Youth Matters: The importance of a place to worship

By Sam Clear, Director of the Office of Youth Evangelisation

In 2013 my book, walk4one – Paving a Path to Unity, was published after being edited down to one third of the first draft. The book relates my walk around the world for Christian unity. Most of what was edited out was irrelevant, but there is one anecdote from the journey that I wish the publisher left in; an amazing story of heroic Polish fortitude in the face of anti-Catholic communism.

The day after the Polish Catholic magazine, Gość Niedzielny, published their March 2008 issue featuring the walk for unity, I walked through the southern Polish village of Cisiec towards the Slovakian border. Two elderly women were standing at the window of a two-storey home, watching the world go by as they chatted, and when I walked into view they recognised me and began banging on the window, waving the magazine to get my attention. With what I can only describe as ‘maternal authority’ they ordered me off the street with forceful hand-gestures to join them for a cup of tea. They were hilarious, and their hospitality was wonderful.

Opposite the two-storey home sat a beautiful red-roofed church with a tall bell-tower. The two women stood me at the window looking across to the church and explained how they’d built their church.

During Poland’s communist occupation the construction of new churches was outlawed. The villagers of Cisiec were set on building a place to worship, but with any commencement of work likely to be snuffed out very quickly, with consequences for those involved, they had to plan an extraordinary build. The people of Cisiec secretly designed the church down to the last nail and over many months gathered materials in small quantities so as to not raise suspicion from the authorities. Sections of the church walls, roof A-frames, pews, etc were then quietly assembled in people’s backyards. And then they waited. The Polish winter nights are long and dark – and the villagers needed as much time as possible in good weather under the cover of darkness. When the night finally arrived the villagers amassed with all the various pre-painted and pre-assembled sections.

My two hosts, those two elderly women, lit up with smiles as they recalled, “When the sun set there was an empty block. When the sun rose there was a beautiful church standing there, with a group of communist police standing on the footpath staring at it, scratching their heads. Everyone in the village just went about their business acting normal, grinning at each other all day.”

The heart of our centre of worship in Tasmania, St Mary’s Cathedral, has been restored by professionals over a lot more time than one solitary night, but as we gather to worship, imagine what we could build, together, from that place.

“Is it time for you to dwell in your panelled houses, while this house lies in ruin?” (Haggai 1:4)

Tags: Bellerive-Lindisfarne, Bridgewater-Brighton, Burnie-Wynyard, Campbell Town, Central Tasmania, Circular Head, Claremont, Flinders Island, George Town, Glenorchy, Hobart, Huon Valley, King Island, Kings Meadows, Kingston-Channel, Launceston, Meander Valley, Mersey-Leven, Moonah-Lutana, Northern Deanery, Richmond, Sandy Bay, Scottsdale, South Hobart, Southern Deanery, St Mary's Cathedral, St Marys, West Coast, West Tamar, Youth Evangelisation