Ecumenical Service @ St Andrew's for the 45th Parliament

30 August 2016

There’s a small gargoyle tucked under a drain on the spire of St Andrew’s Church. He’s an ugly one, but then most of them are, but this one has a story firmly entrenched in the stories of Canberra. Purportedly created by a stonemason working on the church to represent his dog that had died was the tall tale of those who knew the place when sheep grazed on the now impressive grounds. He was obviously not a handsome dog but my grandparents told me the story and they knew everything. I believed them and never want to know that it’s just a story.

The gargoyle kept his watch on the carpark as members of the St Andrew’s congregation gathered to be joined for the Ecumenical Service to mark the opening of the 45th session of Parliament by members of parliament, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten and the Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Cosgrove. The defence chiefs were resplendent in their uniforms with braid and decorations and happily chatted as the congregation drifted in and the niceties of the occasion prevailed.

Bill Shorten, in a chatty mood, reckoned a service for the media was needed and hoped they wouldn’t start falling over bollards in the small enclave they used to group for the appropriate pious pictures the service might elicit. But more serious stuff was on the agenda with prayers of thanksgiving, of confession, of assurance of forgiveness and of intercession shared among the clergy of various denominations who took part in the proceedings.

Governor General Peter Cosgrove read from the Hebrew Scriptures, Malcolm Turnbull Psalm 139, and Bill Shorten from Matthew 5 where “Blessed are you when people insult you” may have been still in his mind when a “hectoring” in the car park from Rev. Ian Powell the Anglican rector of St Matthews at Wanniassa stopped him in his haste to get up the hill and back to business.

The choir sang, the service concluded with a blessing from the Reverend David Campbell and the dignitaries hot footed it down the aisle for the smiles, thank yous and the media phalanx clustering around their subjects for the photo opportunities and sound bites. The gargoyle’s expression remained menacing but except for that car park moment all seemed to have gone according to plan.