The Very Reverend Frank Nelson
Dean of St Peter’s Cathedral
Could Bishop Augustus Short possibly have imagined today’s St Peter’s Cathedral when he laid the foundation stone one hundred and fifty years ago? The building has changed little since its completion, giving to Adelaide a beautiful and iconic building, its spires soaring over the parklands. The Cathedral, however, is far more than the sum of the stones, timber and stained glass. It is more than the generosity of benefactors through the years. It is a sacred space, with worship as its heartbeat.
Sacred Space: Worship
From the quiet early morning weekday Eucharists to the grand occasions marking the great Christian festivals, the Cathedral is a sacred space of worship. The Cathedral Choir (formed in 1876) sings three choral services a week, embracing the exciting traditions of Anglican choral music which continue to grow and develop. Today’s Choir is very different from the early days of exclusively boys and men (mostly Anglo). Reflecting the diversity of today’s congregations, both choir and serving teams include girls and boys, men and women, from a wide range of cultures and languages.
As Mother Church of the Diocese, the Cathedralhosts numerous ‘special’ services which gather the Diocese together for synod, ordinations and chrism Eucharists as well as hosting annual services for St Barnabas College, the Mothers’ Union, and our Anglican Schools.
Thinking Space: Conversation and Education
A not uncommon comment from people is that they do not have to ‘leave their brains at the door’. A team of preachers ensures that a wide range of preaching styles is offered while the use of the Revised Common Lectionary prods preachers to move beyond their favourite biblical texts and themes and explore what are sometimes challenging and uncomfortable passages. A ‘ladder’ approach is taken to Christian Education, recognizing that people are at different stages in their faith development and so have different needs. For those new to faith, the Pilgrim course offers preparation leading to baptism and confirmation. Regular book and film studies stimulate conversation and transformation. Education for Ministry (EfM) offers rigorous study of scripture, Church history and theology. Occasional preaching series and lectures bring faith matters into the public square.
The building itself has its own educational value, as those who avail themselves of the regular weekly tours discover. With over a hundred special focus tours booked each year Cathedral Tour Guides are a fount of knowledge on architecture, stained glass windows, fabric and liturgical vestments and stories of the people who have been the living stones.
Generous Space: Gracious Hospitality
From people of deep faith to those of none, all find a welcome at the Cathedral, open daily 9.30am – 4.00pm. The pin-maps are a firm favourite with tourists from across the world. eagerly seeking out their town or village and making their mark.
The Cathedral is a venue for concerts suiting a range of musical styles and tastes. Art shows, poster and photographic exhibitions draw attention to the creative spirit of humankind reflecting the joys and tragedies of our world.
Cathedrals lend themselves to being spaces of both lament and celebration. In the week after Easter 2019 members of the Sri Lankan community knelt in silent vigil, lighting candles and weeping for loved ones back home. The following day hundreds of Adelaideans poured through the doors following the ANZAC Day parade – enjoying a much-needed coffee and Anzac biscuit provided by the Friends of the Cathedral, and exploring ‘their’ cathedral. Each February MPs gather to pray before the opening of the parliamentary year.
Transforming Space: Outreach to City and State
“Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” With these words worshipers are sent out of the Cathedral into the world. And off they go, to live as God’s people in their ‘day jobs’ as teacher, nurse, lawyer, carpenter, engineer, parent, student, volunteer. It’s the combination of worship, education and open door, the focus on loving God and neighbour, that moves people to care – for other people both near and far as well as the environment in all its glorious complexity.
An iconic part of the Adelaide skyline, who can really tell how the twin spires speak to those who watch the cricket ‘from the Cathedral end’, who see the backdrop behind the newsreader or take numerous photos to post on social media? Clergy and lay people regularly enjoy conversations with people who have been touched, often years before, by some aspect of St Peter’s Cathedral – during time spent in the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, a long ago school carol service, a funeral or wedding, hearing the bells, or simply walking past on the way to work. People frequently express a sense of ‘coming home’.
Imagining Space: the Future
“Celebrating the Past – Imagining the Future” is the tagline for Festival 150, with celebrations throughout 2019. But what of the future? Is there indeed a future for sacred spaces such as St Peter’s Cathedral? Bishop Jeremy Greaves (July 28) and Archbishop Kay Goldsworthy (August 25) will be offering their take on this vital and intriguing question. A workshop in September will engage in imagining the future of our planet and environment as we consider the ‘Beauty of the Earth’.
In 2018 Stage 1 of a major and long term Conservation Project was begun. This will only be achieved if the generosity of the past is repeated in our times. Of one thing I have no doubt at all. If St Peter’s Cathedral remains true to its central core business – the worship of God – there will be a future. Quite what it will look like remains an open question.