Merewether Uniting Church’s motto, “Building Bridges to a Better Community”, isn’t just a motto, it’s something the church has been doing since its rebirth in 2006.
The Rev. John Warham says, “People in our church were saying they barely knew anyone in their street. It was obvious that the church and the community, if they were to reconnect, at least had to meet one another. So our ministry has become a ministry of ‘introductions’. It’s been the Synod Mission Resource Fund (SMRF) grant and some really wonderful people that have enabled us to start building great social networks again.”
SMRF funding has supported a family worker at Merewether and a youth worker. Both positions are part-time (10 hours per week) but as Mr Warham proudly comments, “We’ve gone from one play group associated with the church to four. We’ve hooked up with some wonderful community-focussed people, established a community kitchen, and are now looking at establishing a community garden. This is in addition to our stroke survivors group.
“It’s exciting that it’s not just the church doing this. The wider community has really come on board. For example, Newcastle Legacy loan us their bus, free of charge, so that we can bring people to the community kitchen. Parents in the play groups have repainted and recarpeted the play group hall out of their own pockets and hard work. The local gardening club maintains our gardens in exchange for meeting space. All this is happening because we’re providing opportunities for people in our community to connect with each other. And from the church’s perspective we are seeing that building bridges to a better community is the same as building the Kingdom of God here and now.”
Merewether’s community kitchen now feeds up to 85 people from all walks of life every Tuesday night.
SMRF is pleased that grant funding is often the boost that is needed for a congregation to more fully respond to God’s call to mission in their place. The Merewether project offers some great learning! It shows that both careful planning, with the growth of the playgroups, and being open to the leading of God, with the community garden, are important.