The Chapel of St Peter has been the heart of the School since its dedication 125 years ago, explains Senior Chaplain Rev'd Hans Christiansen
“A school without a chapel is like an angel without wings.”
Such were the words spoken 126 years ago by the Right Reverend Field Flowers Goe, then Bishop of Melbourne, when he laid the foundation stone for the Chapel of St Peter in 1892. The word angel originates from the ancient Greek word, ángelos, which, in English, means ‘messenger’. Just like an angel cannot perform its essential task of communicating God’s presence and His love to humanity without wings so, according to Rev’d Goe, can an Anglican school not perform its essential task of education without a chapel.
Thankfully the founding fathers of our School knew the importance of building a chapel at the heart of the school. From the School’s early beginnings in 1858, it was always envisaged that a chapel would be built in the centre of the Quad, but it took 35 years until the chapel would be finished. When Bishop Goe laid the foundation stone for the Chapel of St Peter in 1892, Victoria was suffering the effects of an international depression. I often think how courageous it was that the then Headmaster, Ambrose Wilson, and the School Council, decided to go ahead with the plans and build what was to become Victoria’s first School Chapel.
On 3 May 1893, 125 years ago, in the presence of the Headmaster, the School Council and invited guests, the Chapel of St Peter was formally opened and dedicated for Divine service by the Bishop of Melbourne alongside the bishops of Riverina and Ballarat.
In his sermon at that service, the Bishop of Melbourne highlighted his wish that the Chapel of St Peter would become the spiritual home for the students at Melbourne Grammar and the centre of their school life. He wanted the boys to be the “choir and the congregation” and hoped that many young scholars would be confirmed and dedicate their lives to God.
Since then, the Chapel of St Peter has indeed become the spiritual home for generations of Old Melburnians and their families.* More than 100 ordained priests have had their early formation in the Chapel of St Peter. Tens of thousands of students have, together with generations of staff members, sat in the pews of the Chapel praying, crying, laughing and thinking. Hundreds of Old Melburnians have been married in the Chapel. Many baptisms and funerals have been performed and countless young men have been confirmed in our sacred space into the Anglican, Christian faith.
During the past 125 years, many Old Melburnians have donated funds to the Chapel to beautify the place and the presence of the exquisite stained-classed windows adorning the Chapel is a testament to former Melbourne Grammar students’ commitment to, and love of, the Chapel.
Not all Anglican schools are fortunate enough to have a Chapel situated at the physical heart of their campus. The Chapel is a place devoted to the inner being; a place where we can find time to be attentive to our emotions and thoughts and to the sounds of the spiritual dimension hidden in our souls. As such, the Chapel continues to inspire our students, staff and wider community. The sacred building invites us to pause for a moment and to be present. Whether it is through the weekly services or through spending two minutes in silent contemplation, the Chapel draws us, like an anchor, to the source and ground of our being and thus it keeps us connected to the deeper purpose of the Anglican education offered within.
An Anglican school always seeks to develop the whole person. In our Christian philosophy, we do not merely exist in isolation from each other but we are intimately connected to each other and to God. The purpose of an Anglican education is therefore always to encourage and foster sound intellectual learning combined with a spiritual purpose.
Our Chapel continues to point this generation of students and staff beyond themselves towards a deeper vision of life; a vision of a Love too deep for words, inviting us to open our hearts and listen to its sounds. As we do so, individually, and as a community, it is our hope that we are drawn towards the vision of Jesus in whose honour our Chapel is built.
Rev’d Hans Christiansen Senior Chaplain
125th Anniversary Service
On 3 May 2018, members of the Melbourne Grammar School community came together to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the dedication of the Chapel of St Peter.
The Most Rev’d Dr Philip Freier, Archbishop of Melbourne and Anglican Primate of Australia, and The Right Rev’d Bishop Lindsay Unwin joined Rev’d Hans Christiansen, Senior Chaplain in presiding over an Anniversary Service in the Chapel. Later, the congregation shared a light supper in the Luxton Dining Room.
A booklet showcasing the history, features and use of the Chapel was prepared as part of the celebrations. It was distributed at the Anniversary Service and is available by emailing financereception@ mgs.vic.edu.au