Daylesford’s Anglican Church Christ Church welcomed a new vicar at a service on Sunday.
Father Neil Fitzgerald said he would focus on celebrating inclusiveness at his new ministry in Daylesford.
“One of the projects I will be bringing to the parish is called Gay and Pray,” Fr Fitzgerald said.
“It has been accepted as one of the missions of the Bendigo Diocese to be more welcoming to the gay community, providing them with a safe place with congregation who are educated and open and accepting.”
Fr Fitzgerald began the Gay and Pray project in Woodend when he was ordained in 2015. He said the Anglican Diocese of Bendigo was progressive in the area of LGBTQI inclusiveness.
“There is a lot of negativity out there about some of the more radical churches and their views on gay relationships,” he said.
“I think it is important that we get the word out there that not all churches are placard wielding, protesting people and that we are genuinely open and wanting to spread the good news not only about the gospel of Jesus, but the basic tenets of love and acceptance and understanding. Not all churches are the same.”
The Gay and Pray program also aims to tackle youth suicide.
“We have worked with Cobaw Community Health, the Macedon Ranges Shire Council and a new program called Open House which is based in Woodend that is all about raising awareness of issues affecting the younger gay community but also the older gay community as well,” Fr Fitzgerald said.
Fr Fitzgerald also works part time with Qantas as a cabin manager. He said there were some similarities between the two roles.
“Flying-wise, we come across all sorts of people travelling for different reasons, going through a few personal issues,” Fr Fitzgerald said.
“I fly with a crew who are away with for days at a time, leaving behind family and problems there. Just being able to sit and talk helps them a lot, even if there is not a religious aspect to it, but just the humanitarian side of making contact with somebody and talking.
“Having the two jobs keeps me grounded and in contact with the real world and I can bring that experience into the parish.”
Fr Fitzgerald said he felt humbled when fulfilling his role at the church.
“It’s very moving to be with people who are going through different times in their lives and discovering how religion impacts on their lives,” he said.
“Being able to help them through and be a confidante to them is a moving experience.”
Fr Fitzgerald replaced Daylesford Anglican Church Christ Church’s previous vicar Father Jeff O’Hare.