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Elsa Matilda Warner


Elsa Warner was one of the early representatives of the Baptist Church on the Women’s Inter-Church Council of Victoria, the forerunner of Australian Church Women in Victoria, and she became yet another valued member of ACW. The Victorian Unit of ACW paid tribute to Elsa in the National ACW Memorial Bursary Record book, renamed the Honouring Australian Church Women (HACW) book. The following paragraphs are adapted from that tribute.


Born more than a century ago, in February 1907, ACW knows little about Elsa’s earliest years except that she was much influenced by an aunt and uncle who cared for her as a child. They were Emma and H.P. Smith, and they were deeply involved in the Collins Street Baptist Church, in the city of Melbourne. H.P. Smith established the Keswick Bookshop, which grew to be one of the largest Christian bookshops in Australia.


Elsa trained as a schoolteacher and taught in rural Gippsland, inner-city Richmond and at the Victorian School for the Deaf. She was involved with young people in the Inter-School Christian Fellowship, the Children’s Special Service Mission, and Scripture Union activities.


In 1934, Elsa married Lawrence Warner, an architect by profession. They shared many interests, and one of those was music. Elsa was an accomplished pianist and Lawrence was a widely acclaimed organist. Lawrence designed several churches throughout his working life, mainly for the Baptist Union of Victoria. Elsa and Lawrence had one son.


Elsa became the first woman deacon at the Collins Street Baptist Church. She worked tirelessly for Baptist Women and represented them at a number of organisations and conferences. From 1956–75, she was Secretary of the Baptist Women’s Association (later Fellowship). She was obviously a good fit for the position of secretary, as she also served as Secretary of the Vic Unit of Australian Church Women from 1971 to ‘73.


The Baptist women endorsed Elsa as their representative at three Baptist World Congresses. Firstly, in 1970, in Tokyo, and then five years later in Stockholm. The third time was in 1980 at the Toronto congress.


As well as her role as the Vic Unit Secretary of ACW, Elsa also served ACW at various times as a representative to the World Day of Prayer Committee, the National Council of Women and Travellers Aid. She was actively involved in many ACW Fellowship and Community Day Services held in city churches during her years with ACW.


Elsa’s training as a schoolteacher, her clear intelligence, and her later overseas travel, all combined with her meticulous attention to detail, created a very far-reaching ministry in administration. She was widely respected in women’s work, both at home and around the globe.


On 6 November 2000, Elsa passed away peacefully at the age of 93. A life well lived.

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This Herstory Blog of Australian Church Women Inc. tells the stories of the women and activities of this national Christian organisation that was founded in February 1965.

Stories that inspired and encouraged me to begin this blog and share their inspiration with you. Stories that need to be told so that the women of ACW can be honoured and celebrated for their achievements and experiences in local, national and international communities of faith. And, most importantly, stories that demonstrate being disciples of Jesus Christ firmly underpins all that Australian Church Women represents.