Anglican Deans meet in Brisbane

St John's Cathedral Brisbane

Concern about Climate Crisis impact on Cathedral Cities, Growth of Cathedral Ministries, Visible Recognition of First Nations People

Deans from across the Anglican Church of Australia met in Brisbane at the invitation of Senior Anglican Dean, The Very Revd Dr Peter Catt, from 1-6 August 2019 for their annual national conference. At the outset of their meeting, they were welcomed to Queensland by His Excellency, Governor de Jersey and Mrs de Jersey, at Government House.

The conference welcomed the new Dean of Rockhampton, the Very Revd Melusi Sibanda and the Dean of the Murray, the Very Revd David Price, as well as the locum tenens of St George’s Cathedral Perth, the Revd Canon Theresa Harvey. Deans gave thanks for the ministries of former Dean of Darwin, Keith Joseph, who was consecrated Bishop of North Queensland in March, and the former Dean of Perth, Richard Pengelly, who earlier this year has taken on a new role as Chaplain of St Mary’s Anglican Girls’ School Perth.


Indigenous recognition

Deans reflected on ways in which Cathedrals might provide artistic ways of recognising the traditional Country on which they are built. They heard from the Revd Glenn Loughrey, a Wiradjuri artist and Melbourne-based priest about a recent artistic collaboration with St Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne, which led to the production of a banner to recognise the sovereignty of local first nations people and incorporates Glenn Loughrey’s art work Treaty. Many Cathedrals already have close working relationships with local Indigenous people, and were excited by the suggestion to underpin these by similar artistic representations.


Impact of Climate Change on Cathedral Cities

Deans were deeply concerned to hear about the adverse effects of climate change on two Cathedral cities: Townsville and Armidale. Following the floods in Townsville, 1,040 people still in temporary housing, with youth unemployment at 25%, Dean Rod MacDonald reported. In Armidale the effects of the long-term draught are felt acutely, Dean Chris Brennan reported: the city has been notified that they will reach ‘0-water day’ (that is complete depletion of all water stocks) by October 2020. The effects of the crisis are felt throughout New England: parched earth, leading to the wholesale of stocks and flocks. Churches play an important role in providing mental health provision, counselling services and vital frontline ministries, Deans reported.

Hosting Dean, Dr Peter Catt, reflected: ‘A number of Australian Cathedrals participated in the observance of Earth Overshoot Day, the day when humanity consumes the resources that it takes the Earth to produce, on the Monday before we met, 29 July. The need to care for the Earth is mandated by the Fifth Mark of Mission of The Anglican Communion. Various Cathedrals are exploring how they can assist the Christian voice to be heard as we add to calls for the Climate Crisis to be addressed’.


New ministries and initiatives

As in previous years, Deans reported growth in Cathedral ministries and attendance. Many ‘green shoots’ of ministry growth continue to flourish across Australia. Townsville Cathedral commenced a new Sunday morning Eucharist, Melbourne a new Sunday Mandarin service and Bendigo a new Karen service. In regional centres, like rural South Australia’s diocese of Willochra, ministry initiatives were deliberately planned with ecumenical partners, the Dean of Port Pirie, the Very Revd Mary Lewis, commented: ‘Concentrating on growing the kingdom in partnership with God’s people in other denominations has enabled prayer for the city, children’s holiday ministries, blessing of the city’s leaders and a witness to unity in Christ that is bearing fruit for the gospel in this under-resourced region of SA’.

Families and young people are one of the growth areas in ministry, and congregations are growing to be more international, both in metropolitical and regional Cathedrals. Newcastle, Grafton and Bendigo Cathedrals have seen significant growth in their family ministries, while Adelaide, Griffith, Melbourne and Sydney experienced further growth in the cultural diversity of worshippers. The Dean of Sydney, the Very Revd Kanishka Raffel, said: ‘English language ministry has brought to the Cathedral people from diverse cultural backgrounds and provided the Cathedral community with the opportunity to serve in offering friendship, English language classes and cultural awareness, and engagement with God in his Word’.


Learning and Reflection

As part of their conference, Deans heard a report from the Very Revd Chris Chataway (Ballarat) about his attendance at the recent English Cathedrals’ conference, Sacred Space: Common Ground. They were privileged to receive theological input from Archbishop Philip Aspinall and St Francis College theologians, Bishop Jonathan Holland, the Revd Dr Jazz Dow and Dr Peter Kline. Community theologian Dave Andrews spoke about his experience of adopting the Beatitudes as a rule of life. Griffith University’s Associate Professor Halim Rane reflected on early Christian-Muslim relations and, at the conclusion of their conference, Deans reflected on wellbeing and self care for careers with University of Queensland’s Dr Sarah Winch.

In 2020 the national Deans’ Conference will take place at St Boniface’s Cathedral, Bunbury, Western Australia.

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