James Spinti of Eisenbrauns was kind enough to send along a fascinating and delightful 2 volume history of Australian Baptists by Ken Manley titled From Woolloomooloo to ‘Eternity’: A History of Australian Baptists.
Any history which commences with the tale of the Pastor baptizing new converts while a half naked drunk swims in the waters beneath and attempts to pull the Pastor under is must reading. And when the Pastor comes armed to the next baptism with a tree branch in hand to beat all such persons away, you know the fun has just begun. And it gets better from there.
These two volumes tell the story of Australia’s Baptists with vigor and in such a remarkable way that they are almost impossible to put down. Well written doesn’t describe these books. Magical comes close but then of course such a word doesn’t really fit a theological context. Fantastic, fun, witty, engaging, and all the usual descriptors too fall a bit short.
Manley has done 1) Australian Baptists a service by telling their amazing story; and 2) historians a favor by showing them how history can be written so as to be enrapturing.
I recommend these volumes to Church historians, interested Baptists, and general historians. You won’t regret reading them and you will find yourself actually laughing out loud at some of the antics those crazy Australians pull.