Way back in March 2005, A little bit of paint goes a long way appeared on the old Church Mouse Journal. It was a brief report on the DIY antics of the Neocat clergy who preceded the current pair at St Vincent’s. For your convenience, gentle reader, the item is reproduced here:

Gripped with Easter fervour, Prindiville and Sudla have this week indulged themselves in a little church redecorating. Their redoubtable DIY skills may be admired, not so much on the wall behind the altar where they focussed their attention, but in the paint splashes and smudges on the sacred Kiko carpet, and even, to Naoami Myers chagrin, outside the church on the Aboriginal Medical Service’s path and plants. Appropos of which, have you heard the one about the church painter?

A painter had just finished painting the interior of a church and was getting ready to pack up and leave, when the parish priest came out and asked him to also paint the exterior. The painter agreed to do so, but soon realized that he did not have enough paint to finish the whole job. He also realized that if he thinned out what he had left he might just be able to do it. Anyway, he completed painting the outside of the church, when a sudden rain storm came out of the clear sky. The rain fell only on the church, washing away all the still wet paint, and a voice boomed out of the sky…. "Re-paint you thinner!"

Four years later Neocat DIY skills have not improved. See Destroying the temple, posted early March 2009 as a record of the damage being inflicted on the church under the stewardship of the current parish priest without so much as a word of consultation with the community.

Officials from the City of Sydney subsequently inspected the Church and issued an order preventing any further work from being carried out without development approval. A proper development application would require, amongst other things, community consultation (a practice unknown to Neocats).

Well folks, the plot thickens.

Earlier this week, when asked if the paint-spattered baptismal font would be put back into place in time for Easter, Clesio Mendes, church beautifier extraordinaire, replied that it would not, and that it was his intention to put something else in its place. When pressed for more details he refused to elaborate. He appeared to show no interest when told that the community would be very much upset, and that many had had their children baptised at that font, dismissively suggesting "just tell them to come and talk to me" (a practice unknown to Neocats).

He then commented that the altar was not the original one!!!

Could he be thinking of replacing it as well? That the baptisimal font and altar are not protected under the church’s heritage listing because they were not original inclusions?

He needs to understand that items that are not part of the original fabric of the church can most certainly be of historical value. It is worth remembering that restoration of a heritage building does not necessarily mean that it is restored to its original condition: many places bear witness to multiple uses and values over time.

Under cultural heritage legislation, the Church Mouse understands that even a place without architectural merit might warrant a heritage order because of its cultural and/or social significance to part of a community.

An important part of the social and cultural heritage of St Vincent’s is the Ted Kennedy era and the significant role he played with the local Aboriginal community. The baptismal font, tabernacle and altar are key elements of the building’s heritage, as indeed is the far more recent mural – and they are indeed protected.

The stone font has value because Ted Kennedy had the imagination to recognise that it, and the matching tabernacle, would be more grounded and simpler than fussy, gilt-ridden alternatives, and also because so many of the community’s children and friends were baptised at it.

The altar has value because sculptor Tom Bass made it for the wedding of one of his children when Ted was parish priest at Neutral Bay, and he brought it with him when he moved to Redfern. It was made by a pre-eminent artist in Sydney and it was treasured by Ted.

These items are valued by the St Vincent’s community. They probably speak more to the community – capturing part of the creativity that was Ted – than the trappings of an old heritage building.

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply