10 December 2022

Anglicans plan visible presence in growing area, but obstacles loom

Berwick Anglican church’s launch team for a Clyde North plant has a diverse and eager membership. Picture: Reverend Reece Kelly.

Jenan Taylor

10 June 2022

A church leader wants the Anglican church to be more visible in a Melbourne growth-area, despite real and potential challenges.

Berwick Anglican locum the Reverend Reece Kelly says there is a demand for churches in the outer growth corridors but planning restrictions and rising costs were making it difficult to plant them.

Mr Kelly said he wanted the church to be represented in the south-east growth area of Clyde North in particular.

He said an explosion in resident numbers in that area was driving demand, and there were few or no places to worship. 

Mr Kelly cited census figures that showed the population in Clyde and Clyde North had risen by almost 50 times to 48,000 people between 2001 and 2021.

He said further projections showed that figure would triple within the next 20 years.

There were churches in the surrounding suburbs of Berwick, Pakenham and Cranbourne but nothing in Clyde North, Mr Kelly said.

Read more: Bringing Jesus to the growth corridors

He said Berwick Anglican church was seeing many people coming from the growth area and that its main services often filled quickly.

“So, we tell people if they live close to Pakenham that they should go to Pakenham Anglican, or if they’re close to Cranbourne to go to Cranbourne Anglican. But we’re seeing a need. People are moving into Clyde North, and they’re looking for churches,” Mr Kelly said.

Mr Kelly said he was exploring the availability and suitability of places in that area to plant an Anglican church.

But council policies in the west and south-east growth corridors were making it hard to have churches represented, Mr Kelly said.

He said the Casey council only allowed new churches to be established in residential and industrial zones.

He said because of that, some faith organisations were setting up churches in warehouses and factories.

The City of Casey has specific conditions, including site appropriateness and how much building design and style varies from surrounding developments, for planning new places of worship.

In the last five years, some of those standards have affected the ability of a number of faith organisations, including the Syrian Orthodox Church community and a Seventh Day Adventist group, to gain a foothold with ease in the greater Casey area.

In some instances, some members of the public had referenced the council’s standards to mount long-running campaigns objecting to planning applications.

But Mr Kelly said he wanted to plant something that showed that the Anglican Church was represented in the surroundings.

“We’d love to have a building, a visible presence that people can see when they actually drive in Clyde North, so they see that Christ is honoured and valued and represented in that place,” Mr Kelly said.

He said he wanted a building that was obviously a church and that perhaps was adorned with a cross.

Mr Kelly said he had also considered the viability of establishing a new church in a factory building.

But the cost of land was making it a challenge, he said.

“From when I started looking in 2019 to now, the cost has gone up every month. In terms of a physical factory, it’s almost a million dollars more,” Mr Kelly said.

Read more: Meeting needs as Melbourne’s west swells

He also said despite there being few if any churches, there was a number of Christian schools in and around Clyde North.

Mr Kelly said that Berwick Anglican had set up a launch team of 40 people to help find a way to plant a church there.

He said that the team comprised children and adults who were from diverse backgrounds including Sri Lanka, India and the UK.

He had selected many of them because they lived in Clyde North and had links to sport clubs, schools and social organisations in the area.

Mr Kelly said the team was excited about the idea and brought a sense of energy and passion to the project.

Some of their activities would include doing prayer walks to connect with local people and ascertain what their specific needs were.

“We have a pretty good chess board in front of us about what the city values and we have a good sense of what the city offers that we can be involved in,” Mr Kelly said.

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