If you haven't read the introduction to the series 'The chronicles of a single chick in a new city visiting every church in the CBD' please do so first here.
Week 3 of the adventure landed on Australia Day! I don’t get into Australia Day much, but on this occasion I had a BBQ and a swim to look forward to later in the day with a cool group of people, including a Canadian friend who I’d picked up from the airport the night before! So it was with a bit more of a bounce in my step that I began the day, getting up early to go for a walk, doing my new ‘tank top arm’ routine and getting some supplies for the aforementioned BBQ.
Now I haven’t mentioned this before, but my little adventure includes wearing the same emerald green dress to church each week. Why not! I doubt I’ll see someone twice in this big city of mine. And as I happen to have a pair of yellow, dangly earrings, I again thought ‘why not!’ it’s Australia Day after all! So off I set in my green and gold, packed keto goodies in a cooler bag and swimming gear in my new, oversized beach bag that was a Christmas present from my sister.
Although right in the middle of the city, this was the easiest church to get to yet! A short 8 min drive to a dedicated, free car park with a lift directly to the entrance. New met old as I walked into the lobby of the modern structure. The sanctuary itself is a mid 19th century building with the traditional pews and pipe organ – simple, yet elegant. Before I entered the church building for the 10.30am service I excused myself through the previous congregation who were enjoying morning tea on an outside terrace. My first thought – wow, these people dress up for church! I was struck by one particular lady wearing a very fashionable outfit, which included a stylish hat fit for any race day, and men dressed in suits! How they wore suits on a muggy summer’s morning I do not know!
At the entrance to the sanctuary a table was set up where I was greeted warmly by a smiling, possibly middle aged, lady. The table was for the purpose of writing a name tag for yourself, a way in which, I had it explained, people could easily greet and get to know one another. The name tag did its job as, before I even got to a pew, another person, this time a middle aged man (who I discovered was the pastor) shook my hand and greeted me by name! Now, where to sit? I started walking down the right hand side of the pews and before I got too far, I noticed a youngish lady sitting by herself in the second back row. That’s my spot! Like last week, the sanctuary was very warm, yet a young gentlemen wearing pants, shirt, tie and suit jacket, plus a couple of his friends, entered the pew in front of me! I was already beginning to drip sweat so either this young man is acclimatised or had lived in the Arabian Desert in the last year!
The hymn singing had already began, words projected onto a large screen, singer and keyboard player in front of the congregation. Although I didn’t know the hymns, the words conveyed truth and the sweet melodies were enthusiastically sung. The man who greeted me then took to the front to introduce the new student ministers at the church. They had an opportunity to say a few words of introduction and the young man then led the rest of the service. The obligatory announcements and offering were made and a prayer read out by another middle-aged lady (I was fitting right in here)! The prayer included an acknowledgement of Australia Day, the welcome the Nation offers to many from other Nations, and the pain caused to the First Nations people.
At one point we were given the opportunity to greet those around us. I turned around and met the people behind me, all of Asian descent with at least one female being from South Korea. She explained that she normally goes to the Korean service but, as she had to work later in the day, came to the 10.30 service instead. It was a nice, brief chat before the pastor brought us back to the next part of the service.
Like clockwork, the sermon began at 11.00am. The youth and young adults pastor brought the message from Matthew 4:12-23 after it had been read through by a youngish lady. This particular church tradition is known for it’s expository bible teaching and I wasn’t to be disappointed as the youngish man guided us through the passage from it’s historical-cultural perspective, giving great insights to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and His message of the Kingdom and the calling of the first disciples. I was really excited as he extrapolated from the text practical application for today. How come I was the only one saying ‘amen’, and ‘praise God’ to his thoughts and stories? Come on people, the Kingdom is exciting stuff and the fact that we get to live in it is even more exciting! I just had to assume that they were excited on the inside.
While we stood for the last hymn, I asked the lady next to me where the bathroom was located. I thought I could just slip out, go to the ladies then depart for my lunchtime BBQ. However, she ended up saying, ‘I’ll show you’! The name tags came in handy as we again introduced ourselves by looking at them. Once we were out of the sanctuary she explained she wasn’t very good at giving directions so it was easier just to show me. It was very kind of her! She said they had morning tea on the terrace and asked if I would like to stay but I kindly declined saying I had a BBQ to get to, but that I would come out and find her before I left.
The bathrooms were close to the lift to the car park and I could easily have slipped away but, true to my word, I went back out. The service was just finishing and people had begun to trickle onto the terrace. I was nearly back to the entrance of the sanctuary before my friend came out, along with the girl who had sat beside her, and I was able to thank her for her kindness and engage in some small talk.
The family of God is really quite wonderful, when we truly act as family! Thank you, name tag church, for being so welcoming. I may be seeing you again!
Oh, and for the record, Australia Day was great! I changed into my green shorts and gold t-shirt, had a sausage (without the bread and sauce) and my keto snacks, smacked a ‘G’day Mate’ tattoo on my arm, slapped on the sunscreen and swam in a delightful dam. We are blessed.