Alfred E. Gifford

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Alfred Gifford (1868-1947)

Alfred Gifford was born in Beechworth, Victoria, but went to live in Melbourne at an early age. He studied for the ministry at Queen’s College, which was affiliated with the University of Melbourne, where he enjoyed a rich social life during his course. Following his graduation in 1890, he spent four years in Tasmania, among the fruitgrowers of the Huon, and the miners at Mount Bischoff and Zeehan. The miners were “glorious fellows”, generous to a fault. In Zeehan they used the hall for church services, and his pulpit was the pugilists’ platform from a boxing contest on Saturday nights. He then went back to Victoria and ministered to dairy farmers in the Gippsland and ‘cocky’ farmers in the Mallee and the Riverina. He said later, “For many years I have held the theory that no young minister should begin in a city charge, or in an easy pastorate. In the country, one comes into the home life of the people as one cannot in the town, and every young man ought to do a bit of ‘roughing it”.

He then moved to a city pastorate at Malvern, in Melbourne. After his fourteen years at Brougham Place, he moved back to Victoria to Surrey Hills. His final ministry was at Trinity, Strathfield in New South Wales. He completed a record of about fifty years in the ministry in four states. As well as his work as a preacher, pastor and teacher in his various parishes, he also wrote extensively for the “Congregationalist” and also edited this paper for a couple of years. His feature in the paper was called “Sparks from the Study Anvil”. These articles were later published in book form, and many other writings of his were published as pamphlets over the years. He gave a series of lectures monthly in 1944 on “How to get the best out of life”, which were subsequently published.

At his death, Principal E.S. Kiek wrote: His supreme object was to relate the truths of Christianity to the new world of knowledge and thought in which we now live. Few men were more earnest in the quest for truth and more fearless in proclaiming his discoveries. Even in old age, he was still a pioneer. The only authority he recognized was the authority of truth. Some resented his efforts to awaken them from “dogmatic slumbers”, but others felt that to him they owed their very souls. He detested the mental cowardice and laziness which so often masquerades as “faith”. He waged war on all the “infallibilities” and believed with all his soul that the essentials of Christian faith could all find sufficient and final vindication in reason, conscience and experience. He was survived by his widow, Elizabeth and their children.

Sources: The Mail, 1 November 1913.

Alfred Gifford, 1945. Something a Man Can Believe: Studies in how to get the best out of Life, Sydney.

Australian Christian World, 2 January 1948.