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Building trust and respect

DARLINGHURST: The Rev. Dr Matt Wilcoxen has been rector at St John’s Anglican Church for a year now. He and his wife have three young children. They are all very happy at St John’s.

Matt speaks of “embodied church”, being there for each other. His induction service was held online and the first six months in the parish were spent in lockdown. “We conducted online services and Zoom suppers,” he recalls. “I was impressed by people’s dedication to St John’s.”

Community groups continue to meet remotely – three weeks of the month online, then the fourth week in-person.

Matt was ordained on Capitol Hill, in Washington DC. A convert to Anglicanism (from a non-denominational church background), he was drawn to Anglicanism’s emphasis on personal faith, as well as historical Christian worship.

The family moved to Australia in 2012 and Matt completed his PhD with Dr Ben Myers at Charles Sturt University. He wrote his doctoral thesis on “divine humility”, with reference to St Augustine, Karl Barth and American theologian Katherine Sonderegger.

The St John’s church was designed by architects Goold and Hilling. The first service of worship was held on Easter Day, April 4, 1858. Architect Edmund Blackett designed additional southern and northern transepts, the tower and spire. The eastern window with “Bread of Life” design, has greeted worshippers every Sunday morning for over a century.

Once a leafy and fashionable residential neighbourhood, Darlinghurst and surrounds (Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay) are now highly populated and multi-stratified. “The church has a presence in the local community, it’s a ‘town-square’ church,” Matt says. “What’s most important is loving the people, building trust and respect.”

Services, structured on the Anglican prayer book, are held on Sundays at 10am and 5pm. “All people, all ages are welcome,” Matt says. “We keep it friendly but also lean into the weirdness of Christian worship!” Due to popular demand there is now a dinner every week after the evening service.

In 1996 the church established St John’s Community Services Ltd (SJCS), a not-for-profit organisation which oversees ministries with the homeless and marginalised community in Darlinghurst, including the Rough Edges drop-in centre and Banksia Women support service (for women who have experienced domestic and family violence). There’s also a legal service, education program and the Community Assistance Partnership Program (CAPP), helping people move from emergency to sustainability.

Rough Edges provides 80-100 meals a night, Sunday to Friday, and involves more than 100 volunteers a fortnight.

A recent partnership with HammondCare has seen the construction of 50 aged-care apartments.

“It’s demanding work, but simple, too – we gather, host and counsel,” Matt says.

Contact the Rev. Dr Matt Wilcoxen at St John’s: https://stjohnsanglican.org

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