18 May 2023
Christ Church St Kilda may not have a permanent vicar, but the church isn’t letting that get in the way of planning for growth.
Churchwarden Geoffrey Court said the parish had been working to better understand and serve the local community for more than a year.
The parish has been meeting with the Reverend Canon John Sanderson to develop initiatives following the Leading Your Church Into Growth model from the United Kingdom.
Under the LYCIG model, the parish council came up with plans to enable parish infrastructure to support community outreach.
The parish has planned to hire a new mission worker and an administrative assistant to maintain parish records and web presence. There are also plans to keep the church open on weekdays and to run evening discussion groups with guest speakers and wine and cheese.
But in September last year, they faced a challenge when previous vicar the Reverend Dr Turi Hollis was called to serve overseas.
Since last October the Reverend Gail Bryce has served as locum at Christ Church. She said being a locum made some of the church growth initiatives more difficult, as she was only in two days a week – so spent most of her time keeping the parish running.
Mrs Bryce said despite this, she was very passionate about growing the church.
She said Mr Sanderson had encouraged the parish council not to wait for a new vicar before implementing their plans.
Mr Sanderson said Christ Church was one of the only parishes involved in LYCIG without an incumbent. He said the parish had worked hard to understand the St Kilda community they belonged to.
Mr Sanderson said Christ Church now had to figure out how to best connect with and serve that community.
Mrs Bryce said money had been put aside for some of the plans the parish had made such as hiring a part-time parish administrator and a mission worker.
She said parish growth required a lot of commitment, leadership and time.
The LYCIG model aims for steady growth over several years and encourages a prayerful church culture.
Mrs Bryce said she had seen several newcomers attend services over the past few months. She attributed this to prayer.
“Every week, I’m praying for new people to come to church on Sunday,” she said.
Not every visitor has returned, but some connections have been made.
Mrs Bryce said a visitor from Queensland happened to be the great-great-great-grandson of the architect of Christ Church while a couple from New Zealand said their great-grandparents had been married in the church.
She said growth was possible through enthusiasm, prayer, and God’s grace.