The members of St Michael’s Cathedral, Wollongong and Corrimal Anglican Church have become one parish, celebrating their new connection with a “unity” service last month.

Close to 450 people packed the Hope Theatre at the University of Wollongong to praise God, hear how he has been working in the lives of both churches and give thanks for this new chapter together. “The overall vibe was of tremendous encouragement and excitement to have people from across our now six congregations and two sites got together,” says rector the Rev Mark Smith.

“There were people of every age and stage and all sorts of backgrounds, with just this delight of coming together under Jesus.

“We heard from some longstanding members of both parishes who were able to talk about how God has worked, even through really hard times, to refine his people, and there was just this sense of gratitude for all God has done in the past – with the understanding that things aren’t always easy, but God is always good.”

There have been ongoing links between the churches at Corrimal and Wollongong for some years, particularly in youth ministry and during COVID, when the cathedral helped Corrimal out with service livestreams.

However, by mid-way through last year discussions had begun to formalise this ministry connection, recognising that they are “better together for the kingdom”. On January 1, the two parishes officially merged, creating the parish of St Michael’s Anglican Cathedral Wollongong + Corrimal.

Says Mr Smith: “Corrimal was in a place where they could have continued on their own, but they were also wondering about perhaps working with [a church] that’s larger... sharing things like administration and opening up new possibilities, and that’s been the real principle behind it.

“By creating this formal link, it means we’re really committed. Like a marriage, we’re all-in, making sure that gospel witness thrives and grows in Corrimal as well as Wollongong. There are just some things you can do together that work better for the gospel, so as a community we can shine a light better together in our city.”

Corrimal is known as a welcoming church and runs a successful mobile pantry to help care for the community, but parishioners have lacked some of the resources and numbers to help all its ministries thrive. 

To support them in this, about 20 cathedral members have committed to joining the saints at Corrimal. Among them is St Michael’s senior assistant minister, the Rev Liam Shannon, who has been a guest preacher at Corrimal in the past and will now pastor the congregation.

He says the immediate plan is for this larger group to spend a little time growing together under God. “We want to get to know each other in this first term, and then start to make clear plans together of how we engage the Corrimal community, and what that might mean for different types of ministries and evangelism.”

In some respects, that has already begun. Mr Smith says that during January new people arrived at Corrimal who weren’t part of the move. “God is already bringing some people in and, in his kindness, we trust that he will bring more and more to be part of the wonderful welcoming spirit in that congregation,” he says.

“I’m so excited to see what God will do.”