Annual General Meeting
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
This is the 6th AGM that I have presided at as incumbent of the parish
of St Peter, Melbourne. St Paul's well-known image of the community of
the church being inter-connected and mutually dependent, just as the
various parts of a human body, immediately comes to my mind.
I am very conscious once again of the importance of acknowledging all
those; clergy, office bearers, staff, volunteers, parishioners and
worshippers of all kinds, members of various groups, members of none,
who day by day, week by week, or sometimes only grand occasion by grand
occasion, would want to say that they are part of St Peter's Eastern
Hill. In a place like this, there are many different layers of
association for so many people. But any lively city church depends on
an extraordinary degree of committed service from people who choose
often to travel considerable distance past any number of potential
alternatives. They do this, you do this this, because it is important
to you and you value what is here. We in turn acknowledge and value
you at an annual general meeting.
A typical day at St Peter's starts early with mass followed later by
morning prayer. The resident clergy, Fr Neville Connell, Br Tat Hean
Lie and myself are joined in that round by our team of associate
priests. Fr Sam Ata lives here in Keble House with his wife Doreen and
their wonderful family. There is also regularly Fr Lawrie Styles, Fr
David Warner, Fr Alec Reid and Fr Richard Waddell. The breakfast
program is by then in full swing, with often up to 50 homeless or needy
people given a meal every day in the Hughes Room. The Lazarus Centre,
both here and at the cathedral, operates with Deacon Bevil Lumson and
team of volunteers, including a number from here. Emergency food is
also provided, along with blankets and a great deal of care. If it is
Tuesday there will be a quick change of gear in that room, because:the
members of the Icon School will be coming shortly and Bishop Bayton
will be already there.
By the time the breakfast is finished for the day though, the Vicar's
secretary, Glenda Heywood, will have been upstairs in our new parish
office rooms for over an hour, at the best time of the day before the
phone gets too busy. Philip Bewley might be there too. Churchwardens
John Taaff, John Liversidge and Liz Prideaux clearly live here, though
I am not sure where. There are tradespeople to meet, cheques to sign,
flowers to buy and arrange, or fetes to organise. Money matters will be
dealt with by treasurer David Pacey, with Colin Ferguson and Robin
Briggs, as well as Peter Ondaatje and Peter McWhinney.
Other vestry members and parishioners will be doing their thing.
Clergy will come and go. The vicar might be answering correspondence
or dealing with many phone calls. Fr Neville might be deep in pastoral
conversation. Br Tat Hean will be hard at work in the hospitals, Fr
Lawrie will be starting home communion rounds. Carol O'Connor and some
of her team of volunteers will have the Bookroom throwing wide its
welcoming doors for another day.
Depending on the day, Margaret and Alan Lugg, James Walters of the
catering team might be preparing something good. for another St Peter's
hospitable occasion Joyce Bruce could, as well as preparing platters
of nibbles, be scrubbing something to within an inch of its life. Gary
Long our groundsman could be cleaning up some mess outside or mowing a
lawn. A church sitter might be welcoming someone inside the church
while Ted Williams dismantles and polishes a lamp or two. Adam
Blackmore might be setting up for a special service or doing those
things that a sacristan needs to do.
And there will be others around. Many, many people through the day
will be coming in to the church to quietly pray, or just to be still in
a busy world, or to look around at what is special to us and maybe also
to them. They may be coming to mass in the lunch hour. They may be a
school group for one of the vicar's guided talks or on a city walking
tour. But it is very unlikely indeed that any of these, visitors or
regulars to this fine old church, would be left in any doubt as to why
we are here or what are we doing. Because in all this, the heart and
the reason for it all is to be found right there in the church; right
there at the centre of the High Altar. God with us.
A number of wider church and community groups use St Peter's as their
base, either during the day or evenings. Certainly, come the evening,
there could be another ISS seminar that Jan Gordon Clark and her team
have organised. There might be a study group ably led by Robert
Whalley or a pleasant shared evening meal in the hospitality of the
vicarage. Bruce Kellett might be at home doing something creative with
our parish website and making sure it is up to date. It is possible
that our Children's Church team of Pat and Barry Draper and Julie Berry
could be meeting at home for a meal to plan the content for the next
But here our inspiring choir might be preparing to practice. John
Weretka, who has done so much to bring our music together again, and
Mark Raczynski or Julian Clarke would be there, preparing the fine
music for the coming week. If rather it happened to be the night for a
weekday festival, then Peter Bryce and the serving team would be
gathering in dedicated strength, and, as on any other festival day at
St Peter's, worshippers would be gathering. All of us together those
who have been specifically mentioned this time in this report and those
who have not all getting on with being the church in this particular
eucharistic community of faith, in the way that we know and love best.
The year under review has been a memorable one. In an uncertain world
and in an uncertain Church, there remains very much to be thankful for
and indeed to be proud of in this central city anglo-catholic church.
Much of that revolves around the central core community of faith here:
that collection of people for whom this is their spiritual home. In a
number of quite important and particular challenges over this last
year, that core group, that extends across all age groups, has truly
shown what it is made of. There is no doubt that there will not be the
easiest times ahead either. Therefore it is of crucial important that
this parish and others like us are in good heart and that we continue
to have the active desire to declare, to live out and to share the good
things of God. Our tradition is a rich one. In this generation we, and
those we can encourage to join with us, are the ones who have the
responsibility to see that that tradition truly lives, now.
As I have said before. both here and in the context of my current
leadership of our ecumenical partnership with all the churches in this
central city area, we really have a clear enough choice in these times.
We could circle the wagons, as it were, and become extremely
defensive, withdrawing into ourselves and, with some degree of fear,
lash out at all we oppose. That is one way. Or we can rather pick up
that demand and utter reassurance of God in that psalm refrain: 'Do not
be afraid: I am with you. I have called you by your name: you are
mine'. Any group could go a long way with that, with cheerful,
grace-filled, searching hearts. So that is another way, I would hope, a
But without our continuing active searching out for the God who in
every way is reaching out for us, and the consequent continuous
building of the community of faith of all those of us who are doing the
best we can, with who we are and what we have, we would be very hard
pressed indeed. Let us never take for granted all that is here at The
Hill to feed us and to nourish us in the spiritual life, in worship,
prayer, study, service to others, good company.
Try making an extended set of visits to lots of other places while on
holidays and see what you think. We can all do that. And I would
think that most of us would return with a renewed valuing of those
things that we do do well here. And to the extent that we might
individually or together fall down in any of these areas, let us
resolve to try further. We have much to do, always, but we have much
already here to build upon too. In a climate and a context that is
potentially hostile to much that this place stands for, a positive and
quietly determined assurance that we indeed have much to offer and much
to celebrate would be the message that I would like to join with you
all in declaring.
I am very conscious that we have been able to achieve a lot together
this year. We have also had to weather a storm or two. But this we
have done, and I dare to say, done well. We were all enormously
encouraged by the remarkable response to our special appeal this year.
The great results are there for all to see in the complete and
excellent refurbishment of a whole section of the Parish Hall building.
Sophie Latrobe is honoured there. I would also wholeheartedly commend
to us all the initiative of the Handfield Club: an association of all
those who have included our parish in their wills. We need a secure and
generous endowment to resource the ministry and the work of the
generations to come.
I am though immensely grateful to the group of people who carry the
greatest load here, both clergy and lay, paid and unpaid. I think
especially of the churchwardens and Glenda, and those special people
who are so basic to the ongoing day to day life of this community of
faith that together we constitute. I am personally particularly
thankful for those who offer me the support and care that I myself need
if I am to be able to offer my best. I am happy to say this year that
it is a pleasure to be a part of such a group.
But in the context of the events of July this year, I would like to
pay special warm tribute to the work and ministry here at St Peter's of
Fr Colin Holden, over 7 years. We give thanks for his dedicated
service and we do look forward to continuing contact and connection.
I would also like to acknowledge and give thanks for the more than
three years that Fr Neville Connell has been with us here at St Peter's
as a full time resident priest. He goes to a well-earned retirement at
the end of January next. We wish him well.
And we all give thanks for the growing ministry of Br Tat Hean Lie.
Coming to us from another Christian tradition, he has truly blossomed.
We rejoice in his forthcoming ordination to the priesthood and his
continuing ministry amongst us and in the nearby hospitals.
So another year has gone by and there is another to look forward to.
May God continue to bless us in our life together.
Revd Dr John Davis
Views is a
St Peter's Eastern Hill, Melbourne Australia.