7 July 2022

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How Sojourners church came to kick goals at a Werribee football club

Sojourners held services on the grandstand after lockdowns. Picture: Supplied by Reverend Andrew Seehom.

Jenan Taylor

16 June 2022

Being in a football club has had its share of hits and misses for a new western suburbs church plant.

When the idea for Sojourners church was born, its leaders knew that finding the right venue in a growth corridor would be their biggest worry.

Congregation minister the Reverend Andrew Seedhom realised that the sprawling City of Wyndham area they had earmarked, already had a lot of church plants.

Many were unable to be sustained, Mr Seedhom said.

He believes that part of the difficulty there was that churches were being set up in obscure places.

”Also, because Wyndham is a place where often in house after house people don’t know their neighbours, because they just drive into their garage and drive out for work, it would be hard for them to even know that you’re there or that you exist,” Mr Seedhom said.

Nonetheless, having taken up the challenge, Mr Seedhom and executive minister the Reverend Mark Tibben, along with 30 other adults set about seeding Sojourners in 2019.

For them, the important thing was to be a church that could offer a community that was aspirational and where people wanted to have security for their children, something that would let them know they could find rest in Jesus, not in security or wealth, Mr Seedhom said.

Their approach was a team model and they got straight to work building relationships with groups including the local council, he said.

But up to eight weeks before launch it still looked like they might not have a home.

“We tried a nightclub, and I thought it was horrible. But then we thought, ‘Okay, God, if you want us to be here, it’s nice to be here.’”

Read more: Craigieburn church plant takes a holistic approach to community engagement

Mr Seedhom said they were then invited to a meeting at Chirnside Park, the brand new premises of the Werribee Football Club, and were thrilled to be offered the chance to use it as their church’s venue.  

Since then Sojourners has built connections with the football club, and has made strides in the community.

COVID, of course, slowed progress, Mr Seedhom said.

But when lockdowns finished, Sojourners was able to take advantage of the open space that the venue’s grandstand offered and held their services there.

He said the church continues to draw interest especially from young people and families, and there are about 60 children on their books, with 40 or so attending services.

Mr Seedhom said their strong team ministry model was an asset.

 “We’ve got four leaders who each run teams for kids. Each person runs a team of five and that means there’s a lot of people involved with ministry.”

But it isn’t just about teams. Each leader is a teacher.

“They’re gifted in creating kids’ content and because they’re so passionate about teaching that makes for a real energy for us. It’s awesome that God’s provided those people for us to do that,” he said.

Mr Seedhom said the Sojourners congregation, which reflected the wider community, was about 50 per cent Anglo Australian and the rest were of Indian, Sri Lankan and Chinese backgrounds.

Nonetheless, he believes that many people in Wyndham’s large diverse community are still coming to terms with the church not being located in a traditional building.

He is hopeful that might shift as the church moves toward being able to provide people who also bilingual or multilingual and that they were praying to be able to have more multicultural ministers.  

Mr Seedhom said he hoped that as a planted church, they would in time be equipped to be a strong Anglican church with a faithful presence in the area, and that there would be other such churches as well.

Their vision, he said, was to get to a point where they could partner with other churches in Manor Lakes, Tarneit or Point Cook, or indeed establish other faith communities to be allied with.

In the meantime, there have been other challenges to contend with in a place with such dramatic suburban sprawl, Mr Seedhom said.

A recent hurdle involved the very space Sojourners operates from.

“If there is a football game, or especially a televised one on a Sunday, then we can’t use our space. We’d earmarked baptisms for some people one week in May and it turned out it would be the worst week because a game was scheduled at the same time.”

Mr Seedhom said the council had looked for a space for them which was an encouraging sign of the level of community building they’d been doing.

“But then the people who were going to be baptised said they were happy to have it done in the Werribee river,” he said. “It’s not necessarily the nicest river, but we figured if the Jordan was okay, then the Werribee river would be alright.”

It helped that they were teenagers, he said.

“We had a sprinkler to use as a baptismal font, and I said, ‘Look, you don’t have to get into the river, we can do this on the side here. But they said ‘No, we want to get in the river.’ So, I said ‘Alright, let’s get in the river, then,’ and so it was quite the positive experience,” Mr Seedhom said.

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