Finding affordable housing in Sydney can be a huge challenge, especially for students. The opportunity for young adults to live in an intentional Christian community provides students with a safe and affordable living situation, but also joins them with supportive congregations connected to Universities, TAFEs, and colleges.
Sydney Presbytery has two student community houses; Epworth House (linked to Leichhardt Uniting Church) and Corio House (linked to Hope Uniting Church in Maroubra). Burwood-Croydon Uniting Church has recently submitted a development application that will, amongst other things, provide the congregation with the ability to house an intentional Christian community of 60 young adults.
The future is certainly bright, however for Corio and Epworth Houses, providing affordable living to those in need is nothing new. Both houses have a long and unique history.
Corio House – Hope Uniting Church
Corio House was built in 1998. The original structure was built by retired builders and bricklayers from the congregation. It accommodates eight students in two housing units. Corio House has had students from over 20 different countries. Three Uniting Church Ministers were formed, in part, by the Hope community.
Rev. Andrew Johnson is one of the Ministers of the Word at Hope Uniting Church.
“Corio House is an engine of discipleship,” he said.
“It’s where we learn to pray together, to eat together, and to practice the daily habits of living in community. What’s lived faithfully here spills out into the university and the congregation—what starts with eight students impacts another fifty.”
Epworth House – Leichhardt Uniting Church
As part of the work of Leichardt Parish Mission, Epworth House was opened on May 4th, 1957 and was the first of its kind in Australia – providing affordable self-contained single and double units for senior citizens. Unfortunately, a few years later the government closed the house down as an aged care facility due to new regulations for aged care housing and Epworth House sat mostly unused.
After a few years, a local resident proposed that Epworth House should be remodelled to become an affordable ‘youth hostel’ in order to attract and encourage the residents to attend church services. The man with the idea, Archie Robinson, made a donation to fund the upgrade and Epworth House was reopened on May 21, 1959.
Whilst Epworth House provided an affordable place to live for young people, the plan to utilise the youth hostel to grow the congregation did not bear fruit. The transient and independent nature of hostel residents hampered commitment and interest in attending worship. Lucan Care took over the management in 1989 until 2001 when the Church made the decision to lease Epworth House to Wesley Institute as accommodation for students.
In 2011, a small Faith Community made up mostly of University students who had been worshipping at Ultimo Uniting in the evenings, joined Leichhardt Uniting Church. With them, they brought the on-campus connection of Christian Students Uniting, the Uniting Church in Australia’s Tertiary Student Association.
Almost a year after this joining of communities, Leichhardt Uniting Church decided to intentionally change the culture and purpose of Epworth House into a Christian Community of students who worshiped and contributed to the life and work of the church.
Today, the house provides accommodation for up to 20 young adults, and is a thriving community of domestic and international students as well as young professionals.
Carol Hirt is the Manager of Epworth House.
“Many of our residents are living out of home for the first time, or they have moved away from their network of family and friends to attend Uni, so at LUC we strive to create a supportive church home for these young adults,” she said.
“Epworth House is much more than just University accommodation. It exists to nurture and enable its residents to study, work and grow in Christ together in a safe and affirming community environment.”
Over the last eight years both Epworth and Corio House have helped to grow and sustain young congregations. Currently, numerous Christian Students Uniting undergraduate and postgraduate students live in Epworth and Corio House and the residents are actively participating in in the worship and missional life of the Church.
The formation of young adults as a core mission area has been bearing fruit not just for Leichhardt and Hope Uniting Church but also for the life and work of the wider Uniting Church.
For more information on Sydney Presbytery student accommodation or to apply for residency in 2019, check out the CSU website.
Image by Velushomaz
This article was first published at Insights Magazine.