St John’s celebrates 190 years

Bishop Ross Nicholson shows Reuben Kirton, 3, around St John’s Church during the 190th anniversary celebrations. Picture: NEIL RICHARDSON

Bishop Ross Nicholson shows Reuben Kirton, 3, around St John’s Church during the 190th anniversary celebrations. Picture: NEIL RICHARDSON

BISHOP Ross Nicholson looks over his congregation and with great gesturing delivers a sermon  as he has many times before at St John’s. 

But the hundreds of pairs of eyes looking back up are seeking a special message this day.

The Anglican church service on Sunday was one to commemorate the 190th anniversary of the parish’s building, a past that parallels Launceston’s.

The bishop, at least, didn’t need to preach to the converted inside the walls of the church. 

The historical detail that St John’s displays is overwhelming, as plaques, tablets and stained-glass windows are a reminder of the city’s strong connection to its faith.

‘‘It’s the place of the people, it’s continuity of history within the people of the church,’’ Bishop Nicholson said. 

‘‘Of course the building is a fantastic reminder to the city that the church is here, but the significant thing for me is that for more than 190 years actually, in fact about 200 years, there have been Christians in Launceston serving that wider community,’’ he said.

Seven years before the laying of the initial corner stone on its current site, parishioners in ‘the camp’ – as Launceston was known back in 1818 – were summoned to services in a blacksmith’s shop, until the church was built.

‘‘The beauty of this church is that it’s been the centre of Launceston for its whole history,’’ he said.

‘‘Think about it: the church was cleared out of the bush and it’s always had a pretty prominent position in our city, so it’s been a really significant building.’’

Numbers were higher than usual for the combined service on Sunday, with 250 parishioners attending the first commemorative service for the day.

Holy Communion was followed by morning tea and barbecue lunch, with Evensong later. Bishop Nicholson said the overwhelming message of the day was community and family.

‘‘That’s what we’ve wanted to impress upon our congregation members,’’ he said. ‘‘We are a family, so we eat together. 

‘‘The communion is a symbolic eating together, but the barbecue is the real family together.’’

The celebratory weekend ended with Evensong on Sunday, which was attended by about 150 people.

The traditional service, led by the Reverend Nat Reuss, with Bishop Phillip Newell delivering the sermon, was described as being a ‘‘beautiful’’ way to end proceedings.

Church member Jenny Gill, whose family has been connected to the church since 1831, said she loved the church as a building.

‘‘But it’s the people that come here that really make it what it is.’’

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