Parishes, schools and agencies

Achieving more together in South Yarra

Stories of urban ministryChrist Church South Yarra and St Martin's Hawksburn have signed a covenant which commits them to an ongoing relationship in outreach and ministry, and recognises that they can achieve more in their local communities by working together.

December 14 2016A casual conversation one Friday afternoon between the Revd Sam Goodes and the Revd Richard Treloar, vicars of neighbouring parishes Christ Church South Yarra (CCSY) and St Martin’s Hawksburn, culminated, some three years later, in the formal signing of a Covenant between the parishes, signifying their shared commitment to worship, mission, and outreach to the community of South Yarra.

The process towards that point included a conversation between the wardens of the parishes, followed by a Parish Council planning day, at which the various strengths and weaknesses, gifts and liabilities of the parishes were identified and discussed. There was a clear desire to work more closely together as neighbouring parishes for the good of the communities in which they are placed.

Put most simply, there was a strong sense that “together, we could achieve more in the communities of South Yarra and Hawskburn, than we might otherwise be able to do alone.”

The two parish councils sought volunteers from each parish to commit:

  • to meet regularly,
  • to pray for one another,
  • and to bring some tangible ideas back to the respective Parish Councils for their consideration.

The Achieving More Together committee was formed, made up of the two vicars, plus three people from each parish.

CCSY and St Martin’s had already been working closely with each other, mindful of their historical connection, geographical proximity, and shared approach to many aspects of worship, ministry and mission. Examples included an annual joint mission dinner, hosted alternately by the two communities, and a pattern of shared seasonal Quiet Days, with CCSY holding one in Advent, and St Martin's in Lent.

As a result of the ongoing work of the Achieving More Together Committee, several further desirable outcomes have emerged, including:

  • the decision and subsequent action to consolidate the service provision of each parish's food relief ministry to St Martin's, with volunteers from both parishes now operating the ministry,
  • the streamlining of some administrative activities, in particular the printing of service booklets for St. Martin’s through the CCSY office,
  • and the formation of a Refugee Outreach Committee consisting of members from both parishes.

These are examples of how the two parishes are working together to better serve the community. It represents the spirit of a partnership in which each community is prepared to “let go” of some things and entrust them to the other, so that the overall mission of the Church is strengthened, and the whole offering is greater than the sum of its parts.

The notion of a Covenant seemed to flow naturally from the work that the committee had begun. This deeply Scriptural notion reflects a partnership which is, at its heart, relational. A number of examples of covenants already in existence between parishes were examined, and their common themes discussed. These included the understanding that prayer and service were key to such documents; that a sense of review and renewal of the covenants was important; and that in many of these cases, parishes maintained their own integrity and identity even as they worked together.

The Covenant was drafted by the Achieving More Together committee, and agreed to by both Parish Councils. It was signed on Sunday 17 April 2016 by the wardens and vicars of both parishes. It commits to an ongoing relationship in outreach and ministry. It reminds the two parishes that together they are stronger, and that they have much to be grateful for – and much to look forward to as they journey on together in the service of God who calls, equips, sends, and journeys with them.

This story has been shared as part of Melbourne Bishop Genieve Blackwell's call to parishes in the Marmingatha Episcopate to share their stories of urban ministry. To find out how your parish can get involved, click here.