Making Your Presence Felt In The Strangest Places

Sometimes you find the strangest things in the strangest places. Sometimes people find the most innovative ways to make others mindful of them in the strangest places. Sometimes that includes churches. A friend of mine journeyed to Goondiwindi for the weekend. He’s not a believer, but if the pub was a church he’d be regarded as a valued member…

He sent me a photo from one of the pubs in the town that caught my fancy.

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This ticks all the boxes for how in a pre-evangelistic way the church can make its presence felt in a place where it’s not expected to be.

The sponsored glass honours those who decide not to drink, thereby keeping many people safe. It uses humour “What? I asked for a glass of water, it’s a miracle.”

To me it’s the sign of a church with an outward focus, a church that is prepared to connect through humour, a church that wants to make itself a talking point, and a church that wants to make its presence felt in the most unexpected of places. I’m not claiming it will lead to on the spot conversions (although you never know, alcohol leads people into unusual states of honesty about their life predicaments).

Although I’ve used the words ‘strangest places’ the pub for many Australians, not least the good citizens of Goondiwindi, is not a strange place in the least. It’s perfectly normal to be there. However, in the dualistic worldview of many church going people it is not a place they feel comfortable frequenting.

The website copy of St Mary’s tells us something of the pulse of the church:

Our parish forbearers were a pioneer people managing hard work and isolation with courage and generosity. They cleared rough bush and endured harsh climatic conditions with little or no water. Churches were built with volunteer labour and funds raised locally – Stories are still told of people carting timber etc. The Catholic education of their children was top priority. Role models were clergy, religious, family.

Goondiwindi today is a vibrant caring friendly and sports loving community of rich farming lands and rural business, this plus the meeting of five major highways – like spokes flowing into the hub of a wheel – makes us a prosperous community with many and varied social/community events such as Anzac Day, Spring Festival and Picnic Races to name a few. However we are yet to address the issue of our indigenous sisters and brothers.

Our church culture reflects these traits. There is a strong Ecumenical spirit with events such as Festivals and Church services. We have a small Filipino group that bring their Culture and colour to our lives. We strive to witness to gospel values where all are encouraged to work with the wider community whilst endeavouring to make sense of the secular and sacred in our every day life.

Full marks to St Mary’s. A challenge for you: using the hallmarks of humour, surprise and innovation how could you emulate this in your own context?