It’s down at the Circular Quay end of Castlereagh street – on the corner of Bligh and Hunter Streets. In a little square, there’s a monument – passed by and unread by hundreds of people every day.
Imagine you are standing in that spot, but instead of looking up at the tall buildings, and hearing the noise of the cars and the buses, above you is a great tree. You are in a wilderness – and the sounds you hear are the sounds of kookaburras – and the sounds of marching feet. For it is very near that spot – at the corner of Bligh and Hunter Streets – that, on Sunday 3rd February 1788, the first Christian church service was held in the Colony of New South Wales.
Just imagine it… Out in the harbour are moored eleven ships – the ships of the First Fleet, having carried just over a thousand people from Southampton.
There’s the Governor, Captain Arthur Phillip, twenty officials and their servants, 213 marines with some wives and children, more than 750 convicts – one chaplain and his wife – as well as one eternal optimist – a certain James Smith, the man who had actually stowed away on the First Fleet!
The Fleet has taken 36 weeks to reach Botany Bay – and they arrive just four days before the two French frigates commanded by la Perouse also turn up – and after a few more days they transfer the site of the new colony to Farm Cove in Port Jackson on January 26.
And so, just over a week later, on Sunday February 3rd, the assembled crowd stands under a great tree, just a few dozen yards from the shore, as the chaplain opens the Word of God. What will he preach on? What message will he give to this new nation after such a difficult journey? He turns to Psalm 116 verse 12 –
“What shall I render unto the Lord for all that He has done for me?”
This is the Australia Day weekend, when our country stops to remember our country’s heritage. The Gospel of Jesus was part of our heritage.
The same question is worth reflecting on: What shall I render unto the Lord for all that He has done for me?