My predecessor, Archbishop James Duhig, had his heart set upon building a Cathedral other than this one. He wanted to build a massive Cathedral that would have been the Cathedral of the Holy Name, but I have to say I’m very glad he didn’t do it. It’s a dreadful thing to say I’m glad he ran out of money but that’s the story. He probably is turning in his grave just to my right as I say this but what it meant was that instead of having a Cathedral, however grand it may have been, on the edge of the city, we still have St Stephens here at the heart of the central business district of Brisbane and that’s where a Cathedral ought to be. Right at the heart of things; right at the heart of all the buying and selling; all the cut and thrust; all the hustle and bustle, not perhaps on a Sunday, when it’s belting rain (ex-tropical cyclone Oswald was in full swing), but through the week. The great hue and cry of the city and at the heart of it all there stands the cathedral, in its quaint and antique way, surrounded by its precinct which is something of an oasis.
This building, this cathedral, stands at the heart of the city of Brisbane as a question in the first place. A question that is discreet, a question that is enduring. And the question is very simple. What’s it all mean? Where’s it all heading? The buying and the selling, the cut and thrust, the hustle and the bustle. What’s it all mean and where’s it all heading? This is the question put to the city by this building that has stood here a very long time and will stand here a long time after any of us. The cathedral, however, stands as monument not only to a question, the question that haunts the human heart. What’s it all mean and where’s it all going. The cathedral, in its discreet and enduring way, also stands as a living monument to the answer. Where’s it all going? What’s it all mean? What this strange building says in a strange and magnificent way, the answer to all those questions and any that flow from them is Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. Not once upon a time as some kind of role model but we are talking about Jesus Christ crucified and risen who is presence and power right at the heart of the central business district of Brisbane. He is the answer and if this building says anything at all, it says that. It is a monument not just to a community of faith but it is a monument to the one around whom we gather, and around whom the Christians have always gathered and will always gather. Jesus Christ crucified but risen from the dead. He, who is always and everywhere as presence and power. If he is here as presence and power then it’s true what we have heard from the prophet Isaiah but put on the lips of the Lord himself. If he is here as presence and power then there is good news for the poor, not just the cut and thrust; the buying and selling; the hue and cry. There is good news for the poor even at the heart of this rich city. There is new sight for the blind. There is liberty for captives. The kind of liberty of which we have heard in the first reading from the book of Nehemiah. They have just come back from Babylonian exile and the law is read to them all day and night. Why? Because the law of God was the path of freedom that had lead them from exile back home. So there is liberty for captives, this building says, because it speaks of Christ risen from the dead. The downtrodden can be free and there is a year of favour from the Lord. There is grace in a graceless world. Here we say there is a grace that is never earned, it can never be earned, but it doesn’t have to be. A free gift of love, which means good news for the poor. Liberty for captives. New sight for the blind. It’s here and its power in him.
The Dean of St Stephen’s is a servant of this building. Fr Pascoe will have a lot of heavy administrative work, I can assure you, in looking after this Cathedral and its precinct, so the Dean is in the first place a servant of the building. Yet he is more than that. He is also the servant of the community of faith that gathers in this building but even more than that the Dean of the Cathedral must be, with the Bishop, a prime servant of the great question and the great answer. What’s it all mean? Where’s it all going? The Dean serves that question. Answer – Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. In the end that is the service to which we commission Fr David Pascoe as the Dean of this Cathedral. To keep the Cathedral itself and the community that gather here faithful to the great mystery of faith that draws us together in the midst of all the storms. This is a time when we need reassurance in all kinds of ways but we are not the first to need reassurance in our faith. We heard the first sentence of St Luke’s Gospel, where he says “I have written my story…” which will be one quarter of the New Testament, by the way, the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. “I have decided to write my story, an ordered account, so that you may know how well founded the teaching is that you have received.” Now this is not once upon a time. St Luke wrote then, but we listen now, because we need to know the well-foundedness of what we’ve been taught. And again the Dean must serve that. He must be one that again and again and again leads us to a deeper knowledge of how utterly well-founded is what we have been taught. And what have you been taught? What are you being taught? That Jesus Christ, here and now, crucified and risen, at the heart of the hustle and bustle; the buying and selling; the cut and thrust; at the heart of all of that, The truth is that he is good news for us who are poor. That he is liberty for us who are captives and he is new sight for us who are blind.
Most Rev Mark Coleridge
Archbishop of Brisbane
January 27, 2013