WOMEN IN AUSTRALIAN PENTECOST
EARLY AUSTRALIAN FEMALE PENTECOSTAL PIONEERS
through the eyes of Lloyd and Edith Averill
In conversation with my parents, now elderly, I realised that I had a poor grasp on my own origins.
My parents were forward-looking, never favouring the mode of reminiscing or a maudlin saluting of some past “ideal”. Consequently, when they began to speak of remembered heroes, I hurriedly wrote down what they were telling me.
The following is important for any man or woman in Pentecostal ministry to acknowledge for the current Pentecostal scene is indebted to these who laid their lives down for the sake of the Gospel.
Janet Lancaster pioneered Pentecostalism at the Good News Hall in Melbourne before any Pentecostal movements were formed in Australia. She and her people did a wonderful work in the Great Depression, feeding up to 200 men daily. Many miracles were seen in those years. (My paternal grandparents were part of the GNH in its declining days.)
After Janet died, the leadership deteriorated and the Hall eventually closed. The person who attempted to give leadership was an American, Dr Mina Brawner. When my father gave his heart to the Lord at 25, she told him that she had been praying and fasting for his salvation.
Of interest to me is that my mother was led to the Lord by a couple who had been converted in the Good News Hall years before she met them.
Janet’s daughter married Alec Buchanan who formed W. A. Buchanan and Co, probably the first Pentecostal Christian Book retailer in Australia.
Janet Lancaster didn’t pioneer Assemblies of God. After her death, the Sunshine Revival broke out in Richmond, Melbourne. The formation of AOG followed around 1933.
FLORRIE MORTIMER AND BESSIE CAWDREY
These two women came from the Good News Hall to Queensland and, in effect, pioneered Pentecost in this State. They wore hats which had hatbands that said, “What think ye of Christ?” and rode trains up the east coast of Queensland. They would come into a town or city and be led to hungry believers. The fire of Pentecost accompanied them.
Bessie married Charles Kajewski. Their daughter married David, the brother of Pentecostal statesman, Norm Armstrong.
They threw a Good News Hall paper out of the window of one of the trains they rode around Queensland. It was picked up by Tom Conwell. He then embraced Pentecost, bringing his huge family into the things of the Spirit. Almost all of his sons and his daughter were in Glad Tidings Tabernacle when my father pastored it from 1957 - 1965.
They walked into McWhirters (old-time landmark department store in Fortitude Valley) in Brisbane and spoke to a man I have only ever known as “old Brother Smith”. He, with wife and daughter, then went by boat to Japan as the first Australian AOG missionaries in that country. First his wife, and years later his daughter, died there. I have strong memories of the daughter, Marie, a dear and cherished friend of my mother.
They went on to Mackay where they influenced a lady called Annie Dennis who in turn went further north to McNade and led the whole Enticknap family into the Pentecostal experience. Two brothers, Charles and Will, were among the foundation members of Assemblies of God.
As far as my parents know, Bessie and Florrie were responsible for Pentecost coming to Queensland. In Victoria, an “old saint” in Bendigo, Mrs Buley, being stirred after hearing news of the Welsh revival, had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit soon after the turn of the century.
My parents think that there were other women with her when this happened, but they can only definitely recall Mrs Buley’s name. Her son-in-law and daughter, Harold and Edith Akehurst, were AOG pastors in Queensland for many years. My parents were with the Akehursts during their early years of ministry in Queensland which would have been when they learned about this early outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Bendigo.
AOG in Queensland was established some time after the advent of Bessie and Florrie, bringing together a few streams, including the work started by William Booth Clibborn (grandson of William Booth) in Fortitude Valley, where Glad Tidings Tabernacle was later built.