New year = new parish
The new year will see the dawn of a new era for the parishes of Ashfield and Five Dock/Haberfield, as the two amalgamate on January 1.
Rector of St John's Ashfield, the Rev Andrew Katay will be the rector of the new amalgamated parish, with Five Dock/Haberfield rector, the Rev Hugh Isaacs taking on the role of senior assistant minister.
Mr Katay says the suggestion was first made by Mr Isaacs, when the Ashfield parish approached Five Dock parish about planting a congregation at Haberfield.
"Hugh Isaacs raised the possibility that if Haberfield and Ashfield entered a partnership and included Five Dock as well, we might be able to do better together than apart," Mr Katay says.
Mr Isaacs sees great potential in this merger.
"Five Dock has a large amount of property but it was a great burden because we lacked the people to run it," Mr Isaacs says.
"Through amalgamating the management of various properties is all centred, can be run efficiently and will hopefully supply the resources to get new ministries started."
Mr Katay says a bold strategy has been formulated in light of the amalgamation: to plant one congregation each year for the next six years, so that 2013 will see each church in the parish with the full gamut of Sunday services.
"There are natural congregation slots on a Sunday: the early traditional service, the mid-morning family service, a special services at 5pm and an evening service," he says.
"Our goal is to fill up those slots at Haberfield, Five Dock and Ashfield."
This would mean new services at 10am, 5pm and 7pm at Haberfield, two evening services for Five Dock and one 5pm service for Ashfield.
Mr Katay also says the parish has the goal of growing by 25 people per congregation per year.
Spreading resources and people over these services and churches has a strong strategic reasoning behind it, according to Mr Katay.
"Lots of research shows that small-to-medium-sized congregations grow faster proportionally than larger congregations," he says.
"Between parishes, because of our sizable property income, we can staff and resource multiple congregations, and have lots of little saplings growing at the same time."
Mr Isaacs is looking forward to his new role as senior assistant minister.
"I'll still be responsible for the Five Dock church and I will help with some of the congregations at the other churches as well," he says.
"I'll also have one or two specialist ministries as well. That's one of the great things about working as part of a team. We can work across a whole lot of congregations and utilise our specialist skills."
Mr Katay says he feels both excited and daunted by the challenges that being a rector of a much larger parish will bring.
"It's a much more complex ministry to try and lead and bring into alignment and coherence," he says.
"But our experience of planting a couple of stable congregations encourages us to think we can do this, especially with a significant lay leadership " we have great wardens and a great parish council."
Bishop Rob Forsyth of South Sydney will speak at a service in Five Dock on December 30, which will mark the occasion of the merger.