When I was about six years old some Mennonite people came to the Community Hall in Ruskin to set up a Sunday School. While the community of Whonnock to the west had something like seven churches and Silverdale to the east had one or two, Ruskin did not have any. The Mennonites came to communities with no churches nor organized Sunday Schools in an attempt to fill the void.
Our family was not particularly religious. Dad had grown up in a Roman Catholic orphanage in Montreal while Mom - as far as I know - had received no religious instructions. Her parents were not necessarily atheists but were Deists. On the other hand my Grandfather's sisters - Aunt Emma and Aunt Edith - were devout Christian ladies. Aunt Emma belonged to the Glad Tidings Tabernacle in Vancouver while Aunt Edith was a Baptist. The former was always a gentle sweetie while Aunt Edith was a strict disciplinarian and somewhat frightening (until she became elderly and then mellowed). Therefore their religious communities did not appeal to me.
My parents had been married by an itinerant United Church of Canada minister (the wedding was held in my grandmother's garden) so that was the denomination to which we always identified.
In Australia - when I did attend church - I went to one of the three denominations that made up the United Church of Canada (Methodist, Presbyterian or Congregationalist).
In Alice Springs, the John Flynn Memorial Church was a 'Uniting Church' and the pastors could be from any one of the three 'parent' denominations. The Reverend Lloyd Shirley was from a Methodist background.
When I settled into the boarding house on Brookfield Road in Kedron I looked in the yellow pages for any of the churches which represented my background. As the crow flies, the Presbyterian was the closest while the Methodist was the easiest to walk to. I did - and found a friendly, warm and welcoming group of people. When I arrived the minister was a man in late middle age (Reverend Gayden) but he was replaced shortly by Rev. Morton (the Methodist Conference rotated the clergy every three years).
I remained a faithful attendee - and volunteer - during all of my time in Brisbane.
The Methodist Church in Australia - particularly in Queensland - had a vigorously active Youth Ministry and seemed to have 'camps' all over the place. I attended three different camp Youth Conferences in different parts of the region and had a wonderful time.
The largest camp was down at Southport a few miles to the north of Surfers Paradise. Christmas arrives in the middle of summer Down Under and the youth flock to the beaches - especially to those along the Gold Coast. The Methodist Church - under the leadership of the very dynamic Rev. Ivan Alcorn - owned a huge camp at Southport and there - as well as at Surfers Paradise and Burleigh Heads - 'cabarets' were held each evening during the Christmas break. Methodist young people hit the beaches and boardwalks with flyers advertising the evening dances to every young person within reach. The attendance at these events was very good and, yes, evangelizing was part of it (this part of the evening did make me feel uncomfortable).
This was how I came to experience that very popular vacation spot - the Gold Coast.
Also. there were camps at a much smaller surfing center to the north of Brisbane (Caloundra) and near the community of Springdale in the highlands west of the Gold Coast on the New South Wales/Queensland border I attended camps at both of those locations.
The one at the highland camp was over an Easter weekend and, on Easter Sunday morning, a few of we young men got up before sunrise and hiked to the top of one of the peaks where we sat and watched the sun rise out of the Pacific Ocean miles to the east of where we were located.
The community near this camp is in an apple growing area - the only one in Queensland - and is the only place in that State that does receive the occasional recorded snow fall. I remember one Sunday morning when a radio newscaster announced that snow was falling up there. Our landlords loaded the kids into the car and left the boarding house to us - they were on their way for their first glimpse of real snow!.
It seemed to me that all Methodist teens - when they reach they age for Confirmation - are given a hymn book. Not ones with just the words but ones with the words between the lines of music. Therefore all - except the completely tone deaf - learn to read music and to sing parts (soprano, alto, tenor, bass). Also more than one could play a piano of which there was always one in the camp lounge.
I have always loved music so young voices singing hymns in near perfect harmony was wonderful.
Often I think back to those camps with feelings of nostalgia.