Without a prayer

MACEDON Ranges Shire Council meetings will no longer open with a prayer after a motion was carried at the most recent council meeting on Wednesday night.

Councillor Natasha Gayfer moved the motion, saying the 2016 Census showed how the demographics of the shire had changed.

Statistics from the Census showed 22,396 of the Macedon Ranges Shire’s 46,100 residents at the time of the Census don’t identify as Christians and 17,050 are not religious at all.

Cr Gayfer said she would like to open council meetings with something that addresses people of all beliefs.

“I would like to see council meetings open in a way that is more encompassing of the range of beliefs in our shire,” she said.

Vicar of Gisborne, Riddells Creek and Macedon Anglican Churches, Father Dennis Webster said while the church would ideally like council to start meetings with prayer, at the end of the day, councils exist to serve the community.

“If they’re prepared to make an affirmation, whether religious or non-religious, surely it should be for the betterment of the community,” he said.

“Even though nearly 50 per cent may not identify as Christian, it’s important to safeguard the beliefs of those in the community for whom faith is a very important part of their life.”

“While ideally the church would like to see a prayer retained start council meetings, we also understand the changing nature of the community.”

It was also resolved that officers should prepare a draft opening affirmation to reflect the responsibilities of Councillors and officers, to be brought back to a Councillor Briefing by 31 October 2018.

While councillors were mostly in favour of the motion, there was conjecture about removing the prayer without having an affirmation of sorts ready to replace the prayer.

The motion passed with Mayor Jennifer Anderson, and Councillors Gayfer, Bill West, Helen Radnedge, Andrew Twaits and Janet Pearce in favour and Councillors Mandi Mees, Roger Jukes and Henry Bleeck opposed.