6 December 2022

New St Peter’s Eastern Hill vicar determined to spread the word 

The Reverend Michael Bowie will soon take up a role at St Peter’s Eastern Hill. Picture: supplied 

Stephen Cauchi 

13 June 2022

Two things drew the incoming vicar at St Peter’s Eastern Hill to the Melbourne church: it was a city church, and a great example of the Anglo-Catholic tradition.  

The Reverend Michael Bowie said in previous roles he found city-centre churches to be full of people who were interesting, and motivated enough that they travelled to come to church.  

For him, the Anglo-Catholic tradition was the first thing that made sense to him of faith. So, St Peter’s stood in a tradition he loved and valued. 

Dr Bowie was most recently assistant priest at All Saints Margaret Street in London, an architecturally striking High Victorian Gothic church built in 1859. 

He moved to the United Kingdom after ministering at Christ Church St Laurence in Sydney, working in churches in Hertfordshire and Sheffield before his London role. 

At St Peter’s Dr Bowie will aim not just to pastor the church, but also spread Anglo-Catholicism in a country where it was not “at its strongest”. He said Anglo-Catholics needed to try to share their faith a bit more.  

“Evangelicals … have been better at sharing the product in my lifetime. They’ve been much better at getting out and talking about what they do than we have,” he said. 

“The experience here, especially through the pandemic and the lockdowns, has shown that in fact [Anglo-Catholics] need to do a lot better about just sharing what we do. 

“We’ve tended to just be in our parishes and getting on with things and not perhaps been quite so good at showing people that there are alternatives sometimes that people have forgotten about.” 

At All Saints, Dr Bowie said streaming and social media during the pandemic had proven very successful. If nothing else, it reminded people the church still existed. 

“It’s been astonishing to see how people have joined us, sometimes in person as well, and they simply didn’t know any longer that we were here,” Dr Bowie said. 

“It’s been quite surprising how much fruit that has borne and I would encourage my new colleagues and people I’m working with in Melbourne to take that on board.” 

When Dr Bowie arrives in Australia at the end of June, it will be a journey home. He lived in the UK as a student, and later a priest, but he said he was looking forward to returning to the country of his birth. 

“St Peter’s Eastern Hill is a parish I’ve known since my early 20s,” Dr Bowie said. 

“Like Christ Church St Laurence Sydney, it’s a tradition that’s very dear to my heart. The opportunity to come home and work with the people at St Peter’s was just too good to miss really.” 

Dr Bowie said his immediate plans at St Peter’s were to acquaint himself with the congregation and to maintain and build the “excellent” profile of the church. 

“They’re a great bunch of people, very enthusiastic and committed, and it just needs in my view to be a bit more confident in itself and to show how much we love and enjoy the worship of God in this tradition because that is infectious,” Dr Bowie said. 

St Peter’s high church style of worship is renowned, and so is its outreach. It offers breakfast every day for the homeless, while its outreach arm the Lazarus Centre provides food parcels and emergency referrals to people in need, as well as chaplains for State Parliament, RMIT, and nearby major hospitals. 

Dr Bowie said both worship and outreach needed to go together. He said at the moment worship, and sharing the joy of worship was his priority. 

“The style of worship needs to inspire people to reach out and clearly St Peter’s has had a lot of engagement with the wider community and worked with poor and disadvantaged people over a century and a half,” he said. 

“Our tradition of worship is very much about the whole of life and affirming life.”  

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