Newtown: famed for its restaurant-riddled King St, its live music, as home to a diverse assortment of people and, of course, to Moore Theological College. The percentage of those in the postcode who say they have ‘no religion’ has risen from 30% in 2001 to 44% in 2011 and dwarfs the NSW average of 17.9%. As it appears the suburb is becoming less and less religious, the inaugural MTC mission to Newtown begins. Statistics count people, but ultimately, people count, not statistics. And the team met plenty of people over the weekend as we wandered the streets and visited churches in Newtown and Erskineville. Here are some snippets of interactions with people that give a taste of the forces at work in the suburb we’re on mission to this week:
snippet #1: a father from one of the local churches who lives in the area reflects on the suburb: “It’s a really hard area, people are very anti-Christian,” he says. He describes how his son struggles at pre-school when, having been at kids’ church on Sunday, he talks about what he’s been learning about God, and is shut down by both kids and teachers. The team will be presenting the Easter story at a pre-school later in the week.
snippet #2: one of the team is reading the Bible and minding her own business in a local cafe. She’s approached by a young woman: “Are you reading the Bible? That’s really interesting. My parents are into it but it seems really strange.” They’re meeting up to read the seemingly strange book today!
snippet #3: a team member sees how a local church is looking after some of the more socially marginalised residents of the suburb. He says “If I were to draw a caricature of some of the brokenness to wander into a church, it would be perfectly set here… I love the strong sense of it being eclectic and welcoming… and the gospel was preached.”
snippet #4: a couple of students browse the Bible shelf at a bookshop and start talking to man. The man begins the conversation by saying, “It’s a pretty good work of fiction!” One of the students describes the subsequent interchange: “He didn’t want to reason or even consider anything we had to say. He was pretty rude about it.” The conversation ends with the man walking away with a definitely-louder-than-conversation-level “Have fun with your superstition!”
snippet #5: one of the team meets two people at a local church who are excited for evangelism. An older lady has moved to Newtown from a different state in order to have the opportunity to evangelise her granddaughter. A man has only recently become a Christian at the church, and “… he was interested to come and do some walk-up with us during the week.”
In a suburb in which the statistical laws of motion seem to indicate a move away from the religious, there are definitely signs of hope in another direction.
Please pray for those mentioned above, for the rest of this suburb, and for the team, as we attempt to bring not merely religion, but the life-giving message of Jesus to people in Newtown.