Sunday, January 6, 2013

St David's Uniting Church West Brunswick

I picked this church for two reasons: One, I'd never been to a Uniting church before, and two, I could walk there.

I shouldn't have started with a Uniting church.

My stomach was churning when I woke this morning. I couldn't believe how anxious I was. I wasn't sure if I was more nervous about my blog, which I've been working on for six months being a total flop, or, if no one would sit with me. My social anxiety has been at an all time high lately, and walking into a new place, alone, is really putting it out there.

I could see about three doors leading into the building and no idea which one to enter. A lovely elderly lady found me looking lost. She asked if I was here for the service, which probably wasn't that odd a question for her to be asking. Why was I there?

"I'm Alison. Sorry, dear. I should have my name tag on."

I introduced myself and Alison took me through to the hall. I was wondering why her name wasn't Margaret, or Joan. Alison seemed too young a name. Alison introduced me to Annette, who gave me a hymn book. There were three other congregants in the hall, all elderly, all sitting alone.

I sat down the back and was very quickly greeted by Malcolm. He was going to take the service today because Reverend Andrew's wife had called two hours earlier saying he was far too ill and could Malcolm please fill in. Malcolm and I discussed the narrow roads in Brunswick, catching trains, and his retiring for the third time. I asked Malcolm what he would be speaking on today and he answered, 'The epiphany' like it was so obvious an answer he was almost embarrassed to say it. I may have spent ten years in church, but I had no idea what the epiphany was.

People kept arriving for the service, about fifteen in total, including children and Malcolm,  Annette & Alison who I had already met. I had an overwhelming sense of warmth. They looked so kindly to me and also to each other. They all sat alone, except for the young Maori family, but they all greeted each other with a smile and a nod.

While everyone is being friendly enough, I can't stop feeling they are incredibly confused as to who I am and why I am there. But no one is asking me. I'm also feeling incredibly guilty, like I'm there to spy on these lovely people. I don't want to spy on them. I want to be hugged by them.

Someone walked to the altar and lit a candle. Everyone stood silently through this, and then Malcolm took to the pulpit. He welcomed us all, and apologised the Reverend was sick and that with such short notice the message today may be a bit 'hotchpotched'. Everyone stood for a hymn and Alison played the organ. She accidentally played an extra verse of hymn 904, so everyone made up their own lyrics. Annette sang the first verse again, others chose to repeat the last verse. One lady up the back brought it home with "la la la's".

After some readings by Annette and a story for the children, Malcolm introduced his message. It was by Bruce Prewer and was called: "Epiphany: Are we arrogant?"

I was hooked.

Luckily, as the sermon was "borrowed" from Bruce I was able to find it online after I got home. So for the super keen, you can read it all here, but for the rest of you, I'm just going to offer my favourite point:

"Where there is arrogance, you can not find the humble messiah".

To keep this blog as short as possible, I'm not going to go over Malcolm's message - but it was lovely. It spoke of a humble and generous church, one who doesn't pretend it is any greater than any other religion, simply, one who is lucky. It hit all the right spots with me, even if it was taken from the internet.

Then the collection was taken up. There was no call to give, no offering message. A dish was passed around and a younger man collected a basket I must have overlooked on my way in, containing dry food goods. The money and the food was taken to the altar to be blessed. Alison then shared the church announcements, and spoke of the money they had been able to donate to a Christmas charity the week before. I was impressed by their generosity of spirit. Clearly they hadn't given much, but they had given kindly.

Then I remembered the sign I saw on each of the three doors entering the building:

"This church is no longer able to supply welfare"

The church were clearly generous, and conversations with Alison after the service would confirm this, but I wondered, did the generosity have to be on their terms? Don't come to us, we'll come to you? Either way, the deeds, and the heart were surely in the right place. But I couldn't settle it in my heart.

The service finished and they closed in prayer. They prayed for the fires, the fire victims and the workers, they prayed for God to strengthen the welfare of the churches. They prayed for unwell congregants and they prayed "without any prying or sense of self importance, let us be ready to help in time of need" which was about the loveliest thing I have ever heard in my life.

I remained seated after the service had finished to see what would happen now. I had so many questions I wanted to ask them, so much about the church I still had to learn. They hadn't crossed any of my boxes, but they hadn't ticked them all yet either. I waited about five minutes until Malcolm popped back over to see me.

I told him I really enjoyed the message - it was really spot on with some things I'd been thinking. I told him I'd been out of church for five years, and was just taking some time to suss it all out. I said that in reading my bible last week I'd been a bit shocked. My memories of Jesus were of his humility and grace, but when he went to the Pharisee's house he was rude, obnoxious and offensive. I wondered how it all fit.

Malcolm told me that old testament God was about judgment and condemnation, but new testament God, through Jesus, was merciful and humble.

Malcolm - this in no way answered my question.

I politely tried to answer my own question by smiling and suggesting that maybe the son of God is allowed to be arrogant, but it's best if Christians aren't. We were interrupted by another congregant wanting a word with Malcolm and he was very quick to leave our conversation.

Alison then offered me a cup of tea and I sat with her a while and tried to ask a few questions about the church, but every time she would answer my question and quickly change the topic back to me. 'When do you have communion?' 'Next week. Are you new to West Brunswick?' It was lovely and well mannered, but I really didn't get enough information off her. She then handed me my bag and thanked me for coming.

I guess church was over.

I really liked the people I met at St David's, even if I did get the impression they were intimidated by having a single, twenty something girl walk in off the street. I'm not ready to close the chapter on this church, so I'll definitely go back, and hopefully get the chance to meet the Reverend they all speak so fondly of.


  1. This is good Lucy - I look forward to next week :-)

  2. Did you ever work out the pharisee's home thing?

  3. Would love to see you again at St Davids Church. There are new council members and alot has happened within the church in the last 3 years