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Honouring the Past, Embracing the Future

During the weekend of 19 and 20 May 2018 the community at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Burra gathered to celebrate 150 years of serving the region from the (now fully restored) little stone building on Old Cooma Road.

A bit of history …1

St Paul’s is situated on a parcel of land gifted by the Campbell family in 1853. Construction of the church commenced in 1867 and it is understood that the Bishop of Goulburn, the Right Reverend Mesac Thomas, opened the church on 18 May 1868. The establishment of a village at Queanbeyan during the first part of the 1800’s provided the focus for local businesses as well as church and community organisations. In the early years the church at Burra served a growing farming community attracted to the region, which promised good pastoral or agricultural land.

Consecration – after 150 years, really?

Yes, having served the local community in its own inimitable style for 150 years, the building has, until now, never had the honour of consecration. Not that this has posed a problem for its congregation – and never fear this does not mean that prior to this weekend the baptised are unbaptised, the wedded unmarried or the deceased not really so – serving the community is not limited to the status of the bricks and mortar.

However, the 150th anniversary was seen as an ideal opportunity to correct this oversight. A weekend of celebrations was scheduled, starting with a garden party on Saturday 19 May in the grounds of the church as a way of acknowledging the involvement of the broader community in its rich history. A cool but sunny autumn day dawned and around 150 people were welcomed for afternoon tea with folk representing past and present connections with St Paul’s and the Burra region. Many descendants of early settlers of the region travelled from near and far to attend, as well as folk who had other connections to the church. Also in attendance were descendants of the Right Reverend KJ Clements (former Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn), and descendants of Reverend Kenneth Crossley (former Rector of Queanbeyan), both of whom led the centenary celebrations in 1968 at St Paul’s.

A foggy start to Sunday 20 May didn’t discourage upwards of 140 people packing into the church or taking up seating outside to witness Bishop Trevor Edwards and Reverend Ruth Walton lead the congregation through a service of consecration. By strange coincidence it seems that the reading selected, from 1 Peter 2:4-10, was also the passage used in the very first service in 1868 led by Bishop Mesac Thomas.

Following the service a lunch was provided at The Anglican School Googong. Huge thanks to St Paul’s parishioner and Burra resident
Kate English who had the vision and talent to coordinate events on both days, supported by the local community and the St Paul’s
congregations. And you should have seen the cake (take a look at the photo!).

May 20 2018 has finally seen the oversight remedied, but it would seem that this will make little difference – the people who gather at St Paul’s will continue, as always, to get on with the job of being the church in our community – honouring the past and embracing the future.

by Reverend Ruth Walton

1. If you are interested in reading further on the history of ‘St Paul’s Burra’, Peter Johnston has written an excellent article which can be found in the Anglican Historical Society Journal No. 18 (October 1994).

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