Pull up a pew in the pub: indebted Anglicans counting their blessings

KEEPING THE FAITH: A senior Anglican leader says the sell-off could present new worshipping opportunities.
KEEPING THE FAITH: A senior Anglican leader says the sell-off could present new worshipping opportunities.

THE prospect of a Bathurst Anglican Diocese property sell-off is not all bad news says one senior Anglican leader because people do not need churches and halls, all they need is a welcoming home or a sturdy pub. 

In a meeting on Saturday, 250 parishioners turned out to hear a plea from Bishop Ian Palmer for help to raise over $1 million to defend the church in court, against an order from the Commonwealth Bank.

Bank management has ordered the church hierarchy to sell off its assets immediately, to repay about $25 million it owes. 

Bishop Palmer said previously, the church would survive the battle but it would undergo changes. 

The Bush Church Aid Society national director Reverend Mark Short has a suggestion as to how that change could happen.

He said a sell-off could present new worshipping opportunities to the church because instead of formal church gatherings, overseen by ordained ministers, lay people could take on a bigger role. 

“There really isn’t a lot that ordained ministers can do that lay people can not do ... they can run prayer groups and Bible studies from their homes,” he said.

As long as the community has trained lay people, and a place to go, the community does not need a formal church or hall, he said. 

The Bush Church Aid Society is an Anglican organisation which sends trained support people to areas in regional and remote Australia where access to church resources is limited. 

Lay people could not give Holy Communion and they could not marry people but they could perform most aspects of prayer and a church community was not about the buildings, rather it was about the people, Reverend Short said.

“I don’t want to downplay the grief that people would have if they were to lose a building, buildings have history and are cared for,” he said. 

“There would be an initial period of grief but if people were encouraged to work through that period and explore opportunities they would have a renewed sense of optimism.”