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Brisbane's Bible Belt


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BRISBANE’S southside is keeping the faith, with the city’s “Bible Belt” experiencing a groundswell in congregation numbers.

Southside International Church at Sunnybank Hills has lodged a development application with Brisbane City Council for a $3 million upgrade of its facilities at Beenleigh Rd.

The proposal includes the construction of a 1054sq m worship centre and an ­extension to the church’s ­existing training centre.

Reverend Roger Lang said the church grew from about 25 members in the 1990s to more than 400 people.

He said the spike could be ­attributed to the southside’s immigrant population and the church’s renewed focus on youth services.

“Christianity is growing vigorously in the developing world and migrants are bringing that vitality,” Reverend Lang said.

Hillsong pastor Steve Dixon said his congregation at Mt Gravatt had quadrupled in six years to more than 7000.

“The growth is definitely towards the younger end — teenagers and people in their 20s and 30s,” he said.

A steady rise has also been experienced by the southside’s second most popular religion, Buddhism, according to followers.

Venerable Hui Jin, a 26-year-old Australian who ­became a monk last year, said more than 250 people visited Priestdale’s Chung Tian Temple every weekend.

“The recognised benefits of meditation and mindfulness is a huge element of the increased interest,” he said.

The surge in congregation numbers comes despite atheism increasing across Brisbane, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data from 2011, compared with 2006.

Social researcher Mark McCrindle said 2011 Census figures reflected the southside’s ties to religion, with almost two in three residents identifying as Christian in comparison with the one in three who considered themselves atheist.

Mr McCrindle said about 70 per cent of residents living in Mackenzie, Mansfield and Wishart identified with Christianity, well above the Australian average of 61 per cent and Queensland average of 64 per cent.

In Kuraby, 19 per cent of residents identified as being Muslim, in contrast to much smaller numbers in other suburbs.

Meanwhile, Sunday Assembly’s Cameron Reilly said its godless congregation, which met every month in Brisbane for ­services that “celebrate life”, had grown to about 350 members.

He said he had been an atheist since he was eight years old when a Catholic priest told him everyone was “born a sinner”.

“I looked at my baby sister and didn’t want to be part of the religion,” he said.

“(The growth) is evidence there’s an appetite for a sense of community without religion.”

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