New ships are launched with champagne over the bow. New church buildings begin with turning the first sod of earth… and prayer.

“May this be a place where sinners find their Saviour and the prodigal is welcomed by you, a generous and compassionate Father,” prayed Christine Zheng, the student minister at Life Anglican Church, Marsden Park. “Father, as much as we love to see this building being built, we are reminded that church is not about building, but your people. So we pray that you will help us to love one another in whatever circumstances, as our Lord Jesus has taught us.”

Above: Christine Zheng prays

In fact, the congregation has been in Marsden Park for six years, meeting at Richard Johnson Anglican School in the busy northwest growth corridor. Senior minister the Rev Mark Collins was on the team at Life Anglican at Quakers Hill, which sent out a group to launch the Marsden Park ministry.

The rector of Quakers Hill, the Rev Geoff Bates, was pleased to witness the start of a church building for the congregation. “The place is just growing unbelievably fast and it's great to see this step happening,” Mr Bates said. “The facilities will only enhance their ministry and development. It's unbelievable. When you put a site up, you'll probably double it in 12 months.” 

May this be a place where sinners find their Saviour and the prodigal is welcomed by you, a generous and compassionate Father

At the event, Mr Collins quoted Psalm 127: “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labour in vain”. 

He said: “As I reflect on our church here in Marsden Park, it's actually all been the Lord's work and he has done amazing things since we first began. He saved people through the amazing grace found in Jesus. He's grown people in their love for Jesus, their love for others, and their love for this very diverse community that exists here in Marsden Park.”

Above: The Rev Mark Collins speaks at the ceremony

Mr Collins also thanked a list of churches in other parts of Sydney that have prayed for and supported the new ministry. One of those supporters, rector of Manly the Rev Bruce Clarke, said, “We are very excited to see the parish up and running on its own feet. I'm sure when [the church is] built and it's open, it's going to have a massive impact in terms of providing a facility for their ministry out here.”

“A deep and beautiful connection”

In turning the sod, Archbishop Kanishka Raffel also spoke of the co-operation which brought it about. 

“I'm waging an informal campaign to replace the word ‘diocese’ with the word ‘fellowship’, at least where that's possible,” he said. “I think today you have a very good demonstration of the gospel impact of the Sydney Anglican fellowship. The working together of diocesan organisations, of individuals, of local churches, their leadership and members, combining together for a gospel purpose. We're not just putting up a building here because we're Anglicans and we like buildings. We're doing this for gospel reasons.”

Right: Archbishop Raffel turning the first sod on the new building

The venture, in co-operation with the Anglican Church Growth Corporation and New Churches for New Communities, was also made possible with a $1.5 million gift from the oldest parish in Sydney, Church Hill Anglican. That parish’s rector, the Rev Justin Moffatt, watched the turning of the sod with great joy.

“As I was sitting listening to the Archbishop speak, I was struck by the fact that this sort of thing has been happening since 1793,” Mr Moffatt said. “I presume Marsden [after whom the suburb is named] would have brought together various leaders to lay foundation stones and turn sods of soil, saying, ‘Here’s a group of people who have a heart for Christ and for mission, and they’re going to do something about it; they’re going to build a church right here on this site’.

“In 1840, they sat down with Bishop Broughton to lay a foundation for the Garrison Church [in the Rocks] and in 1848, they did it for St Philip's, Church Hill; and in 2023, they're doing it here in Marsden Park.

“I felt a deep, beautiful connection between the two parishes – and particularly the first parish in Australia helping the newest parish in Australia.”