Marsden Park is the newest parish in the Diocese of Sydney. So when its senior minister, the Rev Mark Collins, got a series of messages from the oldest parish in Sydney, he wondered what they might mean.
“I got some strange messages from Justin Moffatt [rector of Church Hill Anglican], who I have known for a while, asking me questions about our church,” he recalls. “He asked how long we had been going for and where our building was.”
Mr Collins replied that Marsden Park didn’t yet have its own building and this was hampering the church’s ministry. “Then, dead silence for a bit and he came back and said, ‘Yeah, I think you guys should have a building. Five years is too long to wait. How about we help?’”
That brief exchange was the first indication of a financial gift that will help to transform ministry in Sydney’s northwest. The Bishop of South Sydney, Michael Stead, explains:
“The parish of Church Hill and the Synod are both income beneficiaries from the lease of an office tower at Number 1 York Street in the city,” he says. “An additional distribution was received this year and the parish has requested that the first tranche of money should go, not to the parish, but to greenfields development and to another ministry area yet to be announced.”
So, $1.5 million will go to Marsden Park to kickstart its building development, which has stalled for more than a year.
Says Bishop Stead: “I’m delighted at the generosity of the [Church Hill] parish in looking outwards to the needs of other parts of Sydney”.
Mr Collins says the news was announced to cheers from his congregation. “We see a building as something that shows we’re not just a fly-by-night church, so to speak. We are actually established in the community. It also allows us to expand our outreach.”
“It’s on its way”
The Marsden Park parish currently runs a playtime ministry with 40 children each week and has plans for youth ministry, but local community facilities are few and regular access is tricky. The gift from Church Hill means work towards their own ministry space will happen a lot faster than it otherwise would have.
“That builds excitement in our church,” Mr Collins says. “People know that it will allow opportunities for further ministry to happen, which we can’t do at the moment because there are really no venues in the Marsden Park area.”
He adds that another key factor is the highly multicultural nature of Marsden Park. “There is a South Asian population and they are a religious population. But for them, religion is done in [your own] building – it’s not done in a community centre.
“For a white, Anglo-Saxon population, we would survive in a school hall for 10 years, but I believe it’s a turn-off for that multicultural population. You’re not fair dinkum until you’re in a building.”
Mr Collins will now be able to answer questions about the building by saying, “It’s on its way”, adding: “This is just a wonderful gift of God and a wonderful generosity from the wardens, the parish councillors, and the whole parish at Church Hill, and also help from the Diocese as well.
“We’re very thankful to Standing Committee for what they have done, and we are thankful also for the Anglican Growth Corporation that, like us, wants the building in Marsden Park to happen sooner rather than later.”
As for Church Hill, Mr Moffatt says members are thrilled. “We heard the Archbishop at Synod talk about the greenfields, so to be able to find movement forward on that need so quickly is a delight to the parish. There’s been some good, hard work by the wardens and parish council. We are all thankful to God.”
Mr Moffatt says the assistance for Marsden Park is just one part of the parish gift, with a further grant for significant ministry elsewhere expected to be announced soon.
“We get that there’s an ‘accident of history’ here,” he says. “It’s property the parish used to own to do ministry and house its rector, which was lost to us 55 years ago. Now, to be able to use the income from that resource to assist new churches is an answered prayer.”