Today is a preparation day for the rest of the week, so let’s learn a little about Penrith, post code 2750. A bit of a longer read, but a helpful one – and fascinating to boot.
The Penrith Local Government Area (LGA) has about 187,000 residents, according to the most recent data. Just over one fifth of residents are 14 years or younger, with just a little less than one fifth in the 55+ bracket. Half the residents have post-school qualifications: 8% have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, while one fifth holding a certificate-level qualification. Two-thirds of residents are in the workforce, and unemployment sits at around 5.5%. Just over one quarter of residents were born overseas; most of these residents are of European descent, but there are significant minorities for Pacific nations and across Asia.
The LGA comprises St. Stephen’s Penrith, along with the other Anglican churches of St. Philip’s in Kingswood to the east, Cambridge Park Anglican to the northeast, and St. Tom’s Cranebrook to the north. The orange section on te image above marks out the parish of Penrith proper.
What this big-picture data obscures (as averages tend to do) is the difference between what St. Stephen’s Rector Tom Harricks describes as ‘Old’ Penrith and ‘New’ Penrith. By Old Penrith he means the families who have lived in the area for generations, who tend to be upper-middle-class and of Anglo-Saxon descent; their ancestors probably owned land in the area. New Penrith largely comprises relatively new residents – families from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, retirees, singles – many of whom have moved here because it’s too expensive to rent or buy property closer in to the city. New Penrith is also more multicultural than Old Penrith.
After the 6:30pm service last night I got chatting with parishioner Jason, who thinks there’s a big cultural gap in Penrith between the Old and the New, with a real need for Christians from the Old Penrith – generally wealthier, older, and well-established – who have a heart for reaching those in the New Penrith.
The staff here are aware of the challenge, and on Saturday we’ll be running a barbecue and a backyard cricket match in the suburb of Thornton – New Penrith – to try to connect with the families and retirees moving into the area. Watch this space for an update about how it goes! In the meantime, pray that the beginnings of long-term connections might be made, especially with St. Stephen’s parishioners moving into Thornton and other New Penrith areas. Pray, too, for a deep love between Christians from both Old and New Penrith for one another, and for the lost across their city.