Yes, I’m not Arab

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PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

 

By William McInnes

How soft evangelisation led an Anglo Aussie into the Maronite Church

At 25 years old I was baptised into the Maronite Catholic Church.

Adult baptisms aren’t particularly common in the Eastern Rite churches, especially for someone who isn’t marrying into the faith and even more rare for someone like me, with no ancestral heritage outside of the United Kingdom.

As a Caucasian Anglo Saxon, my entry into the Maronite Church is far from ordinary.
I’m told a friend attending my baptism was quick to assure her friend I was “very normal”.

“Growing up, my exposure to the faith was limited. Past scripture classes on a Tuesday morning in primary school, there was next to nothing.”

I grew up in a middle-class family on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. While my mum was baptised Catholic, we never went to mass or any church service, not even for Christmas or Easter.

My maternal grandmother was steadfast in her faith however, attending Mass every week at the local parish, where my parents wed. Growing up, my exposure to the faith was limited. Past scripture classes on a Tuesday morning in primary school, there was next to nothing. I have fond memories of one scripture teacher, but little beyond that.

My real journey started when I attended the local non-denominational Christian high school.

William McInnes, third from the left, is the Social Media Coordinator for Christ the Redeemer Youth. Photo: CTR Youth Facebook Page
William McInnes, third from the left, is the Social Media Coordinator for Christ the Redeemer Youth.
Photo: CTR Youth Facebook Page

I was suddenly alive to all these students and teachers who were very open with their faith, something I hadn’t experienced up until that point. Through high school, I would attend Friday night youth services at the local Pentecostal Church and maybe if you’d asked me then, I might have even called myself a Christian. Looking back now, I was far from it.

After leaving high school, I drifted away. My nurturing ground and my rock had been the school. Once that was gone, I was left without anything to anchor myself too.

As a lot of 18-year-olds do, I succumbed to the drinking and hook up culture. I was suddenly an adult free to do whatever I wanted to, and I made the most of it.

“Within a few months, I met multiple Maronite Catholic friends who would go on to play a pivotal role in bringing me to the Church.”

But towards the end of my first year of university, my maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather passed away. I was in grief, but struggled to turn to my parents, who were both facing their own battles at the loss of their own parents.

For the first time in a long time, I found myself praying, asking for help. I didn’t have to wait long. Within a few months, I met multiple Maronite Catholic friends who would go on to play a pivotal role in bringing me to the Church. I quickly became best friends with one, who would go on to be my sponsor at my baptism. Through that friendship, the fire in my heart for a relationship with God which had long been hidden under a bushel, began to increase.

We don’t need to be beating our friends over the head with a bible, we need to be inviting them to our Parish barbecues, we need to be living out our faith and letting ourselves be witnesses to the love and grace granted to us by Our Lord.

Maronite Christians lead a Eucharistic procession through the streets of Sydney in 2019. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

When people see what we have: a beautiful faith and a wonderful community, they should be immediately attracted to our way of life, just like I was.

For me, Matthew 5:16 sums it up perfectly: “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

For me, my journey starts right at home, trying to be an example to my parents and family in the hope they will one day be able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

“My parents and sister were all in tears, remarking on the beauty of the sacrament and the wonderful community of parishioners that had come just to witness initiation into the Church.”

I’m sure all of them experienced something at my baptism. My parents and sister were all in tears, remarking on the beauty of the sacrament and the wonderful community of parishioners that had come just to witness initiation into the Church.

I hope that’s the start of something for them.

We have something beautiful to share, let’s make sure we show everyone.