A faith community is always shaped by the people who have belonged and do belong together. So Central has been many things over the years. And a story is always told from one person's perspective, and is therefore only one version of events, but this is a very brief telling of our journey from my perspective...I'm Caro, the current Pastor of Central Church, and I joined Central as a first-year uni student just as it was beginning...
We were planted in 1997 out of a charismatic church in the Northern suburbs of Wollongong, and we have been on a long evolving journey since then. We have been a large charismatic church (way back in the day), then we explored more missional styles of church and experimented with different ways of gathering (a large part of that part of our journey was deconstructing the program-driven, machine-like kind of church we were). This was a really hard part of our journey as we successfully shrunk our church almost to oblivion. But a handful of us held on to one another and what we sensed (hoped?) God was doing among us.
The next phase of our journey was around our faith shifting. I am actually so thankful that we deconstructed church before we deconstructed faith...it gave us a really safe community in which to wrestle, question, doubt and reimagine.
Where we are today is really just where we are, I expect we will keep evolving as we keep trying to walk Creator's good road...sometimes stumbling, or sitting down for a rest, and sometimes finding fresh energy and hope for what's next.
Here are a few things that describe where we are at the moment:
Exploring the contemplative side of Christian faith and together diving into and practicing the wealth of spiritual practices present in our tradition (eg. centering prayer, lectio divina, liturgy, contemplation, imaginative prayer the examen, pilgrimage and other forms of embodied spirituality)
Leaning into justice eg for Indigenous people, refugees, climate and the LGBTIQ+ community. (we are on a journey towards being affirming of LGBTIQ+ peoples but are not quite officially there yet). We are also a partner church of Common Grace, a movement of people pursuing Jesus and justice.
Holding a generous and exploring posture towards theology and making space for the doubters, misfits, deconstructing, & religiously burnt out. Our heart is to live out a theology that is habitable, beautiful and fruitful.
Living out a relaxed and relational approach to community (very low on programs, hierarchy, expectations etc). We aim to, but often fall short in, practicing generous hospitality to each other and all we call neighbour, and to walk in authenticity and vulnerability with one another as we navigate life in all its beauty and challenges.
I once overheard somebody say: 'Central is the church you go to when you can't go to church anywhere else'.
I'm not sure they intended it as a compliment, but I'll take it as one. Perhaps we are the ones who don't belong anywhere else, attempting in messy and ordinary ways to belong together and keep following Jesus.