St Jude’s Carlton damaged by fire
St Jude’s Anglican Church in Carlton, Melbourne has been deliberately set alight, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage and the temporary relocation of some church ministries.
The heritage-listed north Melbourne building, renovated only five years ago in a $1 million upgrade, was set on fire in the early hours of last Saturday morning, causing an estimated $500,000 worth of damages. Police have treated the fire as suspicious, and have interviewed two men about the incident. Both were released and no charges have been laid. Police are still investigating.
Despite the loss of the church building for the time being, the church has continued on, meeting for a Celebration service at St Paul’s Cathedral the following Sunday.
“All of our congregations came together at St Paul’s Cathedral, with a few guests, but it was mainly our folk,” says the Vicar of St Jude's, the Ven Dr Richard Condie. “We had about 700 of us there, and it was really lovely. We rarely get to do that together. Everyone felt a little guilty, I think, about enjoying it so much, but in situation, it was a great event, and a great opportunity to worship together.”
The sermon at the Cathedral was focussed on Luke 12:22-34, and the Lord’s care for his people. Prayers were also offered for those who had set fire to the building.
“What I’ve been hearing is people praying for the guys who lit it, praying that they will be converted, and that they would join us here at St Jude’s,” says Dr Condie. “The desire is that they’d be won for Christ, and be incorporated into the life of this church. I haven’t heard anyone be angry at all. Disappointed that this could be done deliberately, yes, but not really any anger.”
For the time being, the church’s regular Sunday meetings that met at St Jude’s will continue in other locations. One congregation will meet in the local primary school, while St Jude’s Unichurch congregation has been offered free use of a lecture theatre by the University of Melbourne for the next 12 months. Support and hospitality has also been offered by other nearby churches in the Diocese of Melbourne, and demountable offices are due to be installed on church grounds early next week.
The fire was mostly contained to the front of the church, with the basic structure of the building remaining intact. Staff have been told by fire brigade officers that if fire fighting efforts had been called even minutes later, the whole building may have been lost.
Despite the task of reorganisation and repair, Dr Condie is keen for his church to keep work on ministering to the people of Carlton, and in particular to respond to those who are supporting them at this time.
“We’re assembling our project team to get on with the fixing up of the building, and to look at opportunities for improvement that we can make that this situation gives us,” says Dr Condie. “On the ministry side, I want us to keep enhancing what we’re doing, and taking any new ministry opportunities. So many people have expressed hospitality and help to us that are not members of the church. Is that an opportunity for us to invite them to join us in worship here? My worry is that my ministry team will get caught up in organisation, and get distracted. I’m trying to make sure we don’t stop doing ministry, and make the most of what this situation might offer.”