Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Central Methodist Hall King St Newcastle

   I'm slowly getting back to work in my vocation this week but as soon as I can I will be calling into 'Central' for a cold beverage [and hopefully a chat with co-owner Sean Blakemore]!! The building was a Methodist Church [pictured b&w] and you'll see the pipe organ transplanted at some stage to the Pittwater House School in Sydney [so I believe].
   My first awareness of the building was when the shrinking congregation, population shift in the CBD and the style of the building meant it's days were numbered without ability to change it's use and adapt to modern missional challenges. The 'heritage' mezzanine rail was the subject of many hypocryphal conversations about late night chainsaw excursions [thanks Brett] and stories of caretaker Earl being summoned to the door by his mum with the shout out "put your pants on Earl, there's someone here to see you" [and thanks for that visual memory Tone].
   I related to the building next as being my fav. fast food outlet for years... "Big Al's" sandwich joint with gangster themed subs in a red basket and a milkshake container of chicken salt fries before that was popular... classic US themed fare. There was a party room for a while and it was a great connecting point for hours of loitering or alongside a trip to the Tower Cinemas!!
   Around this time one of my predecessors managed to arrange for their Office to be in the upstairs loft looking down on King St and with thoughts of how a CBD location might help create something amongst transient young adults around a few congregations or alongside Easter Camp at that time.
   It was sold to fund experimental 'community ministry' that I still grieve the loss of... oh to be in that space... It was a spa and theatre, a restaurant and then Bacchus restaurant until it's closure...
   Now, it's a Matilda Bay Craft Beer Themed Cafe/Restaurant/PUB!!
   I will look forward to taking a camera and being able to use the story of Central Hall to talk mission into the future, but also just to be 'in that space' again in such a different way... a bit like Pancakes at the Manor in Brisbane or the Bavarian Beer Cafe in Parramatta or Tantrum Theatre in Newcastle's former Presbyterian Church in Watt St.
   I won't feel sadness or loss, I will just soak up the way in which a space remains as a community gathering place, with creativity and art and wonder how in this community the church can find God in action and join that mission with integrity and passion like actors, chefs and brewers...

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