William Naden ( – 1959) Aboriginal pastor and leader
Pastor William Naden’s ministry in and around Gilgandra became so strong that the town became known as The Holy Land with folks saying “Don’t go to Gilgandra, or you’ll get converted.”
It appears William Bee Naden was a born gatherer of people, an excellent speaker and story teller, and a true and humble servant of his God.
In 1948 the family were one of the first Aboriginal families to move to Gilgandra. They came by horse and cart Mum, Dad and a family of seven boys and three girls. At first they lived in lower Miller Street. Although a Shearing Contractor, his first employer in Gilgandra was Billy Morris who owned a Butcher Shop in Miller Street. By 1950 they moved to settle amongst other folk in the area behind the Racecourse then known as the Pines, a small settlement beside the Castlereagh River, across from the main town area.
It was here that his Ministry took wing. His Services became legendary, and so large that he purchased a Generator and Public Address System so that his congregation, both black and white who’d travelled from all over the region could hear him speak. His services were held in the open air under the Gum trees, sometimes seven nights a week and again in the mornings. He ceremoniously Baptised his converts in the Castlereagh River.
It was said at the time that Pastor Naden had a “true revival taking place in Gilgandra.” Also that his sermons were so uplifting, the congregation’s singing so beautiful, and the lilting sounds of gumleaves played to beat of the clap sticks so haunting, that it created an atmosphere which stopped horse trainers like George Furnell, who worked each morning on the nearby racetrack from working. He stopped to listen, as did many others in town and along the river as the hauntingly beautiful music and voices floated on the air.
Pastor Naden had a growing interest in photography and owned a variety of cameras. This interest formed the basis of his life-long friendship with Vic Brain. Vic, at the time, was a young businessman in town who owned Brains Motor Garage selling vehicles, tractors, refrigerators, the usual fuel and oil and of course mechanical repairs. He and his wife Margaret also owned Taxis in Gilgandra during the early 1950s. William Naden was first a valued customer, but as the mutual interest in photography became apparent their friendship grew to the point where Vic helped Pastor Naden build a Dark-room at his home in the Pines, and shared with him his knowledge of developing film.
Margaret remembers the Naden family with great fondness as she does many of those who lived in the Pines by the Racecourse in those days. She’d ferry them back and forth from town in the Taxi as the need arose, and remembers them saying always on the return journey take me home to “Riverview” their name for the settlement by the river.
Wanting to spread God’s word further Pastor Naden began an outreach programme travelling to areas such as Gulargambone, Dubbo, Wellington, and as far afield as Condoblin for rallies. On the back of his old red truck which doubled as transport for his Shearers, he built a type of cabin complete with fridge, bed and table etc. His Ministry in and around Gilgandra became so strong that the town became known as The Holy Land with folks saying “Don’t go to Gilgandra, or you’ll get converted.”
The 1955 flood devastated Gilgandra and washed away the homes and possessions of many especially those in the Pines area. Gilgandra resident, Evelyn Furnell remembers in the flood’s aftermath, coming across two Aboriginal women standing in The Pines area crying. She asked, “Have you lost everything?” “Oh, we’re not crying for ourselves,” they replied. “Pastor Naden has lost everything, even his electric motor has been washed away.” Such was the love and respect the people had for this Minister of Religion. Later his refrigerator was found caught up in the fork of a tree.
After the flood Pastor Naden, his family and many others from the Pines area moved to Balladoran from where, with the gift of equipment from the Aboriginal Inland Mission Bible School in Singleton that year, he was able to carry on his outreach work with renewed enthusiasm. He felt there was a great need in Balladoran for a Church, so set aside land at the back of his home for that purpose. His wife Stella who was a great aid and companion in all areas of their lives together, later Officially opened the Balladoran AIM Church.
William Bee Naden had not been a man of education and learning, but a man of fervent belief and dedication to something he believed in. Throughout the years of his Ministry he guided many away from drinking and gambling to excess, others he helped to find the right path for their lives. He died on the 19th January, 1959 leaving not just his family to mourn, but many in Western New South Wales. Tributes flowed in from all over, and still to-day the Australian Aboriginal Inland Mission pays tribute to him on their Website.
Further on the Naden family : http://www.google.com.au/search?q=naden+aboriginal
Influential Australian aboriginal Christians
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