[View of Christ Church, St Laurence, c 1921.]
The first Anglican service for the Parish of St Lawrence in the southern portion of the township of Sydney was held on 28 October 1838 in a storeroom in the Albion Brewery near the corner of Elizabeth and Albion Streets, Surry Hills. This storeroom served as a temporary place of worship before the construction of Christ Church.
One of Sydney’s oldest church buildings, Christ Church was designed in 1839 by Henry Robertson (1802-1881) and the foundation stone was laid on 1 January 1840. Construction, from local sandstone, was halted in its early stages due to a financial crisis. Construction recommenced in 1844 under Edmund Blacket (1817-1883), a parishioner who designed many other Sydney buildings including St Andrew’s Cathedral and the Main Quadrangle and Great Hall at the University of Sydney. The Bishop of Australia, William Grant Broughton (1788-1853), consecrated the church on 10 September 1845.
Since its early days, the parish has stood in the High Church and Anglo-Catholic traditions and has maintained a reputation for fine liturgy and music: in 1845, CCSL had the city’s first robed choir and was known for the decency and order of its services. In 1884, CCSL became the first Anglican church in NSW to adopt a cross and candles on the altar, and was the first to introduce Eucharistic vestments in 1885.
The parish has always had a strong commitment to the socially-marginalised. In the 19th century, the parish provided education to the local community through the Christ Church Schools and undertook much needed mission work in the surrounding slums. In the 20th century, the parish provided a soup kitchen and youth employment services during the great depression and ministry to people with HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s.