Christ Church is a wonderful example of “Villa Rustica” architecture, although the campanile (the tower) alone is of Romanesque design. Dedicated in 1857 and classified by the National Trust of Australia (Victoria), the church has been a centre for Christian worship in Brunswick for nearly 160 years.
Every church building ‘speaks’ through its architectural design, its stained glass, and its religious artefacts. It gives clues as to what matters and the beliefs to those who worship in it today and that which Christians have believed for almost 2000 years.
Christ Church is entered through the front door under the campanile. The single bell is sounded each day. There is an interesting window of the Agnus Dei — the Lamb of God. The Agnus is a lamb with a lion cub’s face. It carries the banner of the Cross of Christ and is one of the symbols of Christ Church.
Before you enter the church proper there is a holy water stoup. There is an opportunity to use the blessed water in it to make the sign of the cross. When people do this, they are deliberately uniting with the most loving act in history; Jesus offering his life for his or her sins.
Water is used in ritual actions in many faith communities. It’s not surprising given the importance of water for life. Without it, we die! It is a reminder of the God who gives and sustains all life, and it is a sign of the washing away of sins. In the New Testament, which focuses on the story of Jesus, Jesus says, ‘”If anyone is thirsty, come to me and drink!”He meant, ‘drink’in my life and my love.
The shell that contains the water comes from New Guinea, and is surmounted by a beautiful example of a Madonna and Child in the Italian style.
Moving into the church itself, there is the font. This is used for the ”sacrament’of ‘baptism’. This has been a ritual filled with meaning and significance for Christians from the beginning. Indeed it is the way in which a person is united with Christ and made worthy to share his life. We all long to belong and to share our lives with others. In the New Testament, becoming a Christian involves a sort of cocktail of three elements: repentance for the ways we have failed to live the life we know God wants, a willingness to publicly declare our belief and trust in God, and immersion in water, a ritual washing away of our sins.
St Paul, one of the great early Christians whose series of letters to are found in the New Testament, says that in baptism we die and rise with Christ. He suggests that through the waters of baptism we share in the fruit of Christ’s death, are forgiven our sins, and begin eternal life.
Our parish ‘strap line’ is “Enter the Mystery”. This is the entry point! And it is certainly a mystery, though that’s not the same as saying it’s mystifying. It’s a sort of revealed mystery, and at the heart of it is love. Who can put love entirely into words? Not even the most eloquent of poets.
The font at Christ Church has welcomed many thousands of Brunswick residents over the past 160 years! And you’re never too old to be baptised. It’s not just for babies!
Ancient fonts often have bible stories carved on them. At Christ Church there is a representation of the baptism of Jesus. As he was baptised, the Bible tells us that a voice from heaven said,
“This is my beloved Son on whom my favour rests. Listen to him.”
The Stations of the Cross
Arriving at the nave crossing, turn to the left to see the Lady Chapel, nestled in the North transept. Sit for a few minutes and remember your family, friends and the needs of the world before Our Lord and his Mother.
As you return to the nave crossing, look closely at the pulpit. The panels of the pulpit contain icons of three of the evangelists by Nicholas Draffin.
Looking across to the South transept, one is immediately captivated by the beautiful pipe organ, the “king of instruments”.
Used to accompany the choir and congregation, this glorious neo-baroque instrument was built by Roger Pogson in 1971.
On the wall in the sanctuary you can see the icon “The Mystical Supper” painted by Michael Galovic.
Return again to the nave crossing via the lectern, in traditional style in the form of an eagle.
Facing the Sanctuary and the High Altar, the veiled Aumbry contains the Bread of the Living Presence. We are reminded of the presence of this holy sacrament by the flame of the white altar lamp. Notice also the three stained-glass windows above the altar, representing, from left to right, Christ the Good Shepherd, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. With the faithful of Christ Church, genuflect in reverence to the holy sacrament and then slowly retrace your steps back to the front door of the church.
Outside, on the right as you face the church, can be seen a marble relief of the Madonna and Child, dedicated to the memory of Margaret Ball.
Walk through the iron gate to the Memorial Garden. This leafy oasis is the resting place of the ashes of many of the faithful. Sit and rest for a few minutes to remember and pray for the faithful departed, that they may rest in peace and rise in glory.
Walk the length of the church and take a moment to pray in front of the Statue of Christ, remembering that the Church is the Body of Christ, and we, as members of it, are His instruments in the world.
Follow the path through the garden around the back of the apse to the Sacristy, or Priest’s Vestry.
The Sacristy has an unusual brass knocker on its heavy timber door. It is in the form of a demon. Traditionally, in many countries, fugitives could not be touched by the law if holding on to such a knocker whilst seeking the sanctuary of the church. The Sacristy knocker is a copy of the famous bronze sanctuary knocker at Durham Cathedral.
Complete your tour of Christ Church by walking between the church and the vicarage to rest at the fountain in the piazza, giving thanks with the Angels and Communion of Saints, for Christ, the Living Water.