A Melbourne clergy family has escaped a fire that destroyed their vicarage this week near an area ravaged by the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

The Revd David Sullivan, his wife Cheryl and their children Rachel and Luke, fled their vicarage in Cherry Tree Road, Panton Hill, about 12.30am on Monday 14 May, taking only their dog Lucy and the parish computer. The cause of the fire has not been determined.

Mr Sullivan is Priest-in-Charge of St Matthew’s Anglican Church in Panton Hill, which includes the congregation of St Andrew’s Church in St Andrews.

In a message to clergy on the day of the fire, the Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Philip Freier, expressed thanks to God for the safety of the Sullivan family and asked for prayers for them and the parish as they tried to cope with their loss.

Mrs Sullivan said the family, who moved to Panton Hill in 2011, had taken temporary accommodation in a farmhouse at Strathewen, at which Mr Sullivan had blessed a plaque commemorating parish stalwarts Lindsay and Edith Apted the previous day, Mothers’ Day. The Apteds’ adult children, and their eldest and youngest grandchildren, were present for the blessing.

She said when one of the Apteds’ daughters, Bronwyn South, heard about the vicarage fire, she offered the Sullivan family the fully furnished farmhouse as temporary accommodation.

“They were so happy that the house , which was being prepared for rental, could be used in this way and we were so happy because it seemed like such a natural thing that the Lord had provided,” Mrs Sullivan said.

“The generosity of the people in this area has been extraordinary. We have just been so incredibly well supported.

“The people who were affected by the bushfires know what it’s like. We have been overwhelmed by their generosity.”

Mrs Sullivan said the parish’s worship services, at 8.45am and 10.15am every Sunday at Panton Hill and at 6pm on the last Sunday of the month at St Andrews, would continue despite the fire.

Panton Hill parish was active in the recovery from the fires under the previous Vicar, the Revd Anne Sells, and her husband, the Revd Graeme Sells, who was appointed bushfire coordinator for the Diocese of Melbourne after Black Saturday. The parish contacted people to check on their safety and distributed food and water in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy. Later, with donations from Anglicans across Australia and volunteers from parishes across Melbourne, it coordinated working bees to clean up properties, distributed 150 patchwork quilts as winter loomed and handed out gardening packs as part of its longer term pastoral care for survivors.
 

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