Toorak Ecumenical Movement


Ecumenism in Toorak began informally in 1972 at the home of Dr Tom Antonie (dec) and Mrs Joan Antonie who hosted a dinner party. Fr Brian Leonard of St Peter’s Toorak, the then Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Fr Frank Little (later Archbishop of Melbourne), Rev. Dr David Hodges of Toorak Presbyterian Church, David and Rosemary Leahey and Mrs Jeanette Ricketson of St John’s Anglican Church were all present. The Rev. Victor Maddick, Vicar of St. John’s Anglican Parish, was an apology.

After this inaugural occasion conversations among the three Churches continued apace for the next eight years. In 1980 the Toorak Ecumenical Agreement was affirmed. In 2007 the Swedish Church also joined the Toorak Ecumenical Movement.

In 2020 the member Churches had planned to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Agreement on Pentecost Sunday, but the Covid lockdown intervened. The celebration of the Agreement, now Covenant, took place on Pentecost Sunday 2021 during a temporary cessation of the lockdown. It was held at St Peter’s with a representative congregation from the four constitutive Churches, the present clergy and some who had formerly ministered in Toorak. The four are: St Peter’s Catholic, St John’s Anglican, the Toorak Uniting and the Swedish Churches/Parishes. The preacher at the Service of Thanksgiving was the Rev. Dr Robert Gribben of the Uniting Church in Australia, a distinguished and well known Ecumenical Theologian at national and international levels, preacher and writer.

Almost two generations away from 1980 we can understand that Ecumenism amongst the Churches is a belief and practice, a habit of life that is almost taken for granted. It is difficult to recall the distance, division, suspicion and ingrained hostility that existed among the Churches in the Western world, and Australia by extension. The imported attitudes and habits of 400 years had taken root in this soil, together with the rabbits and sparrows, starlings and foxes. At the same time however, many people had learned to be tolerant at the individual level, at ease with neighbours, respectful of difference.

Among Catholics the Decree on Ecumenism which came out of the Second (Ecumenical) Council of the Vatican in 1964 provided the breakthrough for ‘theological respect’ for other Churches. Defensive of traditional Catholic claims, this Decree also affirmed the common belief in Trinitarian baptism of the major Christian churches, a legacy of common prayers, some elements of shared liturgical practice and acceptance of the Scriptures as the revealed word of God. 

In the light of this ecumenical awakening several international and national inter-Church Commissions and Dialogues were created and replicated at the local level. The Catholic Parishes of Toorak and Armadale continue to share in the following activities with the other three Parishes of the Covenant: prayer each Sunday for one another in the General Intercessions, (Prayers of the Faithful), ‘Prayers for Christian Unity’, held in one of the four churches each month, the Lenten Studies programme, the Way of the Cross on Good Friday morning, Common Services of Worship on Pentecost Sunday and Advent Sunday, the Toorak Ecumenical Opportunity Shop and the Food for Friends Appeal conducted each year before Christmas. 

We always welcome any parishioners who may be interested in sharing any of these activities.  Please contact the Parish Office 03 9068 8600 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.