We are part of the Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn, which has just celebrated its 150th year. View the diocesan website here.
Quaama Anglican Church – Report on 2019 Bush Fire
As the firestorm swept across the far south of NSW in the small hours of New Year’s Eve, it destroyed homes and livelihoods by the score. Among the many losses in the small village of Quaama the loss of one more building, empty and uninhabited might perhaps have gone unregarded amidst the carnage; yet so much has gone along with it.
The Anglican Church of St. Saviour’s was dedicated on Thursday 7th November 1907. There had been many years of false starts and some determined fundraising by the people of the area, but finally the impressive weatherboard structure was raised at the northern entrance to the village on what was then the undiverted Princes Highway.
There was a lengthy report on the opening in The Cobargo Chronicle which, amidst the descriptions of the Great and the Good in attendance, described the church as “…one of the prettiest on the south coast”. It also went on to praise the refreshements provided by the “Quaama ladies”.
The building has served the Parish of Cobargo (and Bermagui and Quaama) well in those years, but it took a century for it to get its own toilet. Only recently it acquired a new roof and a repaint.
It has been a regular venue for the parish’s annual Blessing of the Fire Fleet. Up to a dozen trucks from the brigades of Quaama, Brogo, Cobargo, Bermagui and sometimes Tanja, Tilba and Tinpot would park in the grounds as a service was held. After that the trucks and crews were liberally doused by the minister and everyone tucked into a barbecue lunch, always with a glory undimmed from that of a century before.
One of the greatest positives to come from these horrendous fires was that none of our RFS firefighters from those brigades which attended were harmed. Our prayers were answered.
The fire had been so hot that it left almost nothing of what was in the church, and only twisted remains of its ironwork. The local brigade had sought to tackle the blaze but the inferno exceeded their capacity to quell and they turned to saving threatened homes.
The fine Inskip memorial window, with its quotation from the book of Revelation, dedicated along with the church in 1907, was vaporised. Most of the brassware too. A small melted blob is all that remains of the solid brass cross that graced the altar. Parts of the offertory plate, a fragment of a memorial plaque that we should be able to identify from records, most of the top of the candle snuffer (we also found the fire extinguisher!) and sundry other remnants have been gleaned from the ashes.
The only intact item from inside the church was the steel bucket used by Revd. Tim Narraway at the Blessing of the Fire Fleet! The bell, away from the building in the corner by the street, survived and still hangs in its little tower, ready to ring again.
This building has existed to serve the people of the district for 112 years. How many happy baptisms, joyous weddings and sorrowful funerals has it hosted in those years? How many people have passed through its door seeking spiritual solace and a place of peace? Its high, barn-like interior had lovely acoustics. It was always a pleasant place in which to be.
In the days since the fire, messages have come in from far and wide from those who have fond memories of the church. It will be sadly missed by its congregation in particular, but also by all those in whose lives it has shared a part.
Nevertheless, worship is continuing in Quaama; the Village Hall giving us a temporary shelter. As those who fought the flames and prevailed, and evacuees returning to damaged or destroyed homes, endeavour to pick up the threads of their lives, a quiet hour of reflection is an opportunity to give thanks for survival and to ask for strength for recovery and to share the supportive fellowship that Christians enjoy.
Sacrificing for the good of others is central to Christian belief. The church building rendered one last service at its destruction. Richard Parker, churchwarden and local fire brigade member, was alone defending his home, which is close next door. As the firestorm overwhelmed Quaama he witnessed the high building absorb the tremendous blast of heat and flame that was coming for him, saving his life and enabling him to save his home with small damage and see the homes behind his on that side of the street remain intact.
The building did not die in vain; the Church still lives.
Alan Burdon & Fiona Kotvojs