‘Radical’ tale of the shared church

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At the dedication of the Hackett church in 1967… from left, Don Erickson, Kenneth Clements and Colin Rush.


IN the mid-1960s, clergymen Don Erickson and Colin Rush were each in charge of building a new Canberra church. The plan was for Erickson to build a Presbyterian church and Rush an Anglican church.

The Federal government had given them separate parcels of land and both had engaged an architect to prepare plans. Then Erickson and Rush, who had done their theological training at the same college, discovered that they had hired the same architect, who had given them similar designs, both to be built in the same suburb: Hackett.

So they decided to try something radical: they would share a church, dovetailing their Sunday services. Rush took charge of building the worship centre, with Erickson doing the rest of the buildings. In 1967, Holy Cross Anglican and St Margaret’s Presbyterian (now Uniting) opened on the corner of Antill and Phillip Streets Hackett. It’s the oldest and only remaining co-operative church venture of its type in Canberra.

I learned the story of how this delightful shared church came into being at the induction of Tim Watson, the new rector of Holy Cross. The service was attended by a plethora of clergy from different denominations and celebrated the many ways that Holy Cross and St Margaret’s serve the community, including through a foodbank outlet (Tuckerbox), a toy library (Meg’s Toybox), disability accommodation (Ross Walker Lodge) and more. It’s an impressive example of how much more can be achieved through collaboration than by working alone.

Andrew Leigh is the Federal Member for Fenner. His website is andrewleigh.com.


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