The Diocesan Mission is less than two years old. Already its effects are being seen in the parishes of the city.
Since the Synod of 2002, there have been over 150 new congregations commenced in the Diocese. These are not new parishes, though several parishes have been “restarted”. Often these are new congregations or a new service within a parish. Many of these congregations reach minority groups who find it hard to fit into our mainstream church-life.
This is a significant reversal of activity. During the last half of the twentieth century, we were closing branch churches and extra-services. Now we are opening up new buildings, new branches and new services.
Some Parishes have taken on a new lease of life, with ethnic ministries playing a key role in their development. The appointment of a Korean rector at St Andrews Strathfield, a multicultural ministry at St David’s Arncliffe, a Chinese rector at St Paul’s at Kogarah have all brought sudden increase to these struggling parishes.
Other parishes have appointed an assistant minister as their ethnic specialist and have seen significant growth. For example, St Peter’s Hornsby has this year appointed a Mandarin speaking minister who has already significantly expanded that church’s ministry.
Other parishes like St Matthews Ashbury, which was closed some years ago, have been re-opened. And whole new developments both in buildings and in church planting are happening in many places like the Kellyville/Rouse Hill development and on our own back-doorstop in Pyrmont.
It is quite clear now that if there is no evening service catering for youth in one generation there is no family congregation in the next generation. The closure of evening services in the churches of other dioceses during the middle of the twentieth century has led to a great decline in attendances in the morning churches by the end of the century. The Sydney Diocese has held onto its evening services with some considerable difficulty, but the investment in youthful congregations has paid off in terms of family attendances today.
So some parishes, like St Nicholas Clovelly, in response to the Diocesan mission have recommenced Sunday night ministry with a new evening service.
The growing number of Anglican schools has also brought many new congregations into existence as new church plants are meeting in these schools on the weekends. There are also new congregations meeting in the expanding facilities of the Anglican Retirement Villages.
Across Sydney there is an increased number of Christian meetings taking place. Some of these experiments will no doubt fail. Others will flourish and grow into great centres of Christian fellowship and outreach.
Within the Cathedral we have been wonderfully blessed by the establishment of the Asian Bible Ministry. Our first staff worker Lucy Lim is doing a great job in gathering in more people with an Asian background into the Sunday afternoon Bible studies. Her husband Andrew has been officially approved by the Archbishop to be licensed to the Cathedral to lead this ministry for us here next year.
Tonight is the official launch of The Bible Talks in the Cathedral. Over the last two weeks The Bible Talks (TBT) have been meeting in the Cathedral at 6:30 pm to try and settle into the new environment. Well over a hundred people have been with us on both these occasions. This Sunday is the first night of open invitation and it is hoped that over the coming weeks this congregation will be able to reach many new people with the great news of Jesus.
With the Asian Bible Ministry, the FIX congregation and now TBT our Sunday afternoons and nights in the Cathedral are set to become quite a centre for reaching the next generation of Sydneysiders for Christ. Please continue to pray for all these developments.