It’s been a place of warmth and friendship in the midst of an often stone-cold city for two decades and David’s Place remains a place for the marginalised to drop in for a cup of tea, a chat and a deeply spiritual connection.
Founded in Flinders Street at Darlinghurst as a spiritual outreach to locals by Sue Buckingham and Paul Taylor, today it is housed on the grounds of St Canice’s parish in Elizabeth Bay.
“It was meant to be a place where Jesus would like to hang out, and I think that’s spot on,” said Rachel Buist, a David’s Place supporter.
“I find it personally very spiritually fulfilling to be here.”
Mrs Buckingham said it was a “very unlikely” group of people who began the initiative 20 years ago, beginning with herself who at the time was a stay-at-home mother of six in Sydney’s outer northern suburbs.
“It’s not about social work or outreach, it is primarily a place for prayer and fellowship with the main pivot being the monthly Eucharist on the last Saturday of the month,” she said.
“People who are on the margins have got a lot of time that the rest of us haven’t got.
“They’ve got time to look at the world around them and contemplate and reflect in the broader sense.”
David’s Place, so named because David means ‘beloved’, gives people dignity they are not given elsewhere including celebrating birthdays and providing funerals.
Father Frank Brennan SJ and parish priest Father Paul Fyfe SJ celebrated the anniversary Mass on 22 September, which was followed by a picnic lunch in nearby park.
Later in the day the group reassembled in the church for the internment of the ashes of two David’s Place members, Secular Franciscan Kevin Carter ofs and Robert Michael Moryc into the church wall.
Apart from a core group of 20-30 people who meet throughout the week, Mrs Buckingham also runs an outreach, meeting in coffee shops for those who wouldn’t come to David’s Place. Christmas and Easter celebrations always draw a large crowd she said, while its Easter and Christmas card list has grown to about 400-strong.
“I see it as ripples on a pond, or the mustard tree that gives shelter to the birds of the air,” she said.
Founding David’s Place member and keen Parramatta Eels and Newcastle Knights supporter Kelvin Coe said that it is “a bit like one happy family”. “I’m Church of England, [but] doesn’t matter what religion you are,” he said.
“Going to David’s Place is good for the soul.”
Ms Buist said she enjoys learning from people with a vastly different life experiences. “At the same time it’s very reassuring to have the feeling of adding something important to a person’s life,” she said.