St Peter's Cathedral, Adelaide, Australia


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St Peter's Cathedral
Location: Adelaide, Australia
Date of visit: Wednesday, 28 February 2018, 5:30pm

The building

Photo: © Rocky88 and used under license The foundation stone for the cathedral was laid on St Peter's Day, 29th June 1869, by Bishop Augustus Short, the first bishop of Adelaide. He purchased plans from William Butterfield, a leading light of the English Gothic Revival movement who also designed St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne, and many churches in the UK. Limitations on funds meant that St Peter's was built in stages and not completed until 1904. The lantern tower, font, and Lady chapel reredos are as designed by Butterfield. However, his plans were not without fault, and substantial features of the present building, such as the spires, lantern, quire woodwork, bishop's cathedra, and many of the windows, were designed and made by Australian craftsmen and craftswomen. The magnificent oak reredos behind the high altar was dedicated in 1910. The windows are a particularly impressive feature of the building today, and include the Magdalene window in the south transept, designed in 2001 to celebrate both the Resurrection and the contribution of women to church history and social change. The modern clerestory windows, made and installed by Adelaide artist Cedar Prest, in 1991-93, are also very fine.

The church

This is the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of Adelaide and home to a dynamic and inclusive sacramental community, which cherishes excellent liturgy, music and preaching (cathedral website). Two services are offered every day, with three on Sundays. Choral evensong is sung on Sundays and Wednesdays. The cathedral community has strong affiliations to AnglicareSA, which offers practical support to first Australians and refugees, older people, children and families, and is active in foster care, mental health services, and housing. The cathedral runs a charity shop to raise funds for these good causes. Working with other churches in Adelaide, St Peter's reaches out to the marginalised through the Magdalene Centre Emergency Relief Program and Bargain Centre. Members of the cathedral also help serve meals for the homeless. A number of cathedral people are involved in the Kairos Prison Ministry. Support for the arts includes an annual art show and prizegiving, when hundreds visit the cathedrals sacred space to view art.

The neighborhood

Cheek by jowl with the Adelaide Oval, and opposite the city's memorial park area, the cathedral stands on the north bank of the River Torrens, between the North Adelaide residential area and the central business district and arts quarter on the south side of the river.

The cast

Presiding minister: An unidentified priest not listed on the cathedral's website. Andrew Chatterton, assistant director of music, conducted six members of the cathedral choir. The organist was Mark Joyner, assistant organist.

What was the name of the service?

Choral Evensong.

How full was the building?

Almost empty. A handful sitting opposite the choir and a few scattered down the nave. Fifteen or so in all.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

The Revd Canon Jenny Wilson, precentor, and an English woman priest on placement from the UK were at the front of the nave, offering a welcome and handing out hymn books and service sheets. They seemed to speak to everyone arriving and to find time to ask each one where they came from.

Was your pew comfortable?

A firm wooden pew, and comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Quiet, calming.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Welcome to this service of Choral Evensong." The priest explained that the cathedral's evening services now included specific intercessions for particular parishes in the diocese. He named two, and listed the various intentions for which prayer would be asked.

What books did the congregation use during the service?

The service followed the order of service for evensong from the Book of Common Prayer, presented on a leaflet, with Ancient and Modern: Hymns and Songs for Refreshing Worship for the words and tune of the hymn.

What musical instruments were played?

Organ. The cathedral's pipe organ is currently in Durham, UK, being renovated, but an electronic instrument of good quality provided accompaniment for the service.

Did anything distract you?

I wondered why the congregation did not stand up when the choir and priest entered. I dont think I have ever before worshipped in an Anglican church where that was not the custom. Truly there is a first time for everything!

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Traditional Anglican choral evensong. Solemn but not stiff.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

No sermon.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The second lesson was read by a lay member of the congregation and he did it in fine style, with real attention to the drama of the gospel narrative. Also, during the singing of the anthem, the congregation were invited to light a candle and place it on the altar, either for the cathedral's intentions to promote peace, or for whatever personal reasons they might have. This was a pleasant moment for reflection, connecting all worshippers to the service.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

After the Nunc Dimittis I was about to turn east and start saying the creed, when I checked my service sheet and it wasn't there. The officiating priest sailed straight into the responses without a pause, so it wasn't a misprint. One cannot really describe this as being like "the other place" but it was a brief moment of great surprise.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

The officiating priest waited at the front of the nave to speak to departing worshippers and shake hands with them, saying a few words to each.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

No refreshments. It was time for everyone to go home for their evening meal.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

8 – It seemed like a friendly place.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?


What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

It might be the calm ambience or the cathedral's beautiful windows but it might just be the missing creed!

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