Reverend Greg Smith sits behind a desk piled with books and papers, a large framed print of Michelangelo’s Creation Of ManÂ hung behind him. It could be any pastor’s office, but Rev. Smith isn’t just any old pastor.
Then again, Metropolitan Community Church Sydney (MCC) isn’t any old church. Beginning in the USA in 1968, it has grown worldwide with a specific ministry to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.
Smith has just celebrated 10 years as pastor of MCC Sydney, and describes his time there as a bit like being on a roller coaster.
Smith grew up the son of a Methodist minister before leaving the Church at a young age because of his sexuality. Back then he struggled to come to terms with being gay and Christian, and he says it is a challenge that many people still face today.
Many gay men and women are so damaged and traumatised by the church and their experiences in the mainline church, he said. A lot of my work is done helping people come to terms with that.
Smith says that MCC is a place where anyone can come to explore their beliefs, their community and themselves. He says the high points of his ministry have come when people have come to understand their faith.
Many people in this church have come here seeking something and have discovered a great deal of hope and strength and courage, and God’s grace, as a result of coming here, he said. I think that’s the biggest thing for me, seeing that happen.
MCC’s church in Petersham was packed to celebrate Smith’s 10 years as pastor. In his sermon, he reflected on the achievements of the church over his 10 years. In particular, he highlighted the ways in which MCC provides support and services to the community. MCC has a Welfare Services branch with a particular outreach to people with HIV/AIDS.
It actually started with me and a trailer behind my old car, with one other person picking up beds, he said. To date, nearly 1,500 clients have received assistance from MCC Welfare Services.
A lot of my work has been in the area of HIV/AIDS, because of the epidemic in our community, he said. MCC runs a Sunday lunch program for people with HIV/AIDS, and offers other assistance and support.
Smith says that close involvement with the community has been one of his main aims as pastor.
We’ve become much more involved in our community, he said. I think since I’ve been pastor we have become a part of the community, instead of standing apart from the community.
Along with its welfare services, MCC owns an opportunity shop at Newtown, and runs the cloakroom at the major community dance parties. Smith says that acceptance and support for MCC has grown steadily over the years, as the community and parts of the wider Christian church have come to respect the work MCC does.
I know a lot of people who support us who aren’t even Christian, but they support us for what we stand for and for what we do in the community, he said.
Whilst he is proud of the church’s achievements over the years, Smith is more excited with the future growth of MCC. On the weekend, the church celebrated the baptism of its first home-grown baby.
Two of our women here, Shelagh and Clare, have had a little baby boy, and I think for me that will probably be one of the faith pinnacles of my time here, he said.
Smith believes that as more young people come to the church, it will grow and adapt to meet the community’s changing needs. MCC has set up a Youth Ministry, with special youth services held on the third Sunday of each month.
I think the vision for the future is that more and more young people come, and that the church will adapt and embrace young people, he said.
MCC has worship services at 10am and 7:30pm every Sunday at 96 Crystal Street, Petersham. Phone 9569 5122 for enquiries.