As a member of St Stephens Uniting Church, Wodonga, I recently welcomed Rev Dr Donald MacEwan to conduct a service. Dr MacEwan and his wife, Maia, were visiting Australia from Scotland, where he is the chaplain at St Andrews University in Fife, Scotland.
The MacEwans had travelled to Australia to attend the International Association of Chaplains in Higher Education (IACHE) global conference held in Bendigo in July. We met while I was was on a one-year international teacher exchange in Fife.
In his sermon Dr MacEwan spoke of his work at the University of St Andrews and the parallels with his parish work previously. He was conscious of God in activities beyond his core purpose of the church and understood that God’s spirit was at work in the many activities he undertakes – even if they were not inside a church.
Dr MacEwan posed the idea that the ‘church is on the margins’ caring increasingly for ourselves alone, a narrowing group of faithful believers perhaps becoming isolated from society.
He was delighted to see how St Stephens cares for many people, whether or not they are regularly at worship – when they come for food, financial advice or counselling, or buy clothing, crockery or a fridge at an affordable price at the op shop. St Stephens is at the heart of society.
Perhaps Christian ministry outside the building and constructions of the church is connected more closely with ‘where God’s spirit is at’?