Here’s an excerpt from our interview with St Caths, whose leaders Adam and Heather Cetrangolo and their team, build their health and vitality through initiatives such as this.

Read the conversation below.

NCLS: Can you tell us more about community partnerships that you’ve developed?

AC: So we had someone who felt very convicted several years ago to start a free meal programme here.  It wasn’t really intended as an Outreach Ministry, it was just like, let’s just open the doors and put on a free dinner and see what happens, you know? And, so it became this beautiful thing where the community gathered, we all looked forward to coming to dinner, but it was an opportunity to invite people in.  

Mostly it’s been word of mouth. Mostly, it’s been, you know, we’ve tried to do a few things where you get the word out a bit further and there’s more to do in that area I think, but just people saying to their friend and neighbours, or maybe they’ve got a non-Christian spouse or some non-Christian person who lives in their house. And they say, it’s free, just come and eat, whatever.  

It’s always nicely done and well done, so if you’re a person in need, like, we get a lot of people around here who are but are proud about it and don’t want to say they are, they don’t need to say, because everyone comes and eats for free, so they just come along and be part of that.  

That grew into a second thing where we also do a monthly cooked breakfast here, you know. And, these, kind of, just free things that people can come to, and they’re still wowed that there’s no real agenda. So, I say, you know, actually this is about blessing the community, it’s not about, it’s not ‘bait and switch’, it’s not get them to dinner and then get them to church.  

They know we’re part of the church and they know that they can come to church if they want to, you know, but we don’t need to make a big song and dance about that when we see them, you know? 

NCLS: The integrity of what you’ve advertised is what they get, rather than ‘bait and switch’.

AC: That’s right, Yes. So that’s been great and, you know, our other value which has been our partnering with people of peace. It’s kind of practical in a way. It’s kind of saying, well, we’re not a massive church, we can’t do everything, but there are lots of good groups and people and issues that we can partner with.  

And, so even just a very modest partnership with, like, a local Anglican school has meant that now we have a really good relationship with them. I can walk in and say, can I invite the girls to our youth programme and they say, sure, we’ll put it on our letterhead and send it round to parents and invite them to come, you know, or whatever it might be.  

So, I think just trying to find those creative partnership and creative arts communities being the same. We’ve got a formal partnership with them now and so what they get out of it is, they get to come and be here, hang out here, they use the space if they want to have a meeting or whatever.  

But, the bonus is we have really good currency with them, so if new young artists come to Melbourne they go, what’s a good church to try and they say, try St Catherine’s, so there’s a lot of that. So, I think those things have made it kind of authentic, relatable, people feel like they belong very quickly.  

NCLS: It sounds like there’s permission for the vision to be big and for God to act in big ways, unexpected ways. At the same time, using practical strategies of partnering with Council or the Girls Friendly Society for a grant.  

AC: Yes and we’ve been very creative with grants and finances and things as well, so that’s helped us. When I first came we had a lot of debt as well and I said, we need to service the debt, we need to pay our overheads, but we need to not wait ten years to do good ministry, so let’s just start grant seeking now.  

Grants can’t be used to service debt or service operations, they have to be used towards new things, you know. And, with that principle, we did a lot of stuff.  Practical things like remodelling our kitchen and stuff like that so we could actually keep doing the meals we were doing and that, but also putting on interns and stuff and programmes.  

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