Sometimes little acts of hospitality go a long way to strengthening the community. Ashley Thompson talks to Granite Belt Uniting Church minister Rev Kaye Ronalds and Stanthorpe Uniting Church member Jean Pyle about their efforts to reach out to young families.
Since Easter last year, the Stanthorpe congregation has been providing weekly hospitality to the parents and siblings of young dancers using their church hall, with funding assistance for outdoor seating and shade provided by Redcliffe Uniting Church’s Neil James Grant Bequest.
Organised by four core volunteers, Rev Kaye Ronalds explains, “There are always people on the site and families coming and going and children hanging around, and we decided that that was really a mission opportunity.”
With offerings of tea, coffee, Milo and biscuits, Kaye says they try to keep it simple so the focus is not on the food but on fostering relationships and building a family atmosphere.
“What we’ve noticed is that people are talking to us because they’re getting to know us,” says Kaye who moved to Stanthorpe in late 2014 after completing her term as moderator.
“One mother was talking about her experience of pregnancy loss, so we were just listening to her story and supporting her as she was talking about that very deeply moving part of her life.
“Another mum was telling us last year about her father that had died after a period of time in hospital and so it’s also an opportunity as we’ve built the relationship to check in and see how they’re going.”
Volunteer Jean Pyle says the congregation also uses their “dance class hospitality” outreach as an opportunity to raise awareness of their family church service held once a month.
“We’ve taken a softly-softly approach to start with,” says Jean. “We felt that relationships were most important and then hopefully we’ll go further as time progresses.”
While this subtle approach has not yet seen families walking through the church doors on a Sunday morning, Kaye says it’s all about “making the church open and accessible” to families who have “gotten out of the habit” of attending Sunday services.
“Because the church is open the children move about the church and are feeling comfortable with that space so that it doesn’t seem very strange,” she says.
For Kaye it’s another point of connection with the community as some of the children are also in her Religious Instruction class at the local school. “They say to me ‘Oh see you tomorrow afternoon Mrs Ronalds’, so there’s that kind of cross-over if you like.”
Jean was reminded that small is beautiful and it doesn’t take much to reach out when, “last year the mums clubbed together and paid for all our tickets to go to the end of the year ballet concert.
“To me that says we really appreciate what you’re doing.”
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