Brisbane Open House: A St Andrew’s outreach and fellowship event

As the days prior to Brisbane Open House 2023 progressed and I witnessed the diverse pieces assembled into place, for me it felt like finishing a jigsaw puzzle. When Saturday 15 July finally arrived, 60 volunteer workers had stepped up to welcome, work in the cafe, entertain, inform and reach out to the nearly 200 visitors who came to St Andrew’s from all over Brisbane and further afield.

The night before the visitors were to come, when Karl Przywala, our Priest-in-Charge, my husband Bruce and I stood out in the dark on the church driveway, ready to drive home, the whole property suddenly seemed surreal … like an illuminated, wrapped-up gift, ready to be given the next morning.

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St Andrew’s South Brisbane precinct as it appeared on the evening of 14 July 2023.
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St Andrew’s South Brisbane in readiness for Brisbane Open House 2023, Friday 14 July 2023.

Inside the gift – the church, the rooms below it, the hall and the grounds – all had been prepared lovingly by so many of our people over recent weeks, days and hours. Karl and Sophie Jung (St Andrew’s Office Administrator) had been absolutely supportive and hard-working, identifying with the project from the start. Another great encouragement for me was that our parishioners lined up to volunteer in all of the necessary roles.

When St Andrew’s took part in Brisbane Open House 2023 the team effort was like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle…

Together we prepared four areas for our visitors – church, hall, rooms below the church, and carpark.

For the church, a number of eager parishioners stepped up to be welcomers and guides.  Their job was to take guests through 145 years of Christian faith, architecture and history – on show through the baptismal font, Holy Table, stained glass windows (depicting Biblical events and stories), wedding memorabilia and musical presentations. Musicians enlisted to fill the church with beautiful sound, through bellringing, orchestral playing, organ, trumpet, oboe and piano performances, and fabulous voice!

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One of our parishioners painted this “baptismal tree” especially for Brisbane Open House 2023.
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A parishioner who was married at St Andrew’s put her wedding dress on display for our Open House.
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All visitors – including children – were made welcome at St Andrew’s during Brisbane Open House 2023.

The church hall promised to be a lively hub of activity. Annette Sauer and her team of helpers organised a wonderfully cosy cafe with tasty treats. Others set up a table with interesting items for sale. On being asked, Aunty Jean was very keen to display her indigenous ministry. During planning and on the day of Open House, she lit up with a smile and with helpers she set up an overbrimming indigenous display table.

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St Andrew’s church hall, Saturday 15 July, in readiness for Brisbane Open House 2023.
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Aunty Jean Phillips and her display of indigenous artifacts, Brisbane Open House 2023.

Beneath the church, we set up a “Life of the Church” hub. It was heartwarming for me to see so many displays pieced together to show our church ministries: 6.30 pm Sunday service, Bible Study groups, pantry (food parcels), Chapel of Remembrance (columbarium), Conversational English, Craft Group, “A Pleasant Saturday Afternoon”, history display, Matthew Hale Public Library, missions (Church Missionary Society, Bush Church Aid, Wycliffe, Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor), Singing Mums, Sunday School (8:30 am and 6:30 pm), Youth Group.

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Singing Mums’ table, one of the many “Life of the Church” displays in the Club Room.
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Bob Cunningham graced the 6:30 pm Sunday service display with music and song.

Some volunteers started immediately to organise their displays, while others stepped up energetically on set-up afternoon. Several unexpected, last-minute helpers did brilliant final piecing-together.

On seeking welcomers, guides and volunteers from our three Sunday services – 8:30 am, 10:30 am and 6:30 pm – something wonderful happened. Many of the people who put up their hands to help did not previously know each other, so new friendships were formed as volunteers generously worked together to make St Andrew’s Open House a whole-of-church event. Together, we set up attractions for all ages – naming of gargoyles, colouring-in stained glass window pictures, finding obscure features in the church, and having a go at bellringing in the carpark.

The result…

On the day, the outreach and fellowship benefits of participating in Brisbane Open House 2023 were plain to see. We had good interaction with the visitors who came.

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Many visitors to the church sat quietly in the pews taking in the peace and beauty of their surroundings.
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At various times during the day visitors were entertained with beautiful music, like that of St Andrew’s Community Orchestra.
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Throughout the day, visitors could have a go at bellringing via the mobile bellringing unit set up in the church carpark.
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Throughout the day visitors relaxed and enjoyed the hospitality and friendship of our people at the cafe in the church hall.

Now that the event is over for another year (or two!), I encourage everyone at St Andrew’s to pray that our Open House visitors continue to recall our engagement with them – the welcome we gave and the fellowship we shared with them and each other. Importantly, we pray they remember us and the faith we shared and that, one day, they may even join us for a church service.

I give thanks to God for this wonderful Open House opportunity, especially for everyone who contributed – piecing together all of the jigsaw puzzle pieces!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Along with her husband Bruce, Judy Wilson is a member of St Andrew’s Parish Council and a long-term member of St Andrew’s South Brisbane.  Judy initiated and coordinated St Andrew’s participation in Brisbane Open House 2023.

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