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Vicar's Musings for Dedication Sunday

3 August, 2014

Today is our Dedication Festival, the day we commemorate the anniversary of the "first service" conducted at St Peter's on Sunday 6th August 1848. Bishop Charles Perry was the preacher and his topic, understandably given the task ahead, was the diocesan church building fund. Although we mark this day as our beginning as a parish, the question of a first service is a little more complex. On Thursday 18th June 1846 Charles La Trobe, then superintendent of the Port Philip District, laid the foundation stone of St Peter's church on the "Eastern Hill" of this new colonial settlement. By 24th January 1848 the building was nearing completion and Mrs Frances Perry, on her arrival in Melbourne, noted: "The very pretty new church, sweetly situated on the brow of the hill overlooking Melbourne, the sea, the dry plains and on two sides an immense extent of undulating, well wooded country, with blue ranges of hill in the horizon." Another significant day in the life of our fledgling parish was Sunday 13th February 1848, when Bp Perry's letters patent were read, in this "pretty new church" at the close of Matins, by Henry Moor the diocesan registrar. Embarrassingly, the letters had been mislaid on the voyage over from England, and were only found after the bishop's installation at Melbourne's only other Anglican church, St James', two weeks earlier.

As we rejoice in the rich history of our church, and together do our part in working towards a long future, I am very aware of ancient churches that have quite literally ceased to exist in recent weeks and months. The story of Samer Kamil Yacub, a seventy-year-old Christian resident of Mosul in Northern Iraq, is harrowing. Mosul boasts a Christian heritage probably stretching back to the era of St Paul, but last week it was reported that four AK-47-touting Islamic militants knocked at Yacub's front door and insisted that he leave. "[A] fighter said, 'I have orders to kill you now'," Yacub said just hours after the Sunni extremists tried to force their way into his home at 11 am on Monday. "All of the people in my neighbourhood were Muslim. They came to help me — about 20 people — at the door in front of my house. They tried to convince ISIS not to kill me" (www.nbcnews.com). He escaped with his life, but may well be the last Christian in the town to do so.

This Dedication Sunday we especially pray for our Christian sisters and brothers in Northern Iraq, and for all victims of war and violence in the region. On a bridge near the MCG there is one of the best pieces of graffiti I have seen in a long time. It simply reads: "When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace."

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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