From Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures
Rev Mat Harry is the New and Renewing Communities Catalyst for the VicTas Synod of the Uniting Church. As he ministers with congregations across that Synod to encourage them in mission with their local communities, recently he has been urging them on toward deepening relationship.
“One of the misconceptions about mission is that the more people we are serving the better. However, it is the depth of those relationships that is critically important. This is why it is truly inspiring when you see Christian Community trying to deepen relationships with the people they are already alongside. And that is exactly what the faithful people of Melton are doing with the hospitality space in the Op Shop.”
Here is a link to some of the story about the Op Shop that is part of Melton Uniting Church in Victoria. It is a story about how they included a café space in the Op Shop to build more opportunities for community with the people who already shop with them - Church Mission - Deepening Relationships - YouTube
Similar conversation about going deeper in relationship with the people we are already serving was part of table group discussion in day 2 of mission planning with Gungahlin Uniting Church last weekend. Rev Elizabeth Raine led the two days that helped the congregation identify the kind of church they feel called to be in the future, and finished up with groups putting their names against action lists with timeframes for getting started on projects that are part of their transition. There are projects about worship for a diverse group of people, worship for a younger demographic, establishing groups for young families, raising the public profile of the congregation, growing discipleship and faith formation, and acting to discern the congregation’s part in what God is doing in the local community.
The table group that is acting to discern more of the congregation’s part in God’s mission with the local community are already actively involved in serving through the Food Pantry. When they thought about growth in God’s mission through the Food Pantry, they didn’t think of providing more food to more people, rather they thought of how to build even more relationship and community with the people they already serve. This step about building community through loving service is part of the map for mission in the godsend App – learning for mission, a very handy tool to lead you through important steps for engaging in mission with your local community (*see details below about how to access this free App).
One of the key action steps identified to provide greater depth of community and relationship with people served through the Food Pantry is to bring back the café space that had closed during COVID. The café space operated at the same time as the Food Pantry, and provided a space for people to gather for a cuppa and something to eat before or after they had done their shopping at the Food Pantry. It was in that café space that people had the time for conversation and sharing more of life with each other.
It will be so good to see the café space back in operation. It makes great use of the very good kitchen facilities and the enclosed children’s play area that runs off the café space. It is open and airy and inviting for people to gather. There was even some dreaming about what could be done architecturally to better connect the Food Pantry space with the café space, and some remembering about how a small group reading the Bible together had arisen off to the side of the café time with people who were interested from the Food Pantry and café.
Another action step is to explore the possibilities and needs for Safe Shelter to set up for the Gungahlin area in conjunction with the church. This could be a way of deepening connection and relationship with people who shop at the Food Pantry who do not have reliable housing. It also meets up with the deep concern and care expressed in the table group for people who experience homelessness.
The two mission planning days have led the Gungahlin congregation to establishing significant projects that will be the leading edge for them transitioning to be the kind congregation to which they sense God calling them. This time of transitioning fits very nicely with readings from Acts in the coming weeks that see the early Jewish church transitioning to include Gentiles like the eunuch from last Sunday and the centurion Cornelius.
*The App is free, and you can download it by searching for 'fx godsend' in the App Store or Google Play. There is both a UK version and a brand new “downunder” version. The downunder version is ‘fx godsend au’.