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St. James, King Street

A "rebel" church

sunny 83 °F

Sydney has continued to charm us, especially as the sun has emerged victorious. The stunningly handsome buildings are interspersed (sort of) with relics of the colonial past and little fountains like the one (beneath the big buildings) with birds dedicated to nurses and the one given by John Frazer to honor his fellow citizens. We went to church at St. James, King Street, an anomaly in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.

So what about this Diocese? Here is our description. It is determinedly low church:
1. They are very concerned about what clergy wear. They don’t like vestments (in 1911 they passed a law banning chasubles). Clergy generally are attired in casual street clothes when they officiate.
2. They prefer to write their own liturgies rather than use the Book of Common Prayer. No prayer books at the Cathedral -- the liturgy is projected on a TV screen (screens must be very important because they are installed on pillars all over the beautiful neo-Gothic cathedral.)
3. The word of God is central; sacraments are secondary. At the Cathedral they never celebrate Communion at the main service, and the altar has been hauled off to a small side room.
4. They define themselves as amillennialists as opposed to pre- and post-millennialists. What difference this makes, we don’t know.
5. Interpreting the Old Testament typologically is very important. This means that OT stories like Jonah and the whale are seen as significant not because they happened to Jonah but because they prefigure Christ’s death (whale gobbling) and resurrection (whale spitting Jonah out).
5. The ordination of women is firmly (and fiercely) opposed.

At St. James, King Street, one of only two parishes that don’t go along with this fervid separatism, people are friendly and use Prayer Books (imagine!) and let women read things and serve as crucifers. They observe the Diocesan law and don’t wear chasubles but the celebrant wears a cope. They sing from a hymnal and have a robed choir. No TV screens either.

After the 11 am service, wine and small sandwiches were served at coffee hour. Coffee hour was held in a garden behind the children’s chapel, a beautiful space painted with a fresco of “I Saw Three Ships” depicted in Sydney at the time the Harbor Bridge was built, so the Holy Family frolics with children in a local setting. The chapel's large window opens onto the garden. Marvelous!

This chapel is in the undercroft space of the church, along with the offices, classrooms, a columbarium, and a café. These undercroft spaces originally served as cells when St. James was built in 1824 as a law court and prison. It now sits between the modern law court and barracks in the middle of the city. On a bench in the churchyard, a very moving sculpture depicts a tired traveller in need of rest: the mission of the church. We loved it.

And then we sailed away.

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Posted by HopeEakins 00:15 Archived in Australia

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