In 1999, members of Chester Street Uniting Church, Saint Alban's (Anglican) and Our Lady Help of Christians (Catholic) met together as local churches acting together for social justice. As a result, Together-in-Epping (T.I.E) was born; and it was decided to do something local, and something more general, every year. Our first venture was to march together in the 2000 March for Reconciliation across Sydney Harbour Bridge. Hornsby Council gave consent to TIE to plant a tree in Forest Park; a plaque at base of the tree included these words: “We acknowledge the WALLAMADAGAL PEOPLE, the traditional owners of this land.” The first spade was turned by the captain of Cheltenham Girls’ High School, who was of aboriginal heritage.
The choice of issues tackled was made easier by the fact that Force Ten (the predecessor of National Council of Church’s Act for Peace) chose an annual focus which T.I.E adopted. A Saturday forum and/or an evening gathering was arranged, and relevant groups would be invited to participate, together with the local bookshop and local papers.
In 2001, in conjunction with these events, the idea of holding brief lunchtime events called
‘Food for Thought’ was born, with the idea of attracting people from nearby offices as well as members of the congregations.
In 2007, a Trivia Night was held in aid of the Christmas Bowl; for a number of years from then, annual collections for the Christmas Bowl took place in the Epping shopping area and railway station. Leaflets and bookmarks were also distributed.
With the formation of T.I.E., and the clergy of the three churches interacting regularly the idea of worshipping together was instituted. Weekly mid-week services in different churches during Lent were arranged; the preacher being of a different denomination from that of the host church. A combined service around the time of Pentecost was also initiated. Occasional pulpit exchanges
were also arranged. By 2007, Lenten services and other activities also involved West Epping Uniting Church and St Gerard’s Catholic Church, Carlingford.
There are often invitations issued for representatives from each of the churches to attend Festival Services and activities at our churches.
Monthly Taizé worship services had previously been held in Epping many years before. These were revived and held on the second Sunday evening each month, initially at each church in rotation. However, to provide continuity of location for non-regular participants, it was agreed after a few years to hold them always at Saint Alban’s.
For the first few years, combined group studies were held during Lent, using available study material.
However, these were soon discontinued due to the many other Lenten commitments of each church. Much later, in 2014, two groups were formed – one morning session and one evening – to study the booklet produced by the NSW Ecumenical Council: The Gift of Each Other: learning from other Christians.
From 2002, the Parish Councils of the three churches met together annually to hear reports of the recent activities of each group and of T.I.E., and to consider further ways of working together. The meetings held in February in the churches in rotation and commenced with an informal dinner. An early decision was made to include, on each church’s letterhead, a statement indicating its covenant relationship with the others. Over subsequent years, other congregations joined the group, and some have not stayed. The current congregations are Anglican Parish of Epping (St Alban’s and St Aidan’s), the congregations of Epping Uniting Church (Chester St and Oxford St which had become one) and West Epping Uniting Church, and the Catholic Parish of Epping and Carlingford New South Wales (Our Lady Help of Christians and St. Gerard Majella).
In 2007, the three Epping congregations celebrated together on Palm Sunday, at St Alban’s, a Blessing of
the Palms followed by a procession around the nearby streets. In subsequent years the location alternated between Saint Alban’s and Our Lady Help of Christians.
The Covenant: It was not until 2004 that the idea of a covenant was agreed. This declaration stated the things which had been done over the previous four years. Over the subsequent years, it is revised annually at the Parish Councils’ meeting and reaffirmed by signing at the Pentecost Ecumenical Service by both a minister and a lay person from each parish. Drawn together by a shared faith in Jesus Christ and inspired by the Holy Spirit the congregations commit themselves in covenant to what has been agreed for the following year by way of combined services and activities.
The Covenant Statement signed in 2023 is hung in the Church porch.