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Church, 150 years ago and today

A little over 150 years ago the first services were held in the Church of the Good Shepherd. On Sunday 4 September there will be a number of services that celebrate this important milestone in the life of the Anglican Church in Kangaroo valley. As preparations are made to mark 150 years and more of Christian ministry in the valley, the differences in the way that church services were conducted compared with today are rather striking.

There are very few records of the earliest church services, other than the surviving church registers and references made in the various histories of the church. The first service celebrated in the newly erected building was a service of Holy Communion, and no less than seven clergymen were present at the services conducted on Sunday 26 January 1872. As was uniform in all Church of England churches throughout the colony of New South Wales, the first service would have been celebrated according to the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. The readings would have been according to the Book of Common Prayer Lectionary. 

Church today is very different in style from that which would have been experienced 150 years ago. In most churches, the formality of the 19th century has been replaced by a more accessible informality. At the Church of the Good Shepherd the prayer book is still used at the first service, but it is not the 1662 prayer book with its archaic language. The Bible is read at every service, but the King James version has been replaced by a more modern translation. Similarly, the hymns that would have been in the church in the 1870s have been supplemented by more modern melodies and newer songs. The time gap between the most ancient hymn sung (if we discount the Psalms and canticles) and the most modern songs used in the church is around 1300 years. For those who like to know such details, the earliest hymn sung is ‘Be thou my vision O Lord of my heart’, which is a translation of an 8th century Irish hymn.

The outward trappings of church have changed considerably since the first services were celebrated in 1872. The essential features of the church remain the same. The church is not the building but the people that gather in that building to offer their prayer and praises to God. The church exists to tell and show the love of God and to encourage and strengthen the faith of those who belong to the Church. In 1872 and today the message of the church is the same. To paraphrase the words of a previous Rector, Rev William Kingston, who wrote on the occasion of the church’s 50th anniversary, the foundation of the church is Jesus Christ, who “reconciled the world to God, and today He is our Peace.”

On Sunday 4 September the Church of the Good Shepherd will celebrate its 150th anniversary. At 10am an informal service of thanksgiving will be held. In recognition of Father’s Day, all fathers and fatherly types will receive a small gift. This service will be followed by Morning Tea. At 4pm there will be a service of Choral Evensong according to the Book of Common Prayer, featuring the choir of St Jude’s Bowral. This service will be preceded by an Afternoon Tea. All residents and friends of Kangaroo Valley are warmly invited to join us on this special occasion.

Andrew Heron

 

image: the people of the Church of the Good Shepard

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