​Archbishop Philip Freier consecrated and
dedicated the new St Peter's Memorial Anglican
church in Kinglake on Sunday 16 March.
 

​Archbishop Philip Freier has consecrated and dedicated the new St Peter's Memorial Anglican church in Kinglake, declaring amid the celebration that it was "bound to evoke many... feelings of loss" from Black Saturday five years ago.

Dr Freier told more than 300 people gathered for the ceremony on 16 March that now was the proper time to rebuild and to offer a new church building to the wider community.

The old timber St Peter's Memorial Church, dedicated in 1922 to the memory of those lost in World War I, was destroyed in the Black Saturday bushfires of 7 February 2009 that killed 173 people and destroyed more than 2100 homes in Victoria. Kinglake was one of the worst-affected areas.

Archbishop Freier recalled visiting Kinglake two days after Black Saturday and poring over the still-smouldering ruins of the old St Peter's.

It would have been easy for the people of Kinglake and other areas devastated by the fires “to think that this is all too hard”, he said. But they had embarked on “a journey of resilience and courage” and rebuilt their own lives and the church building.

He noted the appropriateness of the reading from Nehemiah chosen for the consecration and dedication service (“Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace’... They replied: ‘Let us start rebuilding.’ So they began this good work.”)

Dr Freier, noting that it was the Feast of the Transfiguration when Jesus went up to the holy mountain outside the city, contrasted the much-loved old timber St Peter's, which offered little view from the inside of what was beyond it, with the new church, with its spectacular vista towards Melbourne's city centre.

“I hope that this place that we consecrate today may also be a gift... to those thousands of people down on the plain because don't we need places of quiet and reflection to frame our lives?,” the Archbishop said.

“What a gift this place can be, what a powerful place this can be.

“I hope it does draw us to an openness to our world.”

Archbishop Freier and the Vicar of Whittlesea and Kinglake, the Revd Stephen Holmes, were joined by Bishop Barbara Darling of the Eastern Region of the Melbourne diocese, Archdeacon Tony White of The Yarra, clergy from neighbouring parishes and other parishes that had supported the new church, as well as ecumenical guests. The Victoria Welsh Male Choir led the singing during the service.

After the service, Archbishop Freier and Bishop Darling were among several dignitaries to lay wreaths at the foot of a replica of the Long Tan Cross (commemorating the 1966 battle that was Australia's most costly single engagement of the Vietnam War), which is the focus of the Anzac Day Dawn Service that has drawn hundreds of people each year since Black Saturday. A piper played a lament and a minute's silence was observed.

Formalities concluded with refreshments in the various gathering spaces of the newly dedicated St Peter's.