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Emmanuel Community moves Sunday masses to drop-in centre and it already ‘feels like home’

Crowd of worship: Members of the Emmanuel Community at Mass at the South Brisbane centre.

“YOU shouldn’t be surprised when God answers your prayers but for some reason … you still are surprised,” Emmanuel Community moderator Patrick Keady said, reflecting on the first three weeks of the community’s relocation of Sundays from Bardon to South Brisbane.

Mr Keady and the Emmanuel Community leadership team had taken a risk repositioning their core ministry to the site of Emmanuel City Mission, a rebrand of Blind Eye Ministries at Merivale Street in South Brisbane.

But in just the first three weeks, Mr Keady said it already felt like home.

It had been a dream for a long time for the community to have its own centre, he said.

“We had this nagging sense we wanted to build a centre or move to a home where we could celebrate Mass and do ministry and worship in a way that was uniquely us,” Mr Keady said.

Emmanuel City Mission director Roby Curtis presented a proposal for hosting a regular Mass at the drop-in centre last year and the idea took hold.

“We felt like this was something not just for that ministry but for our whole community,” Mr Keady said.

“We have a number of really strong ministries but this was an opportunity for us to come together and have a really united front.”

Having everyone under one roof meant the community could be “on mission and in communion”.

But the move was not just for community members.

Mr Keady said it was open to everyone, from the people who slept rough the previous night to university students through to local Catholics and families.

“Mass is the heartbeat of our community life, the high-point of each week when we gather to lift our hearts and minds in worship with Jesus,” the Emmanuel Community Facebook page said.

Mr Keady said hosting the Mass meant “taking Sundays seriously”.

Being a new venture it came with its own challenges, he said, but it was important to remember Pope Benedict XVI’s words that “we were not born for comfort, we were born for greatness”.

“It feels exciting to be on a journey,” Mr Keady said.

“Before it felt like we were in a bit of a holding pattern; it feels so good to be moving forward, and (having) challenges to work through because you’re stepping out.”

The relocation came with some risks.

“What if people don’t come? What if we get criticised for what we’re doing? Those were some very human fears, but … in the first three weeks, it’s just been a wonderful experience so far,” Mr Keady said.

“It took some courage and leadership for us to say, if God is really doing this, well, we need to follow’.

“As it’s happened, the whole community has just been amazing and they’ve really come forward and stepped up to the plate and we’ve all experienced an outpouring of grace.”

Mr Keady said the Mass centre did not look like a regular church building, but that was intentional.

“I think it’s about reframing people’s minds – having a sanctuary in a homeless shelter – it takes people’s brains time to get around that … is that allowed?” he said.

“Well, yes; Jesus ministered on the side of a mountain – he didn’t stay in the temple.

“I think we’re trying to come out to the mountainside, figuratively, rather than saying ‘you have to come in to the temple’.”

In conjunction with the move, Emmanuel City Mission has increased its service from three to seven days a week, serving the poor and marginalised in the community.

Mr Keady said it felt great to meet new people and to invite them in, especially those who came looking for support.

“It’s important for our faith to be authentic,” he said.

This, he said, was inspired in part from Pope Francis’ leadership in the worldwide charismatic renewal.

“Just last year Pope Francis launched a new international service called CHARIS, where all the (charismatic) renewal prayer groups and communities are uniting under one banner,” Mr Keady said.

“In a small way, this has sort of been our story as well, having what we call a ‘united pursuit’ as a community.

“This year is about strengthening who we are and what we offer.”

Mr Keady also offered his thanks to St Mary’s parish, South Brisbane, which had opened their car park to Emmanuel Community for their Sunday Mass. 

“We’ve been blessed by the support of Fr Joshy (Parappully) and the Capuchin Friars, and the whole St Mary’s parish,” Mr Keady said.

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