Win for bipartisanship as Labor MLA Chris Bourke joins the faithful in Assembly church service
Advertisement

Win for bipartisanship as Labor MLA Chris Bourke joins the faithful in Assembly church service

Labor MLA Chris Bourke slipped quietly into a pew at St Paul's Anglican Church on Monday and listened to prayers and an appeal for ACT politicians to act mercifully towards the vulnerable, including refugees.

The simple act by Dr Bourke of walking into the church brought to an end a partisan political stoush over whether a prayer service should be held to mark the start of the ACT Legislative Assembly's sitting year.

The Ecumenical Service of Prayer and Worship to mark the opening of the 2014 parliamentary year of the Legislative Assembly for the ACT.

The Ecumenical Service of Prayer and Worship to mark the opening of the 2014 parliamentary year of the Legislative Assembly for the ACT.Credit:Jay Cronan

Last year all eight Labor MLAs in the Assembly boycotted an ecumenical church service organised by Liberal Speaker Vicki Dunne.

Greens minister Shane Rattenbury also chose not to attend last year, leaving it a Liberal-only service.

Dr Chris Bourke MLA at the Ecumenical Service of Prayer and Worship to mark the opening of the 2014 sitting year of the ACT Legislative Assembly.

Dr Chris Bourke MLA at the Ecumenical Service of Prayer and Worship to mark the opening of the 2014 sitting year of the ACT Legislative Assembly.Credit:Jay Cronan

Advertisement

Labor and the Greens then used their combined parliamentary majority to ban the Assembly from being involved in religious services.

This year, St Paul's rector Brian Douglas volunteered to organise a service for interested MLAs.

ACT Labor, which tends to be more secular minded than some other state branches of the ALP, was again expected to boycott the event.

But Dr Bourke turned a few heads by joining seven of the eight Liberal MLAs (Brindabella MLA Nicole Lawder chose to stay away) at church.

The Ginninderra MLA and dentist said the church service was a community event he had wanted to attend.

Clergy participating at the service included Catholic Archbishop Christopher Prowse, Anglican Bishop Stuart Robinson and representatives of the Apostolic, Uniting, Lutheran and Presbyterian denominations.

In an address to the congregation, Catholic Archbishop Christopher Prowse spoke about Jesus' statement in the Beatitudes: ''Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.''

Archbishop Prowse urged the gathered MLAs to consider that in their work.

''Just dream for a moment and think about politics and enabling mercy to develop into a different kind of legislation that reaches out to refugees, fragile families, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, those vulnerable ones at life's beginning and end,'' he said.

Archbishop Prowse pre-empted criticism that his comments amounted to the church meddling in politics. ''Many would stop me straight away and say I am imposing religion and that not everyone believes in God any more,'' he said.

But Archbishop Prowse said ''secularisation'' should not prevent religiously minded people from expressing opinions.