St Aidan’s Hurstville Grove exists to know Christ and to make him known. This week, a team of theological students from Moore College will have the privilege of working alongside the staff and members of the church to see exactly what this looks like.
On Sunday we jumped straight in, attending all three services at 8am, 10am and 6pm so that we could meet and be known by each of the congregations. Each service graciously allowed Moore College students to be involved in their gathering. Ben, Candy (wish I’d heard this testimony, it got rave reviews) and Paul gave their stories of Jesus’ work in their lives, and Blake, Phillip (our chaplain) and Kinsey gave talks that were well received. Kinsey got some particularly encouraging talk feedback: “my non-Christian friend is here tonight, and she listened to all of it.”
At 10am we also jumped in on some of the kids programs, and I (Christine), was really impressed by the leaders of the infants group that I was apart of. But what I found most interesting was my deep theological discussion with a 4 year old. In a bid to help clean up, I volunteered to put together a puzzle that had been dismantled and then abandoned by an eager child. Thankfully, two infant helpers took pity on me and also began trying their luck with the pieces.
“Isn’t it a bit strange that church is over and we’re still here?” asked a tiny voice, as I struggled on with a puzzle intended for a child less than half my age.
“Is it?” I replied.
“Yes, well it’s all over now, we can go home.”
“But church is spending time with people, too! We have the part where we learn from the bible, but we also have the part where we spend time with people. And that is church too.”
“Hmmm. Ok. That sounds right.” She nodded approvingly and put the final puzzle piece into place.
We never really stop preaching the word, do we?
Meanwhile, the rest of the team were engaged in warm conversations with the 10am service, that trailed into a choose-your-own-adventure lunch in Hurstville. After battling a myriad of no left turn signs and ridiculously overflowing car parks, we ate our fill of dumplings and there was more than one appreciative remark about how good (and cheap) the food in Hurstville is.
The staff at St Aidan’s not only introduced us to their church members, but to their wider community. We spent our afternoon hearing about how the church has intentionally reached out with regular door knocking and collections for Anglicare. This has become so regular and expected that people in the community know church members by name. So it was with far less trepidation than usual that we took to people’s homes and invited them to St Aidan’s Easter Services.
It was a real witness to the effectiveness of the church’s outreach to date that the response was almost unanimously positive, with some people even asking “where is _____ who normally comes and visits me?” It was rare to come across someone who wasn’t already familiar and friendly towards the church.
As we walked the streets we saw evidence of how the area is changing. We noticed both the longstanding cottages and the newly built McMansions. We met people of varying cultural backgrounds, from Anglo to Greek to Chinese. But amongst this diversity and in just an hours’ work, we were able to make new contacts, reconnect old ones and had people accepting invites to Sunday church, youth group and seniors events.
And then pizza for dinner. With the youth. We had to fight for it. Not really, but kind of. There was talk of pop culture films you had to admit that you hadn’t seen, and an interesting question posed: “did the Israelites who God struck down for touching the ark go to heaven?” I’ll leave you hanging on that one.
6pm was a full service, dominated by the youth and young adults, but with a good mix of ages all the same. I expect most of us felt at ease there, many of us recognising people we had once met before at ‘this camp’ or ‘that conference’. It was a relatively early night in, either spending some chill out time with billet families, or going to McDonalds and being assigned new nicknames based on one’s supposed likeness to a menu item (Mary is now Caz and Kate is now Fil and if you want any explanation on this, you can ask Dale).
Bring on day two!