Open doors in the city

For many years, churches in the Perth CBD have been opening their doors and offering a place of sanctuary where people can take time out of their busy day to pray, meditate, nurture their spirituality and seek assistance as needed.

The three Uniting Churches, Wesley, Trinity and Ross Memorial, which make up Uniting Church in the City (UCIC), are open to the public every weekday to provide an oasis of peace in the midst of a busy city. Uniting Church in the City’s vision to be vibrant and distinctive worshipping communities working collaboratively to touch hearts and transform lives through Christ is evident in  this simple, but much needed, missional activity.

Workers, residents, shoppers, tourists and people seeking historical information visit the churches regularly. Many come seeking a quiet space whilst others come to view the architecture of the buildings and to trace family histories. Some come seeking assistance or just a kind, listening ear. Volunteers offer a welcoming face; greeting visitors with a friendly smile, answering questions and giving directions.

I have been a long-time Open Doors volunteer at Uniting Church in the City, Wesley Perth. One very special memory was after I had arrived to set-up for a shift, I heard a gut wrenching cry. I couldn’t see anyone sitting in the pews, so I set out to find where the sound was coming from. I found a man lying prostrate over the top of the communion rail. I stood next to him with my hand on his shoulder offering quiet comfort.

After a couple of minutes the man’s cries subsided and he looked at me. I was able to offer him a listening ear that day and we spent a long time together in the chapel where the man shared his story. His wife had given birth to their son the previous week and when he had gone to the hospital to take his wife and their precious bundle of joy home, his wife had collapsed and died. In a space of utter despair, the man had come to the only place he could think of. He didn’t know what to do or where to find help. I was able to offer him a listening ear in his time of need and to offer a few suggestions of what he could do.

A couple of years later, much to my surprise, the man came back to thank me for the help and to share with me the rest of the story. His wife had died of a Cerebral Haemorrhage and left him with  an insurance policy which enabled to him to pay off the mortgage, give up work and look after his son.

Many people come to churches for many reasons, some to sit in the quiet space, to pray or to light a candle. It’s an opportunity to hear the sacred stories and to meet those who live and work in our community. One man who had been walking past the church every day of his working life came in for the first time on his last day of work before retiring. He came in to look around, and felt saddened that he had not done so earlier.

This wouldn’t be possible without dedicated volunteers who give up their time to be there, to listen and to meet people where they are at. Sadly, there have been less volunteers helping out with Open Doors recently, largely due to age or illness. You can come and be part of the church’s voice in the city by volunteering with Open Doors at Uniting Church in the City. For more information contact the UCIC office on 6103 4222.

David Beasland

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