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Brief History

A brief history of the
Anglican Church of Alice Springs

 

From 1901 until the establishment of the Parish in 1933, Anglican church services were held for the residents of the town of Stuart (renamed Alice Springs in 1933) and the Old Telegraph Station by visiting clergy from the Diocese of Carpentaria in Queensland and later Willochra in South Australia.

On 1 November 1933, Fr Percy Smith was appointed as Priest-in-Charge of the Mission District of Alice Springs. He held his first service on Sunday 26 November 1933 in the Australian Inland Mission (Presbyterian) Hall with eleven people in attendance.

In 1933 the Parish covered an area of over 600,000 square kilometers, from the South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland borders to Tennant Creek. The Parish covers much the same area today, covering approximately half the area of the Diocese of the Northern Territory.

A painting of the church building by a local artist and longtime member of the congregation, the late Halcyon Lucas

The erection of a church building was seen as a priority and in 1934 the designing of a multipurpose building was begun. The first service in the church was held on Ascension Day, 21 May 1936.The multipurpose building had the Rectory at ground level and the church on the first floor. A painting of this building by a local artist and longtime member of the congregation, the late Halcyon Lucas, hangs near the entrance to the worship area of the current church building (see photograph right). It was intended to be a temporary structure only; however, it survived until 1983 when it was replaced by the current building.

The first service in the current building was held on 13 November 1983. Sister Eileen Heath laid a commemorative stone and in the subsequent year (1984) the church was consecrated in a service attended by the then Primate, Archbishop Sir John Grindrod.

Associated Ministries

In 1941, during Father Percy’s time, St. John’s Hostel was built on the church grounds in Bath Street to accommodate some 60-70 outback children during the school year. St John’s hostel functioned until the 1970s.

In 1946, Father Percy’s successor, Father Kenneth Leslie, established St Mary’s about 5 kilometers south of Alice Springs, to provide education opportunities for Indigenous primary-aged children from surrounding communities. The first Matron of St Mary’s was Sister Eileen Heath, a well-known Alice Springs identity who served the Parish in various capacities for many years before retiring to Perth. The site of St Mary’s continues to provide assistance to Aboriginal people from outlying communities.

Father Percy was also instrumental in the establishing St Francis House in Semaphore, Adelaide, which operated from 1946 – 1959 as a hostel for Centralian children undertaking further education in Adelaide.

References

Leslie, S. (1985) The Bishop who Walked, Simon Leslie in association with Robert Brown and Associates Pty Ltd, Bathurst, NSW.
Roberts, A. (2002) Sister Eileen, Access Press, Bassendean, WA.
Smith, J. M. (1999) The Flower in the Desert, Seaview Press, Henley Beach, SA.