There was once a dying church in Sydney’s inner west suburb of Burwood. Where only a few faithful members turned up to worship on Sunday.
The Parish had been a place of Anglican worship and ministry in the area for about 150 years. In its heyday, it would have seen hundreds of people walk through its doors. But the world changed and didn’t take the Parish with it.
When Father James came to the Burwood Anglican more than eight years ago, the Church was in need of repair and the Parish in need of revival.
He arrived with a vision and a passion to make God known through the practical love and care of the vulnerable and marginalised in the community.
“Our mission as Christians is to reach out with God’s love into the world. Just as we have been showered in love through Jesus, we are called to pour out our love to others,” he explains.
Father James started mobilising his few parishioners and created parish-run programs for those in need. The Church started a community hub where multiple services come together in the one place once a month to assist people who may be struggling. They set up a mobile medical clinic, with veterinary and dental support to the homeless. They started volunteering at the local special needs school and gave free food to the poor and hungry.
“We give away far more than we earn because other Churches, community groups, businesses and individuals, including our Muslim neighbours and friends, are helping to provide for the needs of others.
“For a Parish that has very little in terms of financial resources, we are now giving away millions of dollars’ worth of assistance every year,” says Father James.
“We do not proselytise through our programs in anyway. We are here to be a servant to those in need and to care for them. That’s it. But in a difficult and cynical world, we are finding that genuine love will speak to people in more ways than words.
“By simply loving our neighbours and following Jesus’ commands, our little Parish is currently going through an enormous period of renewal.”
Father James stresses that everything they do at Burwood Anglican is shaped by Scripture. “We are passionate about the truth of the Bible. It motivates us to act; to go to the community and serve them in humility.”
Whether it’s because of the faithful preaching on Sunday or the passion to care for the community, the little church with 150 years of history, is dying no longer.
People who have seen and heard of their care have started coming. Families, children, young people are now part of the congregation. There were two adult confirmations recently where people publicly renewed their commitment to God. These days, on any given Sunday, there will be about 100 people in the pews.
If you ask Father James, who you will often find down at the police station or the courts helping people the world deems worthless, it is because Jesus loves us.
“If people are moved by an authentic vision of Christian faith and decide to come, they are God’s blessing to our Parish.”
4 responses to “Love saves a dying church”
It’s so heartening to hear such stories. Churches were always the heart of communities, emotionally, spiritually, and geographically. Once people moved away (especially from city centers) those churches didn’t fill that community need anymore. And I think they have to try extra hard to connect with those around them. We went to my childhood, rural Catholic church when my boys and I visited Ohio recently, and somehow it’s managing to thrive. We ended up at the “contemporary” service, with music that doesn’t strike a chord with me, but seemed to with the teenagers. Most of our consumer/fast-paced culture doesn’t really jibe with Christianity, but I think a good leader, like your Father James, can make people slow down and return to their heart-and-soul work enough to see the value in a good church community. Nice piece!
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Thanks Rebecca! I know there are issues, but there is so much good in our faith communities. I respected Father James for trying to go back to the heart of Christ’s commands. To love God and to love our neighbours. I’m glad you had a chance to connect with your home church when you went back.
This is so wonderful. I’m not religious, but I do believe that the core values of Christianity (and almost certainly other faith systems about which I know much less) are at their core the best kind of human values. Long may this parish thrive.
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