spent in this way and then Jack and I would get on our bikes and ride up to Prospect Reservoir or to Lake Parramatta. There we would sit on the grass beside the still waters and talk and talk. At Lake Parramatta we would usually have a swim. I remember being there one hot Saturday in 1939 (I think it was the day after the terrible fires in Melbourne called “Black Friday”). Never were the cool waters of Lake Parramatta so welcome.
Incidentally, Lake Parramatta was built on Hunt's Creek at North Parramatta to provide a water supply for Parramatta. Father told me once that the creek was named after our family, but I don't know the connection. Hunt's Creek flows down through the North Rocks and Carlingford areas, joins Darling Mills Creek and Toongabbie Creek to become the headwaters of Parramatta River flowing through Parramatta Park and on to Sydney Harbour. The history of the building of the Hunt's Creek Reservoir which it was at first called (later known as Lake Parramatta) is a fascinating one. It is recorded in history books of the Parramatta District, so I won't go into it here, but it is well worth looking up as a great example of advanced thinking foiled by bureaucratic bungling.
One of the things that came out of The Endeavour Print was the publishing of a fortnightly paper called “The Granville Methodist Gazette”. Jack Chegwidden wrote a special editorial for each issue and the remainder of the small magazine comprised Church news, gossip, and articles mostly culled from Missionary Magazines and other religious papers. It was sold on an annual subscription basis. After about a year or so we changed the format a little to widen its readership. We called it “The Torch-bearer” and published monthly. It was increased in size and contained more original material, much of which was written under pseudonyms. One of my regular columns was signed off “Prof.” while Ron Robertson, who worked with me at Babcocks and was a prolific writer all his life, was known as “Mister “Micawber”. He wrote a lot for The Baptist under his second name of “George”. He later became General Secretary of the Baptist Homes Trust. Ron and his wife, Nancy, who tragically died in her sleep in 1983, have remained very close friends of Jean and myself all our lives.
Getting this magazine out each month was sometimes quite a task. Many a time I had to do a lot of the typing myself and then run it off on the Ellams Rotary Duplicator that we bought to replace the very primitive hand machine. As a result of the typing involved in The Endeavour Print I learned to type with reasonable speed and accuracy, although of the two-finger variety of typing that appears to be used by newspaper reporters! I would have done myself a service had I spent some time learning touch typing instead of my abortive attempt to learn shorthand because I have done a lot of typing over the years and, of course, the typewriter keyboard is today the standard input device to computers. One of the disappointments of my life is that I am not aware of any surviving copies of either The Granville Methodist Gazette or The Torch-Bearer. I think they contained some quite good stuff. The latter achieved a circulation of over two hundred copies of which about half were posted to the subscribers from all over the Metropolitan area and a few interstate.
Perhaps this is a convenient time to set down a bit of additional information about my Christian activities, which have figured very large in my life. I am quite sure that these activities flowed from the example set by my dedicated parents. After they moved to Parramatta it wasn't long before they were both very involved in the Church life at Granville which was the Church Mum had attended before her marriage. Dad soon became Bible Class Leader, Trust Secretary, Morning Organist and Evening Choirmaster. Mum was active in the Ladies Church Aid and was soon the Kindergarten Superintendent. She also organised the Cradle Roll and a very active Young Worshippers League, giving out the little tickets each week, the certificates each year and running rather marvellous picnics for the members. Mum was not content to just organise these things but she was like a broody hen on Sundays, gathering her chickens from all the houses surrounding ours and taking them off on the train from Harris Park to Granville or, if the weather was mild, walking all the way to the Church. There wasn't a child within a quarter of a mile of our house that Mum didn't try to recruit for what she fervently believed in. Mum and Dad were also active in the social life of the Church which, in those days included lots of “Socials” and Concerts with musical and dramatic items as well as things like “musical chairs” but, being rather frowned on by Methodists in those days, no dancing.
With this background it is not surprising that we Hunt children soon became very involved in similar affairs and have remained so all our lives, especially Lois, Neil and myself. Wally's adherence was greatly interrupted by his long war service followed by an early marriage and frequent residential moves that seem to have kept his time more than occupied. As far as I am concerned, in addition to Christian Endeavour work, Superintendent of the Sunday School for fourteen years, and a Local Preacher, I became a Church and Parsonage Trustee, Circuit Steward, and, in the wider work of the Church, State Examination Superintendent and member of the Young People's Department Council.
But my greatest love was the Sunday School. In the days after the war attendances were declining and so we instituted a membership drive. The first effort was the “Record Breaking Ceremony' in which we literally broke an old gramophone record on each occasion the attendance broke the previous record. This was always great fun and the children vied with each other for the honour of actually breaking the record. In those days they were easier to break than the present vinyl discs as they were made out of shellac, and quite brittle. Then we started an activity called “The Order of the Fishers of Men”. This involved a Bible study sheet with a set passage for every day of the week and a question to be answered each day. These were brought back each Sunday and, for each one handed in the children received a small specially printed card called a “Fish Card”. Ten of these qualified for a “Fishing Boat Card” and five of these for a rather attractive certificate. It was a very successful venture but it took a lot of work preparing the weekly sheets and checking the answers each week.
But probably the most successful venture was to obtain an old bus from Victoria and turn it into “The Granville Methodist Sunday School Bus”. I think it was a Reo chassis with a Chev engine. It had seats along the sides which gave lots of standing room and we drove it on a carefully worked out route around Granville, Harris Park, South Granville and Clyde before and after Sunday School each Sunday. Of course we were happy to pick up any children (and we occasionally gave lifts to stray adults who thought we were a regular bus service) but we had specially printed “Season Tickets” which were handed out all over the suburb and resulted in more than doubling our attendance in a very short time. Mind you, in those days very few people had cars and the bus was a real advantage to those people who wouldn't normally bother to drive their children down or send them on the regular bus. The original bus was replaced with a larger one when it got too small and the service continued until the ubiquitous car took over and we ran a car-pool service instead. While we had the bus we used it for many other activities too. On Public Holidays we always had a picnic somewhere and occasionally drove up to Dalmar Homes. It was used for night time “Campfire Meetings” and on Saturdays or Sundays we sometimes drove it in to the City for the Children to attend Christian Endeavour Rallies and the like. It was, all in all, a huge success and was just the right thing for the times. We had a roster of drivers, but the two who drove most in the early days were Les Rogers, who was President of the Parents & Friends Association and a great worker in that field, and Cec Rose. Les was a bus driver by profession and Cec was a truck driver with his own carrying business, so they were “naturals” for the job. But there were others too who helped. Probably I was the one who did most of the driving over the years, particularly on week-ends and holidays. Also, after Sunday School meeting time was changed from the afternoon to the morning I continued to drive the bus each afternoon for the sake of the children who attended the Christian Endeavour Meeting which in turn was changed from the morning to the afternoon and was valiantly carried on by Grace Tregear and later by Joan Rush.
For Sunday School it was soon found necessary to split the run into two as the bus was too full. This meant that half the children arrived at Sunday School about twenty minutes before it was due to start and the other half had to wait a similar time after Sunday School until the bus returned from the first run. To keep them occupied I bought a 16mm sound projector and borrowed 15 minute movies from various travel agencies, film libraries and overseas information services and screened them before and after the meeting. This proved to be popular, too, although I recall how terribly hot the closed up room used to get in the summertime, full of sweating children and the heat from the projector. I bought the projector from a friend of Ron Robertson who had brought it back from America. It was quite unknown in Australia and parts or service were unavailable. Had it not been for the skills and co-operation of Ted Baker it would have been a costly failure. But in the event it did a lot of good work for the Sunday School and other activities in the Church.
All of these activities kept me very busy, particularly as we had by this time a growing family and, after the sad loss of our dear little Ian, Jean's health had suffered. I was also getting on at work and was very keen to do a good job there. I was on the Council of The Pocket Testament League and doing quite a bit of lecturing on Sunday School Teaching Methods and related matters. Therefore, as opportunity arrived I divested myself of some of the tasks. The Endeavour Print had served its purpose by the 1950s and was closed down. By the late `50s I handed over the Sunday School leadership to Bob Dillon to enable me to concentrate on Leadership Training and, of course, the bus and the projector gave way to other things by the Mid `50s.
But when I was offered the transfer to Queensland in late 1962 by Babcocks I think it was with a sense of relief that I was able to resign from many of these tasks and resolve to do less when we joined the Methodist Church at Chermside in Queensland. I continued to preach a couple of times each quarter and it wasn't long before I was Superintendent of a small, struggling Sunday School at Kitchener Road, Kedron. Later I took charge of the Youth Department of the Chermside All-Age Church School and with some great support from some wonderful teachers, continued to lead it until we returned to Sydney in 1974.
We then joined up with the Fivedock Methodist Church (which was soon to become Uniting Church) in which I continued as a Local Preacher, became leader of the Youth Department, then of the Leadership Training Group, and finally, a couple of years before my retirement and we moved to Bateau Bay, leadership of an Adult Study Group that met concurrently with Sunday School each week.
Jean and I are now members of the Terrigal Uniting Church where I have been content to worship without feeling the need to preach or teach. I have recently (July 1985) been appointed an Elder and I occasionally lead a Bible Study Group or after-Church discussion group, and these things keep me content and involved.