In the suburbs of Artarmon and Willoughby, deep need is hard to spot amongst the quiet tree-lined streets. But with people from a diverse range of backgrounds and circumstances, there are residents searching for physical and spiritual assistance. Recognising that this need is present in both their suburbs, St Basil’s Artarmon and St Stephen’s Willoughby combined forces to run an Anglicare Mobile Community Pantry to serve their communities.
“There are huge numbers of migrants from a variety of Asian countries,” says the Rev Prashanth Colombage, Senior Minister at St Stephen’s, Willoughby. “And there are many people who live in mid-density housing who are yearning for community, care and connection.”
Down the road, in neighbouring Artarmon, the Rev Jack Wong is seeing the same situation. As the demographics of the neighbourhood change, the social needs of its residents change also. “There are people who are struggling with food security and other social issues,” says Mr Wong, who is the Assistant Minister at St Basil’s, Artarmon.
Food for the week and for the soul
The Anglicare Mobile Community Pantry runs on a fortnightly basis, meeting in the grounds of St Basil’s and offering locals in need a full bag of pantry staples for ten dollars.
Mr Wong acknowledges that food insecurity is only part of the struggle for migrants, especially those who come from communal cultures. “Perhaps the bigger problem people face is spiritual poverty and a lack of good community,” he says. The Mobile Community Pantry not only helps to feed residents. It creates an opportunity and provides a space for those lacking connection to gather with each other and experience the love of a Christ-centred community.
The bigger problem people face is spiritual poverty and a lack of good community
The collaboration is a first for both churches, which are two kilometres away from each other and facing the same challenges.
“It’s been important to feel like we are in a partnership rather than competing against each other,” Mr Colombage said. “Artarmon has plenty to teach us about ministry to multi-ethnic communities and we are eager to learn over the course of time.”
Mr Wong agrees, noting how working together has already strengthened the capacity of both churches to serve and reach those in their local area.
“We have been greatly encouraged by the eagerness of the volunteers, both from St Basil’s and St Stephen’s, and there were more than we expected,” he says. “We hope to assist the needy with their physical needs, and more importantly, [we hope to] create a supportive, welcoming and caring community where they can feel and know of God’s love for them through our interaction with them – and ultimately, know the gospel.