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'Old-style' Army meeting a hit with seniors

 'Old-style' Army meeting a hit with seniors

'Old-style' Army meeting a hit with seniors

The Wednesday Community in southern Sydney is engaging with new Christians and those who have left the Army by offering love and community, “old-style”, with a meeting and luncheon.

By Lauren Martin

Singing hymns accompanied by a brass band doesn’t sound very progressive, but an emerging faith community in southern Sydney is engaging with new Christians and those who have left the Army by offering love and community, “old-style”.

The Wednesday Community at Menai Salvation Army is a monthly meeting, followed by a lunch. It began out of a desire to take seniors in the area, who were attending a fortnightly seniors group at the corps, deeper with God.

Organiser, retired Salvation Army Major David Woodbury, who started the group with his wife earlier this year, says it has also provided much-needed fellowship for older members of Salvation Army congregations who are feeling like “spiritual refugees” due to recent changes at various corps. 

“The Army is changing dramatically and [some, older] people are saying, ‘What was that all about? Did it really mean anything, what I did? Where’s my place in today’s Army?’

“Some of them weren’t worshipping anywhere and I felt that these are people who had spent their whole lives as Salvationists and here, maybe, was an opportunity. We could give them something that they’re used to, without necessarily going back to the old way of doing things.”

Each month features a guest speaker who tells a personal story about how Jesus has impacted their lives, like regular Wednesday Community attendee Dorothy Small, who shared how the love of Jesus brought her and her family through the most traumatic event of their lives – the murder of her daughter in the 1980s.

The meeting also includes a short sermon designed to encourage people to act on what God is saying to them.

For some who attend, The Wednesday Community has become their church. “We live next door and we sort of don’t attend the church services,” says Claire Carter who attend with her husband, Don. “But [this] is lovely. We really enjoy it. The fellowship, the people, interesting speakers.”

Another Wednesday Community member, Pauline, lives alone in a retirement village and was invited to attend during a meeting with Major Woodbury when he was collecting at a local shopping centre. “I’ve been here three times and I really enjoy coming and I enjoy listening to the Bible stuff and that. The people as well, they are so friendly, I really enjoy their company.”

Major Woodbury says many psychologists are estimating that loneliness will overtake obesity as Australia’s number-one health issue in the future. He says while many Salvation Army corps focus on families, The Wednesday Community appeals to older generations who often feel neglected and find it difficult to engage with the changing style of music and sermons.

“It is an emerging church in a different style. People are looking for community,” he said. “A lot of these people here live on their own and this is a connection for them, this is a community for them. I feel that it’s like ‘giving a cup of cold water in My name’, it’s a spiritual thing, that we’re doing something for people at the pointy end of life.”

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