Reprieve hits home for one Anglican congregation, with sell-offs a reality for others

The Examiner December 3 2018 Matt Dennien

As Reverend Josephine Pyecroft read the list of Quamby Parish properties saved from sale under plans to partially fund the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania’s obligations to the national redress scheme, her congregation held its breath.

St Andrew’s Church, Carrick; St Andrew’s Church, Westbury. Then: St Mary’s Church, Rectory and Cemetery, Hagley – the church in which they gathered. After months of anxious waiting and community action, parishioners who packed the building – the family histories of many deeply intertwined with its own rich history – breathed a collective sigh of relief.    Then they wept.

“I couldn’t believe that we would get all three,” said John Temple, a Meander Valley councillor and one of the many thousands who told their stories to the royal commission which sparked the redress scheme. “I was in tears.” “But there will be dreadful news for others,” he added. “How can we help them now?”                                                                                                               

Many lingered long after the service, including Mr Temple and his daughter Elizabeth – the fifth generation of the family to come through St Mary’s – and Lyons Labor MHA Jen Butler.

John Temple, Reverend Josephine Pyecroft and Lyons Labor MHA Jen Butler at St Mary's Church in Hagley after the service on Sunday. Picture: Matt Dennien

It had also been a long night for some. Reverend Pyecroft and her secretary waited up for news from the Diocese until after 11pm on Saturday. “I felt [St Mary’s] would be safe due to the cemeteries act, but I was terrified of having to tell them all out at Carrick and Westbury,” she said. After meeting on Saturday, a letter containing the Diocesan Council’s decision was sent to parishes that night, with instructions to share it in their Sunday service.

For Reverend Pyecroft the news was a “huge relief” for the Quamby Parish, but her heart went out to others whose churches and cemeteries have now been listed for closure and sale.

The final list now contains 51 churches – 22 with cemeteries. All up, 25 churches were spared. Both of Mr Temple’s parents are buried in the St Mary’s cemetery. “I was married here, it’s a very important place for me,” he said. “My daughter was christened here.” “I’m only a link in the chain.”

Rosemary Stobart, a member of the parish council, was one of the last to leave the building on Sunday. “I was married here, my children were baptised, they’ve been confirmed,” she said. “We moved to Westbury in 1950. My mother was on the parish council, my sister was on parish council, now I’ve gone onto parish council.”

“When the Bishop told me it was bricks and mortar, I said it’s a bit more than that.”

In a statement released on Sunday, Anglican Bishop of Tasmania, the Right Reverend Dr Richard Condie, said the church had “listened and responded to church and community feedback”. “We recognise that our church buildings are important places and hold significant value,” he said. “Retaining 30 per cent of the properties will have an impact on the funds we are able to raise. However, sacrificial giving from parishes has reduced this impact to the Redress Fund.” “Our compassion for survivors of child sexual abuse in our organisation is the driver for the costly path the Anglican Church has embarked upon,” he said.

Bishop Condie could not say how much money had been raised, or what impact even fewer property sales may have had on that figure.