Henry Reed the founder of the Church, sailed from England to Tasmania in 1827 on a ship called the Tiger when he was 21 yo. He became a very wealthy and astute businessman in the early colony of Tasmania. He returned to England in 1849 and during his stay there was instrumental in promoting and assisting in the growth of several avenues of Christian work including foreign missions and the Salvation Army. Whilst speaking at a conference on the theme “Here am I, send me”, he felt the Holy Spirits’ leading to return to Tasmania. He arrived back in Launceston in 1873 and looked around for a suitable site on which to commence a mission work among the poorer and disadvantaged folk. Some of whom were former convicts or the descendants of convicts.
By unusual circumstances, God used a pig, a horse, a local pub owner/vet and an Englishman to commence a ministry at 22 Wellington Street, Launceston. The local pub was named “Parrs Royal Hotel” (now Dunorlan House - situated next to the now Church building) and was owned by Mr. Henry Parr. Henry Reed purchased this Hotel for £1000, closed it and then commenced a ministry in the Skittle Alley at the rear of the Hotel in 1876 among the poor and under privileged in the township of Launceston, it was known as the Christian Mission Church.
At first Henry Reed placed the work under the supervision of the Wesleyans but after a difference of opinion he formed a fellowship in 1877 with himself as Pastor. He was helped in the work by Rev. Jabez Bunting Portrey and a dedicated group of Christian people.
The ministry soon grew to such a size that the skittle alley could no longer hold the amount of people attending. In 1880 a new double story building was opened with rooms upstairs for the growing Sunday School and a large area downstairs where services were held for 300 people, (now our Church Hall.)
Henry Reed passed away in 1880. His wife Margaret Sayers Elizabeth Reed (along with the hearty concurrence of the then Pastor and Elders) felt led to erect a new building on adjoining land in remembrance of the work that her husband had begun. Work began on the Church building in 1883, it was to seat 1200 and was built under the guidance of Mr. F. Tyson (Architect) and J. T. Farmilo (Builder) at a cost of £17,500 . It was first called “The Temple” but its name was then changed to “The Memorial Church.” It was officially opened in July, 1885, when 1200 people are said to have sat down for tea. Every Sunday thereafter was full to capacity, the services being led by Pastor Hiddlestone after Henry Reed’s death .
From its inception the work was greatly blessed and it has been recorded that ‘people of the right sort’ were reached and helped. This is evidently so, because during the building of the church, the mission hall didn’t have the capacity to hold all those attending so the schoolyard had to be covered with canvas to house the overflow. This became known as the ‘Pavilion’. The Preacher at that time stood on the top step at the entrance to the building to deliver his sermon so all could hear.
The outreach for our Lord was accomplished by financial help to the needy, provision of low cost housing, food from a soup kitchen, sewing classes and education classes and spiritually, by proclaiming the Gospel in the Church buildings and open air, Sunday School, Bible Study, temperance work through a Band of Hope and a Brass Band. Outstation work was conducted at Invermay, Dilston, Patersonia and Summerhill.
Over the years the Church has had various names. It was also known as the “Reed Memorial Church” but in the mid 1930’s the Church became part of the Baptist denomination and its name was changed to “The Memorial Baptist Church” until 2002 when it became “Gateway Baptist Church.” This name was chosen because of the beautiful old fence and gates outside the main doors. It was felt that … if the beautiful old gates out the front of the building were left open it would become a spiritual ‘gateway’ for both those outside the building to come in and for those inside to venture out to the Community to share God’s love and the message of the Gospel
Although congregations have varied in size over the years, the message of “Jesus Only Mighty to Save” has always been upheld through the services, ministries and outreaches to the community. His name has been proclaimed in His house and beyond – May He and He alone receive the glory and praise for all that has been done over the years.