THERE has been a notable shift in congregation demographics each Sunday in the Anglican cathedral.
Father Martin Nadarajan says the pandemic and lengthy lockdowns prompted most people to realise a greater need for connection but, somewhat unexpectedly, many younger adults and families were finding their way to the church.
For some, traditions such as the incense and bells are a reminder of God's presence, while for others the church offers a place for solitude, reflection while also feeling a stronger sense of community.
Father Nadarajan said themes of connection and wanting to help others had the church considering the role it could play to help all people, not just congregation members, to better support each other.
Church of Christ the King will launch trial forum series, Conversations at Cathedral, bringing in community experts on issues before exploring pastoral potential and pathways.
Conversations will launch on Sunday evening with Memory and the Mind to put dementia in focus.
Leading geriatrician Mark Yates and the Reverend Mark Garner will lead the discussion, clinically and spritually. Dr Garner is an associate clergy and former theological school lead for University of Roehampton.
Father Nadarajan said the church was conscious of its ageing population but this was an widespread issue that could be confronting, particularly in caring for a loved one. He said it was also important for a community in better understanding dementia and patience with each other.
"Conversations will look at what we can do, our role not only as Christians but as humans, too," Father Nadarajan said.
"They don't teach these things in theological school. As priests we need to figure it out when we interact with people. We have a few parishioners diagnosed with dementia and it's about knowing how to relate to them.
"Often there is lots of clinical information but it is harder to find information on the emotional support."
Conversations will look at what we can do, our role not only as Christians but as humans, too.Father Martin Nadarajan
Father Nadarajan said the conversations series aimed to start with broad topics most people could relate to, such as life's balancing acts, autism and lingering isolation and depression from COVID-19
He said it was important to cultivate a safe space for people to look at issues and feel confident to speak up and question. This was also why sessions would be held in the church hall, to help ensure the space was not intimidating for starting conversations, especially for those new to the church.
"COVID has taught us to be more community minded. I think we are moving away from a focus on self-dependence. We are needing to be more inter-dependent and supporting each other," Father Nadarajan said.
"We have more young people looking for guidance. Sometimes they've read the wrong thing or read too much.
"We have a lot of young families coming from Melbourne. They're looking for something, and they're looking to churches.
"...Part of being a community is knowing what we can do in support."
Conversations at Cathedral forums will be held on the third Sunday of each month, starting at 5pm.
Sessions will be about 45 minutes to an hour long. Some will be in a Q and A style format while other sessions will feature a guest speaker before breaking into smaller group discussions, depending on the content and the speakers available.
Father Nadarajan said the Conversations series would run until at least mid-year, depending on community needs.
The church, like others, had to be agile this week in helping people to observe Ash Wednesday at home due to Victoria's snap lockdown.
Most churches were able to open their doors and tweak services to become a day late, with Ash Thursday, to mark the start of Lent.
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