The Church of St John the Baptist is named after John, a preacher, who was the cousin of Jesus. John recognised Jesus as the Messiah and baptised him in the River Jordan. This baptism marks the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The painting below, by eminent Australian Artist Margaret Cilento, depicts Jesus’ Baptism and was gifted to St John’s.

St John the Baptist Church is one of thirty designed by the Diocesan Architect, John Hingeston Buckeridge. The ground plan is rectangular and faces East – the direction of Jerusalem and the place of the resurrection. The main entrance to the Church is through the West Door. The building is an example of a timber Victorian Carpenter Gothic Church. The internal frame was originally exposed and in 1936 was covered in wood panelling, some of which is believed to have come from the wreck of SS Maheno. The panelling was consecrated in October 1937 in memory of 25 parishioners whose families donated to it. Several years ago the building was placed on the Heritage Register of The Brisbane City Council.

In The Beginning…

Original indigenous residents referred to this area as Boolimbah, meaning place of the Magpie Lark.

St John the Baptist Anglican Church became an integral part of the history of Bulimba only some 125 years ago. Prior to this, Anglican residents travelled across the river by ferry to worship at St Andrew’s in South Brisbane. In 1887, Mrs Elizabeth Coxen, a highly respected member of the Bulimba community, decided it was time that Bulimba had its own Anglican Church. A Public Meeting was called at which she advocated for regular church services to be held locally. Money, however, was needed if a building was to be erected for this purpose. To initiate subscriptions Mrs Coxen donated £100. This was a considerable amount at the time and represents 1/7 of the total cost of the building. Her generosity did not end there, however, and she donated land, the funds from the sale of which were used towards purchasing the land on which St John’s now stands.

Founder’s Stone. In 1886 Elizabeth became the first female member of the Royal Society of Queensland. Following her death in 1906 Elizabeth was described as the ‘Mother of Bulimba.’ In 1907 the lectern, from which Bible readings are presented and a marble plaque, were both dedicated to her memory. In 2003 a monument to Charles and Elizabeth Coxen was unveiled in Tingalpa Pioneer’s Chapel. Elizabeth is described as a “naturalist, meteorologist, pioneer, curator and first woman employed by the Australian Museum and founder of St. John The Baptist Church, Bulimba” In 2012 one of two Meeting Rooms in the new St John’s development was named “The Coxen Room”.

The first service held on the site was 23 June 1888 when Lady Musgrave, wife of the Governor of Queensland, capped the first stump for the new Church; the first service in the completed church was 29 September 1888.

Elizabeth Coxen

The history of St John’s Bulimba is privileged to include Mrs Elizabeth Coxen. Dr Judith McKay and Dr John Healy have researched and published a paper on Mrs Coxen which we are pleased to present for your reading. If you know or have any further information concerning her or her family then please contact us as there are still some gaps in the story, particularly where precisely their home was situated in Bulimba!

“Elizabeth Coxen; pioneer naturalist and the Queensland Museum’s first woman curator” by Judith McKay and John M Healy, first published in Memoirs of the Queensland Museum. Nature 60 2017 (© The State of Queensland, Queensland Museum 2017)

Points of Interest

The new font for St John the Baptist Anglican Church was consecrated by Bishop Alison Taylor on 2 November 2014.

Every font should have a story, a message that can be passed on. The story behind the new font for the St John the Baptist Anglican Church began with a rough layered glass bowl. What was needed was a stand to place the beautiful bowl on which not only held it up but also complimented and told a story at the same time.

To marry the two together called for the need to look at the community in which they will be placed for future use in welcoming the newest members into the wider Christian community. That community is the Anglican parish in Bulimba, St John the Baptist.

Bulimba is an Aboriginal word which means, the place of the Magpie Lark. (Bulim- Magpie Lark and –ba – place of) The glass font can be seen as a symbol of new life, and therefore just like a magpies egg, it is best found to be sitting in a nest which will be created from stainless steel rod that are individually welded to a base. There are 39 such stainless steel rod which represent the twigs that make up the nest and also they represent the 39 articles of the Anglican faith. We understand that one article in it self does not represent the all the Articles of the Anglican faith nor will one supported the glass ‘egg’ very well. Yet when we have all 39 twigs, 39 articles they are able to support the glass ‘egg’ very well and securely.

The font will be placed directly on the stem, trunk of a tree to which the nest is also seated. On the trunk, below the nest and font, will be three rings which are entwined with each other representing the Triune God, Father, Son And Holy Spirit. For it is that we as Christians are to baptized into and through.

The trunk, stem is made up of seven branches, that have grown from roots that are also the legs of the font. The seven branches represent the seven steps of creation, which represent Gods involvement in the world we live in today. The number 7 also represents the perfect number of God. The number 7 also reminds Christians of the Anglican, Roman Catholics and other faiths in:

The Seven Corporal Works of Mercy
  1. To feed the hungry.
  2. To give drink to the thirsty.
  3. To clothe the naked.
  4. To harbour the harbourless. (also loosely interpreted today as To Shelter the Homeless)
  5. To visit the sick.
  6. To visit the imprisoned (classical term is “To ransom the captive”)
  7. To bury the dead.
The Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy

“Just as the Corporal Works of Mercy are directed towards relieving corporeal suffering, the even more important aim of the Spiritual Works of Mercy is to relieve spiritual suffering. The latter works are traditionally enumerated thus:”

  1. To instruct the ignorant.
  2. To counsel the doubtful.
  3. To admonish sinners.
  4. To bear wrongs patiently.
  5. To forgive offences willingly.
  6. To comfort the afflicted.
  7. To pray for the living and the dead.

On one of the ‘branches’ of the stem will be found a branch growing out of the stem and on the branch a Magpie Lark feeding its young. The branch tells us that the earth is still growing and alive and not static and we need to care for as it supports the adult magpie and chicks safely the earth supports all of Gods people. The small nest on that branch reminds us that we should be prepared for the future. Because we don’t know what tomorrow brings. In the nest small chicks can be seen that are calling for food and care. Those chicks represent the vulnerable, helpless and needy which the adult magpie is feeding and caring for. The adult magpie is the community that is able to help and care for the vulnerable, needy and helpless.

And the center pole holds them all together connecting the past to the present. The roots grow from ground we find ourselves standing on in the present and from the ground or earth we find food, that gives us energy to live and give praise and thank to God. And again they all support the water of life by which the newest member is Baptised into the Christian faith.

The Triune God (Russian ring) is loose around creation and the world indicating that God is fluid and is constantly moving the same with creation, it is still happening around us.

Water in the font is new life.

Not only will the font welcome new comers into the faith but it will also symbolize that the church is not static, but fluid. The font connect the past with the present and allowing the movement into the future. Welcome the new to the old.

On the one branch of the stem/trunk , four ‘x’s’ can be seen they are to acknowledge that the steel used was sponsored by XXXX brewery.

The Nave is the central approach to the Altar, and is the main body of the Church. The pews are made from silky oak. Plaques acknowledge those who have contributed to the restoration of these original pews.

The Sanctuary at eastern end of the Church, is where the Altar is located. The reredos is the panelling on the east wall behind the Altar and is made from silky oak. It was installed and consecrated in 1937 in memory of Louisa Ellen Fellows. The Altar table, made of cedar, was originally located under the reredos. It was moved when liturgical decisions were made that the Priest should face the congregation during the Eucharist / Holy Communion Service. The Eucharist is celebrated in remembrance of the Last Supper and that Christ died for us. The colour of the frontal is changed to reflect the Church Calendar. The linens used to cover the table and to adorn various parts of the Church have been lovingly made by many of the parishioners both past and present.

This window is one of two in stained glass and depicts the Resurrection of Christ. It was installed in 1993.

Plans are underway to replace the original timber windows with new stained glass in keeping with modern liturgical imagery. If you would like to know more about this Project please contact The Rector.

The Bell Tower was added in 1915 through the generous donation of Miss Elizabeth Woodland. It was dedicated to the memory of her father, Samuel, who was Sunday School Superintendent and her mother, Mary. The Bell was dedicated to the memory of “an East London server of the Vicar and those fallen in war.”

The Pulpit, from which sermons were traditionally presented, is dedicated to the memory of Corporal Frederick Storey who was killed at Gallipoli on 5 August 1915.

The Memorial Book symbolises remembering the names of those parishioners who have passed away and candles are lit in their memory by loved ones.
125 Years Celebration:

St John’s Anglican Church, Bulimba, celebrated 125 years of service to the Bulimba community during 2013. To celebrate this occasion “Project Organ” was launched to raise $160,000 to restore the historic Chamber Organ and to add four new stops.

Organ History:

The organ is believed to have been built in England by Reverend William Francis Gore. Gore immigrated to Australia in 1848 and became founding Rector of All Saints’ Church, Parramatta, NSW 1849-1862. Members of the Gore family lived in Yandilla, Queensland, and records show that Rev. Gore celebrated baptisms in that area from 1859. Gore’s contribution to worship at All Saints’ Church, Yandilla, is recognised in stained glass windows sent out from England after his death in 1885. The organ was also brought to Australia at around this time and initially installed in the Yandilla Church. In 1915 St Andrew’s Anglican Church, Lutwyche purchased the organ and in 1929 St Andrew’s sold the organ to St John’s.