There is no explicit mention of the origins of AMT anywhere on the internet, but two-thirds of the way down Brian Meharg's About Me page there is a photo of his grandparents and this interesting sentence: "He (Hugh Meharg) arrived in Sydney in 1910 and met up with an evangelist (Mr Gerrard) and together with a horse drawn van and tent set about working their way north holding gospel meetings in the various towns they went through."
So indirectly AMT is there back in 1910 on the web! For the first volume of Australian Missionary Tidings, page 38, carries a letter from Mr Gerrard, written from Wollomombi near Armidale NSW telling of gospel work on village streets. And the Mr Meharg mentioned... he's the father of Ned Meharg, an AMT missionary to Bolivia (1951-1997).
Yes, AMT began in Sydney in 1910, the vision of four men from the assemblies there, as a service to missionaries and assemblies. Over the ensuing years it grew, expanded and moved. Moved with the times... and moved premises – relocating seven times to date. Initially the anticipated purpose of the organisation was to echo news or tidings out to faithful prayer partners. The first magazine cost one penny, issued from the first AMT office at 95 York Street, Sydney.
The vision quickly expanded as a wider mandate was given – so the third magazine reports that AMT additionally hoped to generate funds "which can be sent forward to the workers." Move one was late in AMT’s first year, for the address altered to 22 Young Street, Circular Quay, a site now occupied by the Inter-Continental Hotel in an AMP-owned building.
1913 saw a change back to York Street (Nos 50-54) for thirteen years, then in 1926 premises at 20a Goulburn Street were obtained in a part of the city that is today the centre of Chinatown. AMT settled down there for 40 years, but relocated again in the late 'sixties' (?1966) to 8 Oxford Street on the main route to Kings Cross. About this time (?1968) a house at 22 Chesterfield Road, Epping was bequeathed to AMT for use as a 'Missionary Home' – a place for accommodation and respite for furloughing missionaries. This proved useful and appreciated as an additional ministry offered by AMT to overseas workers.
The magazine remained Australian Missionary Tidings from 1910 to 1965, when the word 'Tidings' was made much more prominent on the cover than the other two. In 1970 the magazine name was changed to just Tidings.
ORGANISATION OF THE NATION
In 1971 AMT was formally constituted and incorporated as a company in the State of New South Wales, taking over the purposes and assets of the unincorporated association. Though Sydney-based, AMT’s ministries to missionaries and assemblies were used and respected nation-wide. But at that point in time, company law was a state jurisdiction. Today AMT reports to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), a national body.
AMT had been inner city for about sixty years, indicating the probable inner-city occupations of the honorary committee members. But prompted by the city council wishing to resume the Oxford Street site for development, the new management committee began to think of a suburban location. The siting of the office within the city was less important in an increasingly urbanised Australia – accessibility and proximity to voluntary labour seemed more important. In 1971, the Epping house was sold and a larger property at 15 Daisy Street, Chatswood acquired to serve jointly as missionary home and AMT office. However as demand upon the facilities increased and the office functions crowded the 'home', a nearby unit was added for transiting missionaries. 25 years were enjoyed at Chatswood.
Richard and Mavis Saxby joined the team at AMT in 1975. Past missionaries in Chad, Richard and Mavis were the first people to commit full-time to the work of AMT. Previously, all of AMT’s work had been undertaken by volunteers, mostly retired from active working lives. The Saxbys were the "younger helpers in the office and in associated work" (as they were called in Tidings 1975) that the administrators of AMT had been looking for. The arrival of the Saxbys in the office allowed AMT to expand its role beyond simply publishing a magazine and the distribution of gifts. The field experience of Richard and Mavis allowed them to have a close understanding of the diverse conditions in the various countries that Brethren workers were serving, and allowed AMT to better serve the needs of those overseas.
AMT experienced renewed vigour and growth in the 'nineties'. Sale of the Chatswood properties funded the acquisition of commercial office space plus a separate 'missionary villa' at Eastwood in 1996. MMM fitted-out a purpose-designed, functional and modern suite, that has been appreciated by staff, volunteers and visitors. Missionaries acclaim the benefits of the villa and many have said it has provided them the only restful space during their furlough schedule! In 2000, Tidings magazine had another name change to the current Serving Together.
95 NOT OUT
In 2005, AMT officially opened the doors of its office in Brisbane, Queensland. This move was the result of a strategic review by the AMT Board. Capital costs and recurrent expenditure for office accommodation and housing are both significantly lower, reducing AMT’s overheads plus releasing capital for expansion. Furthermore, this allows the staffing pool to expand, for recently it has been daunting for any but Sydneysiders to participate in this ministry because of exorbitant housing costs in Sydney. So, after 95 years (1910-2005) AMT was once more on the move – this time interstate.
A MORE PERMANENT HOME
In April 2008, more than a year after purchasing the Holland Park Gospel Chapel building, AMT relocated to its new home.
THE OFFICAL AMT OFFICE OPENING, 24 AUGUST 2008
After waiting for more than a year for council approval, followed by several weeks of renovation, the AMT office in Brisbane, Queensland, finally relocated from Meadowbrook to Holland Park at the end of March 2008.
On the afternoon of Sunday, 24 August, about 150 people, including at least 60 past and present AMT missionaries, gathered at the new AMT office for its official opening. There were 30 former missionaries who were unable to attend and who sent their apologies. Acting CEO Ken Newton opened proceedings by directing our attention to the impact on missions that Christian Brethren missionaries in general, and AMT missionaries specifically, have had over the past decades. Ken then asked the AMT missionaries who were present to stand in turn and say their names and where they served. It was encouraging to hear the diverse ministries and countries of service that were represented at this gathering.
Don Fleming then introduced his new book, Across the Bridge, which contains stories and testimonies from people worldwide who have been positively affected by the books of Bridgeway Publications. Don then gave a brief message when he highlighted the fact that, although there are a rapidly increasing number of national Christian workers, there is still a place for western missionaries to serve overseas. "There will always be need for missionaries, perhaps not of the pioneering David Livingstone kind, but countries everywhere are crying out for those with God-given skills in such things as Bible teaching, education and literacy programs, anything related to technology, computers and modern communications, health services, agricultural and urban improvement, and so on. And as long as those needs exist, there is need for western support agencies, whether by way of local churches or ministries such as AMT. Some of these support people may be volunteers, some may be salaried and some may be supported by local churches, but they all need a physical base to work from, and we praise God that this building has now become available as a facility that AMT can call home."
Richard Saxby and Richard Morton, former executive directors of AMT, then briefly addressed the assembly, before they jointly unveiled the commemorative plaque. Brian Adams gave thanks for God’s blessings and for the afternoon tea. On that day we also celebrated Rosemary Morton’s birthday, so the chocolate mud cake served a dual purpose.
The staff at AMT would like to thank everyone who came to the celebration, and especially all those who gave of their time and energy to make the day as memorable as it was. We pray that the Lord will continue to bless many people – local, national and overseas – through the work that occurs within the walls of these new premises.