Skip to content

Katoomba Christian Convention – a short history

During our time at the CMS Summer School at Katoomba, our family has been greatly blessed by the hospitality of Paul Innes, who operates Blue Mountains History Tours. As part of Paul’s history work in the Blue Mountains, he regularly contributes history articles to the Scenic World Tourist Magazine. The latest story from the Summer 2016 edition concerns the history of the Katoomba Christian Convention. The full article appears below. The information is based on Stuart Braga’s 2003 book A Century Preaching Christ. Katoomba Christian Convention 1903 – 2003.


In the late 19th Century, holidaymakers began to visit the Blue Mountains during Summer, to enjoy the region’s cooler temperatures, fresh air, waterfalls and views.

For some families, the attraction of staying in the upper Mountains over Summer lead them to build holiday homes, where they would stay for weeks at a time.

One such family were the Youngs who built a home in the late 1890’s at the end of Katoomba Street, which they named Khandala. The two-storey Swiss style home, with its views of Jamison Valley, also became a destination for the friends of Ernest and Margaret Young.

View of the Katoomba Christian Convention centre across the Jamison Valley. In the foreground to the right is Khandala, the site of the first Convention

Some of the friends who stayed with Ernest and Margaret were Ministers of Religion, for the Young’s were Christian people who wanted to share their home and their faith in Jesus – in fact with any visitor who stayed with them.

Ernest Young developed the habit of, following breakfast, sharing the Scriptures with visitors who stayed at Khandala. This practise became known, and as more and more people visited, the Youngs began to think of hosting a more formal gathering or Convention at their home, each Christmas.

And so, in 1903 the Katoomba Christian Convention (KCC) was born.

At Christmas in 1904, Ernest Young’s sister Florence travelled down from Bundaberg in Queensland to join her family in Katoomba. Florence brought eight Solomon Islander Christian men with her, and their inclusion in the 1904 Convention highlighted the motto adopted by the Convention of “All One In Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). This inclusion was also in stark contrast with the ‘White Australia Policy’ which became the law at the time.

While visiting the 1904 Convention, Florence Young declared she would travel to Malaita Island in the Solomons to visit Solomon Island Christians she had known at Bundaberg. Her decision and subsequent visit is still remembered today in the name Malaita Point – a portion of the cliff top which overlooks the Jamison Valley, just along from Scenic World.

From 1905 onward, ever growing numbers of people to the Conventions determined the need to house the visitors in a large tent, or marquee, erected in Khandala’s grounds. By the late 1930’s close to 800 people were listening to Guest Speakers, Bible Readings and joining in Hymn Singing in the week just after Christmas.

In that decade, the Convention expanded its program with the opening of a Prayer Tent, Book Tent, Children’s Program, Ladies House Party and Children’s House Party.

Furthermore, while most visitors supported the local tourist economy (as they do today) by staying in Guest Houses and Rented Cottages, a Men’s Camp was established in bushland near Khandala for single men, including Uni Students, whose budgets were more limited.

Sadly, Ernest Young died in 1927, and while Margaret continued to host Conventions after his death, it became apparent by the early 1940’s that the time had come for her to relinquish her role and the Khandala links with the Conventions.

A new site was found and cleared in Forster Road, near Echo Point. However, for several reasons a bigger site was soon required. In the 1950’s, a new (and the current) site was acquired when the Deck family sold their large property known as Culverden to the Katoomba Christian Convention.

The Culverden house and 19 acre property had initially been purchased in 1901 by Ernest Young’s sister Emily and her husband John Deck. However, by the 1950’s the Deck family only wanted to keep the house.

Gradually, the hill site opposite Culverden, through the work of faithful volunteers, acquired a steel framed Auditorium with a dirt floor, Accommodation Huts, Amenities Blocks, Dining Hall and importantly a Lodge to house Guest Speakers.

In the 1960’s, further changes occurred. In 1960, the Church Missionary Society (CMS) began to conduct their January Summer School on the Culverden site. Then in 1962, an Easter Convention began.

After a decline in interest during the late 1960’s and 1970’s, numbers picked up again during the 1980’s. In January 1988, for example, a tent big enough to house 6,000 visitors (!) was erected on site, and during the 1990’s Men’s and Woman’s Conventions and Kyckstart began.

New generations were coming, and now, in the early 21st Century, the Youngs’ 1903 vision to share the Scriptures with visitors to Katoomba continues.

Perhaps this year you’re one of those visitors …?

Paul Innes, 2016. Paul would like to acknowledge the helpful assistance of Stuart and Patricia Braga in the editing of the article.

Published inChurch History

Publications by Lionel Windsor:

  • The Named Jew and the Name of God: A new reading of Romans 2:17–29

All posts

Recent blog posts

  • Shipwreck with rainbow in backgroundGrace in ministry: Avoiding the shipwreck (1 Timothy 1:12–20)
    "There was a widespread view expressed by participants that within [the church] culture there was an over-emphasis on sin and an under-emphasis on grace". The report describes how this grace problem permeated the culture. It affected membership commitment expectations, views of authority, pastoral care, and more. And yet, the thing is: Nobody would deny that this church believed in grace. They preached a conservative evangelical reformed doctrine of grace. But on the ground, in so many instances, grace was not a key feature of this church’s ministry and relationships—with disastrous results. Today I want us to grasp that in Christian ministry, grace can’t only be the content we preach. Grace also must permeate and transform everything about us personally. And I want to give some suggestions for things we can do even now in lockdown, to wage the warfare of grace. (a sermon)
  • Yes no“Paul within Judaism” and Romans 2:17–29
    My article on Romans 2:17–29 supports one key feature of the "Paul within Judaism" perspective, but undermines another common feature.
  • Photo by Engin Akyurt on UnsplashThe goals of Bible teaching (1 Timothy 1:1–11)
    In gospel ministry and Bible teaching, if you’re not committed to the right goal, or if you have the wrong goal, it’s not just a matter of being ineffective: you’ll be downright dangerous. So what is that goal? What are you seeking to achieve in your gospel ministry and Bible teaching - now and in the future? And how would you know if you’d done it right? This passage in 1 Timothy 1:1–11 speaks to this issue of the goals of ministry and teaching. It challenges us to think about our own aims in teaching, and to see how important it is to get it right. A sermon preached at Moore College Men's Chapel on 14 July, 2021.
  • Slow-burn crazy-making behaviours. Photo by Vadim Sadovski on UnsplashSlow-burn crazy-making behaviours: recognising and responding
    Do you know someone who seems to have drama and problems constantly appear around them? Whenever you relate to this person, perhaps you find yourself feeling vaguely guilty, or uncomfortable, or put down, or obligated to affirm them? Do you often feel like you’re questioning yourself and your actions because of what they say and do? You don’t feel the same way around other people; it’s just this individual who seems to attract these dramas and give rise to these feelings in you. If that’s the case, the chances are it’s not you who is the problem. It’s quite possible that the person you’re thinking of is exhibiting a pattern of behaviours that can be significantly detrimental to you and to others. This pattern of behaviours is hard to pin down; it doesn’t seem too serious in the short term, and indeed it might appear quite normal to a casual acquaintance. However, over the long term, it can cause serious problems for you and others. That’s especially true in close-knit communities, like families, churches and other Christian ministries.
  • Romans Crash CourseRomans Crash Course (video)
    A 75 minute video course in the Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans designed for church members and leaders.
  • The Mistranslation "Call Yourself a Jew" in Romans 2:17: A Mythbusting StoryThe mistranslation “call yourself a Jew”: A myth-busting story (Romans 2:17)
    This is a story about a scholarly myth and how I had the chance to bust it. I’m talking here about a small but significant 20th century biblical translation: “call yourself” instead of “are called” in Romans 2:17.
  • Breaking news: Religious Scandal in RomeThe named Jew and the name of God: A new reading of Romans 2:17–29
    I've just had an article published in the journal Novum Testamentum. In it, I provide a detailed defense of my new reading of Romans 2:17–29. This passage is not primarily about Jewish salvation - rather it's primarily about Jewish teaching and God's glory.
  • Photo by Joseph d'Mello on UnsplashPreaching the Pastoral Epistles
    A one-hour audio seminar with principles and ideas for preaching the biblical books 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus ("Pastoral Epistles")
  • A Crash Course in Romans: Livestream
    Here's a <90 minute "Crash Course in Romans" I'm running on Monday evening 1 Feb 2021. It's aimed at leaders and any interested members of my church St Augustine's Neutral Bay and Church by the Bridge Kirribilli. Anyone is welcome to watch the livestream.
  • Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on UnsplashWhat’s wrong with the world? Is there hope? (Ephesians)
    Guilt, weakness, spiritual slavery, prejudice, arrogance, tribalism, conflict, war, victimhood, persecution, pain, suffering, futility, ignorance, lying, deceit, anger, theft, greed, pornography, sexual sin, darkness, fear, drunkenness, substance abuse, domestic abuse, workplace abuse, spiritual powers... In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he says many things about the problems we face in this world. He also gives us wonderful reasons to find life, hope and healing in Jesus Christ. Along the way, he provides practical teachings about how to respond and live together.

On this site

All content copyright Lionel Windsor