In inner-city Sydney, just a few streets from the mansions and luxury yachts on the harbour, meets a rag-tag bunch of Jesus followers known as Woolloomooloo Baptist Church. And this November Woolloomooloo Baptist will celebrate 40 years of ministry.
For a 40-year-old church, Woolloomooloo Baptist works a little different to your typical Sunday church. The church meets behind the HopeStreet Op Shop, in what was once a horse stable but is now known as the ‘Back Shed’. But church isn’t confined to just the building, and many of the people sit outside under a gazebo in the cul-de-sac.
Working in a blended role as Pastor and Community Chaplain with HopeStreet, Ken Hall, with his wife Marilyn, have pastored this flock for over twelve years.
The church sits in “an area of contrast”, explains Ken. The richest of the rich are at one end near the harbour, and behind them streets upon streets of social housing. Just 40 metres across from where the church meets is the Eastern Suburbs railway line overpass, under which around 25 homeless people are sleeping rough. The church finds that people wander in and out of the gatherings, hovering around in the street or coming inside. Many come from a range of backgrounds and life experiences such as mental health and addiction struggles, domestic violence and elder abuse. Some of these vulnerable people may be housed in the local community, some are transient and drop in, just curious about what’s going on.
With such a rich history, Woolloomooloo proudly carries on many Baptist traditions. A few months ago, on Easter Sunday, they baptised a young lady in Woolloomooloo Bay, in the same spot in which the first baptism of the Australian Baptist Movement was performed by Rev. John Saunders in 1934.
The success of Woolloomooloo Baptist is in part due to the partnership and support from across Baptist Churches NSW & ACT. The Woolloomooloo Baptist church plant grew out of a realisation by Baptist Churches NSW & ACT that there was no relevant church in the area, and inner-city churches were dwindling.
And the partnerships continue. For over 30 years, various Baptist churches take turns to run a community breakfast feeding around 70 people each Sunday morning. “We really value the relationship that’s there with all those other churches,” reflects Ken, “especially with the breakfast stuff”.
A number of individuals and churches have been able to support Ken in his role by contributing tax deductible gifts, facilitated by the Baptist Association of NSW and ACT. These gifts help to ensure that Ken can continue to serve the people of Woolloomooloo in a full-time capacity. If anyone would like to make a one-off, or regular, donation, please contact Ken and he can let you know how to direct your gift.
Reflecting on his hopes for the church for the next 40 years, Ken prays that the Church will “continue to be a place of life and of hope and that people would come to know of the grace, compassion and love of Jesus through the ministry”. Ken envisions a future where the church continues to embrace people in the love of Jesus and keeps the doors of the building open for people to wander in from all walks of life and open their broken hearts to seek the heart of God.
“What I love about our church is how our architecture reflects the heart of God in how easily people can come in”, reflects Ken, “and we as a Church want others to journey with us as we seek to live out our Mission Statement, which is ‘To walk with God in Woolloomooloo’”.