"A Dutch man who was in Auckland for just one night told me he saw our sign. He said 'I don't normally go to church services but had to check it out.'"
Auckland's gay-friendly church is turning heads in the city with its eye-catching new sign, planted on the corner of Hobson Street right outside the gorgeous old St. Matthews-in-the-city church.
Auckland Community Church's Mark Hangartner proudly tells GayNZ.com that the billboard was designed by the talented people of his church, who had previously come up with catchy 'Beware of the God' and 'iGod' signs.
His congregation, which meets each Sunday evening at 7:30pm, has been going for almost thirty years, but is truly progressive and modern - there are even podcast sermons available for those who miss one.
Their inclusive, inter-denominational service has attracted increased numbers this year. "Six to eight months ago we were getting around thirty people, but now it's consistently over forty each week, and building each Sunday," Mark says.
"We were mostly men, but now more women have joined us. And on one Sunday each month we have a women-focussed gathering. We really want more women to feel welcome with us."
A WARM WELCOME
Mark knows that many LGBT people of faith feel uncomfortable being themselves in their church after coming out. "That's one of the reasons our church exists," he says warmly. "There are variations of acceptance of gay people within every denomination. Some members of our congregation have certainly experienced rejection from other churches. Others are still happily involved in other church groups, but enjoy belonging to ours also."
We're in October now, so it's getting towards time to make plans for Christmas. Naturally, that's the church's busiest time of the year. "Christmas Eve is St. Matt's biggest night, with over 1,000 people coming in for the Carols," says Mark. "Auckland Community Church will also have a Christmas Party at All Saint Church in Ponsonby on Saturday 12 December, and a get-together at one of our member's houses on Christmas night. So Christmas is quite nice, and meaningful for us."
Auckland Community Church meets every Sunday evening at 7:30pm in St Matthew-in-the-City, the Anglican Church on the corner of Hobson St and Wellesley St West - near the Sky Tower. A social retreat is also planned for an upcoming weekend. For more details and to contact the church, see its official website.