29 September 2016

Consecration of the Church of England Burial Ground (Brisbane, 1862)

The following article about the consecration of the old North Brisbane Burial Ground - at what is now Lang Park - appeared in the The Courier, Brisbane, on Saturday 24 May 1862. Such rituals were one-offs and only possible in religiously 'segregated' cemeteries, where separate portions of land were set aside for the use of different denominations.

In non-segregated 'mixed' cemeteries, such as the ones at South Brisbane and Balmoral, consecration was considered to happen at individual grave sites when religious burial services were performed beside them.

Looking across the former Paddington Cemetery, c. 1870. (Qld State Archives)

These rituals were not often covered in the newspapers of the time in this level of detail:

"THE consecration of the ground set apart and granted for burial purposes to the Church of England took place on Thursday, as announced, at eleven o'clock. This land, which is very prettily situated in a valley behind the Green Hills, has been for a long while since dedicated to purposes of burial, but had not been consecrated. The piece of ground is now almost fenced-in, and a small chapel has been erected on it.

At eleven' o'clock the Bishop commenced the service, assisted by the Chancellor of the Diocese, J. Bramston, Esq., B.C.L., of All Souls' College, Oxford, and by the Rev. T. Bliss, Rev. J. Moseley, Rev. J. Tomlinson, Rev. J. R. Moffatt, Rev. Mr. Bailey, Rev. B. E. Shaw, Rev. E.G. Moberley, and the Rev. V. F. Ransome. There were comparatively few persons present at the commencement of the ceremony, but the number subsequently increased, so that the little chapel could scarcely afford sufficient accommodation for those present.

The boundaries of the ground having been traversed by the Right Rev. Prelate, his reverend assistants, and the other persons present, joining in the appointed service, the chapel was entered, and the Chancellor, Mr. Bramston, read the document under the hand and seal of the Bishop defining the ground, and setting forth the purposes for which it had been consecrated, and to which alone, for all time to come, it was to be applied. Prayers were then offered up, and a portion of the Communion Service performed, after which the Bishop, Dr. Tufnell, delivered a brief appropriate, and earnest sermon, taking as his text John xi., 25th verse - "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." The right rev. gentleman dwelt upon the beauty and appropriateness of the opening passages of the service for the burial of the dead, appointed by the Church of England, the verse, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, &c," which seemed, as we heard it at the church door when following the corpse, to embody the expression of hope on the part of the dead body, whilst the following verse - "We brought nothing into this world, &c," contained, as it were, a consolation for the living and an expression of implicit resignation to the Divine will.

The reverend speaker then drew attention to the fact that, whilst heathen nations had different ways of disposing of their dead, the Christian nations invariably respected the remains of their people and buried them. The first instance we found in the Bible of the care observed with regard to burying places, was that of Abraham, who purchased a burying-place from Ephron, and who would not accept one of the sepulchres of the children of Heth for his dead. The right rev. gentleman then enlarged at length upon the points that, both on account of the dead, and' also for the instruction of the living, it was the duty of Christian communities to have burial places consecrated and set apart. He pointed out as one reason why the remains of the dead should be respected, and preserved from indignity, that the members of the Church expressed in the creed their belief in "the resurrection of the body," not the resurrection of the soul, for the soul, although withdrawn, was eternal, and could not die; but the resurrection of the body as it was on earth. This resurrection was, perhaps, he said, a more wonderful instance of the Divine power than even the original creation of the body. The rev. gentleman then pointed out how the setting apart of burial places, consecrated and respected, was of instruction and benefit to the living, as it served to remind them of the transitory nature of their own existence. It was also a pleasant feeling to know that we could visit the last resting-place of those we loved, and that their remains would not be rudely disturbed or suffer indignity. The right rev. prelate concluded his Sermon by alluding to the chapel in which they were assembled, which he hoped would be of some service. Humble as the building was, if it were the means of saving but one soul, it would not have been erected in vain.

At the conclusion of the sermon, a collection was made, after which the Communion was administered to such as remained to partake."

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