Faith flourishes at Sydney City Salvos Midweek Chapel
BY LAUREN MARTIN
It’s Wednesday afternoon in the heart of Sydney. At 4pm, a group of men and women – some experiencing homelessness, some struggling with addiction, one man still in his prison greens – head into Sydney City Salvos and gather in a small room on the fourth floor. Midweek Chapel gets underway without music or fanfare but with the Holy Spirit visibly moving amongst those present.
“I appreciate having the opportunity to speak and share my life,” says Matthew Payne, who has been connected with Sydney Streetlevel Mission for decades.
Matthew was one of many who lamented the loss of the Streetlevel Friday Night Chapel service, which stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic and didn’t restart due to the bringing together of all Sydney Salvation Army faith expressions under one banner – Sydney City Salvos.
“It wasn’t as though Friday nights weren’t working or not important – it was actually what our community held most dear,” said Sydney City Salvos Mission Team Leader Mitchell Evans.
“But, in the journey towards Sydney City Salvos, the Streetlevel leadership team had our own Abraham/Isaac moment. We felt God calling us to give up our ‘most dear’ as an offering of how much we want to see his ‘new’ (Sydney City Salvos) come to pass.
“We prayed and wrestled with this and ultimately followed this prompting. This was a significant moment in our journey towards Sydney City Salvos. It wasn’t without pain and is something that we mourn – but it’s what was required.”
So, the Streetlevel team joined with the Sydney City Salvos Hope Dinner, held at the Sydney Congress Hall location. But, over time, more and more community members approached Mitch to request the restarting of a faith expression that differed from a more traditional Sunday church worship service.
“They wanted a place where they could ask questions in the middle of the service so they could better understand Jesus and a place where it’s ok to not be ok,” he said.
A few weeks ago, without much fanfare, Midweek Chapel got underway at 4pm, an hour before Hope Dinner on a Wednesday night. The three ingredients to the gathering are prayer, open sharing and listening, and a short faith message.
Encouragement and prayer
“Last week, I shared that I had a sex addiction for 38 years, and I was celebrating the fact that I was free of that addiction for six months,” said Matthew. “It really busted open [the group] – a few people who were sharing after me said that they have addictions to gambling, and they’re finding it hard to give up.”
Encouragement and prayer often follow this type of vulnerable sharing within the group. On this particular night, Sydney City Chaplain Major Irene Pleffer was there to share words of knowledge and speak Jesus into their situations.
There is no set ‘run-sheet’ or timed segments during Midweek Chapel. The values of the gathering are those of the Kingdom of God – unconditional love, acceptance and the continual inviting of Jesus to minister and nurture those present. For Matthew, who lives alone and goes out just three other days during the week for coffee with an NDIS carer, Midweek Chapel is a lifeline.
“At most churches, people put on their ‘church face’,” he said. “You can be at a church talking to a guy and asking him how his life is, and he’d be saying everything’s ok, and the next week you find out he’s separated from his wife!
“What he was saying was that everything was fine when it was far from fine. But he was wearing his ‘church face’ wasn’t he?”
For Mitchell Evans, Midweek Chapel is a beautiful space where people can be welcomed “no matter what they’ve got going on.”
“It’s messy, but that’s fine with me!”