In October 2020, as COVID-19 restrictions eased and churches began to gather together again, the congregation of St Andrew’s Uniting Church found ourselves seeking a new home.
Our tiny church in Glenbrook, while cozy in normal times, allowed very few of us to come together in a safe, socially distanced way.
Enter St Finbar’s Catholic Church, and Father Joe.
St Finbar’s kindly offered the space we needed in their own church building, and once a month, we’ve been able to sing, pray and praise God without excluding any one of our people.
The friendship extended by St Finbar’s was embodied on Sunday 6 June when Father Joe – or ‘just Joe’ as he insisted he be referred – visited our service and preached to us on the subject of friendship in Christ itself.
In John 15, Jesus declared his disciples not servants but friends, made equal in their shared knowledge of God’s plan. In the same breath, he gave the greatest command – to “love each other”.
When we put our love for each other as friends in Christ above our differences, we follow the path Jesus laid out for us. Father Joe, and our own Minister Ellie Elia, put that teaching that not only in their words through their preaching, but into practice through their actions.
Father Joe pointed out we need not ignore our differences and points of disagreement – robust debates are a beautiful part of a good friendship – but knowing we share so much more in common helps us do so respectfully and with love at the centre of our interactions. For example, Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant Reformation, is respected for forcing the Catholic Church to rethink itself, he explained.
In strange times, the ecumenical hearts shared by Father Joe and Rev Ellie are appreciated more than ever. We at St Andrew’s are so grateful to St Finbar’s for opening their doors and arms to us, and look forward to the friendship flourishing.
Eilidh Mellis is a congregational member of St Andrew’s Uniting Church, Glenbrook.