Commitment and community

Rev Malcolm Frazer with op shop volunteers Kimberley Lack (left) and Wendy Crofts. Photo: Peter Crabbe

By Andrew Humphries

Warrnambool Uniting Church minister Rev Malcolm Frazer reckons there could be a pretty good book written about the history of the church in the region.

If so, any book’s author would need to devote a substantial amount of space to capturing the strong missional commitment of its members to the local community, and beyond.

Church members continually live out the ethos of the Faithful Giving concept, regularly digging deep to provide financial support for both church and non-church programs.

Warrnambool Uniting Church is part of the Hopkins region in the Presbytery of Western Victoria, along with the Port Fairy, Allansford and District, and Mortlake congregations.

Malcolm has had the great honour and privilege of being their one of their ministers and is witness to their numerous displays of Faithful Giving.

In fact, the words “faithful giving” hardly do the church’s efforts justice, with over 30 organisations and projects receiving financial support from the congregation since 2014.

From food vouchers and financial support for chaplaincy, to assisting a Korean ministry team which travels to Warrnambool every month to hold worship services, church members are unstinting in their support for worthwhile initiatives.

“Every Communion Sunday, we collect offerings for our benevolent fund,” says treasurer Robyn Armitstead

“This, along with contributions from some generous congregational members, means our ministers are able to provide food vouchers and other assistance to those in need.

“Our open plate offerings collected during Christmas services are forwarded to the Christmas Bowl, along with several individual donations from congregation members.

“In 2011 our church linked with three smaller parishes in the district and formed a Hopkins Region Administration Council, and together we financially support the work of two full-time ministers and a part-time pastor.”

The church has been committed to supporting chaplaincy for many years, and between 2014 and 2022 committed money each year as part of its Student Wellbeing Association fund to support local school students.

“We have always been prominent in supporting chaplaincy within our schools,” Malcolm says.

“Now this is done through what’s called the Big Life program, which works with schools to build resilience in students.

“My wife Anne is the secretary at Big Life, so I have an insight into the great work it’s doing and the difference that it’s making for students.”

Financial support is provided by Warrnambool Uniting Church for a soup kitchen in the city.

The church provides financial assistance for congregation member Julie Burch’s chaplaincy role at Warrnambool TAFE College, while also providing her with extra funds to help those in need of food.

The congregation has been giving $58,000 annually to Synod Mission and Service, and this year it has pledged $60,000.

Dedicated volunteers offer a hot lunch every week to those in need, while financial support is provided to a soup kitchen run by the Catholic Church.

Malcolm says ongoing assistance means the Korean ministry team from Melbourne is able to visit Warrnambool every month to provide support and worship to a community of Korean workers.

“They meet in our church and we offer financial support for travel and accommodation,” he says.

The church also provides a rent-free building to Uniting VicTas to use for an an occasional child care program.

Robyn says the church has been setting aside a minimum of $20,000 annually for a distribution fund for those most in need, whether at a local, national or international level.

In addition to that, the church has supported flood and fire relief efforts in Gippsland, with donations of $20,000 and $10,000 respectively.

As if all of this isn’t enough, the church also runs 12 shops in the centre of Warrnambool, which provide a steady income stream for the church.

Three of those shops are used as an op shop and bookshop, staffed by wonderful volunteers.

“That is going well and has been a fantastic initiative, thanks to a good bunch of volunteers who do a magnificent job,” Malcolm says.

With so much happening in the missional field, the church is seeking to employ an operations manager to ease some of the workload on its volunteers, and is currently inviting applications for the position.

“We recognise that we have been given a lot and that we need to manage that well,” he says.

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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