Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sydney's Baptist wine bar and gay activism

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Here's something new for Sydney Baptists. From The Religion Report:

Stephen Crittenden: Well now to a story of a different kind of conversion. This year's Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and when the parade marches up Oxford Street, there'll be an innovation: large group of Christian ministers will be marching, to apologise for the hostility their churches have displayed and continue to display, towards gay people. They're calling themselves '100 Revs', and so far, 55 of them have also signed an apology.

Well the gay community may not yet appreciate it, but this is a big deal for these clergymen, some of whom who have been threatened with disciplinary action if they march.

The Reverend Mike Hercock is a Baptist pastor based in Surry Hills. He's the spokesman for the group ...

So tell us about your own parish, because it's an interesting parish. It started off in a very interesting, very famous in fact Sydney church building, the Baptist Tabernacle down in Burton Street, which many people would know, in I suppose, East Sydney. And you've moved to, what? You've bought a restaurant?

Mike Hercock: That's right. We're now in a restaurant called Table for Twenty, which was started up 18 months ago, which is a bit of a communal dining experience. Out of that building, we run "Upstairs Sticky", which is where we run our gathering, or our church gathering, and then we run the restaurant there four evenings a week - Northern Italian food, a communal dining experience. And so for us it was about making a space where the community for a whole variety of reasons would engage us. We have a counseling service as well, so you might come and eat with us and dine with us, you might go to one of the counseling services, you might also come in for our homeless art exhibition that's on once a year. So it started to embrace the whole idea of community.

Stephen Crittenden: Sounds like you've got a very sort of informal thing going though, it's not like a traditional parish in the way it operates.

Mike Hercock: No, no actually it's not. I mean just recently we started our church services for the year, and we started with what we call the bar upstairs, we call "Sticky", so it's sticky issues, and it's also sticky desert wines. So we have a liquor licence, I think we're the only ones with a liquor licence around, churches that I know of, and so we open it as a church for the unchurched, as a transition space.

Stephen Crittenden: It sounds like a first to me, a Baptist Wine Bar!

Mike Hercock: I'm glad you find it humorous, others didn't find it so.

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