An All-Age Sunday School At St Andrew's West Street

Excerpt from Reverend Jim McConaghy's memoirs: "Planning preparation for an All- Age Sunday School continued. A date was set for July 1962. Everybody said, " Don't open it in the middle of winter." After considerable thought and prayer Ian and I decided to recommend to the Elders that the date be July. The structure of the A.A.S.S. was so different from the existing Sunday School. A nursery was to be added to the bottom taking children as young as babies. Staff had to be trained for this special task. An Adult top was to be added for people over fifteen years of age. Leaders had to be trained for this task. There were meetings every night of the week with sometimes up to three on anyone night. I made it my business to attend all meetings and show a keen interest in everything that was happening.
Two problems presented themselves. It became obvious that a lot of people were going to respond to our invitation to attend. We just didn't have enough space. There was nowhere for the nursery. I searched around Toowoomba until I found a small unused building owned by a firm in the city. I approached them to make a donation to the church of the building. St Andrews was making an impression in the community They responded positively. We had the building down near the centre of the city, A number of St Andrew's men turned up one Saturday morning. We pulled it down, carted it up to St Andrew's and rebuilt it in a space we had allocated We also added an extra room and painted it in pleasing colours. The nursery staff furnished it beautifully for the babies up to four years of age.
By the time the A.A.S.S. was ready to open we had over a hundred adults wanting to join. Where on earth could we put 100 adults in groups? We began to plan spaces as well as train more adult leaders. we decided to put as many as possible in the manse. The study, the lounge the dining room and the garage were all scheduled. The church was able to cope with four groups. There still wasn't enough room. The house next door was suddenly put for sale. I suggested to the congregation that we buy it. which we did. Now we had plenty of room. The young people's groups claimed the house which was fine. My time was totally taken up with increasing commitments of all kinds. Callers at the manse were a constant stream. The public hospital was ringing me both day and night,to care for patients spiritually. With the congregation growing at a great rate the pressure was on me to prepare interesting worship services including two sermons for every Sunday and children's talks. that held the interest of the young people.There was also women's meeting, Elders Council meetings Presbytery meetings pastoral visitation of the congregation and numerous other involvements. Mavis was busy attending to calls at the manse as well as looking after four little children, the women's meetings and Bible studies.
The time came for the A.A.S.S. to be launched at 9:30am in the middle of July. and the middle of winter against all recommendations. We chose july because we wanted time in between holiday periods for the A.A.S.S. to settle down before a natural break. It turned out to be a very sensible thing to do.
The old Sunday school was closed for one Sunday. All the teachers and leaders were dedicated at the morning worship. There was a great crowd of people present. We had managed to involve some highly qualified people to assist at all levels of the Sunday School. One of them went on to become a Professor of Education and later employed by the United Nations as Professor in charge of Education for the European Community. The Sunday morning of the opening was a bright sunny winter. morning. It was all so well organised that everything went smoothly. There seemed to be people and children everywhere. When Ian and I added up the attendance figures we were delighted to finds that over 400 were in attendance including the nursery and the adults."

Reverend James Francis McConaghy was the ordained minister at Saint Andrew's Presbyterian Church from 1959 to 1967. He and his wife Mavis and four children, Christine, Marion, William and Robyn participated fully in the life of the church supporting Jim's vision of a dynamic, spiritually alive community.

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