Here’s an excerpt from our interview with South Sydney Uniting, whose leader Andrew Collis and his team, build their health and vitality through initiatives such as this.

Read the conversation below.

NCLS: Would you tell me about the Herald, so I’ve got a good description of that work as well as a very unique and interesting piece of what this church is engaged with?

AC: The South Sydney Herald is a community newspaper. It was established in 2002, but really, you know, five years before that there were antecedent publications that were edited by Trevor Davies who was a local member of the labour party. And so, the paper kind of started as a newsletter for the Darlington branch of the labour party and he and his mom, Connie, would deliver like a photocopied sheet about the news of the area.

Evidently, he had a love of newspapers going back to high school, so then there was the Roadrunner, there was the Redfern Herald. And ultimately, there was the South Sydney Herald and the church in 2002, he made the decision to take that on and to back Trevor and the paper and to engage a professional designer and printer. And it’s grown from there. So, we’re looking at issue 188 to be printed this week. So, we print 11 issues a year and it is politics, profiles of local people, arts and culture, sport and everything in between.

The values of it were very much to do with contesting negative stereotypes of the neighbourhood and amplifying the good stories and the good people and good community groups of the area.

So, it’s an advocacy storytelling, news-reporting, social enterprise as much as a newspaper. And it’s one of the last standing now, so it’s been an interesting era because print newspapers have not survived the digital revolution and advertising models did not keep up with costs. And so, without the church’s support for this paper… I mean we do our best always to sell ads and find sponsorships and to make sure that we can have some funds for it, but the church has always covered the losses and seen it as mission.

And a really important distinction that while we have a faith column always and we’ve now moved to a multifaith or cross faith commitment, so we seek writers for that faith column from various wisdom traditions, we still have that space to tell our own faith story. And while we do that, it’s not a religious paper. We don’t do it to draw people in, but to love people and because we value their stories. And because, I guess, there’s a theological vision or there’s a theology there which is very sacramental I think, which recognises God at work in the neighbourhood.

NCLS: And you mentioned you spend a few days a month actually delivering the papers. So as a minister, you put time into this yourself. Do you still take photos and write?

AC: Yes. So, when I came in 2007, the role was to be the managing editor of the newspaper and to be the parish minister. And so, those roles have defined my placement until this year when we’ve been able to employ a wonderful person two days a week, Margaret Lewis-Jones, as the managing editor. And she and I have transitioned. So, she came in… It’s a long story. The most recent kind of chapter, she was the assistant managing editor and I was the managing editor, and now we have switched as of October and I am the assistant managing editor now.

So, that’s been a wonderful journey and I loved doing that, and yes, I loved writing and taking photos and editing and I will keep doing that as the assistant. So, I’m even happier to have a colleague like Margaret now and for the future.

And then, yes, the big question’s still around the whole print digital thing for the paper and how we ensure that the paper is visible and accessible and effective and sustainable. You know, with all the ecological and practical questions that go with that. So, we’ve got a new website which we developed this year too, which we’re very excited about.

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