During the weekend of May 19-20, 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.
St Paul’s is situated on a parcel of land given by the Campbell family in 1853. Construction of the church commenced in 1867 and it is understood that the Bishop of Goulburn, the Rt Rev Mesac Thomas, opened the church on May 18, 1868. The establishment of a village at Queanbeyan during the first part of the 1800s 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.
But, having served the local community in its own inimitable style for 150 years, the building has, until now, never had the honour of consecration.
This has not posed a problem for its congregation – and does not alter the standing of the baptised, wedded or the deceased – 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, May 19 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 traveled from near and far to attend, as well as folk who had other connections to the church.
Also in attendance were descendants of the Rt Rev KJ Clements (former Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn), and descendants of Rev Kenneth Crossley (former rector of Queanbeyan), both of whom led the centenary celebrations in 1968 at St Paul’s.
With his usual exuberance and laughter, Rev James Wood unveiled the plaque commemorating the occasion – so good to see him back in the area, even if only for a brief visit.
A foggy start to Sunday, May 20 didn’t discourage upwards of 140 people packing into the church or taking up seating outside to witness Bishop Trevor Edwards and Rev 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 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.
This event 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, just get on with the job of being the church in our community – honouring the past and embracing the future.