“It was the relationship and the experience of love for each other that moved something quite profound…and so theological differences did not occupy the space…we have found that what unites us is far more powerful” – these words are reflections from Allan Demond (Senior Pastor of NewHope Baptist Church) about a shared vision for mission amongst a diverse group of churches for their local area that has resulted in the formation and operation of the Whitehorse Churches Care organisation.
One of the strategic focus areas for the Baptist Union is the area of relationship – encouraging churches to support, pray for, and share resources between one another – being TOGETHER on mission. This good news story epitomises this goal, and goes beyond, extending to all churches within the Whitehorse council area.
Whitehorse Churches Care (WCC) is a registered charity of Christian churches from across the City of Whitehorse LGA and was formed in 2019. Made up of over 300 volunteers from around 70 churches in the LGA, the origins of WCC can be traced back 20 years ago to the humble beginnings of what would become some 10 years later, regular ecumenical gatherings of pastors in the Whitehorse area. Through relationship and support for one another over many years, grew a desire to be on mission together and respond collaboratively to need within the local community, eventually leading to the formation of WCC. Since that time, connections have been strengthened between the churches and local support agencies as they have worked together to identify social needs and opportunities for collaboration, learning and shared resourcing.
WCC initiatives have included ‘Winter Shelter’ (a program using church buildings to offer hospitality and shelter to people experiencing homelessness) and ‘Partners in Care’ (a partnership between the Whitehorse Police and the local churches to provide care packages to seniors on the Whitehorse Support Register). It’s worth noting that COVID provided the churches with a perfect opportunity to form and consolidate relationships with Whitehorse Council’s social services along with the Whitehorse Police. A recent independent impact audit conducted in Whitehorse LGA concluded that local churches and faith-based organisations in the LGA played a critical role in feeding, connecting, and caring for the wider community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the words of the Whitehorse Mayor, Cr. Tina Liu – “Over the last 18 months we have witnessed an extraordinary commitment from the local faith sector to the wellbeing of our community. These groups have played an incredibly important role in keeping our community safe and informed.” The audit also identified 94 community service activities were being supported by churches and faith groups, addressing 15 of the greatest social needs in the region. This is a testament to the work of the local churches as they actively and practically seek to be a blessing in their neighbourhoods.
In a further encouraging development, Whitehorse Council have announced they will provide WCC with a community hub space at Forest Hill Chase Shopping Centre from April for an initial period of 6 months. The hub will provide opportunity for connection, conversation, relationships and support. It will include a drop-in space, regular programs and groups, a Community Support Register, along with volunteer opportunities. More information can be found here.
It is expected the community hub will be of particular benefit to those affected by social isolation and loneliness in the Whitehorse area. This is one of several social areas WCC will be focusing on during this year in addition to mental health/wellbeing and crisis intervention (domestic violence, food insecurity and homelessness). WCC anticipates the community hub will help provide opportunity for engagement with these issues.
Baptist church members of WCC include NewHope Baptist, Box Hill Baptist, Crossway Baptist and Mitcham Baptist. We celebrate what God is doing through these church communities and the many other churches who make up WCC to help the people of Whitehorse LGA flourish and thrive.
This story is also available in our e-magazine.