Rarely does one find a church that takes Jesus seriously. Many churches use the name of Jesus but manage to find all manner of ways to avoid the costly path of discipleship. South Yarra Community Baptist Church is one of those delightful exceptions. At SYCBaps one finds the entire congregation participating in worship, there is no hierarchy, and Jesus is not just a name but the Lord of Life! That they are a small church and not full of glitz and flash is to their benefit, for flash is usually an indication of superficiality and there is nothing superficial about following Jesus here. If I lived in Melbourne SYCBaps would be my home church. If you visit, I know your experience will be profound, life-changing and beautiful.
As a new person to this community, I was really struck by the unique blend of the ancient and the contemporary. On one level the service feels like it was born in the first century; orthodox, ancient and timeless. And yet there are creative, experiential aspects that engage the heart, body and senses. Everything feels deeply considered, the community collaborative and healthy, and the Sunday evening dinner a beautiful extention of the communal table. A very special place.
Desde que era niña he sentido una conexión especial con Dios y, a pesar de estar lejos de mi país, he podido encontrar en la Iglesia Bautista de South Yarra un excelente lugar para encontrar a Dios. También la iglesia me ha permitido estar con personas cálidas y amables que no tienen interés en lo material (personas sencillas). Ha sido muy bueno contar con personas, pues estar fuera de tu país puede ser, a ratos, algo difícil.
Translation: Since I was a child I have felt a special connection with God and, although I am far away from my country, Chile, I have found in the South Yarra Baptist Church a wonderful place to find God. Also it has given me a place in a community of warm and welcoming people who are not focussed on material things. It’s been really great to have people we can rely on as, at times, being far from your homeland can be a difficult thing.
I have been a part of this church since I was born, and I cannot imagine a more loving, caring and supportive community to grow up in. The children in the church feel like my sisters and brothers, and the adults like cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents, beautifully brought together by our love of Jesus Christ. Over 18 years I have seen the children go from playing in another room during the service to the full involvement that we have today, where kids take part in the prayers and singing, do craft activities in the corner and have their own special roles like dancing, holding icons during the Gospel reading and setting the communion table. I am incredibly grateful to be a part of this church.
As visitors from the UK it’s always great for Margaret and me to visit South Yarra Baptist when we’re in Melbourne. A welcoming fellowship, it also offers a quite rare blend of richly crafted worship drawing on a variety of Christian traditions and artistic insights, with thoughtful theology in preaching which faces up to the urgent issues and critical challenges facing humankind today. Don’t come if all you want is an hour or so of escapist religious sentiment to keep you in your comfort zone. Do come if you want your mind to be broadened and whatever faith you have to be inspired to explore further what the good news of God’s grace means for today.
What a memorable experience it was for me to share firsthand in the rich liturgical life of this church. I was struck by the creative and very meaningful worship space and was inspired by the intelligent use of religious art. Corporate worship featured a high degree of enthusiastic participation by members of the congregation – young and old. It included ample readings from the Bible, songs from around the world, with some created by the pastor of the church and set to music by Australian composers. I delivered the sermon based on the readings appointed for the day and found the time in corporate worship at South Yarra thoroughly nourishing.
The Revd Neville Callum
General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance
South Yarra Baptist church is a lovely community of Christians welcoming people from all walks of love into their circle of faith and love. Not only were my visits comforting on all fronts, but made me feel like part of it very early on even as a visitor. I highly recommend going there any Sunday to share your beliefs in a circle of warm-hearted people. I surely enjoyed the Sunday services and social settings showing everyone what faith is about.
As Deutsche mag ein Englisher Gottesdienst erstmal neu sein – aber South Yarra Baptist Kirche macht es denkbar einfach, da der Gottesdienst mehrere Sprachen umfasst – ausgedrueckt durch die unterschiedlichen Teile welche durch die Gemeinschaft gelesen werden. Die eindrucksvolle Gemeinschaftsatmosphere, inclusive des gemeinsamen Essens nach dem Gottesdienst, heisst alle willkommen. Es hat mir unglaublich viel Spass gemacht, Sonntag abends Besinnung in diesem Umfeld zu finden.
South Yarra Baptist has always been a beacon of hope and solace. Five years ago when my husband and I went through a difficult time we found their support, love and care sustained us in this very hard time. Although we don’t live close by we visit as often as we can and marvel at the way this small community of believers finds so much capacity to embrace us. It is a church where we have experienced the transforming love of Christ.
Translation: Growing up in a Lutheran church, I never liked liturgy, though I struggled hard to keep going along. That is one reason why I later joined a non-liturgical church. You can imagine my surprise when I visited South Yarra. What? A Baptist church with a liturgical service? What I saw was an eye opener. For the first time in my life I was able to witness a liturgical service that is so vibrant and so joyful. Everybody participated, including the children. Though designed and planned, it all seemed so free and spontaneous!
Pastor Wai Kwong Sun
Past-President of the Baptist Union of Victoria
J’ai été accueillie à bras ouverts avec amour et chaleur. J’avais ma place dans l’église et cela était important pour moi. Chacun a sa place, peu importe sa différence et sa langue. Chacun est important. La participation des enfants, et de chacun d’entre nous, rend la cérémonie vivante et chaleureuse. Tous en cercle nous sommes l’un en face de l’autre, ensemble, pour partager ce moment et dans cette configuration, on sent une force, une chaleur, une réelle présence. Je n’ai jamais trouvé cela ailleurs et je n’oublierais jamais votre présence chaleureuse et réconfortante le jour de mon départ. Ces moments là restent un souvenir inoubliable et je vous en remercie.
South Yarra holds good memories for me of worship and life richly woven together. Experimental but grounded in daily reality, there is an integrity to what happens here. What I found especially moving was that the gifts and abilities of all are used; people are not overlooked here but treasured for themselves. Professor Gordon Lathrop reminds us that the central act of Christian worship includes at its climax a breaking which heals our brokenness. At South Yarra I saw the truth of that.
Fellow of the Centre for Baptist History and Heritage
Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford, UK
Author of Death Liturgy and Ritual and In Sure and Certain Hope and Cries of the Heart
In 2004, I had the honor of preaching at the service. I experienced the worship as an interesting example of the ancient-future model, a convergence of traditional and contemporary elements, a blend of ecumenical liturgical renewal and Baptist practices. … The warm hospitality of the congregation was on full display. I think the order of service and the style of worship at SYCBC is unique, but it is thoughtful and inviting.
The Revd Dr Frank C. Senn
Evanston, Illinois, USA
Lutheran pastor & liturgical scholar extraordinaire
Author of Embodied Liturgy, Christian Liturgy- Catholic & Evangelical, The People’s Work, New Creation, and many more
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This is a community that both reaches out to others, and that through the care and openness in its liturgies keeps its home fires burning. It knows that there is a big world out there, but it also knows that, as part of that big world, and if it’s going to make a difference, the community needs to be in touch with its roots. What caught me is SYCBaps’ conviction that the way we connect, and the One to whom we are connected, matter deeply.
The Revd Dr Christopher Willcock
Jesuit Priest and one of the world’s leading composers of liturgical music
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