REDFERN: Community groups have been asked to leave their home of 13 years to make room for church growth.
On January 9, community groups farewelled the Redfern Centre, located at St Saviour’s Anglican Church. The old church hall came alive with around 64 friends reminiscing over their treasured experiences with the Redfern Centre.
In 1998, three friends – the Rev. John McIntyre, Faye Williams and Jack Carnegie – came up with the idea of using the neglected church hall to house community groups.
Since 1999, the Redfern Centre has been home to four community organisations that deliver services such as healthy food delivery and affordable transport to locals, particularly to the elderly and people with disabilities.
Beyond this, Mr McIntyre said that through the community organisations local people have been empowered to help themselves and each other. The benefits have been felt by clients but also by volunteers. Shaun, a volunteer, said the Food Distribution Network (FDN) enabled him to feel the responsibility of a job.
According to the community organisations, since Mr McIntyre left St Saviour’s in late 2005, the church has considered reacquiring the hall for church initiatives such as a soup kitchen. Mr McIntyre said he disagrees very strongly with the church’s decision. “I feel that church and community should work hand-in-hand,” he said. “[The church is there] to offer what we have to the community.”
Regarding St Saviour’s new plans, Jane Rogers, Manager of South East Sydney Community Transport (SESCT), believes compromises could have been made.
Many community members are deeply saddened by the closing of the Redfern Centre. Ms Williams, former Home and Community Care (HACC) Development Officer, believes the church’s decision is “very poor”. “If the church supports the general community, they end up stronger than if they make a distinction between the church community and the general community,” she said. “It’s disappointing.”
Several people at the farewell emphasised that the biggest tragedy for community groups is the loss of collaboration, which was made possible by being co-located and centred in the local community. “We’re all scattered again,” said Ms Rogers.
All four community groups are now forced into commercial real estate. Chris Campbell, Coordinator of FDN, said: “Now we have four agencies paying separate rents, separate electricities [sic]… It makes it harder for us to help people.” FDN has been unable to find new premises.
Ms Rogers said that even for SESCT and Neighbour Connections who are relocating to Ultimo, their new residence would not be permanent due to high rents. “Now we’re in limbo,” she said.
Published in the South Sydney Herald, p. 4, Feb 2013.
Read the statement St Saviour’s Anglican Church issued to the SSH under request that it not be amended or abbreviated.
Read Jan McIntyre’s open letter to the St Saviour’s congregation.