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Church, Richmond, Melbourne, Australia
Church, Richmond, Melbourne, Australia.
Assemblies of God in Australia, also known as Australian
A large low-rise building looking quite unlike a traditional
church closer to business premises or an upmarket warehouse.
Off the foyer is a bookshop, a café and a guest lounge. The
auditorium is large, with state-of-the-art sound and lighting
They have three locations in Melbourne and are about to launch
one in Bangkok, Thailand. The campus I visited is called "City"
although it is located several kilometers away from Melbourne's
central business district. This location ministers to the Richmond
housing estate (see below). As a community they seem to consist
very largely of bright young people, some teenagers but mostly
in their 20s, of many different ethnic backgrounds, well-dressed
and "cool." They do, however, have ministries aimed
at young as well as "mature aged" adults. Please see
their website for a listing of their many ministries
far too many to mention here!
Richmond is an old industrial inner suburb of Melbourne, although
the factories have nearly all closed and the poorer residents
have either died or moved away, and the monied class has moved
in to renovate or replace the housing stock. It would have been
social death to live there in earlier days, but now the real
estate prices are high and the shops are fashionable. The Richmond
housing estate still exists, though, striving to create a livable,
well-connected community for a diverse and sustainable mix of
residents in an area where affordable accommodations are scarce.
In addition to St Ignatius Church, with its soaring spire, another
nearby "religious institution" is the Melbourne Cricket
Ground, the "religion" being AFL football more than
David Doery, senior pastor, and Sam Lim, identified on their
website as "audacious pastor" (they call the age 27-35
group the "Audacious Group" young professionals,
postgraduate students, singles and couples). Others also spoke,
including one of the singers and a woman who I'm pretty sure
was Sally Doery, wife of senior pastor David and described as
"soul sister pastor" i.e., pastor for women.
The date & time:
Sunday, 27 April 2014, 11.30am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Nearly full 1000 or so people. The pastor said that 1200
had attended the recent Good Friday service.
Did anyone welcome you
Two young women greeted me on the footpath as I came in, and
two more in the large foyer, and I spoke to them for a few minutes.
Then a man also came up to me. All this was, of course, better
than no welcome, but I felt it was overdone. Some people would
be scared off.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. Comfortable padded pew.
How would you describe the pre-service
The doors to the auditorium were opened only a couple of minutes
before the service began, but the atmosphere in the foyer was
bright and chatty. Inside it was a bit like waiting for a rock
concert to begin, with young musicians milling about the stage
twanging guitars. All very lively, though hardly conducive to
What were the exact opening words of the
"Hi. Great to see you all today."
What books did the congregation use during the
No books. The words of hymns were projected onto three big screens,
along with the names of the main speakers, church news, etc.
What musical instruments were played?
Keyboard, three guitars, and drums.
Did anything distract you?
I found the very dominant musical element of the service to be distracting, since it was not my kind of music, but the large congregation obviously loved it. No other distractions.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Not happy clappy but mildly charismatic, with many arms held
high at times. It was also slick and seamless, with theatrical
lighting and sound amplification. The music was nonstop except
for part of the sermon. During the rest of the sermon, a guitar
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 I first heard this dramatic style of preaching from
Billy Graham during his first Crusade in Australia in 1959,
and I must say David Doery does it well, without as much American
hype as Graham. He had good personal stories and several key
biblical verses, and I would say he engaged his audience well.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Without the resurrection of Christ, the Christian faith is dead.
By letting Jesus into our lives more and more, we allow "resurrection
life" to lift us from all our problems.
Which part of the service was like being in
There were four singers and five instrumentalists on stage, all sounding professional or close to it, to my ears, with the big crowd joining in the many hymns. This was the core of the service in a way, though not to my taste.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
Apart from the sermon, some of the other short talks (about
six in all) were quite simplistic and bland. Things like: "Jesus
is with us here today! Can you feel his presence? Louder
I can't hear you. Can you feel his presence? Yes? God wants
you to be here today." And so on, all over music, and just
meant to be atmospheric talk of no particular significance,
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
One man, then another, virtually pounced on me to invite me
to the guest lounge for something to eat and drink, but after
90 minutes in church I had had enough and did not want to accept
the ardent invitations to stay behind. Probably there would
have been some pressure to join one of the many groups or courses.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
I believe there would have been a nice lunch served in the guest
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
1 I'm too old to get into this pop-style worship. I like
contemporary hymns as in Together in Song (the Australian
hymn book), but not these songs. I am used to and like a more
reflective kind of worship. This service had not a pause anywhere,
and music over everything. I found it anti-meditative. I also
disliked the complete lack of windows in the church there
was no connection with the outside world. Moreover, there was
no altar, no cross, or indeed anything to look at that was traditionally
Did the service make you
feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, since there were 1000 or so young people declaring their
love for God and Jesus. If this is the shape of future Christianity
or one aspect of it, I welcome it, though I see its limitations.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The preacher with his "resurrection life" theme.
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