A 360-Degree Church

Old Scholar, Noel Pearson, is a leading voice for indigenous Australians. From the Hope Vale Mission in North Queensland, he boarded at St Peters Indooroopilly in the 1980s. Last Saturday, he addressed the Lutheran Church’s Synod at Bundaberg and said some fascinating things.

One reflection was that he is so grateful for his upbringing at the Hope Vale Mission. He recognises he received protection and provision from the mission. He had opportunities that opened up for him to attend St Peters and Sydney University, which enabled him to become a lawyer. He cited his time at St Peters as the best days of his life. The supportive Christian communities at Hope Vale and St Peters helped him survive and thrive and gave him a voice to speak for his people.

Another reflection from Noel was a vision of the church as a “360-degree church”. He invited us to think of a church without walls with Christ at the centre. This would make Christ and his love accessible from every angle, by every person, rather than through prescribed doors of the church’s making. It’s a powerful image. You don’t need to be an engineer to spot the problems inherent in a building without walls! But Christ as the centre, the cornerstone, the one on whom all else is built, accessible to all, seems a church where grace abounds and one worth belonging to. 

This image prompts us to ask: Has access to Christ been limited by the Church’s traditions, customs and conduct? Has the church excluded people from Christ? Has the culture of the church become narrower than the call of Christ? Can the church still nurture and support people, indigenous and otherwise, to thrive as leaders of our nation?

The image of a 360-degree church prompts a call to trust Jesus as the centre of our faith, the head of the Church. Jesus is for all people, indigenous and non-indigenous alike. Or as the Apostle Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  (Galatians 3:28) I am grateful to Noel Pearson for reminding us of such a beautiful image of the Church. 

Pastor Matt Wilksch, Springfield Chaplain