On 26 July, the Monash University Religious Centre — a familiar sight in the centre of the Clayton campus — celebrated 50 years of providing spiritual support to the University community.
A joyful gathering of senior church leaders, chaplains (past and present), staff, students and others with close connections to the Centre and its activities, heard the Chancellor, Mr Simon McKeon AO and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Major Campuses and Student Engagement), Professor David Copolov AO, give some fascinating insights into its history and architectural design.
In his speech, Mr Mckeon said: “I commend all who have committed themselves over the last half century to work towards making the Monash Religious Centre a place of quiet reflection, worship, sharing, understanding and reconciliation.
As the world has become progressively smaller and its people more interconnected, there has never been a more important time to emphasise the sanctity of our individual belief systems and indeed the sanctity of respecting diversity in the various belief systems within a community”.
Dedicated on 9 June 1968, when the keys were officially handed to the University, the Religious Centre has seen thousands of ceremonies and religious services take place over the years: baptisms, weddings, funerals and memorial services.
It was planned initially by the Christian and Jewish communities of Melbourne, who joined in a fund-raising appeal to cover the cost of the building and then gifted it to the University to distance it from any specific religion.
Professor Copolov said: “It was always intended to be a multi-faith Centre that also serves those who have no faith – it is open to anyone from the University community who seeks a quiet place to find peace and stability. This vision of the religious leaders and the University’s founders continues to be fulfilled to this day, by an increasing number of religious groups including Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists”.
Visually striking, the circular building was designed to symbolise unity and in 2008, it was listed by Heritage Victoria due to its historical and architectural significance to the State. The Centre’s glorious pipe organ was built by Ronald Sharp, who also designed the Sydney Opera House organ, and Leonard French designed the stained glass windows in the small chapel.
The Centre is worth visiting to see the interior of the main non-denominational chapel, with its beautiful stained glass windows designed specifically without any religious symbolism by Les Kossatz, and enjoy a moment or two of reflection.