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

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Adelaide City of Churches - the other cathedral, the Catholic one.

So now I come to the other cathedral, the older one, the Catholic one - dedicated to Saint Francis Xavier, patron of missionary countries, and patron to their first bishop, Francis Murphy (1844-1858)
Actually followers of this blog will know that the Catholic Cathedral is only older than the Anglican Cathedral by just a few years.
What mattered to me was that both cathedrals stand proud in their own territories, neither dwarfed by adjacent high rise blocks, which sadly is the fate of many of the churches I tracked down in this beautiful city.
And joy of joys, it was open! (7.30 am to 6.30 pm the website tells us - and that it is a busy church with several daily masses). And as a result there was a steady stream of people coming and going, lighting candles, kneeling in prayer, some just sitting quietly in their own space, meditating or simply taking in the atmosphere around them, perhaps seeking solace in the spirituality and peace of the place. Private times - meeting the needs of that moment - and what a church is all about after all!
Much of what is written here I found in the information leaflet I picked up at the door which warmly welcomed me and invited me to walk around and take photos if I wished. It just asked for mobile phones to be switched off, and for visitors not to walk around during a service. Actually I felt a wee bit intrusive taking photos anyway - and was very careful to move around very quietly and as unobtrusively as possible. The peace and spirituality of the place was palpable.
Work began on this lovely building in 1851, and it was so designed tht it could be put up in stages as money became available - a very practical plan.

But it all got off to a rocky start as the lure of the gold rush in Victoria was too much for the architect and most of the labour force who went to seek fortune elsewhere! In spite of such difficulties the first foundation stone was laid in 1856 and stage one of the cathedral was opened and blessed in 1858.
Work continued in stages and the tower was completed as recently as 1996, the whole cathedral dedicated on 11th July 1996 by Archbishop Faulkner. So perhaps that man on the road crossing (see previous blog) thought of this cathedral as the new one after all!?

Some things to look out for:

The octagonal font, and behind this the statue of St John the Baptist, both carved in Tuscany, Italy, in 1925.
 The doors going in to the central nave feature stained glass panels of coats of arms of various popes and bishops, and of the city of Adelaide, and other symbols representing the phoenix, pelican, Baptism and the Eucharist for example. 
Three beautiful stained glass windows dominating the chancel, showing significant events in the lives of Jesus and Mary.

The pulpit was carved by a South Australian wood carver W Price, and is dedicated to those who died in World War 1. It features grapes and vines, a 14th cntury design, symbolising the Eucharist.

This statue caught my eye before I even entered the cathedral. It is of Mary MacKillop, Australia's first saint, recognised for her pioneering work in education. The sculptor was J Rolovink.Isn't it lovely?

Then as I was walking back from visiting other churches - another day - another story or two to tell - I found this plaque on a rock in, I think, Hindmarsh Square. It commemorates the first mass for the Catholic community celebrated on South Australia soil on 13th June 1840, long before the building of the cathedral - an example of "church" as a body of Christian worshippers without the need for a building as such.

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

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Adelaide City of Churches - The old and the new cathedrals

Did you want the old one or the new one? "

View of the Anglican Cathedral from the Oval

Now that foxed me and half way across the busy North Terrace road just outside Adelaide railway station was not the time to start a further debate about this.
So once safely across the road, I studied the map again.
For some reason coming "down under" had totally disoriented me, everything did seem upside down, and I was going in totally the wrong direction - due South instead of due North.
Newly arrived in this very beautiful city, I was anxious on this my first Sunday here to celebrate All Saints and All Souls day and the Anglican Cathedral of St Peter's was my chosen venue for this most important service in the church calendar.
For subsequent Sundays I found the very pleasant walk across the new Torrens footbridge past the Oval cricket ground a much better route to the cathedral but this once I followed the main road ..... and made it with time to spare for the 10.30 choral Eucharist.
1877 font, marble with blackwood cover
And so glad I was to come. The welcome at the door was sincere and warm, the atmosphere within calm and spiritual, and the service just "up my street."
View down the nave to the High Altar

looking up to the lovely clerestory windows
Whilst recognising that this High Church style might not be for everyone - there are plenty of different styles and ways of doing "church" as the next few weeks on this blog will reveal - the swinging incense, heavenly choir, organ, colourful vestments, procession, wonderful hymns old and new etc - really do it for me spiritually, lifting me to another place for a glorious hour or more each Sunday. With the hospitality of tea, coffee and bisuits commonly served after most church services these days, I came away refreshed in body, mind and spirit, set up for another week.
the Peace Chapel
The foundation stone for this Anglican cathedral was laid on 29th June 1869, St Peter's Day, by Bishop Short. Building of the cathedral was completed in 1904 although regular services started in 1877. 
The Lady Chapel 

The Catholic Cathedral in Adelaide, which I shall write about later, dedicated to St Francis Xavier, is older by just thirteen years, if you consider when the foundation stone was laid, on 17th March 1856. This cathedral was seemingly first used in 1858 but building work continued with various extensions until 1996 when the tower was completed and Archbishop Faulkner dedicated the cathedral on 11 June 1996. So old or new? You choose!

For those interested in the detailed history of the cathedral and its many interesting artefacts there is excellent information at its website including a very good professional virtual photographic tour. Items include: the Westminster Stone, given in 1966 by Westminster Abbey London to mark its 900th birthday: the Canterbury Cross, dedicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury on 15th June 1935 at the Empire Service in Canterbury Cathedral; and much much more.  Enjoy!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Adelaide City of Churches - A Light on the Hill in North Adelaide

It wasn't difficult for me to find Brougham Place Uniting Church in North Adelaide (formerly one of Adelaide's "congregational" churches until 1975 when it became one of the new Uniting Churches resulting from the unification of the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian churches of Australia). Walking up the hill from the Anglican Cathedral of St Peter, after attending the spiritually uplifting morning Eucharist there, I soon spotted the striking honey-coloured tower across the park, framed by the green of the trees in full leaf, and silhouetted against a perfect blue summer sky.  The church describes itself as "A light on the hill" and it is a beautiful sight. My delight was complete when I found the church doors still open, some time after the end of their own 10am morning worship. I could hear singing, and crept quietly inside, to be rewarded by the sound of the choir practising Christmas songs, including "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and "Riding through the snow, on a one horse open sleigh." Not quite what I expected!!

The 1891 Doolette Memorial Window 
A very friendly Jenny, one of the pastors, came up to greet me and said she had no objections to me having a good look around while the choir continued their practice, and yes, I could take as many photos as I liked.
It seems very strange for me coming from a cold and wet autumn/winter in the UK, to the heat of a South Australia summer, about to celebrate Christmas with our own traditional songs about snow and sledges! However, the choir were obviously having much fun. I heard someone quip that perhaps a "ute" would be more appropriate than a sledge in Australia (i.e. utility vehicle or what we would call a pick-up truck!).
The outside of this church is a thing of beauty in its own right, but inside one's attention is immediately drawn to the beautiful organ and the equally striking stained glass windows, 8 of them in all, through which the strong midday sunshine was streaming.
A google search told me that this beautiful building is open on weekdays, except Wednesday, from 9-12 noon, and on Sundays from 10 - 12 noon. If you are in the area do go and look at those beautiful stained glass windows for yourself, and admire the organ (dating back to 1882, originally powered by hand bellows!) and upper gallery. website. (where there is much more information besides).
looking towards the galleries at the back of the church

There was a leaflet available which gives full details of the windows and the organ, repeated on the excellent website.

 This church was founded on the 20th October 1859, the foundation stone laid of 15th May 1860 and the first service was held on 22nd  February 1861. The first minister was the Reverend James Jefferis. I learnt that when he was offered a gift of twenty thousand pounds (a considerable sum in those days) for a denominational college, he had a much wider vision, and arranged for the gift to become the nucleus for the founding of the University of Adelaide, whose lovely buildings are to be seen around the city.
This is a vibrant church with plenty of activities for all and with a strong music and arts tradition. 
I picked up the service sheet for the morning's worship, and saw details of Noisy Bucket collecting and Youth Busking at the morning tea after the service. Also coming up were a talk on someone's visit to Israel and Palestine, an educational workshop Beyond Violence, details of a Christmas Trading Table, Cookies and Craft, a spring cleaning Working Bee, a celebration dinner for the whole church community, and much more besides. 

As the website states, here is "a community of hope that has passed faith from generation to generation, standing for justice and truth, equality and compassion, grace and love.  Its cornerstone is built on Christ, the Living Word, spoken in the lives of its members.  The Spirit continues to lead the mission of Brougham Place as it seeks to reach out and make known the love of God."

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Adelaide City of Churches

St Peter's Anglican Cathedral Adelaide
... as a friend told me when I said I was going to come here. So why is there so little readily available information about them? Indeed the only reference I could find in the Visitors' Guide to Adelaide which I picked up on arrival in the city was in the city map where just three churches are shown, the Catholic, Anglican and Greek Orthodox cathedrals. The Guide's Contents listing directs me to shopping, nightlife, arts and culture, attractions, events, markets, parks and gardens, and so on, but any mention of churches, even these three great cathedral buildings?  No!
This is a shame, because these cathedral churches alone offer much for the visitor to see and enjoy.
So why isn't Adelaide, City of Churches, directing its visitors to them?
I decided to dig deeper, and found a more detailed city map which helpfully shows twelve city churches, and even lists them. This was a good start! But it was only when I visited one of those listed did I find a little blue leaflet, which gives details of no less than 24 of the Christian churches of all denominations, and on the cover it says: "The Churches of Adelaide welcome you and invite you to their services." But it seems the visitor to this beautiful city is unlikely to find the churches unless he visits one!
And you don't have to attend any service, or even be a Christian, to appreciate much that these many churches can offer the visitor. 
Catholic Cathedral of Saint Francis Xavier
Armed with the list and the map, I embarked on a pilgrimage around all these holy places, and found many to be very well worth the visit, whether as tourist interested in the history and culture or simply appreciative of beautiful buildings; and whatever your faith, creed, religion, or spirituality. The first step on my pilgrimage was to attend a Sunday morning Eucharist at the Anglican Cathedral. That was a deeply spiritual experience for me and a good start! Divine music, with heavenly organ and choir and plenty of incense. And the post service hospitality for all was generous and friendly.

So I shall soon be starting a series here on Adelaide City of Churches, relating my experiences and hoping to put these buildings on the map again. I hope I shall thereby encourage visitors to go and see some of these buildings for themselves, whether as tourist or worshipper. And if you are far away from Australia I hope my photos and ramblings will still interest and inspire you:  perhaps to make your own pilgrimage to your own local churches, with an open mind to see what they have to offer.