By David Southwell
Victorian and Tasmanian UCA congregations and other ancillary groups who are doing the mission work of the church are invited to apply for next year’s Lenten Offering grants to support innovative projects.
Each Lent and Easter the Moderator asks UCA members in Victoria and Tasmania to give towards four mission projects that align with Synod’s Mission Principle and with a preference for those trying something new.
“During Lent and Easter, we remember God’s self-giving love in Jesus, bringing healing and creating communities of reconciliation, hope and justice,” Moderator Denise Liersch said.
“In response to God’s love for all people and the world in which we live, we ask people of the church to make a sacrificial offering to support important mission projects.
“It is part of our commitment to join in God’s work of renewal in the world.”
This year, applications are being sought for four categories – Victoria metro, Victoria regional and rural, Tasmania and covenanting.
The four projects chosen will feature in the Lenten Offering appeal materials, which will be distributed to congregations in February 2020.
The 2019 Lenten Offering raised about $60,000, a portion of which went to support the Pakenham Homework Hub run by Pakenham Uniting Church in Melbourne’s in north-eastern fringe.
The Homework Hub was started in 2016 and it offers one-on-one tutoring, social activities, snacks and meals to local primary school students who are struggling with their studies, sometimes due to language barriers.
PUC secretary Olive Elston helps organise the hub and volunteers there on Tuesday afternoons, along with other members of the congregation and some local high school students.
Olive, who is a retired English teacher, said the Hub helped children who needed a bit of help at school, especially with English and maths.
Last semester, the Hub averaged about 10-14 students mostly aged about 8-12, from a mixture of ethnic backgrounds.
“They get practice in reading as well and that connection with an adult is really important,” Olive said.
When children arrive they get a fruit snack and at 5pm are offered a full meal.
“Part of the problem is that kids go home and don’t always get fed,” Olive said.
“One of the things we find is that the kids will come in, they might have had something to eat during the day, but not necessarily a good amount. At least they go home with a full tummy.”
The Hub previously received funding from the Centre of Multicultural Youth and has also received financial support from Toorak Uniting, but otherwise is supported by Pakenham’s congregation, which left its future in some doubt.
“Our church isn’t a big church and just manages to hold its own with funding,” Olive said.
Besides its minister, the church also employs a community development officer who works with the local Sudanese and a youth pastor, meaning there isn’t a lot left over for the Homework Hub.
Olive said it was for this reason that Pakenham applied for a Lenten Offering grant.
“That will fund the program for next year – that is what we were looking for,” she said.
Other projects to receive money from the last year’s grant are a music and languages project for migrant women run by Scots Memorial Uniting Church in Hobart, a church-run community garden in Victoria’s north-eastern town of Benalla and the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program rights in Israel’s occupied territories.
To find the application forms and guidelines to submit projects for the 2020 Lenten Offering click here. Applications close 1 November 2019.