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Vicar's Musings for Easter 3

14 April, 2013

There are some inspiring things happening in the parish at the moment. This week we see the launch of the St Peter's Playgroup, which already has sixteen enrolments. Cindy Cheng and the committee have been working and praying hard to make this happen, and God is certainly blessing their efforts. This year for the first time we have connected with the Comedy Festival through "Pirate Church", which gained a growing following over the ten days of performances. It is probably not every one's cup of tea, but importantly through the show we have connected with many people who would not usually darken a church door. Our Communications Committee, chaired by Rachel Ellyard, is looking at other ways we can reach out to the thousands of apartment dwellers who live within walking distance of the church.

What is the common thread to all these and other new activities taking place at St Peter's Eastern Hill? In a nut-shell: Catholic Evangelism. The Bishop of Wangaratta, John Parkes, recently sent me a paper of his on the topic; he writes:

Has institutional religion, has our particular brand of Anglo-Catholicism, liberal Catholicism, lost its spark? Are we dying embers? Is there still something warm and beating at the heart of who we are? Is there a new hope, is there another beginning? Is there new fire?

I believe that the Spirit of God is at work among us, gently blowing on the embers, bringing new life and energy to our community of faith. Another example of new life and Catholic evangelism is our wedding ministry and the relationship with the wedding catering company Hot Dish. I've heard a few people criticise this move of the parish, accusing us of being "money grabbing" and moving away from our core services. My reply is that Holy Matrimony is one of the seven sacraments of the Church — you can't get much more "core" than that — and I might then add that Jesus' first Johannine miracle took place at the Wedding in Cana. I am soon to take the first wedding that has come directly from a Hot Dish referral, and there are several more in the pipeline. Bishop John in his paper comments on this area of Catholic Evangelism too:

I am often called in for weddings ... I work the crowd, I press flesh, joke, cajole, high five the kids, kiss old ladies, talk football, fishing and my farm. I am shameless ... pushing a Christian vision for people who've never seen the inside of a living church, so people can see that Christ and his strangely dressed friends do care for what they care for, does meet them where they are, are possible comrades on the way. I think this is primary evangelism; in pressing flesh, fleshing out a picture of how the Christ the word of God speaks the language of Northeast Victoria. It is an unapologetic apologetics, a hermeneutic to move Jesus into the marketplace, to make a fresh impression on people who have written off the church.

As I look at the towering apartment blocks that seem to multiply almost daily, housing the 60,000 people who now live in walking distance of our church, there is a scripture verse that keeps coming to mind: "the harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest" (Matt. 9:37-8). Thank you to all those who are responding to this call ... but there's room for many more!

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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