Two days after the formal opening of the church, the South Australian Register of March 14, 1887, claimed that “the material used in its construction is for the most part composed of the stones and bricks … taken from … St John”. The design of the church was described throughout as simple but “unmistakably an Anglican Church”.
For a short time, between 1906 and 1907, Mary Magdalene’s was run in conjunction with the North Adelaide church of St Cyprian by the Reverend E.H. Bleby. When he could no longer continue the work, St Mary Magdalene’s went back to being run by the parish of St John, for four months. It was then handed over to the bishop for five years, from January 1908. In the same year C.S. Hornabrook became missioner. In 1919 St Mary Magdalene’s was given full parish status.
Until the 1920s the congregation consisted of working-class people who lived nearby. After the 1920s worshippers were coming from the inner suburbs, using motorised transport. Describing congregations in the 1970s, David Hilliard wrote: “From the late 1970s a few inner-urban parishes, despite their depleted population, took on a new lease of life. St. Mary Magdalene’s in the city and St. Oswald’s Parkside, for example, developed distinctive styles of worship which attracted congregations from many parts of the metropolitan area.” (Godliness and Good Order, 1986)
The church’s architect, R. Garlick Holwell, also prepared the plans for the rebuilding - of St John’s Church.
Because the church was inseparably linked with the adjacent, it had ties to St Peter’s College. These are eulogised in a roll of honour containing 161 names of the boys of St Peter’s College who served in World War I.