Dorothy McRae-McMahon

The historic Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney’s CBD might almost have been lost to the wrecking ball. In this interview Uniting Church Minster Dorothy McRae-McMahon talks about her personal religious development, the Church’s long history in Pitt St, its well-known early members and its relationship with contemporary politics and human rights. In the excerpt below Dorothy discusses intense personal reactions to the building.

I think it’s the second oldest church in Sydney; magnificent bit of architecture inside; it looks plain from the outside but inside it’s really stunning. And they were going to pull it down and build an office block and put a little chapel somewhere in it. Anyway, believe it or not, Jack Mundey, card carrying atheist, Communist, and the Builders Labourers Federation [trade union in the building and construction industry] refused to pull it down; they put a Green Ban on it and, you know, Jack and I often have talked about it over the years and I’d sort of say to him “So, why didn’t you want to pull it down, Jack?” and he said “Dorothy, it’s part of the soul of the city”, and he’d come and sit in there often and there’s a plaque now in the foyer of the church honouring the work of the Builders Labourers Federation in keeping it up. When I heard that they [the congregation] were thinking of calling me as their minister – we call it “calling”, inviting me to be the minister – I remember walking into it and standing there and thinking “Oh, it breathes”, I just sort of felt some life in it. I believe in that: I think you can gather in buildings a sense of the spirituality of many generations that have somehow been there.

Sue Andersen