Posted on March 15, 2010

Last Rites for English at Sydney Church

Vikki Campion, Daily Telegraph (Sydney), March 14, 2010

ENGLISH-SPEAKING parishioners have been forced out of a church in Sydney’s north with its service now to be heard solely in Korean.

Denistone East Uniting Church will hold its final English service this Sunday.

The community that has replaced bygone eras in Denistone is “delightfully Asianised”, Reverend Les Pearson said, with at least 120 keen Korean Christians packing each sermon.

“At a time when church-going for Caucasian people seems to be diminishing, it is a healthy thing for our church to become more ethnic,” Rev Pearson said on the weekend.

“This is society dictating to the church and the church responding to that. It would have been easy to say ‘This is an Aussie church’ but it would have been unreasonable and wrong.

“We live in a land enriched by migrants.”

Sixty years ago founder Rod Field painted a promise of things to come: “This is the site of the Denistone East Methodist Church.”

It was a simple sign on a cow paddock surrounded by orchards which were being carved up into suburban Sydney.

After 57 years of Sundays, this final English service would be sad, Mr Field said, but it was better that a Korean congregation use the church than none at all.

“I could not have put up a new sign saying it was to be closed. It would have been too emotional,” the 86-year-old said.

“Putting up a sign saying it was going Korean . . . I could do that.”

Long-time parishioner Ron Hoffmann, 77, will miss his tiny church of 49 years that he will be leaving for its big sister at Eastwood.

But he understands the change.

“It’s a very caring church, everyone knows everybody. I will always remember its heyday where the Sunday school had 300 children, our youth group had 70 teenagers and at Christmas you couldn’t fit everybody into this hall,” Mr Hoffmann said.

Korean Pastor Jim Ho Cho said there was huge demand for more Korean services and with English cancelled, he could run two morning services on Sunday as well as evening services during the week.