Madonna and Child or Plaster Problems? Canadian Priest's Austrailian Church May Be First Appearance of Mary in Anglican Building

Article excerpt

Yankalilla, Australia

Rev. Andrew Nutter previously had his name known throughout the Anglican Church for his involvement with a symbol -- he designed the communion's Compass Rose flag in 1991.

But his name is becoming more widely known for its ties to an apparent miracle. His church in the outback of Australia has drawn thousands of spectators in recent months for a glimpse of what many believe is an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus.

Since the image appeared on the plaster walls of the stone neo-Gothic Christ Church it has been credited with healings of visitors and those who have drunk water from a spring that was discovered there only recently.

The bishop of the Diocese of The Murray, Graham Walden, blessed the shrine in December, saying it is a "call to spiritual development and the healing of memories."

(As well as the Virgin and Child, the bishop also sees the sad face of an Aboriginal man holding a small child, which he believes symbolically urges reconciliation between Native and non-Native Australians.)

This is the first known Marian apparition in an Anglican church, says Mr. Nutter, whose father is the retired metropolitan of Canada, Archbishop Harold Nutter.

Known as Father Andrew in Australia, he is better known in Canada as Bruce. A graduate of Toronto's Trinity College, he served in parishes in Quebec, Western Newfoundland and St. Kitts in the Diocese of Antigua before moving to Australia more than two years ago.

The Virgin Mary fulfils a unique theological role for people who believe in apparitions, says Mr. Nutter, including those in Lourdes, France, and Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"Theologically speaking, she is the mother of all Christians," he says. "Just as she birthed a new age 2,000 years ago, she is trying to call us back to her son...she is birthing a new age by calling people back to their values, to a quality of spirit.

"I think the significance in all of the apparitions worldwide -- and many of them are incontestable--is that we're on a cusp of history. The old paradigms of the church are changing."

The Australian apparition first appeared more than two and a half years ago, when a parishioner noticed an image seeping through the wall of Christ Church.

"I looked at it," says Mr. Nutter, "and it was a bit like watching a negative develop in a solution, until -- snap! -- and there it was. It wasn't as strong then as it is now."

Most people, he says, can see it from virtually any spot in the church. Though it doesn't photograph well, he says, if people can't see it, "they shouldn't have a driver's licence."

When the image was first noticed, the congregation of about 100 was "non-plussed," says Mr. Nutter. They did, though, put a metal frame around the likeness, which measures three feet tall by two feet wide.

Then the bishop came to view the image and declared it "something of incredible importance." The church and its image remained in relative obscurity until the bishop asked Mr. …

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