By Josh Gibbon
Penrith Church of Christ (PCOC) has parted ways with their premises of 65 years at Stafford Street to bravely walk into unchartered territory.
“It’s been an exciting and confronting experience,” said PCOC senior pastor Adam Miller while sharing about this moment of reset for the community.
“We don’t have dirt to call our own … but we don’t want to jump into a building just because,” Adam continued. “We don’t want to put all our efforts into getting a roof over our heads and miss what God is cultivating in our hearts.”
This is the faith-filled, ‘now, not-yet’ moment that Adam and PCOC are holding together. Until just two weeks before their last Sunday at Stafford Street in May, PCOC didn’t know where their next service would be.
“I’ll admit there was a bit of fear that jumped in because we didn’t want to lead the congregation astray!” Adam reflected.
However, God’s provision came just in time through Mark Chapple of Greater West for Christ – a non-denominational network that seeks to empower churches in Western Sydney. Mark, a friend of Adam’s, invited PCOC to use Penrith City Chapel, which also hosts a combined Baptist, Salvation Army, and ACC congregation. With this prayer answered, PCOC gathered for the first time away from Stafford Stree on 6 June and had one of their biggest turnouts this year.
Alongside the community’s excitement for a new start, leaving has also been a grieving process for many.
During the last Stafford Street service, dubbed ‘Memory Lane’, the community was invited to share their memories from 65 years. They told stories together, they laughed and cried, and they covered walls with photos of significant moments. The walls sang of countless life-changing moments when people met Jesus for the first time, were married, buried loved ones, and served Penrith together.
Perce Mallard, a long-term PCOC elder, has been at Stafford Street since 1959 and his father even helped build the premises in 1963. Despite this personal history, Perce is convinced that God has been preparing them for this move for decades.
“Mum and Dad used to say, ‘Bricks and mortar aren’t what the Kingdom is about,’” Perce recalled. He remembers praying with his wife for wisdom about the church’s future in the mid-2000s and hearing, “The church that doesn’t plan to change doesn’t plan to grow.”
In 2018, PCOC leadership decided to sell the Stafford Street site to Fresh Hope Care and entered a two-year transition period to discern what was next.
At the end of last year, having just been appointed senior pastor, Adam recalls sitting down in a leadership meeting and being asked, “Where to now?” This confronting question revealed a more critical thought for Adam – “What kind of church do we want to be?”
After a period of community-wide prayer, a strong sense emerged towards becoming a transformation-focused church that creates innovative discipleship and formation pathways for the people of Penrith.
Adam has since presented a vision to the church of building a “multipurpose, multi-community engagement site” with camp-style accommodation, auditorium, and activities, a walk-in café-church, and a ‘hub’ facility for holding restoration and counselling ministries. “It’s way out of our range, way out of our capabilities,” admitted Adam, with excitement beaming across his face.
In both Adam and Perce’s reflections of PCOC’S future, there is an inspiring reliance on God to open doors and lead the way. As Perce said, “The only part of this journey that belongs to us is that we have the arms and the legs.”
To see some of Penrith COC’s history at Stafford Street, check out their video on their Facebook Page HERE