28 July 2022
Parishioners at a Newtown church may consider closer links with their historical tennis club to strengthen community connections.
All Saints’ vicar the Reverend Stephen Pollard said the church was looking for ways to increase their interaction with the public in the wake of the pandemic lockdowns.
Mr Pollard said their tennis club had a very strong membership from the broader community, and of late had been performing very well at a competitive level.
But he said he was one of only three people from the church who was also a member of the club, and that the parish had been struggling to connect with it.
The All Saints’ Newtown Tennis Club has been running for 115 years and is located behind the parish hall.
Vice president and parishioner Mr Nigel Wilson said the club, which has around 80 members, was one of only two local tennis clubs that catered for juniors.
Since 2007 it has won several premierships, with play only affected by the COVID pandemic.
Mr Wilson, who is also its historian, said the club had started up as a social activity and was a foundation member of the Geelong and District Protestant Churches Tennis Association.
He said its members were largely school students who played competitively and had lessons with experienced coaches, but there were also 10 members from the local Vietnam veterans’ association, as well as family groups.
In previous years, the tennis club had also given monthly lessons to the church’s playgroup to introduce the young children to the game, Mr Wilson said.
The club ran in all seasons and had recently resurfaced its tennis courts through grants from the City of Greater Geelong and member donations.
However, it still had a strong bond with the church and wanted to continue providing recreation and fellowship to it, Mr Wilson said.
But Mr Pollard said many of the parishioners were ageing and had expressed difficulty relating to the All Saints’ tennis community.
He said he was a paid-up member of the tennis club and had become president of its committee when he started at the church last year, but that he also found it difficult at times to feel involved with it at a player level.
Mr Pollard believed that he was older than most of the other players and that there weren’t any categories for people in his age group.
He also said that when he did have a social hit on the tennis courts, he would be playing with people who had no real connection with the church, because most of the club’s committee and members were not church-goers.
Nonetheless, Mr Pollard felt the only way to strengthen the link with the club was for the church to have a presence there.
He said it was important to look at ministry that had value outside of Sunday morning worship.
“That is why I really go to the meetings and turn up to functions. Having a presence is the only way to develop the connections,” Mr Pollard said.
He said the church would be holding a Growing Healthy Churches session to discern ways they could engage better with the local community and that he was certain the tennis club would be among the discussions.