There are many needs in Merrylands. Bringing food is one way to help
“We want to help people to know that Jesus cares about their spiritual and physical needs.”
“Love thy neighbour” is one of the most regularly quoted passages in the Bible. But it offers churches a powerful challenge: to find ways to practically love their whole community, not just those who come along on Sundays.
For Merrylands Anglican Church, near Parramatta in Sydney, the needs of their neighbours are clear.
“With growing unemployment and food insecurity due to the coronavirus, we thought we should do something to help the community,” said assistant minister Clive Buultjens, before the current two-week lockdown.
“The [Christian] Church has a long history of helping the poor, setting up hospitals and generally doing good in the world. So we want to be a blessing to the community.”
There are many needs in Merrylands, including food and housing insecurity, homelessness, English as a second language and young families in need of support and connection.
Part of Merrylands Anglican’s mission is to love its neighbours practically by seeking ways to help some of these needs. This year, the church partnered with Anglicare Sydney to host a fortnightly Mobile Community Pantry, where locals can purchase full bags of groceries for $10.
Across Sydney and the Blue Mountains, Illawarra, Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven regions, Anglicare is one Christian aid organisation supporting churches in supporting their local communities. About 54 churches work with Anglicare Sydney to provide various types of community pantries, including mobile ones such as Merrylands offers.
Guests have not only come to use the pantry, but also stayed for morning tea and a chat. About ten volunteers from the church are on hand each week to serve in various ways.
“Some register people, some serve morning tea and others help get the food products for the shoppers at the van,” said assistant minister Clive Buultjens.
“Then there’s the very important just of welcoming, chatting and offering to pray with those who are having a cuppa and waiting to chat.
“It’s a great time to build relationships and offer the hope we have in Jesus.”
During the Pantry’s very first week of opening, a man riding bike had an accident near the church. After volunteers helped him and offered him a cup of coffee, he settled in and stayed for a chat – and even ended up becoming a pantry customer!
“We want to help people to know that Jesus cares about their spiritual and physical needs.” -Clive Buultjens
Moments like this – of Christ-shaped love shown through practical care – are what Merrylands Anglican hopes their ministry can be characterised by.
“Apart from the low-cost food, we want people to know that Jesus loves them, welcomes them and also offers eternal life,” said Rev. Buultjens.
“As the old hymn goes, Jesus gives us ‘strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow.’” The church also runs English classes and a play group once a week, and has a pre-school attached to the church.
“There is a perception of Christian faith that it’s just ‘pie in the sky when you die’”, said Buultjens.
“But we want to help people to know that Jesus cares about their spiritual and physical needs.”