top of page

St James Day 138 Dedication Anniversary

220724 Matthew 20: 20-28, Jeremiah 45, Psalm 126, Acts1:27-12:3 St James Day 138 Dedication Anniversary

+In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Soon after the early settlers came to this part of the Clarence River, a township was laid out in 1849 and named after the Duke of Grafton who was the grandfather of NSW Governor Fitzroy. At this time there was no thought for the original owners, who shared the land not as individual owners but as owners in common. They had no need for plans or fences. The first land sale took place in the early 1850s, a school opened in 1852 and the first Anglican church in 1854. The population, by 1856, had grown to 1069.

Twenty years later the original foundation stone of this Cathedral was laid in 1874 and has been lost to history, the site being overgrown with vegetation. The site was cleared, and a start made in 1880 to build the Cathedral. The part of the Cathedral completed in 1884 comprised 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 that the building was not to be a scaled-down version trimmed to fit available funds. Rather it was decided 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 the seat of a Church of England bishop. This 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.

It is not known what the cost of the first stage of the Cathedral building was, but suffice to say that it was dedicated (not consecrated) because money was owed for its construction. Soon after the opening the Parish council treasurer told the 36 parishioners, they had a debt of £2,250.1 That would mean divided equally, about £63 each when a carpenter’s income was £35-£40 per year. The whole building was completed and paid for by 1959 and consecrated on 14 September in that year. 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. We wonder if there was a particular reason for choosing St James day, but it seemed to be the nearest Saints Day to when the time was ready for a celebration.

What do we know about Saint James? Jesus singled out 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 specifically James was the first of the 12 disciples to die for the faith. There are 3 people named James mentioned in Matthew’s gospel; James, Brother of Jesus, Joseph, Simon, and Judas (Matthew 13:55), James son of Zebedee and brother of John (Matthew 10:2) and James, son of Alphaeus. Saint James who we remember today was the older 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 back with the boats and fishing nets. Later, when Jesus called them, James was as eager as the others to follow. James enjoyed being in the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples, but he misunderstood Jesus’ purpose and initially had a limited view of it and thought more of an earthly kingdom than a heavenly, eternal one. James and John, sons of Zebedee were called the ‘sons of thunder’ by Jesus, a name which suggests their outspoken, fiery temperaments

We can learn an important lesson from James’ mother who gave Jesus worship but 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 also failed to understand the sufferings they would be called to face before living in the 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.

Meanwhile as servants of God we also follow Christ who came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Can we reflect on this and as we pray for the appointment of a Dean for the Cathedral and a priest for our parish, we look to the future and plans for ministry to the people of Grafton, and to families of the valley and beyond.

We think about that unpopular prophet Jeremiah and his words to his scribe Baruch. Baruch had long been serving Jeremiah, writing his book of struggles and judgments, and now he was upset. God told Baruch to take his eyes off himself and whatever rewards he thought he deserved. If Baruch did this, God would protect him. It is easy to lose the joy of serving our God when the going gets tough and we take our eyes off him and the goal for the future. The more we look away from God’s purposes toward our own sacrifices, the more frustrated we will become. As we serve God, can we beware of focusing on what we are giving up. Can we take an example from the early Community of faith in this place, who did not focus on themselves, but on the job of building for the future and giving with unprecedented generosity?

As NAIDOC Week was not long ago, we also reflect on the injustices and the dispossession of the original custodians of this land and realise that we are all, in reality, only caretakers of the place in which we live. We ask ourselves, is the care we are taking, and the future we are providing for, worthy of the call we have been given, and of the treasure that has been entrusted to us?

We give thanks for those who serve others and those early 36 parishioners and many others who have gone before us living with vision, the will to succeed and faith. Amen.

1 “Cathedral on the Clarence” John Moorhead, Page 54

The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan TSSF

7 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page