From the Goldfields
Goldfields God-Talk: Restoration
The Revd Dr Elizabeth J Smith AM, Mission Priest, Parish of The Goldfields
We are on the town’s guided walk for tourists interested in history and architecture. We keep the doors open every day. Visitors can look up at the timber roof held up by beautiful hammer beams, consider the death toll of Diggers on the huge brass plaque commemorating the First World War, and admire the stained-glass window of the risen Christ surrounded by angels with iridescent wings. There are some startled-looking apostles down below, as the Lord in majesty blesses them and us. There’s a huge old oil painting of the Christ-child being presented in the temple, and the usual memorials to long-ago pillars of the parish.
It is a beautiful space, is St John’s Old Cathedral Kalgoorlie. It has a great acoustic for singing in, and a flexible floor-plan for everything from all-age Sunday morning Eucharist to relaxed Friday night services for saints’ days or a Taizé-style quiet prayer service in testing times.
It’s beautiful, and it’s very shabby. The foundation stone was laid in 1908, and since then the structure has been shaken by countless mining blasts and the odd earthquake, rasped by dust-storms, rained on during wild thunderstorms, and suffered all the consequences of not-very-carefully-laid foundations and occasional, half-hearted repairs and alterations.
I try not to look too closely at the diagonal cracks above the windows, the flaking plaster or the eroded brickwork. The engineers say it’s not in imminent danger of collapse, but I do wonder what the tourists think when they see it. I would hate them to think that our worship and our love for God and our neighbour are as diminished and dusty as our building. And I want our members to be sure that our little Anglican congregation, once a Cathedral community, has a future as well as a past, in this building that has sheltered so many generations of worshippers.
So I’m delighted that it’s now possible for visitors and locals alike to donate towards a restoration fund for St John’s Old Cathedral and the even more decrepit but equally historically significant Maritana Buildings next door. The Goldfields wouldn’t have a full-time priest without the financial and practical support of our Anglican brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Perth.
And we are grateful, too, for the Church House staff who manage things we can’t do, such as set up this collaboration with the National Trust, and explore community partnerships that will make our downtown location a mission hub for the 21st century.
In the meantime, if you are new to Western Australia, we invite you to come to The Goldfields to join the tourists. If you or your family have Kalgoorlie-Boulder connections, we invite you to come back for a visit and imagine a grandparent’s wedding, an ancestor’s baptism, or a Sunday School picnic. Have an honest look at the past century’s dust and deterioration and join us on a Sunday morning too. You’ll see that there is resurrection life in the Old Cathedral yet, that’s well worth your giving and your prayers.