Time to dine
Belmore Anglican Church has been connecting with its local community through regular community dinners.
The idea for the dinners came from a similar concept used in Jindabyne. A familial connection between parishioners in the two churches led to the idea making its way to the rector of Belmore, the Rev David Wallace. It was pursued as a way to particularly welcome young familie with no previous church backgrounds into the life of their church.
“We provide the food, encouraging members of the church to come along with salads and drinks while we fund the purchase of kebabs, sausages, bread rolls and things like that,” Mr Wallace says. “We cook them up on a Sunday afternoon and people just come along to have a bit of a meal together and a casual chat with their neighbours.
“It’s been running for around two years now and we average about 30 to 40 people each month – with the usual drop-off during winter and a pick-up in summer.”
Mr Wallace says the focus has been very much on people who would otherwise have no connection with with the parish or its members, although a dozen or so people who are existing friends of church members also attend. The dinners are advertised through letterbox drops and word of mouth, and some have become regular attenders as a result of the event.
“We had young one mum who we connected with us through one of the dinner letterbox drops, and then she started to come along to church,” Mr Wallace says. “While I think she was a God-fearer already, the clincher was just being able to have a meaningful neighbourly connection with a local church, and the possibility of getting involved in what we’re doing.”
The dinners have also resulted in inter-church collaboration, with Belmore teaming up with Bankstown for one particularly well-attended dinner last year.
“We invited Grant de Villiers [the assistant minister at Bankstown] to one of the dinners,” Mr Wallace says. “He said he had contacts with a couple of refugee families in the Belmore-Lakemba area, so we said, ‘Sure, bring them along as well.” He put the news out to these contacts, and I think that dinner we had nearly double the number of regulars. We needed to grab some extra food at the last minute, but it was a great night!”
The plan for the 2018 dinners is to continue to expand on some brief interviews with church members that were introduced last year, and also seek to cater to the wide range of ethnic backgrounds represented.