Tribute to Edith Averill (1922-2016)
by Denise A. Austin
Edith Averill, one of the greatest women leaders of Australian Pentecostalism, recently passed into glory after a lifetime of dedicated service to her Lord Jesus Christ.
Originally from Victoria, the highly intelligent Edith Averill qualified as both a pianist and accountant by the age of 15. After working as a professional pianist in concerts halls for many years, she along with her husband Lloyd, pastored Assemblies of God in Australia (AGA) churches in Cairns, Brigalow/Chinchilla, Mackay and Oakleigh. She would also often teach as a sessional lecturer at the AGA national training institute, Commonwealth Bible College – CBC (now Alphacrucis College) when it was based in Brisbane.
The Averills then moved to New Zealand where they were deeply impacted by the charismatic movement, Lloyd becoming principal of Christian Life Bible College at Lower Hutt (1971-1976) and serving on the Assemblies of God in New Zealand national executive. They then returned to Australia to lead the large Glad Tiding Tabernacle in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. In 1981, the Averills became acting principal and matron of CBC in Katoomba. The students appreciated the mature example provided by the Averills as a ‘father and mother in the faith’. They also loved Edith’s cheeky sense of humour and tolerance for practical jokes on campus.
As matron, Edith commenced a Students’ Wives’ Fellowship, providing much needed support to the college women – many of whom studied part-time while caring for young families. In her famous book “Go North Young Woman”, she writes: “I always felt moved as I looked at these young women, some twenty-five of them, wondering where life and the Lord’s calling would take them.” A ‘Women in Ministry’ subject was even introduced to further develop their callings. In 1988, Edith was one of the guest speakers at the first ever AGA Women’s Ministry Conference. After David Brydges became CBC principal, the Averills remained as lecturers for another two years, with Edith as dean of women. Women’s ministry continued to be a particular focus and her matchmaking abilities became the stuff of legends.
In her later decades, Edith coordinated the AGA national prayer chain and many would respond in a crisis ‘You’d better phone Edith!’ Testament to her support and godly example is the strength evident in her daughter, Joy Graetz, a leader of the AGA national women’s ministry, and son, Murray Averill, who pastors Nexus Church, Brisbane. After retirement, Lloyd and Edith served in Canberra, pioneered a work in Tuggeranong (ACT), and cared for churches in Shepparton (VIC), Nhulunbuy (NT), Maryborough, Townsville, Cairns and Goodna (QLD). Edith Averill was a brilliant educator and early spokesperson for women in church leadership, leaving a lasting legacy in the Australian Pentecostal movement.
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