Sunday, February 13, 2011

Collins St, Melbourne

In a post written back on the 6th of February (2011), Simon Carey Holt writes:

“…I came to Collins Street Baptist Church one year ago this month. In a community of such history, I am still new. I came from seventeen years of teaching practical theology in seminaries and universities. When I accepted the call to Collins Street, eyebrows were raised, my own included. Why would I leave the security and stimulation, not to mention the opportunity to influence, that teaching provides? And why, in the breathless age of ‘new missional communities’ and ‘emergent churches’, would one join an ecclesial relic in apparent decline?...

I have read the statistics, the predictions of demise for churches like this one: stories of sinking ships and chronic relevance deficit. I’ve listened to whispered warnings of a conservative community, liberal in theology, jealous of its history, hording its resources and resistant to change. Despite all of this, I packed my bags and moved in.

…What I have found could not be further from its reputation. Collins Street is anything but an ecclesial relic! Indeed, it’s a relatively small congregation—I often say it’s a small church with a big building, a big history, a big budget and a big impact—but far from being on its deathbed, this church is very much alive. What I have found is an extraordinary community of people, diverse in every possible way, alive to the Spirit and deeply committed to the future. A year in and I am very glad to be here…”

I was interested to read this, because I visited Collins St when I was in Melbourne about seven years ago, and was distinctly unimpressed: people sat separately, the sermon was thin, the decor was of that ilk that says 'church is a serious place' (Wellington Central Baptist struck us in the same way when we visited in January this year) and all in all we came away not having been overwhelmed by our visit. Holt's post needs to be read in full (it's not much longer than what I've quoted) and it's worth reading the follow-up post in which he talks further about his reading of Diana Butler Bass' book, Christianity for the Rest of Us, where he notes:

Bass’s vision of a church ‘with its eyes wide to the world’ is one I have long shared: a church deeply committed to this earth, its wellbeing and renewal; a church with a finely tuned radar for the sacred in the world around it; a church open and responsive to the needs for grace and redemption in its own neighbourhood. Reading Bass’s words made me wonder again what such a church really looks like. How does an ‘eyes-wide-open’ church differ from one with its eyes tightly shut? What characterises its life together? What shape does its mission take?

This will be an interesting journey, and one that's worth following up on regularly.

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