Every morning Father David Battrick prays for us. And by us, he means everybody.
Father Battrick subscribes to the view that he is here for all. Regardless of creed, status or faith.
“We (Anglicans) have a particular view of what it means to be a parish priest,” Father Battrick said.
“I am not here as a congregational chaplain, my job is not to just look after the people who come here (to church) but to be a priest who is available to everyone in this parish.
“Anyone who wants to talk to me about issues in their life, to discuss the big questions.”
Father Battrick, his wife and four sons came to the Anglican Parish of East Maitland in November last year. But Father Battrick’s spiritual connection with the parish – along with St Peter’s Church – was formed in England almost 20 years ago.
“I first heard about the parish of East Maitland when I was living in London,” he said. “I was 18 at the time and a close priest fatheriend of mine was the brother-in-law of the then parish priest here.
“So, I had seen a picture of the church and it’s extraordinary that all these years later to be here as the parish priest. I never had a particular interest in coming to Australia so I feel like I’ve had a bit of a spiritual connection with this place for over half my life. It’s quite unreal to be here.”
Father Battrick, 37, was born in London to a young, unmarried Australian woman and adopted by an English family.
“My birth parents were young and unmarried and my mother was taken to England where I was born and adopted out which was the reverse of what used to happen,” he said. “And it was a great experience.”
During his 20s Father Battrick reconnected with his birth family while carrying on the connection with his adoptive family.
“Surprisingly, it was a very natural experience. Partly because my birth family was very open and generous to that and so was my adoptive family in England,” he said. “And it really added to what I already had. It didn’t replace anything, but it did give me a strong sense that I wanted to be in Australia and claim my birth right.
“When I became an Australian citizen I felt I was only receiving what was already mine.”
Father Battrick first became aware of his vocation when he was little more than a boy.
“I knew I wanted to be a priest quite early on,” he said. “I was brought up in a Church of England parish and I first began to have conversations with people about being a priest when I was about 13. But I thought I would be taken out of school and made a priest straight away, so it was quite a revelation to me that I was going to have to finish school and go off and study and do all of those things.
“It was a long process but I’ve never really had a sense that I’ve wanted to do anything else. Although my understanding of what it means to be a priest has changed radically over the years. But I’m still doing what I’ve always wanted to do.”
Before arriving in East Maitland, Father Battrick worked for the former Anglican Bishop of Newcastle Brian Farran, helping parishes connect with their local communities and assisting lay people with their roles within the church.
“The job of running a church isn’t a parish priest’s job alone, it’s shared with a whole group of people,” he said. “We’re in a fortunate situation (within the Anglican church) where we have a number of new candidates for ordination every year. But we’re challenged by the fact that, like many institutions, we’ve become dislocated in many ways fatherom the people around us.
“We have a lot of older, faithful people and the challenge for us is to engage with the next generations and I take that seriously. There are big challenges in connecting with the people around us and being useful to the people around us.”
Father Battrick usually starts his day at 7am praying for the church and the people of the community.
At the end of the day he returns to pray for the people he has met.
“I have the unique opportunity of being able to share in people’s lives and I’m privileged really,” Father Battrick said.