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Sermon Sunday 23 July 2023

230725 Saint James. Matthew 20:20-28 Jeremiah 45 Psalm 126 Acts 11.27-12.3

+In the name of the Father source of all being, Eternal Word and Holy Spirit. Amen

First of all, a little history. The Anglican church called the Church of England in those days was established in Port Macquarie in 1824. The population in Grafton north of Port Macquarie on the Clarence River, by 1856 was about 1069 new settlers.

Twenty years after the Church of England church, was built in 1854 the original foundation stone of this Cathedral church was laid in 1874. It was laid on this sacred Bundjalung indigenous land and has been lost to history, the site being reclaimed by native vegetation. The part of the Cathedral completed in 1884 was the eastern half consisting of the choir, sanctuary, transept, and part of the nave, all as designed by John Horbury Hunt the Architect.

The intention faithfully carried out more than 50 years later, was that the Cathedral ultimately be completed in accordance with the total Hunt design. It was decided not to scale-down a version of the original design and trim it to fit available funds. Thankfully, it was decided for the nave to end for the time being, with a temporary west wall, when the money ran out. The Cathedral to be opened and dedicated on St James day 25 July 1884 was, even so an impressive building.

The next year, 1885 Grafton was proclaimed a city by virtue of being a church with a Cathedra the seat of a Church of England bishop.

The association between having a Cathedral and being called a city was established in the early 1540s when King Henry VIII founded dioceses (each having a Cathedral in the see city) in six English towns and granted them city status by issuing letters patent. This status for Grafton changed in 2016, with no consideration for anything that a King in England did, because of the implementation of the North Coast Regional Plan 2036. But we are still known as Jacaranda City. It is not known what the cost of the first part of the building was but suffice to say that it was dedicated (not consecrated) because money was owed for its construction. Today we celebrate and give thanks for the foresight and generosity of those who have gone before us in choosing not to compromise the fine architecture – way ahead of its time – that makes our Cathedral unique. The original design has never been completed but perhaps in the future, the vision, the will, and the generosity will be here so that Grafton Cathedral will continue to be a place of pilgrimage and prayer for future generations of all people and those whose families form part of the history of this place.

The anniversary of the Dedication is held on St James Day each year. What do we know about Saint James? Jesus, during his ministry, selected three of his 12 disciples for special training. James, his brother John, and Peter, and they all played a significant role in the early church, and we know that James was the first of the 12 disciples to die for the faith. James was the elder brother of the sons of Zebedee who owned a fishing business where they worked with Peter and Andrew. When Peter and Andrew left Galilee and their fishing to see John the Baptist, James stayed with the boats and fishing nets. Later, when Jesus called them, James was as eager as the others to follow. We can learn an important lesson from James’ mother who had the motive to get positions for her sons. True worship adores and praises Christ for who he is and for what he has done for us, not for what we can get. James, John, and their mother failed to grasp Jesus previous teachings on rewards and eternal life. They failed to understand the sufferings they would be called to face before living in the eternal glory of God’s kingdom. But they received another lesson about leadership and that the greatest person in God’s kingdom is the one who serves, the one who is the servant of all. We reflect on this and as we wait for The Very Reverend Canon Naomi Cooke to come and take her place in the Dean’s stall and minister to families of the valley and beyond as our parish priest and senior priest of the Diocese of Grafton.

We look at some of the crumbling stones and bricks of the building and reflect on the calling of Saint Francis of Assisi which was to rebuild the church. When Christ called him, he asked everyone to bring a stone, and it was not long before there was enough and more to rebuild the church. It was not long after this that Francis found that it was the living church he also had to rebuild. In preparation for Naomi’s coming can we, the living stones of this Parish, gather our families and others so that there are enough and more to help share the ministry. Can we gather the living stones to minister to all people of all ages, in our community and re-build the living church in this place?

There are many legends surrounding Saint James The Acts of the Apostles records that "Herod the king" (traditionally identified with Herod Agrippa) had James executed by the sword.

Some suggest that he may have upset the king because he had a fiery temper, in which he and his brother earned the nickname Boanerges or "Sons of Thunder" Both of the sons of Zebedee, John and James are mentioned in a fiery outburst. In Luke 9:54 we read that when they were not welcomed by the people of a Samaritan village, they wanted to call down fire from heaven on them.

Meanwhile as servants of God we follow Christ who came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. We also reflect on the injustices and the dispossession of the original custodians of this land and realise that we are all only caretakers of the place in which we live. We ask ourselves, is the care we are taking worthy of God’s call to us, the blessings we have been given, and of the treasure in people and buildings that has been entrusted to us?

As we prepare for the months and years to come, we rejoice that the doors of our Cathedral are open, and we come with open hearts, and open minds, willing to serve in old, new, and different ways as we listen and are obedient to God’s call.

We give thanks for those who serve others and those who have gone before us.


The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan tssf.

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