My various churches – St Paul’s Anglican, Castle Hill

I have been a part of 6 local churches in my 26 years of being a Christian.  This post is the first in a series which will look at some of the good things about each of them.

The first church that I was ever a part of was St Paul’s Anglican Church in Castle Hill, in the north western suburbs of Sydney.  I was a 13 year old new Christian, having come to Christ through the ministry of the Christian group at my high school.  St Paul’s was (and still is) a large church – there was an average Sunday attendance of about 900 spread across 5 or 6 services for pretty much my entire time at the church.

I stayed at St Paul’s for 10 years (1987 to 1996), and for the last 2 and a half I was on staff, only leaving when I moved to Melbourne as a 23 year old.  Here are 3 things that I loved the best about St Paul’s:

 Momentum

The leadership made a decision in the early 90’s to transition the Sunday night service which I attended from a traditional service with a set liturgy from the Anglican prayer book to a contemporary service with modern music, and no use of the prayer book.  The metamorphosis took maybe 3 years.  At the time I was just a teenager with no concept of church history, traditions and very little idea of what was happening in the wider church.  All I knew was that each week church was getting better, and I loved it.  Not only was I loving it but hundreds of other people were loving it as well.  The Sunday night congregation was about 400 people, the church’s largest, and there was such a great sense that good things were happening.  When a church has momentum it’s just great – you almost count down the days until the next service.

Working in youth ministry with Tim Hawkins

The youth pastor at St  Paul’s from 1988 to the present is Tim Hawkins.  Tim is a rare beast – a lifelong youth pastor.  Tim and I didn’t just work together for a long time, but we thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company as we did it.  We still catch up regularly despite living 900 kilometres apart.  During the time that I was involved as a youth leader Tim was in the process of transforming the youth ministry from a bunch of programs that attracted lots of kids to a bunch of programs that made lots of disciples.  It was a thrilling time to be involved as we started to reap the fruit of changes that were made to put the gospel front and centre.  Tim taught me an enormous amount, and his help in developing me as a preacher was something that I particularly treasure.  I have realised that it is not often in life that you get a mentor who you work with closely for many years.  I had that atSt Paul’s and it was fantastic.

Being supported as I pursued study in a Pentecostal bible college

In 1992 I enrolled at the bible college run by Hillsong Church, also in Castle Hill (the college was called Power Ministry College at the time but is now called Hillsong International Leadership College).  I ended up pursuing study with a Pentecostal college because of my own introduction to things Pentecostal through some school friends. St Paul’s was not a charismatic church.  Culturally or theologically there was nothing charismatic about it.  However despite this all of the leadership were very happy for me to study at Hillsong and continue to develop in leadership at St Paul’s.  Ever since I left St Paul’s I have only ever been a part of Pentecostal churches, and that is where I will stay.

I remain very grateful to this day that the leadership at St Paul’s were open minded enough to see that their Pentecostal neighbours were doing good things and were happy for me to be trained there.

3 Comments to “My various churches – St Paul’s Anglican, Castle Hill”

  1. Thanks John for the reminder. St Pauls was such a formative part of my whole life! I feel so blessed to have been involved in it over a long period of time too. Some great leaders to grow under. Thanks Hugh, Stephen, Margaret and Michael too.
    Annabel

  2. Hi John,
    As someone who was involved in that transition from traditional/prayer book to contemporary/less structured (and took a few knocks for it), this is a really encouraging post. Thanks. It was hard work at the time, but exciting and sooooo worth it.
    Al

    • Thanks Al. As a teenager I was oblivious to the ‘knocks’ that you and others were getting but I was just loving it. Good to hear from you. John

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