The 99-year legacy of Burwood Church of Christ’s (BCOC) local multicultural ministry is carrying on through The Chapel Sydney’s Burwood plant this year.

In May, The Chapel Sydney launched its new campus, The Chapel Burwood, after assuming stewardship and care for BCOC’s building when the congregation voted to close at the end of 2019.

After years of asking God to carry this ministry in Burwood forward, the last 12 faithful members of BCOC had their prayers answered in an unexpected way.

Christine Pegram, an elder and member for 35 years at BCOC, shared about this challenging time of holding on in 2019, even as they were struggling but had a strong conviction that God had plans for the church.

“I believe God wants this multicultural ministry to be here,” she said. “I think the whole congregation believed this too.” 

She said their collective prayer had been: “… for an English-speaking pastor that had multicultural connections who could develop the ministry.” 

“In 2015, I moved a considerable distance from the church but felt convicted that God wanted me to stay there. At the beginning of 2019, I felt it was time for me to leave. We sang ‘Oceans’ one morning, and I knew God was telling me just to hold on, that I couldn’t leave yet. It was the end of that year that we met Stephen.” 

 Stephen Cha, founder and Senior Pastor of The Chapel Sydney in Chatswood, had felt a call in 2019 for their eight-year-old congregation to plant another campus in the Inner West.

Stephen initially established The Chapel Sydney with the desire for it to become a multicultural and multigenerational community.

Growing up as a second-generation Korean-Aussie in a migrant church, Stephen experienced the wrestle of navigating a multi-cultural identity.

He said, “The migration story is … ‘We didn’t fit in our parents’ church. We went to a local church. We didn’t fit there either.’ It’s the third culture – we’re not Korean, not Australian, we’re a hybrid.” 

Since discovering his identity as a child of God at a young age, Stephen felt called to help others discover this for themselves and to pastor communities that draw people of any culture together as one family.  

When Stephen started The Chapel Sydney in 2013, Dennis Long offered them Chatswood Church of Christ’s building as a temporary home. However, Stephen fondly reflected that this arrangement turned into eight years of The Chapel Sydney “sleeping on the couch”. 

For six years, the congregation continued to grow across cultures and suburbs. Two years ago, a number of members joined from the Inner West, which got Stephen thinking, “How do we serve them?”

Working with the Pioneering team from Mission and Ministry, Stephen began to look at the Inner West for opportunities to plant a second campus. Fresh Hope EMD Daz Farrell helped Stephen explore this, and they soon connected the needs of BCOC and The Chapel Sydney.

Christine recalled that while the BCOC congregation was unsure of this at first, as it was an unexpected solution, they soon “felt sure that this was the right thing”.

After attending the opening celebration service for The Chapel Burwood in May, Christine saw just how much the two churches had in common.

“You walk in the door and they’re just lovely. People used to say this before and it’s still the same. They’re welcoming and friendly – it’s like nothing changed,” she said. 

The Chapel Burwood is calling the renovated BCOC building “The Community Hub” with the vision to establish it as a bustling venue that hosts local community groups and church services. 

“We want these facilities to be used to serve the community, not just church,” Stephen said.

While lockdown has forced Stephen and The Chapel to take things more slowly than first planned, they see this as a short interruption in a long-term vision as they look to the next 99 years of ministry in Burwood. 

“Later, we’ll look back, and four months or six months will mean nothing. We’re in this for the long term.”