BACK in 2014 the Maylands Church of Christ was on the brink of closing, with the congregation having dwindled to just five people.
Pastor Ronnie Fung, who’d come out from New York to work at a church in Subi, was offered the job to crank it up.
When he was first offered the church’s version of an internship in Australia he hadn’t even heard of Perth.
“I said ‘is that near Sydney, or Melbourne?” he chuckles. “They told me it was on the other side of the country.”
Intending to stay for a year he stayed for good after taking up an offer to work in a Subiaco church full-time. He found Perth to be a good place to raise a young family and, after eight years at Subiaco, he decided he was up for taking on the Maylands challenge.
Even before they officially launch he quietly built up regular attendance to about 30 or 40. But he’s humble about his efforts and says it’s all built on the work of the previous congregation.
The church is one of the few streetfront churches in Perth: rather than being surrounded by wrought iron fences and neatly manicured grounds it’s more like the Big Apple churches he’s familiar with: the front steps are right on the Eighth Avenue footpath, between a couple of cafes.
Mr Fung wants to use that proximity to make the church more than just a Sunday operation, “to be the church that God wants us to be, we need to be serving in the community”.
“We want to be a team player and not just be an insular church, but in that we have our mission statement to know Christ, to be love, to bring life.
“When people are willing we do very respectfully tell them about Christ and our faith.”
He has a few plans in mind to open up the front area for community activities and already opens up the church for a toddler jam every Wednesday. He says there’s plenty of young families in the area and parents like a chance to chat with other adults while the kids play.
He says, “we’re in a world where the church has lost quite a bit of credibility” but he’s keen to rebuild connections on the local level.
“We do it without an agenda,” he says.
“We want to get to know people, relate to people… being a part of the community is a big deal for us.”
Having kept it under wraps while building things back up, the church officially relaunched March 6 and is now open to new attendees for Sunday 10am services.
by DAVID BELL