The New Church in Australia.
There is a warm spot in my heart for the church in Australia- though my experience with it does not extend much beyond Sydney and Perth. While some of that feeling may be attributed to the climate (hard to beat), there is spirit, determination and resiliency among the people there that is very impressive.
In Sydney, for example, one finds this image in people like Norman Heldon who is working in the church gardens every day. Norman is 93 years old. The people there work hard to take care of their beautiful little church. Also, it is heartwarming to see the level of caring that the different families have shown toward Huiling as she copes with the recent passing of her husband Robert.
Robert, unfortunately arrived, in Hurstville to start as the congregation’s new pastor but passed away from a heart attack after only two weeks. He came with hopes and a vision for evangelization that was compelling. While his short tenure is traumatic for everyone there, it is possible that in his short stay he initiated a direction with the congregation that will serve well in future years. We shall see what his legacy looks like.
Sydney, a major metropolitan area is something of an international crossroads. Sydney harbor is beautiful, but also functional as a major import export center serving all of Asia. This sets up an international buzz that seems to serve the church well. With the church announcing itself on the internet, there is a gradual influx of visitors joining the congregation for Sunday worship. With some shepherding of that process by a resident pastor, the congregation could soon be growing. In the mean time, the congregation is engaged with Bishop Keith in a search for a new pastor to take up where Robert left off.
Perth is a pearl of a city located on the Southwest coast of Australia. There has been a New Church presence there since the early 1920’s. It seems that the future there is as bright as the sun kissed beaches surrounding the city. Perth is currently a boomtown that is growing exponentially due to the natural gas and minerals that are mined in the area. As with Sydney there are two groups worshipping there, one which is a part of the Australian Association and the other affiliated with the General Church. Many of the events held in the region are combined efforts. While the General Church group in Perth is without a resident pastor, the group meets regularly for Sunday worship, Bible studies, etc.
They worship in a beautiful rented facility in South Perth. When I conducted worship there were about 25 people in attendance.
My visit there included preaching, holding several classes, pastoral visiting and conducting a planning session. If the group heads in the direction that it intends, I would not be surprised to see it growing to the size where it could sustain a resident pastor in the space of just a few years.
From a pastoral perspective, my trip to Sydney and Perth was uplifting. I felt like I was witnessing the Lord doing something special through the efforts of the church members in this far off corner of the planet.