Australia's first Sunday School has just celebrated its 200th anniversary.
Mr. (later Reverend) Thomas Hassall started the ministry in the house of his father Rowland Hassall on the corner of George and Charles Streets, Parramatta in 1813. It is said he was prompted to start the Sunday School after telling Bible stories to a group of children one Sunday afternoon, only to see them return for more the next weekend.
Two years later, on 1st December, 1815, the New South Wales Sunday School Institution was officially established, Mr. Rowland Hassall, was one of the first committee members, and Governor Macquarie pledged his support. The Rev. Samuel Marsden was also approached and gave his permission for the use of St. John's Church for the Sunday School, which attracted 130 children to its first meeting.
There is a commemoration plaque in St John's Cathedral and in the foyer of the office building that now stands on the site of Rowland Hassall’s house.
There was a special service in the Cathedral on Sunday 2nd June, 2013, followed by some community activities on the lawn.
Historic photos were on display and a time capsule was sealed, to be opened in 100 years time.
Senior Minister, Canon Bruce Morrison said “There is nothing more important to any church, or any society for that matter, than the next generation, the children who will one day be the mothers and fathers, the workers and the leaders, the teachers and the carers. This 200th anniversary marks the St. John’s Sunday School as the oldest continuously running Sunday School in Australia."