Parishes, schools and agencies

Growing faith in Gembrook

From the parishesHow some hard work and determination helped the faith grow in Gembrook

By Peter Crawford

May 7 2019The team was well rugged up as they set up the BBQ and the activities for a family fun afternoon. They had been planning this outreach to the people of Gembrook for months, but, as they measured the temperature at two degrees, one of the leaders said: “We must be crazy – no one is going to come.”

To make matters worse it was an AFL finals day and the locals are sports mad. A little later the jumping castles were filled with children, indoor games with parents were buzzing, the band was in full flight, and the sausages were in great demand. More than 400 people were there – about 15 per cent of the local population!

That was last spring, and that was when we knew that God had given us the favour of the local community. For some years the Revd Owen Prout, Vicar of Cockatoo, and the members of St Luke’s in Cockatoo had been planning to start a congregation in Gembrook –after all the community needs a healthy church. However, it seemed that the time wasn’t yet right.

Things started to develop in 2017 when the local school invited us to run a weekly after school program. They expected about 20 children to attend, but were staggered when almost 100 came; half the students! At the same time God began to assemble the team for the future congregation as some strong Christians moved into town.

St Luke’s itself is flourishing with overflowing playgroups, after school activities and a vibrant youth and children’s ministry. Even though the local population is only about 5000, the parish has grown to about 180 active members. Creative outreach programs are reaching about 500 locals each week through activities like mentoring programs, weekly community meals, schools work and a well-stocked food store which gives away groceries each Monday.

The Revd Owen Prout at Gembrook

St Luke’s established a group to focus on Gembrook two years ago, building on years of pastoral work, running RSL events, community Christmas Carols and so. The group has met regularly, prayed hard, and developed local networks. And God answered their prayers. One young couple, with a background in church planting, moved to the town. On discovering the St Luke’s parish’s plans to start a congregation they said: “We didn’t know why God brought us to Gembrook. Now we do!”

One day when the team was visiting houses at random, one couple saw a house for sale, stopped and asked God to bring a Christian family to live there. That prayer was answered and the purchasers are now key leaders in our work.

Earlier this year when the Parish Council could see that God had provided a gifted team and given us the favour of the community they endorsed plans to launch the new congregation on Easter Sunday.

Prayer walks, planning and publicity were the order of the day. When one couple took posters to be put up in shop windows they said: “We couldn’t believe how positive every shop was. Every single one took a poster and put it in their window.”

The team is convinced that God is going to bring many to trust in Christ. Each Sunday the service will be at 4pm in the local school library; it will be themed to be relevant to locals and will be followed by a meal. Families will be able to build friendships, be inspired for the next week and be able to go home at 6pm having been fed.

At the launch on Easter Sunday, Owen Prout spoke about Jesus being alive, Bishop Paul Barker prayed for the new congregation, and the crowd of more than 110 listened carefully. It will be exciting to see how God’s Spirit impacts local families one by one.

Peter Crawford is a member of St Luke's Cockatoo.