Exciting new co-operation for two Melbourne parishes
December 5 2018
It’s taken two years of talking, more talking and praying and more praying for a brilliant idea of church co-operation to take shape between St John’s Blackburn and Holy Trinity Doncaster. It started in 2016 when the Revd Mark Simon was appointed as interim locum and asked by the Bishop to explore possible partnerships, ethnic specific ministries or property development to help support and grow St John’s Blackburn. His missionary background has served him well in serving kingdom priorities. The church community then numbered around 40 on Sundays. The church members could see the new housing developments in their street, but were conscious that the hundreds of new residents, from diverse backgrounds, were not finding their way into church.
Mark began connecting with local churches suggested by the Bishop and found that the Revd Andrew Price of Holy Trinity Doncaster was thinking about a different challenge – how his growing church could help other local Anglican churches.
So in 2017 they began the process of discerning, under God’s guidance, how they could work with the diocese to see urban renewal in their suburbs. They have entered into a “co-operative agreement” between St John’s, Holy Trinity and the Melbourne Diocese – a possibility outlined in the Parish Governance Act. Over the last 18 months both churches have been talking about the possibilities with their congregations and workshopping ideas. They have even had a couple of “tasters” for the communities to experience what the new structures could be like.
Holy Trinity Doncaster has a rich history of sending out missionaries and church workers. Now it is blessed to be able to send out, or release, up to 100 people from Holy Trinity to join with St John’s Blackburn. It will all begin in February 2019 in Blackburn where there will be a traditional 8:30am service in the church, followed by two services at 10:30am. The 10:30am Chinese congregation will meet in the church building and the 10:30am English speaking one will gather in the hall. There will be a combined Sunday School. The Revd Mark Chew will pastor the English speaking congregations and the Revd Alan Xue will lead the Chinese congregation.
The view from St John’s Blackburn:
- After one of the “taste and see” services last month, a member from St John’s said “It’s so lovely to hear the sound of children and see families enjoying church.”
- Another member of the Parish Council asked why they couldn’t start now!
The view from Holy Trinity Doncaster:
- At Holy Trinity, there is also excitement. They are encouraged by the opportunity to support another church and do local mission.
- One family who will be joining the church in Blackburn is pleased that now their children can go to church nearer their primary school and that it will be easier to invite their community friends to a closer church.
- There is also an acknowledgement of the relational cost as both adults and children will miss those they saw every Sunday.
The view from both parishes:
Between both parishes, there is a mood of optimism that the change will bring new life back to an existing church with a rich history, and that together, the local community and beyond will be reached with the gospel.