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The demographic challenge

by on April 11, 2010

So we all know Canterbury’s multicultural, but you might be surprised just how multicultural. In fact the Canterbury City area is the most culturally diverse parish in Sydney. Only 13% of residents don’t speak a language other than English!

Sydney parishes ranked by cross-cultural diversity (Anglicare data)

On this map, the dark red represents the highest levels of cultural diversity. The numbers rank the parishes. No. 1 is Campsie, right next to Canterbury!

As diversity has increased, anglos have moved out. This ‘white flight’ means Christians are leaving the area. Many Canterbury residents wouldn’t know even one Evangelical Christian, and it’s become harder and harder for Christian churches in Canterbury to reach the local people. Check out the changes over just 5 years:

Canterbury city - changes in religion 2001-2006

Canterbury city - changes in religion 2001-2006

This is the challenge we want to take on. Any ideas?

From → General

  1. Susannah permalink

    Hi Jonathan,

    The site looks very promising – will be nice to be able to keep up with the news as it breaks!


  2. Matt Moffitt permalink

    My wife made that map.

    Actually, I think we live in the Canterbury parish boundary.

    • Clever lady! Christians who live in Canterbury are a rare and precious commodity! And most of them seem to go to church out of area. Tell me Matt, what would it take to inspire local Christians to get involved in mission in Canterbury?

      • Matt Moffitt permalink

        In pragmatic terms, a church that is viable and vibrant. A church that reflects the community and the graciousness of the gospel at the same time.

      • Matt, thanks for your reply.
        You Canterbury Christians certainly set the bar high for mission! You make it sound like someone else will have to do the mission, and establish a church that’s strong enough and good enough, before local Christians will be willing to get involved. Really? You don’t seem to hold out much hope to a church plant like ours, that is still only in the planning stages. Will we need to import all our start-up team members? That’s going to make it hard for us to ‘reflect the community’. Catch 22? Or have I misunderstood?

  3. Matt Moffitt permalink

    Um, I’m not sure that is what I was saying.

    But that does raise an issue. You mentioned that all members of the start-up team are going to be imported. Are they going to be moving into the area? I’m part of a church that was planted four years ago, and then went on to plant another church two years ago. Our plant died after 18 months, partially because the members couldn’t afford to move into the suburb, and so never connected with the community. At my church, we’ve stuggled over the past four years to connect with the community because most of our members moved into the area from other regions of Sydney. Most of us don’t know many people in our suburb, and that has been tough.

    • Matt, thanks for getting back to us. Please feel to correct my muddled understanding, I’d love to know what it was you were meaning, because getting local Christians involved is a high priority for us. You’re quite right, it will be hard to do effective mission from outside the area. It’s very helpful to hear of your experience (I’d love to hear more), and I’m convinced of what it suggests: the area where people are likely to be most effective in mission is the area where they have local connections: their own suburb.

      Which makes my question all the more pressing: what will it take to inspire local Christians to get involved in mission in Canterbury?

      • Can I weigh in? I am Alison, Matt’s wife, and I’ve been a proud resident of the Canterbury council all my life! And also a Christian. I grew up in Ashbury, and now I live in Hurlstone Park. I am also a human geographer, and a real stickler for local church in the local community. All my life I have been sad at the lack of vibrant churches in the area. The Ashbury church died when I was little, and when I was older and started going to church, I was shocked to find that the only healthy Anglican church in the area was Croydon! It’s been such a joy to watch my local outer-inner-west churches come back to life – Ashbury, Ashfield, Summer Hill and now Canterbury!! Whooo! Praise the Lord for you and your family’s vision!!

        What will it take to inspire local Christians to get involved in mission in Canterbury? Well, I only know a handful of Christians who live in Canterbury, and they are already attending and serving other churches. I don’t think many of them would be in a position to drop their existing commitments at their current churches, but I guess it wouldn’t hurt asking. Maybe I can round up some locals and we could come along to your next information session. It would be good for us to be informed and praying, even if some of us aren’t ready to commit to joining the team.

        Maybe part of firing up local Christians for mission is being aware of the existing ministries in Canterbury (e.g. the thriving Vietnamese Baptist church in HUrlstone Park) and then working to fill the gaps that they leave. Maybe even the Islander and Vietnamese churches will start praying for this new church if they see it aiming to achieve something different.

        In the meantime, I think it’s important to start! Just having a welcoming congregation in the building is a good step towards local involvement in mission. To get locals involved, you need a space where they can gather, worship and share together, and that space won’t exist until the congregation does.

      • Thanks for weighing in, Alison, you’re very welcome here.

        Nice to hear from someone who grew up local, you’re the expert on what we’re trying to learn about! Great to hear your thoughts. It sounds like the Lord has given you a real heart for gospel ministry and mission in this area. That’s a very rare thing, I’ve discovered. It’s so good to meet a fellow traveller!

        Good point about existing local ministries. We don’t want to imply that nothing is happening there at all. I have been meeting with everyone I can who’s involved in ministry in the area – sadly my time is very limited, fourth year at Moore. However, I do know a few local ethnic churches, and we are certainly not wanting to replicate their work. Multi-ethnic/multi-cultural mission is our vision – it’s a pretty big gap!

        We would love it if you could round up your local friends and bring them to meet us and pray with us. Prayer and fellowship is the big thing at the moment, we’re not actually kicking off the plant till the end of the year. Want to do this in fellowship with the wider church as much as possible. Coming to our prayer arvo doesn’t imply any commitment to joining the team, don’t worry! We always have visitors there, and that’s a joy to us.



  4. Matt Moffitt permalink

    PS That is what I meant…

    • Do you mean, what Alison said is what you meant? Which bit?

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