came to St
Church in the early 1990s. An important reason for going
was that I had been living around Redfern for a number
of years and, while interacting with Aboriginal beggars
on the comer of Lawson
I hadn't really talked with any Aborigines or developed
made me feel uncomfortable that there should be such
a gap between my opposition to racism and this inability
to find a bridge to communicate on a personal basis.
I heard that the church was a place where I could meet
Aborigines and talk.
felt very uncomfortable going to the church. I hadn't
been to a church for about thirty years and I was not
expecting a good experience.
first thing I noticed was the beggars at the gate. I
felt confronted by their presence; not offended, just
made embarrassingly aware that possessing an analysis
of racism meant nothing when individual relationship
was what was required.
the church I observed the ceremony and noted how simple
and genuine it seemed. Then Ted Kennedy began his sermon.
The ABC documentary Cop
It Sweet had just been shown on TV
and he began to speak about it. I was expecting some
kind of mealy-mouthed, priestly whitewash of the cops.
he let loose on them, denounced their racism, and listed,
in detail, racist crimes that he knew of that the Redfern
police had committed. I was amazed. I remember thinking
to myself, “This is a place that I can come to”.
experience of attending that church was like a multi-faceted
diamond. There were the friendships that I developed
with many different Aboriginal people. Many of them
were street living heroin addicts and alcoholics. My
life has been deeply enriched by those friendships.
I could not count the number of times that I had profoundly
moving, deeply spiritual conversations with these people.
I have learnt more about the Spirit of God from those
people than I have ever learnt from any priest.
have been many moments at St
when the Spirit was so thick in the church that the
air was charged. One time was when Tommy and Dicko,
the leaders of the Black Theatre Mob of street drinkers,
took over the running of
Mass one Christmas. They were completely drunk but they
brought forth the Spirit in a way that to this day brings
tears to my eyes.
the church we attend currently there is a strictly organized,
hierarchical order in which communion is served out.
At St Vincent's Ted would bless the elements and put
them on the altar. Whoever felt called would walk up
and distribute the bread and wine. Some weeks it was
children, sometimes an elderly white matron would be
standing next to an Aboriginal alcoholic or junkie.
Whatever happened was an expression of the Spirit.
the end of Mass Ted would sit down and parishioners
would get up to speak. Sometimes it was formal announcements
but often it was people just talking about ideas they
had or reflections on current events. All were heard
and my wedding was a product of the St
experience. We printed invitations for about fifty people
with a message on the bottom for them to bring anyone
we had forgotten. They also said to bring a plate for
a shared meal after the ceremony. About 300 people turned
up and crowded the church. People spontaneously took
charge of organising the food and greeting at the door
and all the rest. We conducted the ceremony ourselves.
It was a wonderful event.
is still special to me and it always will be. The beggars
at the gate who know that they own the church taught
me more than I can convey. It's a simple church that
is more interested in the reality of the Sprit than
the formalities of the Church.