Hawthorn a hub for Melbourne's Thai Christians
STORIES OF URBAN MINISTRYFrom informal mid-week meals to a thriving monthly Sunday congregation, a lively Thai ministry has developed in Hawthorn.
By Jenny Sonneman
October 23 2018
In early 2011 when the Revd Andrew Dircks and his wife Amy moved from Thailand to Christ Church Hawthorn, they found no Thai Christian congregation anywhere in Melbourne. There were several in Sydney, so they were puzzled by this. Amy also found herself missing Christian fellowship in Thai.
A friend from Thailand asked Amy to visit a relative who had also moved to Melbourne, so Amy and Andrew started visiting that Thai Christian family on Thursday nights in Springvale. Then another friend asked the same for a family in Box Hill, so they visited them on Wednesday nights. They would read the Bible, sing and pray. After a few months, they combined the visits, with both families meeting at the home in Springvale. Amy ordered some Thai/English Bibles from Thailand and she and Andrew made a website, Melbourne Thai Christian Fellowship.
The Fellowship grew as more Thai Christians found it on the internet, and also invited their non-Christian Thai friends along. Most of the Thai Christians involved were attending local English-language churches as well as the mid-week Thai Christian Fellowship. Meetings were held in a number of different homes, and the network came to include Thai Christians from across Melbourne. As the network grew larger, they started a monthly Sunday congregation. This was named Melbourne Thai Church, and it meets at Christ Church Hawthorn on the second Sunday of the month. The service always begins with lunch, which includes Thai curries cooked by Amy and others. Everyone is welcome, and the congregation has grown to number sometimes around 45 people.
The mid-week evening fellowship meetings continue in homes across Melbourne. A number of Thais are active in these mid-week meetings, and in the monthly Thai congregation, while continuing to attend their local English-language churches on other Sundays.
Increasingly, Thai Christians in Melbourne are joining Christ Church Hawthorn, not only for the monthly Thai congregation, but also for the weekly 10am contemporary English-language congregation. Sometimes simultaneous translation is provided. Several Thais have been baptised, and recently seven were confirmed. New Thai believers who have joined Christ Church Hawthorn have enriched the church in so many ways. Often when Thai Buddhists become Christians, from the very beginning they want to do it properly. They ask to serve right away, to get involved and be mentored. Thai music bands play every second week at Christ Church. About a third of the 10am congregation is Thai. Christ Church has become a hub for Thai Christians in Melbourne, and a resource for other churches with Thai members.
One of the parish’s newest members is Siri*, a young woman who came to Melbourne to study a couple of years ago. Last year she knocked on the door of St John’s West Brunswick, and asked to speak to someone about Christianity. The Revd Steve Sonneman was there and he invited her in. Siri had been to a Christian dentist as a teenager, and she loved the music he played. Now she wanted to find out more. Through meeting weekly with Steve and working through the Christianity Explored course, she became a believer and was baptised. Steve had contacted Andrew and Amy and asked for a Thai Bible and for any tips on sharing the gospel with Thai people. Amy met with Siri a few times and was able to answer a lot of her questions about Buddhist and Christian practices.
A couple of months ago Siri moved from Brunswick to Hawthorn East. She moved in with a Thai Christian from Christ Church Hawthorn and is now attending a regular Bible study group and church on Sundays. Last week she attended the CMS annual dinner with Amy and Andrew, and indicated she wanted to talk with Steve about missionary work! It is a wonderful answer to prayer to see her growing and persevering in her faith.
* Name has been changed
Visit Melbourne Thai Christian Fellowship on Facebook to find out more.