GRACE Anglican Church in Joondalup commissioned its first full-time priest this month.
Gift Makwasha moved to Perth from Zimbabwe with his family in late February to take up the position.
The church, which is part of the $20 million Shenton House development, opened in March 2013 and the parish had been looking for a full-time priest.
The parish held a commissioning service on March 16 to welcome Dr Makwasha, performed by Assistant Bishop of Perth Jeremy James.
Dr Makwasha had visited seven churches in the Diocese of Perth last year, including the Shenton Avenue church.
The Archbishop later appointed him to the Joondalup parish, and the Zimbabwean returned to Australia with his wife Kudzai and three children Gamuchirai (15), Michael (4) and Michele (1) on February 24.
Dr Makwasha replaces preacher David Ingleson, who had been running services at the church for the past 20 months.
He gave his first sermon on March 19 based on an Exodus reading and the theme ‘We are together in this’.
“I’m encouraging the church here that we need to have the mentality of unity,” he said.
“If we are of one heart and one mind, it will help us to build a strong foundation.”
Born in Zimbabwe, Dr Makwasha said as a child living in a squatter camp he became a translator for a missionary, which led to his passion.
“The church where I grew up we had a missionary from the US; he worked with the poor,” he said.
“He has been a role model to me.
“Being a missiologist, I have mission at heart; that’s what I’m bringing to Grace church.”
Dr Makwasha was ordained a deacon in Harare in December 1995 and a year later became a priest.
“After serving for about four years, I left and went to the United States to pursue further studies, where I earned my masters and PhD,” he said.
He completed his PhD at Boston University in 2009, and returned to Zimbabwe in 2011.
“I wanted to give back to the country for another five years,” he said.
Excited to be in Perth, Dr Makwasha said the parish had a “sense of family” and he planned to build on the work already done to make it more visible within the community.
“In Zimbabwe we planted trees; we went to markets to clean the streets,” he said.
“I think this church is hungry to do something.”
Parish warden Ian Wilson said Dr Makwasha’s academic credentials would help the church builder stronger links with ECU.
“He is a very academic person; he has published quite a few works,” he said.
Mr Wilson said being part of Shenton House meant the church had visits from people who were receiving cancer treatment, or caring for those who were, at the adjacent medical facilities.
“We do have people coming in for quiet time or to light a prayer candle,” he said.
“We just want more presence here with a priest and parishioners – some people like to have someone to speak to; some just want quiet time.
“What we want to develop is much stronger pastoral links with (Joondalup Health Campus) across the road.”
Mr Wilson said as a “city church” rather than a suburban one, they wanted to provide more things for people to do in the evenings and more youth activities.
Part of that includes hosting the Tuxedo Junction Vocal Ensemble performance at 1pm on Sunday, April 2 for the Joondalup Festival.
Mr Wilson said the Makwasha family were living in a rectory owned by the Heathridge parish, as it did not need the house for its priest.
The church already has a mix of nationalities in its congregation, and Dr Makwasha said he hoped his presence would help bring more people who came from Zimbabwe and Africa to the church.
Grace Anglican Church is located on the corner of Shenton Avenue and Grand Boulevard and Sunday services start at 9am.