By Robert McEwin
Stones are important in Australia: the comment of surprise (“Stone the Crows!”), Ayres Rock or Uluru in the Northern Territory and Mt Augustus in Western Australia.
Stones are important for our faith as well. God commanded Joshua to have 12 stones taken from the Jordan and build a cairn at Gilgal so the people would remember that Israel passed over the Jordan on dry ground (Joshua 4).
The resurrection is about a stone too. This time it is the stone in front of the tomb Jesus’ body was laid in. It was moved back so people could see into the tomb and know ‘He was not there but Risen’ (Mark 16, 6; Luke 24, 5).
On Sunday 2 August 2015 the Henley Grange Parish celebrated the 130th Anniversary of the Laying of the Foundation Stone for St Agnes Church, Grange by Bishop Kennion. The service recognised that this congregation, as all congregations are, is built on the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets.
In recent weeks the set readings from Ephesians have spoken of the gifts and role of the apostles and prophets in establishing the church. The block, tackle and tripod used to assist in laying the heavy Foundation Stone have been displayed in the Church.
A lookalike stone has been suitably inscribed by a member of the congregation to replicate the original stone, enabling us to imagine the day more easily. It was an effective reminder of the 1st of August 1885, and the long history of Christian witness in the area.
Someone spotted what seems to be a spelling mistake on the original foundation stone. It is in fact so and we wonder if they releaised on the day in 1885?
Some people dressed appropriately for the 1880s with the aid of the photos of the original occasion. There were no bright colours or flamboyant attire as the day was in the middle of Queen Victoria’s long period of grief and pain following the death of Prince Albert. The question of attire was a little simpler for the clergy as in 1885 the photos revealed that a cassock, surplice and preaching scarf were the order of the day.
It was a significant day for many people as they reflected on the event and the one 130 years ago. Members gathered after the service to share their childhood memories of the area and each other’s families. Others reminisced about past clergy and office bearers who had been associated with St Agnes over the years.
Sisters Rosemary Fazzalari and Jean Clingly had much to contribute, as they have an impressive family history of involvement with the parish. Their great grandparents, Edward and Margaret Beck, were part of the original congregation that laid the stone in 1885 and donated of some of the stained glass windows in the sanctuary. Rosemary says this connection made the anniversary especially meaningful and feels “proud” to continue the family tradition of attending St Agnes church from childhood.
We look forward to celebrating the dedication the church building (minus the nave) on November 1st. Yes that is right, the Sanctuary and Transepts of St Agnes were finished and dedicated for use just four months after laying the Foundation Stone. This just shows that miracles were happening in the church in 1885 in Adelaide.
Remembering is a core foundation for our faith, for the Israelites after they crossed the Jordan and for the apostles when they found the stone was rolled away and Jesus’ body was not there. For us, we celebrate the faith and conviction of our forebears in laying foundation stones and look to our future in a city where the foundation of the walls are adorned with every jewel: jasper, sapphire, agate, emerald, onyx, carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth and amethyst (Rev 21,19-20).