History of Emmanuel

Testimonies from the beginning of Emmanuel Community 35+ year history.

The Charismatic Renewal: The Context of Emmanuel's Beginnings

Monica O’Shea

In May 1971, just prior to Pentecost, an event occurred that was to change my life.  I went quite nervously at the invitation of our relieving Parish Priest to a small Friday night Prayer Meeting in St Mary Magdalene’s hall, Bardon.  A group of people, including some from the Cursillo Movement, had just started meeting there with Fr Vince Hobbs and Brian Smith.  As these people began to pray and sing in tongues, tears started to stream uncontrollably down my face.  Prior to this night, I had never heard of Charismatic Renewal or the Baptism in the Spirit.  I prayed, but I had never heard people pray like this with such sincerity and fervour.  This was what my spirit was longing for.  I knew I was with God.  I had come home.  I was prayed with for the Baptism in the Spirit two weeks later.  My life would never be the same again.  This was the beginning of my personal experience of Charismatic Renewal. 

We were all young in the Spirit but full of faith, joy and enthusiasm.  We wanted to meet in our homes as well as on Friday nights, so a number of Home Prayer Meetings sprang up spontaneously across Brisbane.  I remember attending Brian and Lorraine’s at Geebung and Bruce and Judy Lane’s Sunday night meeting at Ekibin.  Then Bruce came over to help Barry and me establish our own Home Prayer Meeting at Mt Gravatt on a Wednesday night, a meeting which went on to meet for the next seven years, welcoming 500 different people from all over Australia.  Bruce prayed for Barry for the Baptism in the Spirit at one of these meetings.  Fr Vince and Brian frequently visited this loose network of prayer groups to give teaching and support, but we still maintained a close association with Bardon. 

About this time it was decided to give some formal structure to the rapidly growing Bardon Prayer Group by establishing a Core Group of committed members to serve by distributing books, greeting and praying for people, often for inner healing.  Joan Pointon (nee Lewis) was instrumental in setting up a tape library of teachings from men in the United States like Kevin Ranaghan, Ralph Martin, Steve Clarke, and Fr Edward O’Connor.  With hastily raised donations, we sent Brian on his first overseas trip to Ann Arbor to learn from them personally.  We began to hear what was happening in other states of Australia and in 1975 we held the first of three annual National Charismatic Conferences in Brisbane with over 1000 delegates.  We realized the Charismatic Renewal was occurring on a world-wide basis, across all denominational, social and cultural boundaries.  We dreamt of the day that Pope John’s prayer for a new Pentecost, a new springtime for the Catholic Church would become reality.  We tried to share this vision with Archbishop Rush and our Parish Priests.

In 1975 the Bardon Prayer Group which had nurtured and formed us, gave birth to a fledgling community of four families, the Smiths, Carrolls, Fletchers and Johnsons, who felt a call from God to a deeper commitment. They shared this desire with the Bardon Core Group and invited others who felt a similar a call to join them the following Sunday.  It was from these initial gatherings that Emmanuel Covenant Community was born.

Covenant Day - Washing of Feet

Lisa Humphrys

I was thirteen in January 1973 when my family first came in contact with Bardon and the Charismatic Renewal.  This was a great time and a complete turning upside down for me and my family.

Gradually, over the next two years, it became evident that there was more that the Lord had for us.  After a series of events which for me are now a little hazy, four families and a single woman started getting together and praying and asking the Lord where we were going.  They were Brian and Lorraine Smith, John and Penny Carroll, Syd and Marion Johnson, Al and Elsa Fletcher and Marj Clappison, together with a total of thirteen children.

As a fifteen year old, I was caught between the perspective of an adult and that of a child.  I remember being delegated as the babysitter of some twelve children, ranging in age from one to fifteen years, while the adults discerned what the Lord was doing.

These times of discernment culminated in our going deeper and committing our lives together in Covenant relationship.  This event was probably one of two things that made me realise that this was serious stuff.  In February 1975, we covenanted our lives to each other, through the symbolic washing of feet.  This was done by each person going around and washing everyone else’s feet, which was a sign of service and covenant to each other.

Even though I was only fifteen, I was aware of the awesomeness of this, for I knew that what we were doing was a step closer to the Lord, and these people who had covenanted with me were going to be here, walking the road with me.  There is something about foot washing which is a very humbling experience.  It is very hard to have someone do it to you.  I was struck by the seriousness of this - I was not only covenanting to God but also to these people.  In a sense we were becoming family.  For me it was a secure feeling, because I came from a small family. 

As an adult almost thirty years older, I am astounded that, as a fifteen-year-old, I took this so seriously.  I can see that the Lord has had His hand on me throughout my life.  Through His grace I am still looking for more of Him, and hopefully, as best I can, choosing to go deeper with Him.  At the time of the foot washing, I thought that these people and the idea of community were the “be-all-and-end-all”.  However, I have learnt that the Father is the one I love and serve and in whom I place my trust.  He has made a covenant with me forever in Jesus.

The Covenant and the Naming of Emmanuel 

Mary Finn

When we came to Brisbane at the beginning of 1975, with our four children aged from four to eleven years, the Charismatic Renewal Movement was already established at St. Mary Magdalene’s Church, Bardon, and Terry was looking forward to joining in the Friday night Prayer Meeting.  However, after a visit by Ralph Martin, a Co-ordinator with the Word of God Covenant Community in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a small group from the Bardon prayer meeting felt led to form a Covenant Community.  The commitment of the members of this group to one another was made on 15 February, 1975, and an invitation was issued to others to join.  Terry and I felt that we were called to join this group, which we did.  By June, a Covenant had been written to embody the ideals of this first Australian Covenant Community, and the members of this Community made Covenant on 29 June, 1975.  We were among that first group.

This new body was known at that time as the Brisbane Covenant Community.  The name “Emmanuel” was received in prophesy and then discerned and accepted by the Elders.  There were two significant prophecies, the first spoken at a community meeting on Sunday 5 September, 1976, by Al Fletcher “…You are My Emmanuel Community and from this day forth you shall be known as The Emmanuel Community, for you are my own and I am with you and I shall be with you always.”  Another prophecy was spoken on 26 September, 1976, by Terry Finn “…as a sign of My Covenant with you I have given you the name Emmanuel so that you may proclaim to all that you have God with you …Your character as a people is that anyone who comes among you with an open heart will know the presence of Jesus …”

The whole Community was exhorted to pray and to discern about this matter of a name, because there was a strong feeling that the name of a community describes its character and charism.  Finally, on Sunday 20 October, 1976, the name “Emmanuel Covenant Community” was accepted and adopted.  Over the years since then, there has been a deep and abiding awareness of the significance of carrying the name “Emmanuel – God with us”.