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Vicar's Musings for the Third Sunday in Advent

15 December, 2013

There was a wealth of information in the Annual Report to the 2013 AGM, but there were three omissions in the Vicar's report: his work as Area Dean, as Director on the Board of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, and as Chaplain to State Parliament. The Vicar's musings over these three weeks will touch on each of these three elements of parish outreach and service.

As a recently appointed Director on the Board of the Brotherhood of St Laurence I am particularly aware of two things: the historical links with our parish, and the unsettling challenge such ministry evokes. In 1933 at the height of the Great Depression, Canon Farnam Maynard, the Vicar of St Peter's Eastern Hill, invited Fr Gerard Tucker to become Assistant Curate and take charge of St Mary's Mission Church in Fitzroy. Archbishop Frederick Head gave his full support and Keble House, previously the parish school, was re-opened as a training centre. There were twelve members of the Brotherhood at that time, Fr Tucker and three other ordained priests, four ordinands, one lay member, and three aspirants for lay membership. A year later that number had risen to nineteen; the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne was born (John Handfield, Friends and Brothers, p. 114).

In the post-war period the fledgling organisation went through a significant period of change, steered largely by its then Director of Social Services and later Executive Director, Geoffrey Sambell, who went on to become the Archbishop of Perth. After leaving Melbourne Archbishop Sambell was famously asked: "Have you settled in yet?" He replied, "I am in a sense very unsettled and hope I shall always be, and will endeavor to make you as unsettled because I think that is what is the Christian life" (Michael Challen, Sambell: A Man of the Word).

As well as attending Board meetings this year, I was asked by the present CEO, Tony Nicholson, to chair a review committee on Parish Partnerships. It was inspiring to research and report on what other Dioceses and Social Service agencies are doing around Australia, and to make recommendations for growth within our Diocese. The Lazarus Centre, here at St Peter's, is a good example of a Parish Partnership with Anglicare that has been successfully operating for more than 10 years; and there are numerous other parochial social service initiatives that quietly get on with the task of proclaiming God's love in both word and deed. This work at the Brotherhood unsettles me, and so it should. What more can we do as a parish, can I do personally, for Melbourne's poorest and most vulnerable?

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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