StSNT2.jpg (99352 bytes) Sydney Architecture Images-The Inner West

St. Stephen’s Anglican Church


Edmund Blacket


Church Street Newtown




Gothic Revival  






Parish Information

The population of the parish is 8975 persons, of which 1463 claim affiliation to the Anglican Church of Australia. While this is 16.8% of the total population, it should be noted that twice this number profess no religion. The population is on the whole younger with a high percentage of 20-39 year olds. A high percentage has never married (58.4%) and rental figures are also significant (48.8%). Furthermore some 22% derive from a non-english speaking background but no particular group predominates. It is a mobile secular inner city mission environment facing increasing gentrification.

Ministry has been a struggle for St Stephen's over the past 20 years. Its existence has been precarious with a relatively small number of people investing considerable efforts to maintain the life and witness of the congregation and maintain heritage buildings. Successive ministers have left their distinctive impression with St Stephen's offering a home to folk who felt excluded from other parishes. The congregation values liturgical worship and good preaching.

It is evident that at this point in its history St Stephen's needs to recognise its prime responsibility for witness in Newtown, Camperdown and Erskineville, and develop strategies for contact, evangelism and pastoral care in a socioeconomically changing community.

The number of regular worshippers has declined over the past decade. The core adult membership is about 51 persons.

excerpt from 

St Stephen’s, Newtown
Community: The Rector of St Stephen’s, Newtown, the Rev Peter Rodgers says the suburb attracts people more likely to have a negative attitude towards church. “This suburb has the highest percentage of people in Australia who claim no religion on the census form. It’s around 40 per cent,” he says.

Graveyard church: St Stephen’s 7pm service has grown from 10 to 50 people in three years, but Mr Rodgers believes it is still at its first stage of growth.
“We want to rename it ‘Church in the graveyard’ and relaunch it next year,” he says. “People know St Stephen’s as ‘the church in the graveyard’ and the name is a little edgy so it’s good for marketing too.”

Moore College: With Moore College down the road and in the parish boundaries, four current student ministers have contributed enormously to church growth.
“Moore students have supplied a layer of lay leadership as mature Christians in the congregation,” Mr Rodgers says.

Quirky moments: Living next to a graveyard, it is not surprising that Mr Rodgers has experienced a few quirky moments.
“A body was once found in an open grave. But as I watched, it moved. The person decided they wanted to sleep in the grave, down there in the dirt. It was disgusting.”

Newtown is a small church with big plans to reach a community apathetic towards Christians but keen on social justice.

Tim Costello refused to give simple answers to the problem of world poverty, but St Stephen’s, Newtown was filled last month with people hanging on his every word.

More than 200 people went to church on August 21, some for the first time in years, to meet the CEO of World Vision Australia and brother of the man tipped to be the next PM.

Mr Costello conducted a seminar called ‘from tsunami to Live 8: global change and global compassion’ and preached at St Stephen’s services.

A free barbeque and welcoming atmosphere greeted visitors, a mix of inner city families, young workers, students and World Vision child sponsors.

The Baptist minister and 2004 Victorian of the Year called on the Federal Government to raise its aid budget as well as address trade barriers crippling third world farmers.

World Vision is part of the celebrity-led Make Poverty History campaign lobbying world leaders to increase aid and free trade to the developing world.

“The really disappointing thing about [the] G8 [summit in Scotland] was that there was no movement on trade,” he said. “Asian and African farmers are locked out of agreements which prop up ineffective farmers in Europe. This is the obscenity and hypocrisy of a Christian West.”

He was scathing of arguments comparing evangelism with good works, telling Southern Cross such debates are ‘fruitless and non-biblical’.

“This argument was foreign to Jesus,” he said. “Providing clean water and food for the hungry are the signs of the Kingdom.”

Mr Costello remains ‘overwhelmed’ by the wave of compassion from Australians donating to Boxing Day tsunami appeals, calling it a defining moment in the nation’s history.

“It was its own spike in the macro economic growth in the first quarter – I know a person who knows about that kind of thing,” he laughed.

Rector Peter Rodgers said his church might be small but they wanted to ‘think big’ by inviting the charity boss to help residents see that God cares deeply about social justice. “Newtown is an area passionate about these issues and we want our church to be at the forefront of these concerns,” he said.

Tim Costello: how you can make a difference
• Take a local issue seriously, such as your church commitment.
• Take a national issue seriously, such as the plight of asylum seekers or Indigenous people. Write to the Prime Minister about your concerns.
• Take an international issue seriously – sponsor a child.
• Pray regularly

Thanks to 

During the 1980s and 90s the churches of Newtown played an increasingly large role in the life of the community. This renewal of activity is particularly the case with the Anglican Church of St Stephen's. In the 1970's the congregation was so reduced that the church building was little used, the small group preferring the warmth and dryness of the rectory. [30]Because of the magnificence of the building itself, there was even a proposal that it should be demolished and re-erected in Canberra as the national cathedral. This idea, fortunately, never eventuated, and two successive priests of the parish succeeded in a drawing a new congregation to the church. The demographic of this congregation was unusual. A survey conducted within the church in about 1990 indicated that of the 80 adult members, the majority were professionals, and that they were drawn from all over Sydney, coming from as far away as Scotland Island on Pittwater. The reasons were in part that the majority of the congregation at that time championed the cause of Women's Ordination and was not biased against either divorcees or homosexuals within the church community.

During the last two decades of the 20th century, the United Church on King Street, conveniently placed at the centre of the commercial district, and, as Newtown Mission, established a successful soup kitchen and, demolishing the decaying front fence, served tea and coffee at street-side tables on Saturday mornings.

St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church became the centre of the Ecumenical Movement, establishing close links with the Anglican and Newtown Mission churches, and joining with them for Pascal Luncheons of roast lamb on the spit followed by Simnel Cake in Camperdown Cemetery. The combined churches Carol Services were widlely advertised and attended by hundreds of local families.

St Stephen's Anglican Church was to play a special role in the community, taking an active involvement in events such as the Newtown Festival, where it hosted concerts. Its setting in the secluded wooded space of Camperdown Cemetery created a unique inner-city environment, due to the fact that the community felt a strong ownership of the space itself, and using it for meditation, dog-walking, study, picnics and romantic interludes. From 1980, when it underwent repairs, the carillon became the voice of Newtown, celebrating events such as the America's Cup victory and Cathy Freeman's Olympic Gold Medal with peels and the anthem, and tolling the Nine Taylors in mourning of the passing of well-known Australians.

Among the major events held at St Stephen's during that period were the Margret Roadknight concert c.1980, the spectacular Kite Festival to raise funds for the organ c. 1980, the Musica Viva series with Christopher Hogwood conducting the Brandeburg Concerti in 1983, the Service to Celebrate the Ordination of the first women in Australia, 1993, and the almost legendary funeral of Alison Gooch, a popular local restaurant owner in the '90s.