12th Assembly 2009

Members find meaning in local worship

“It is good to be in the house of the Lord!”

So said Patricia Corowa, from Redfern, as she stepped up to read the gospel in South Sydney Uniting Church on July 19. Members of the 12th Assembly found it good to be in many houses of the Lord as they visited Sydney Uniting Church congregations for Sunday worship.

Assembly members and visitors attended services at Maroubra Junction, Wesley Mission (City), Lugar Brae (Waverly), Mascot Wesley, South Sydney, Mustard Seed Faith Community (Pyrmont), Pitt Street Uniting Church (City), St Stephen’s Uniting Church (City), Newtown Mission and the Wayside Chapel (Kings Cross).

At South Sydney, Assembly members hailed from the far reaches of the nation and included ex-President Gregor Henderson. They were invited by minister Andrew Collis to consider when and where they experienced genuine rest.

Mr Collis asked, “If we work and work and work, when do we rest? … What is the nature of this work? If it springs from grace and peace how much more fruitful it will be!”

The minimal thing is to try to make space, he said. Rest made way for compassion and teaching.

Assembly members and visitors joined congregation members in naming their occasions for rest: when praising God, running, journaling, smoking, reading or riding a ferry.

Images representing the congregation’s ministry — its community garden, luncheon club for people living with HIV and AIDS, choir and music group, art exhibitions — were placed on the altar table.

Playwright Alana Valentine even got in a plug for her new play Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah (at the Seymour Centre, August 5-29).

The 15 members of the Assembly who visited the Wayside Chapel were both confronted and delighted to be a part of the Wayside community for the morning.

One of the chapel’s many community activities, a free Sunday breakfast for local homeless people, was in full swing when the group arrived.

Minister Graham Long welcomed a small group of people from all walks of life, from prostitutes to a former Attorney General.

He led a heartfelt and low-key conversation, accompanied by a regular church member who he jokingly referred to as, “Our lady of interruption”.

The group enjoyed morning tea in the Wayside Café with some of the locals and went on a tour of the almost derelict Wayside building.

President-elect Andrew Dutney joined the congregation at Pitt Street Uniting Church.

The majestic old church, decorated with hanging patchwork art, hosted a special service that took up the Living Water Thirsty Land theme of the 12th Assembly.

With the grand organ looming above and arrangements of peach-coloured tulips behind him, Pitt Street minister Ian Pearson led the congregation in hymns and prayer before introducing Bishop Kumar Samantaroy from the Church of North India.

Bishop Samantaroy greeted the congregation with “Namaste” — “I honour the God in you” — and read from the gospel of John 15: 1-11.

Merril Clayton from Tasmania said she found the service “lovely, warm and welcoming”.

“I like the thought of being among people who have a liberal theology and I’m a Congregationalist from way back, from before uniting, so coming to Pitt Street was interesting to me because of its roots.”

Bronte Wilson from Mount Gambia in South Australia found worshipping in the big smoke a treat.

“Coming from a small country town it was good to experience what it’s like to worship in a large city church,” he said. “I’m very impressed with the architecture of the building as well as the worship itself, which was certainly meaningful.”