Watching cars pull over outside Moggill Uniting Church is proof that a strategically placed coffee van and a big red “Open” banner can be unique tools for shaping the Kingdom. Add in friendly faces and the opportunity to catch up with neighbours, and you’re on the road to creating community. Dianne Jensen reports.
Rev Melanie Wheeley and the Moggill congregation launched their partnership with the Moccabella café in nearby Bellbowrie in outer Brisbane early last year. And on a crisp winter morning the tables outside the church are bustling with customers.
“In its mission plan the congregation came up with the goal of wanting to create space for relationships seven days a week—and that’s how it all started,” says Mel. “Tamara and Colin who run the coffee shop are Christians and they had a similar understanding of mission and wanted to serve. They donate a coffee cart and an employee on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, and people from the church come along to grow relationships with people that come through.”
With a primary school next door, residents heading into the city and local employees dropping in, plenty of customers have become coffee van regulars.
“For me it’s about mission,” says Mel. “It’s giving people the opportunity to connect with the church in a way that’s relevant to where they are at—and who doesn’t
What Mel describes as “the cross-pollination of church and community” has led to a booming op shop staffed by volunteers. There are plans to turn the iconic chapel, currently used as a community centre coordinated by member June Rice, into a hub for clothes, coffee and community events.
“The whole aim is think big, start small and try to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit to the best of our ability—and that’s how this has all grown and continues to grow.”
Youth and families’ pastor Eric Woodrow says that those initial connections made over coffee can provide important pathways.
“When the fence between church and community gets blurred, people feel comfortable to have a conversation, to talk about life and maybe about faith. A lot is about forming networks, putting a face to the church.”
With the devastation caused by the 2011 floods still fresh in local memory, the role played by the church as a hub for emergency services and support has provided a good foundation for engaging with the community, Eric adds.
“Those bridges still exist and people remember that time and the way in which the church supported them—I think that’s church being what we should be, church at its best.”