Parishes, schools and agencies

St Oswald's opens itself anew to the High Street

By Mark Brolly

May 3 2016
The Revd Glenn Loughrey (right) with those reaching out at St Oswald’s.

St Oswald’s Glen Iris has its share of passing trade, with an impressive church and parish buildings on a High Street frontage, and has opted for a multi-pronged approach to persuading the passers-by and the passing through to become regulars at its core business of knowing, loving and serving God and God’s people.

The Revd Glenn Loughrey, who has been Priest-in-Charge since February last year, says the parish is seeking to engage with the wider community through coffee, music, the visual arts, silence, a garden and outreach to local schools.

Mr Loughrey said the parish has had a fairly stable population for a long time but that was changing, as parishioners aged, younger people moved into the area and two large apartment developments and townhouse developments nearby replaced traditional family homes.

He said between 400 and 500 people use the parish buildings each week for activities as varied as Jazzercise (a combination of dance and aerobic exercise) and ballet for young children but only 50-60 people regularly attended Sunday services.

“So we are looking at ways of engaging with the community and we have this wonderful site.”

Mr Shahab Karimi, from the nearby Raven’s Hill Café, plans to have a coffee cart in the church courtyard most weekdays, as well as some Sunday mornings and at special events at St Oswald’s.

Mr Loughrey said it would provide a small financial benefit for the parish, another outlet for the café and, most of all, an opportunity to reach out to people beyond St Oswald’s.

Dr Calvin Bowman, a leading Melbourne musician who has given marathon Bach organ recitals at St Paul’s Cathedral for White Night and at Melbourne Town Hall seven years ago, has been appointed St Oswald’s Director of Music. Part of his brief is to engage with local schools and provide musical tuition.

Another outreach is to Glen Iris Primary School with Kids Hope, a program where adults from local churches mentor pupils.

Book fairs are another regular feature of parish life.

St Oswald’s features eight stunning Nave windows created by David Wright and Mr Loughrey sees the church as ideal for contemplation. “Shush Church” is held at St Oswald’s every fortnight, while outside, there are plans for a Healing Garden.

“The young people tend to have a contemplative spirituality where they are looking for quietness and stillness in a busy world,” Mr Loughrey said.

A Wiradjuri man and artist from Mudgee in NSW, Mr Loughrey said St Oswald’s wants to be known not just as a place for the people who worship there and are involved in the life of the parish but for the whole community.

“I think we have to start focusing on how do we build community for people in this place and how do we connect in ways other than as a cheap place for ballet or whatever else,” he said.

“The sacramental stuff I do on a Sunday morning I do for the whole community, even if many in the wider community do not come.

“To me, it’s really important that we have things here that give people a reason or an excuse to come here and be part of it all.”