14 November 2019

Sometimes Christians have an uneasy relationship with their buildings. Biblically, the church is the Christian people assembled, not the building they meet in. The building is not to be treated as holy, like a Temple. So it’s sometimes said, “It’s only a rain shelter!”

But no, …not quite! It’s a place of regular meeting with Christ in love. And so, it’s a place of memories; of consistent Bible preaching and heartfelt prayers; a place of conversions to Jesus; where favourite songs were learned; where marriages were celebrated, babies welcomed, our dearly departed are farewelled; where friendships are made.

We also have obligations to make our buildings safe. And like it or not, our beautiful 160-year-old cathedral is listed on the State Heritage Register. This imposes a big legal need to conserve it properly. Happily, a good route for this is effective modern-day use. So some adaptations, like new AV, are approved. We don’t just rely on kerosene lamps!

It’s also the reason we were allowed to develop and lease the bottom portion of our site, where UOW now operates Marketview student residence. That gives us a good income stream, to help pay for heritage upkeep. It also leaves some leftover for other parish works, and to share some with the wider diocese too, e.g. in new housing areas.

But now, the cathedral is not even working effectively as a rain shelter! It leaks in several spots. And experts advise us the slate is in poor condition. (Look and you can see loose tiles and problematic iron stains.) That’s why, in line with our Conservation Management Plan, after consulting heritage architects, the Parish Council has determined our next major job involves replacing the Cathedral roof. This will be expensive but is essential before other works. (Yes, to follow, we have compliance works on the hall, and as we consider developing the office, we must at least address its floor and ceiling problems.)

Now, if concern for the cathedral is your thing, you can give a tax-effective donation, via St Michael’s National Trust Restoration Fund (A/C Name: National Trust of Australia, BSB 032-044, A/c No. 13 47 60, Description: “Your name”. Then email the office to let us know you need a tax-deductible receipt.

Another good thing to know is that we won’t let concern for buildings obscure the actual gospel ministry. People minister to people. And there has been a downturn in people offering for full-time gospel ministry. But we have great young men and women with leadership potential. So Parish Council and pastoral staff both agree we must further prioritise investment in training the next generation.

That’s why I’m pleased Parish Council approved an increase in the budget for traineeships of up to $45,000 next year. And you can also give tax-deductibly to this right now, via https://mts.com.au/give/st-michaels-anglican-cathedral-wollongong-2/. This helps pay the wages and training costs for Joanna Hann, and the soon-to-be announced new male MTS trainee. As Paul said, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” [2 Tim 2:2]