My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.

"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden

Friday, 14 November 2014

Adelaide City of Churches - the early pioneers

When is the first not the first?
Well it can depend on what we are talking about.
When can a church claim to begin? When a number of Christian believers get together to hold acts of worship, with or without a minister, ordained or otherwise? When the foundation stone of a building is laid? When a priest or other minister is appointed? When the completed building is consecrated and first used?

One of the first churches I visited on my pilgrimage in Adelaide South Australia was the Anglican Holy Trinity Church on North Terrace. And this claims to be Adelaide's First Church.
The office at the church gave me a good booklet, Holy Trinity Adelaide's Pioneer Church: A Brief History, by Brian Dickey, where I learnt that even before the proclamation of the new colony of South Australia (SA) in December 1836 the Church of England were keen to settle in or support this new colony. To this end in early February 1836 they had already appointed the Revd. Charles Beaumont Howard to be their first chaplain in SA. In June 1836 Howard set sail to what was to become SA with some of the official party on HMS Buffalo, and during the long passage he conducted many Sunday services, weddings and baptisms.

He was sworn in to his new role as first SA Anglican Chaplain on 28th December 1836, the date of the founding of the colony, and he conducted his first service on Australian soil on 1st January 1837, in the sandhills at Glenelg.
A prefabricated building sent over from England proved to be useless and the foundation stone of the first permanent Anglican church on SA soil was laid 26th January 1838.
For nearly a year Howard was apparently the only ordained clergyman in SA.
I may have uncovered just a wee bit of friendly rivalry in this business of who was first to stake out their religious patch in the new SA colony! Later I visited the Pilgrim Uniting Church in Flinders Street Adelaide, who proudly claim that their forebears were the first to hold religious services on South Australian soil, on Kangaroo Island, on 13th November 1836, by a local Methodist preacher. I shall write about that church in due course.

My pilgrimage around the churches of Adelaide has been hampered somewhat by the fact that so many are locked up during the week, only opening their doors for services and other events. But sometimes a call at the church office during their working hours was all  I needed to gain access, and I quickly  discovered that behind those closed doors there is often a vibrant, active and significant church membership. I was told that the Holy Trinity church attracts around a thousand worshippers on Sunday between its four services. That's a good number for a city church.

Holy Trinity Church overshadowed by road bridge!
I also found much to interest me in what are often very beautiful buildings worth a visit in their own right: beautiful stained glass windows, the carvings on marble fonts, the carpentry and moulding of pulpits, rood screens and so on.

Come on Australia, let the public see behind those doors and admire the treasures therein a little more often. In England many of our churches are open all day every day with just CCTV for protection, and of course the most mobile and valuable treasures are locked up and brought out only for services. Many of us feel that the small risk of loss or damage is far outweighed by the importance of keeping our churches always available for those who wish to find a quiet space for meditation or prayer, or even just to admire the architecture and all that is therein. An open church attracts people, and more people means greater security. A locked up church is a dead church all the while it is inaccessible. Just being open in office hours, with CCTV playing through to the office, would be surely a good start?

the Ten Commandments - as relevant now as when they were brought down from the mountain by Moses

1 comment:

  1. Eleanor, American churches are also usually locked when there is no service going on. The American colonies, and even more so Australia, were settled by dissidents and outcasts, even criminals, and I believe there's much less trust in the good manners of strangers in these former British colonies! ;-)
    Moreover, at least in the U.S., there is no state support (financial or otherwise) for religious institutions, so there would be no one around to docent the building during off hours.