The Christmas Bowl has been a Christmas tradition for Australian churches for seven decades, a reminder that Christians can change the world when we act together for peace. Journey reports.
It’s been 70 years since Rev Frank Byatt placed an empty bowl on the Christmas dinner table, asking his congregation to support refugees in war-ravaged Europe by making “a generous gift so that you can share your good dinner with hungry children in other lands”.
Since then the Christmas Bowl appeal has raised more than $100 million from denominations across Australia, according to Hannah Montgomery from Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia.
“Through the Christmas Bowl, Australian churches have responded to the major crises of our time, from food provisions during the Ethiopian famine in the early 1980s to providing vulnerable communities in South Sudan with access to clean water and sanitation projects in 2019,” says Hannah.
“The Christmas Bowl is a compelling Christian movement for change and illustrates the incredible impact that Australian churches can have when they work together.”
Emerald Uniting Church is one of many Queensland Uniting Churches where the Christmas Bowl is a tradition. With the region in the grip of drought, Rev Jim Pearson says that church elders are selective about the appeals they endorse.
“When we ask for support for a cause, congregants know it’s been well-chosen, scrutinised and not endorsed lightly,” says Jim.
“For me personally it’s the simplicity, the timing (around Christmas, when minds are focused on giving), and the non-controversial nature (generally speaking) of the projects. I also find the promotion of the Bowl appealing: factual, not too emotive, gospel-focused. The link between Christ, church and appeal target is clearly enunciated.”
Church council secretary Doug Core, a church member for more than 30 years, says that people can see that the Christmas Bowl makes a difference.
“Christmas is a good time to be looking outside of ourselves and supporting something outside the work of the local church. I know the Christmas Bowl is not the only appeal around but it is a simple appeal, we know it’s a genuine one, it works and there is good promotional material that supports it,” says Doug.
“We know that a lot of people are struggling and finding it hard to contribute, but Christmas is a time when people do like to give and we have some very generous people who not only support the church but support other charities like the Christmas Bowl.”
To register your church for the Christmas Bowl and receive a resource kit, visit actforpeace.org.au/Christmas-Bowl