The Cross and the Railway
Reverend John Wyndham
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Australia is a large country, bordered by the Pacific Ocean in the east and the Indian Ocean in the west, a distance of 3290 km. Following federation of the colonies in 1901, a railway line crossing the vast Nullarbor Plain was built, linking the eastern states with Western Australia. The railway line is 1658 km in length.
Settlements, known as camps, each comprised of mainly six houses, were built every 80 km to provide accommodation for maintenance workers. They had no electricity and the only social activity was the arrival of the weekly Tea and Sugar provisions train. Small towns with workshops and schools 400 km apart were built at Tarcoola, Cook and Rawlinna.
The founder of the Bush Church Aid Society (BCA), Rev S.J. Kirkby, visited the Trans Line in 1921 to see what could be done for the people in the railway camps. The trip gave Kirkby the desire to put a clergyman on the Line.
While BCA established a medical work in 1937 with the opening of a hospital at Cook, there was only casual pastoral ministry along the railway line before Kirkby’s dream came to fruition 43 years later.
In The Cross and the Railway, John Wyndham initially gives us a brief history of the railway line as well as a history of early Christian ministry at Tarcoola, nearly 300 miles from Port Augusta. However, the main thrust of the book is the ministry following his appointment as resident clergyman in 1964.
We have a picture of the isolation he and his wife experienced, the adventure of travelling 104,000 km in 2½ years by train and road, together with the opportunities to visit the “camps’ and proclaim the Gospel. And there is humour as well.
About the Author
John Wyndham trained at Moore Theological College. He was ordained at St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney, was curate (assistant minister) in the parishes of St Anne’s Ryde and St Paul’s Sydney, before serving with the Bush Church Aid Society at Ceduna, Minnipa and Tarcoola in South Australia along the Trans Australia Railway. He was rector of Norseman in Western Australia.
John was an Army Chaplain at Maralinga SA, Bandiana Vic and with 1 ATF in Vietnam. He later ministered in the Sydney parishes of Northmead, Milton, Darlinghurst (Kings Cross), and Belfield, as well as being
an Administrator with of the Temple Trust. In 1980, he founded Pacific Renewal and Outreach Ministries, which later merged with Sharing of Ministries Abroad (SOMA) of which he was Australian director from 1986 to 1999 during which he ministered in more than thirty countries.
In retirement, John has undertaken locums and a preaching and teaching ministry. Married to Jan, they have five children and six grandchildren. They live in Port Macquarie, Australia.