I felt welcome as soon as I entered the car park

St John's Presbyterian Church - Bendigo
St John’s Prebyterian Church
35-41 Forest Street, BENDIGO
(corner of Forest & Mackenzie Streets)
Minister: Rev. Phillip Burns
I always try to make a habit of visiting churches in places where I travel because it can be encouraging meeting like minded people and being welcome even though you are a stranger. However, the difficulties with going to a church you don’t know is that it can be a bit hit or miss in regards to hospitality and teaching. Despite that I am finding that this is not really the case with Presbyterian Churches here in Australia (though so far I have only been to four).
To be honest, I am always a little apprehensive going to a church that I have never been to before, namely because I am quite shy. In fact I was almost was going to head straight back to Melbourne, though I swallowed my nerves and instead decided to pay a visit to St John’s.
All I can say is that I am glad I did.
Not only did I run into a couple who I had not seen for years, I also received an incredibly warm welcome. In fact the pastor even arranged a lift to the railway station so I could catch the train back to Melbourne in time to attend one of my regular churches.
While I have not had the privilege of seeing this church grow in the same way that I have seen other churches grow over the time I have attended them, it was still great to speak with the regulars and learn about how the church works in their community. This particular church appears to have an annual service dedicated to the Naval Cadets (which is a little odd considering that Bendigo is nowhere near the ocean). It seems that they use this as an opportunity to meet with the cadets and to have conversations beyond what the weather is like and whether the stories about the ritual of crossing the equator are true.
While one can learn a bit about what the church does by glancing through the weekly newsletter, it is always good to speak to the people involved. St Johns clearly has a strong relationship with the AFES group at the Bendigo Campus of La-Trobe University because not only were there are a number of university students in attendance, they also have an evening service dedicated to the university crowd.
No doubt the make up of the church has changed significantly over the years as Bendigo has grown from a gold mining town to a regional centre, and I suspect that initially the church would have been full of miners and local farmers. However as the of the city has grown into a major regional centre, the younger crowd who have moved here to escape the city lifestyle have brought new life into the church. No doubt that these foundations are going to continue to be built upon in years to come.
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