Relationship required to share Christianity
What do you get when you combine a Church with a specialised school for troubled teens? Margaret Jurd College — an unique high school in the suburbs of Newcastle, nestled on the grounds of Shortland Uniting Church. In the last of a three-part series about Margaret Jurd, we introduce you to the special purpose and fascinating history of a vital social service and a local Christian group.
- Click here to read Part 1: The School of Compassion and Care
- Click here to read Part 2: Mutual respect is the lesson
This relationship building between the Shortland Congregation and Margaret Jurd hasn’t resulted in any of the students or their families attending church on a Sunday. Although Margaret Hingley says Shortland considers the students part of their Congregation — “we feel that’s an outreach happening right on our doorstep” — neither side of the College partnership aims to evangelise. “You wouldn’t call us a Christian school, but we are a school that exists because of Christianity,” explains Melise. “Several staff members are Christian and open about their faith, but religious education or Scripture classes are not on the curriculum.
“If I put a whole heap of crosses around this school, the kids would not cope,” says Melise about making Christianity a more prominent feature of College life. “If I started playing Christian music through the PA, they wouldn’t cope. You’ve got to recognise who your target group is. But they coped very well on the last day of term when I had one of my staff — who is a strong Christian — shared with the kids, for a good 40 minutes, about the message of Easter. They sat glued to him. I was so amazed. It was very deep and hard-hitting stuff about the crucifixion and why Jesus did what he did. It was beautifully done. If it had been someone else,
they would have said ‘No.’ But it was that relationship they already had. So that is what needs to be established, so that Christian heart doesn’t get lost,” reflects Melise.
What’s been clearly established between Shortland Congregation and Margaret Jurd College is a prominent union between Christians and community service. While usage of property remains an enormous debate within our Church, this unique example in Newcastle remains just that. Unique. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Margaret Hingley and Rev. Ray agree that the partnership between Margaret Jurd College and Shortland was an opportunity not all Congregations everywhere are presented with. But they strongly encourage other Congregations to consider using their buildings or grounds to assist some social action or community service.
“We were fortunate in that they came to us,” admits Margaret. “We could have said ‘No’ and there were a couple who probably didn’t approve. But the majority did and could see the benefit. We felt that this was Christianity working in us and being able to do something that we wouldn’t have done had we not been approached. It made us sit up and think about what are we here for. We are to help one another and this was a way of extending what we preach and what we profess to be.”