AN ECUMENICAL VENTURE OF CHURCHES IN CAPALABA, ALEXANDRA HILLS AND BIRKDALE

Origins

 

Family Matters grew out of the ecumenical Pentecost Sunday evening service held at St Luke’s Catholic Church in May 2005. That service included discussion about possible ecumenical outreach initiatives in this area.

Those who expressed an interest in developing ideas met for a planning meeting. It was subsequently decided to trial an outreach to families through a series of community breakfasts. These breakfasts would have authoritative guest speakers present a range of important family- oriented topics.

Speakers would not necessarily be Christian (though they would be consistent with a broadly Christian view on family and pastoral issues). The involvement of local churches would be expressed clearly and links made between the topics, those who attended, and local congregations.

These breakfasts, if held quarterly, would, over time, gain a positive reputation across the community, provide practical assistance to families, and foster constructive’ links between churches and the community.

Working Group

With the concept agreed, each church was invited to appoint up to two representatives to constitute a Family Matters Working Group. This group met several times and carried the proposal through to its current stage. Churches represented were St Luke and St Anthony Catholic (Noreen Owens, Margaret Kostwoski) , Church of the Resurrection Anglican (Rev. Jonathan Bright), Alexandra Hills Church of Christ (Bevan Burnes, Dave Godby), Birkdale Baptist (Rev. Greg Peckman) and Capalaba Uniting (Jenny Busch, Richard Tetley).

Getting started

An inaugural event was proposed for October, giving plenty of time for organising and offering an opportunity to trial the idea before committing to a yearly schedule. Given the timing in relation to Schoolies’ Week and Year 11-12 exams, the working group felt a timely topic would be teenage stress and depression.

After exploring several contacts, the Beyond Blue depression group recommended Dr Jeanie Sheffield, a clinical psychologist specialising in adolescent mental health, an academic and state coordinator of Beyond Blue’s schools depression research.

It was felt that a non-church venue was preferred to minimise people’s perception that the event would be “too churchy”. No Council-owned properties were suitable, and Redland Sporting Club seemed the best prospect, with the club’s chairman, Mayor Don Seccombe, offering his personal support. October 15 was the date set.

Publicity

One -hundred and twenty colour A4 posters and 3000 black-and-white A5 leaflets were printed and delivered through churches, schools, pharmacies, doctors’ surgeries, shopping centres and the Redland Community Centre.

Covering letters explaining the background to the event accompanied this material.

Three stories appeared in the Bayside Bulletin in weeks leading up to the event, and one in the Bayside Weekly.

The promotion invited people to book a place by phone.

By October 14, 110 people had booked.

Finances

A charge of $10 was set for the breakfast, payable at the door. Each church was asked to contribute $200 to establish a Family Matters working fund. This was administered through St Luke-St Anthony Parishes.

The Event

The inaugural breakfast was a great success – 92 people attended, there was a warm atmosphere, and Dr Sheffield’s presentation was engaging, practical and informative. The quality of questions in the discussion segment indicated the value of her input. The 68 Response Slips which were returned indicated unanimous appreciation for the event and enthusiasm for future breakfasts. The logistics – sound, projection, table layout, food serving, resources table, money collection, etc ¬≠overall worked very well.

A journalist from the Redland Times attended and wrote a positive report.

The Future

The success of this first community breakfast, and the positive working relationships that have developed within the working group, suggests that this initiative should continue into 2006 as an expression of the ongoing ecumenical commitment in this region.

Wider issues a new Ecumenical Network?

The development of Family Matters has run parallel to the instigation of monthly ecumenical prayer services which also followed the Pentecost Sunday gathering. Because the same six churches have participated, the Family Matters working group has also served as the organising group for these services. (Regrettably, the Salvation Army was unable to continue after the closure of the Capalaba corps, but have said they may be able to rejoin for 2006.)

The working group feels it would be best if Family Matters and the monthly prayer services were recognised as two ventures of the one ecumenical network, with the possibility that more initiatives might develop over time.

However, we are also mindful of the Shire-wide inter-church body, the Redlands Ministers’ Fellowship, and its major project, the Redlands Easter Family Festival. We want to ensure that our new network would work in harmony with those ventures and not fragment the larger ecumenical picture across the Redlands.

Hence we are seeking conversations with the executive of both bodies to discuss our plans with them.