In 2018, Rev. Phil Newton finished up as Chaplain at the University of Wollongong to take on a highly experimental new role. Working in South West Sydney, he now helps Parramatta Nepean Presbytery find new spaces where the church can grow. God, he says, has gone on ahead of him.
“It has been a positive year, establishing some roots, meeting the community, building trust and relationships, and starting to experiment with community and grace,” Rev. Newton said.
Rev. Newton’s job title is Community Animator. The role sees him working to establish new worship communities in Sydney’s Southwest Growth Corridor.
“It has been a little surreal as in one sense we are in the suburbs (albeit brand new suburbs), but these aren’t like the typical Australian suburbs we grew up in,” Rev. Newton said.
“Mortgage pressure, time poverty, lack of natural spaces to connect with other families, all contribute to isolation and a longing for communities of care and support.”
The role involves church planting, but Rev. Newton told Insights that this term might be misleading.
“While ‘church plant’ has some use in describing what we are doing, it is not the whole picture,” he said.
“We are placed in the south-west on the ground to build genuine and authentic relationships and community. We are wrestling with what it means to be church in these disparate and diverse communities.”
“We are looking for where God is already at mission and finding ways to name that, support that and participate in that.”
To begin with, Rev. Newton has helped establish a small ‘house church’ consisting of, “a few households that meets weekly for communion, food, laughter, sharing, prayer and study.”
“It is truly intergenerational, with the kids participating in communion and the reflective elements as we all explore what it means to be the people of God in this place together.”
“We ask the church to pray for us and to pray for the community in the place. We believe God’s love extends to all and goes before us, and we hope in the power of that love to transform, heal, and make whole. We very much feel and appreciate the prayers, well-wishes and support that we receive from the wider church.”
Jonathan Foye, Insights editor