Parishes, schools and agencies

Merri Creek Anglican hosts local candidates in pre-election gathering

Stories of urban ministryBishop Genieve Blackwell is appealing to parishes in the Marmingatha Episcopate to share their stories of urban ministry. Read about how Merri Creek Anglican took the opportunity ahead of the federal election to engage with local candidates on the issue of foreign aid.

By Peter Carolane

October 12 2016The Saturday before the 2016 Australian federal election, Merri Creek Anglican hosted an Afternoon Tea for Australian Aid for the candidates for the federal seat of Melbourne. This was initiated by the Micah Network, and organised at a local level by TEAR volunteers. Mia Allen, a Merri Creek Anglican congregation member, who also leads the North Fitzroy TEAR young adults group with her husband Tom, led our event with the support of the group.


Merri Creek Anglican parishioners pictured with Greens MP for Melbourne Adam Bandt.

It is always unpredictable the week before an election whether or not a candidate will make it to your event. We invited all the candidates for Melbourne to come to our office in Fitzroy sometime between the hours of 1pm and 3pm with the promise to have a group of Christians ready to meet them.

We were pleased (and chuffed) that the two leading candidates came along – Adam Bandt (The Greens) and Sophie Ishmael (Australian Labor Party). In our time together, we prayed for the country, for the poor, and for the candidates themselves, as well as reading a selection from Scripture about God’s instruction that we must serve the poor.

My wife Jo Knight (also a TEAR Australia advocacy coordinator), spoke about Australian Aid, and illustrated the issue using TEAR’s work with partner organisations in Nepal who use aid funding to serve the poor. She also challenged the candidates to fight for an increase to the aid budget, and to pressure the government to make stronger commitments to aid.

Both Adam and Sophie stayed for an hour each, and seemed really engaged and comfortable with us. They encouraged us for organising the event, and were keen to keep developing a relationship with Merri Creek Anglican. I was excited to see our church engaging with the local politicians and speaking up about issues that really matter.

This event was one strategy we employed to carry out two parts of Merri Creek Anglican’s vision: (1) Imagine a church that cultivated an open an charitable dialogue about Jesus with the "no-religion tribes" of Melbournes inner-north; and (2) Imagine a church whose active and transformative presence was dispersed in the neighbourhood like yeast in dough.

One ministry lesson I learned from this exercise was how worthwhile it is to engage with our politicians. We were able to share our common values and also articulate our concerns for Australia and the world. I encourage all clergy to reach out to do the same. In November, a group of us are continuing this process by attending Micah Australia’s Voices for Justice National Gathering in Canberra (19 to 21 November). At this event hundreds of Christians from across Australia will pray, worship, speak, and influence our newly-elected parliament on Australia’s contribution to a world free from poverty. Those who attend the gathering finish the program with advocacy meetings in Parliament House with MPs (see http://www.micahaustralia.org/voicesforjustice).

The Revd Peter Carolane is vicar of Merri Creek Anglican.

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.