'Surprising' event an opportunity to learn

What do pubs and churches have in common?

At first thought, it doesn’t seem like much and while their core values and purposes are wildly different, they actually share a few similarities.

Both places bring people together, encourage a sense of community and camaraderie, and they’re also great places to visit to learn about others.  

Most of you would know what a pub crawl is. For those who don’t, it’s an event that involves visiting several pubs in one session.

While these crawls generally involve pubs, they can be adapted to other locations, and the Diocesan Ecumenical and Interfaith Council did just that earlier this month.

On Saturday 23 July, they hosted their first Church Crawl where they visited four churches to learn about other Christian expressions of faith.

Ecumenical and Interfaith Council Chairperson Christine Sheppard wanted to create a space where attendees felt comfortable asking questions and sharing their stories.

“Earlier this year, I initiated our Church Crawl,” she said.

“We needed four Churches where the leadership were open to sharing their key beliefs, to tour their Churches and be comfortable with people asking questions all in 45 minutes.

“We wanted the ‘Pilgrims’ to feel that these were safe places to ask these questions and consider the answers.

“We also wanted them to have opportunities to get to know others on the journey, especially over a shared lunch.”

The day started with a visit to Christchurch Cathedral where they heard from Dean Katherine Bowyer before they went to Sacred Heart Cathedral and visited Father John Lovell.

The group of about 30 people then had a “delicious” lunch before going to the Lutheran Church with Pastor Matthew Vonstanke.

The event wrapped up at the Russian Orthodox Church with Father James Carles.

Novocastrian David Gubbay was very impressed by the event.

“I was rather surprised when I first heard about it and didn’t know whether I was going to [like] it, but it was very enjoyable and also educational,” he said.

“For somebody who was born into the Jewish Faith and attends the Newcastle Synagogue regularly, to learn about other faiths [was] very educational because we need to know how the other people live and what their involvement and association is with God.”

Christine is hoping the ‘Pilgrims’ left the Church Crawl with new learnings and an experience to remember.

Moving forward, the Council are eager to host more events and continue sharing their work.

“Everyone on the Council shares a passion for this Ministry,” Christine said.

“God has gifted each person in different ways and it really works.

“We are always looking for opportunities to provide people of Faith – or those searching – to learn more.

“[We’re] asking the Question ‘What can we learn from each other?’ not ‘How can we change each other?’”

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