For the introduction to this story click here
The ‘First Fleet’
In 1788, 11 small ships carrying nearly 1500 people, half of whom were convicts, embarked on a heroic, dangerous and untested mission – to plant a new community in Australia.
After the Revolutionary War in America, England could no longer send its unwanted prisoners there. A new solution was necessary. Several exploratory trips to the west coast of Africa proved fruitless.
Back in England, decommissioned ships on the Thames and elsewhere were being filled with prisoners at the rate of about a thousand a year. Soon these ships were filled to overflowing and became breeding grounds for sickness and violence.
Finally, under immense pressure, and, somewhat on impulse, Australia (known as ‘New Holland’ at the time) was decided upon as the chosen destination.
Captain Cook had visited Australia briefly in 1770 and named the west coast New South Wales. Optimistic reports were given to Parliament about a potential site which Cook had named Botany Bay. The decision was made.
As I read the excellent historical account of the First Fleet, ‘1788’ by David Hill, I was reminded of the experiences and challenges of church planters around the world.
The manner with which these ‘First Fleeters’ faced the difficulty of establishing a new community in unfamiliar surroundings seemed compelling to me, and encouraging.
Today, against a backdrop of apparently sudden successes, patience and perseverance in establishing a church can be viewed as a lack of faith, or anointing.
Obviously a modern day church planter’s motives and objectives are very different to those of an 18th century colonialist (especially one sent to establish a penal colony!) – but, given the significant differences, the experiences of the First Fleet to Australia, and the earliest generations of Australian settlers, in establishing a new community in a new place may provide some teaching points.
We’ll look at those teaching points here
© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides