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Digging deep to help others

By Andrew Humphries

In Mount Waverley in Melbourne’s south-east, one Uniting Church congregation continues to faithfully live out the Christian ethos that says to give freely to others is to be blessed in return.

Rev James Douglas has had the privilege of being Minister at St Luke’s for nearly 10 years and sees on a daily basis how this concept of Faithful Giving lies at the heart of what drives the congregation.

From the annual ecumenical Christmas Bowl Appeal, to contributions to Frontier Services, villages in Timor-Leste, and a fellow Uniting Church congregation, St Luke’s members provide constant proof of the positive impact that comes by digging deep for others.

And it’s an impact that never fails to warm James’ heart.

“St Luke’s has a pretty typical congregation and it’s one that has always been generous in terms of its stewardship,” he explains.

“As the Minister here I have always been impressed by the level of the congregation’s contribution to mission and service.

“It has always been significant and is somewhere around 10 per cent of its net income.

“The Church Council and congregation have always been supportive of meeting that commitment and, indeed, increasing it when it has been suggested by the Presbytery, and in making sure we are able to pay our share to the wider Church.”

“The main source of income for the congregation is obtained through offerings, while a Uniting kindergarten pays a contribution to us for the use of our building, as does a Chinese congregation which uses it on a Sunday morning.

“These contributions are important in that they help to ensure that our budgeting can continue to be generous, but the majority of our income still comes from congregational offerings.”

The congregation’s generosity was never more evident than as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, when government financial assistance meant it was able to help the Pakenham Uniting Church to continue its missional work with the area’s Sudanese community.

“Our congregation received money through the Federal Government’s JobKeeper program during the pandemic and we found ourselves with a surplus in the budget, so rather than simply pocket it we decided to give something to another part of the Church that perhaps hadn’t done so well during this time,” James says.

“Tom Spurling from the Port Phillip East Presbytery asked around and came back with a proposal to offer some funding to Pakenham Uniting Church to support its members’ work with the South Sudanese community.

“We felt it was appropriate to provide some assistance to the wonderful work that Pakenham was doing.

“We also support organisations like Frontier Services, and we always give a generous donation to the Christmas Bowl Appeal, so there is a sense that we recognise that where we are able to, and we have the financial resources to do so, it’s a blessing to be able to share.

“The congregation has always believed that being part of the broader Uniting Church is an important part of being a congregation, while there has also been a strong connection with the Justice and International Mission unit and the work that it does, as well as a strong focus on youth work.”

That strong commitment to international mission work through Faithful Giving is best illustrated by St Luke’s support for the people who make up seven villages and 24 hamlets in Vemasse, Timor-Leste.

St Luke’s and the City of Monash Council are partners in the Monash Friends of Vemasse, a community group which provides ongoing fundraising and support for its residents.

It is, understandably, a cause close to the hearts of a number of St Luke’s congregation members, many of whom have made annual visits to Timor-Leste and struck up firm friendships with the people of Vemasse.

James says congregation members have taken great joy in helping residents financially and through providing volunteer labour.

As they embrace Faithful Giving, James says the generous members of St Luke’s find their own faith is rewarded in so many ways.

“I think they feel a sense that they are able to participate in the work of the Church beyond the boundaries of St Luke’s,” James says.

“Like a lot of congregations, our members have had active involvement in various community and service groups in their earlier lives, and while many of them don’t have the capacity to participate in that way anymore, they still want to support that work and express the love of God in other ways.”

As their Minister, James says it is an honour to be involved with a congregation so committed to giving faithfully to others.

“I take great pride in what the congregation is doing, the capacity of members to be generous and their consistent response to invitations to show their stewardship,” he says.

“The consistent response of the congregation has always been to dig deep to help others and its members have a strong understanding of the importance of stewardship within Christian discipline, and that we give as part of an expression of our faith.”

Your FAITHFUL GIVING supports the wider church by funding grants; training for ministry candidates and local leaders, Presbytery Ministers and ministry; Crosslight, websites and e-news; resources to assist in worship, witness and service; Narana; equipping Leadership for Mission (eLM); providing services to help meet obligations to keep our people and properties safe; and supporting church communities in rural and remote regions.

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