Parishes, schools and agencies

Coffee kickstarts next mission chapter at St Peter's Eastern Hill

Stories of urban ministryBishop Genieve Blackwell is appealing to parishes in the Marmingatha Episcopate to share their stories of urban ministry. Here, read about how a new venture at St Peter's Eastern Hill is strengthening the parish's mission to those in need.

By Hugh Kempster

September 20 2016Ministry to Melbourne’s poor and needy has been a cornerstone of mission at St Peter’s Eastern Hill from its beginnings, modelling the gospel priorities of the early church and the slum priests of the Oxford Movement.

Barista Adolf Mora with one of the St Peter's Eastern Hill coffee cart regulars.

From Mother Esther’s establishment of the Mission to the Streets and Lanes during the late-19th century depression, to Fr Gerard Tucker’s founding of the Brotherhood of St Laurence in the 1930s, the congregation and priestly leadership at the little church on the hill have long sought to respond with integrity to our Lord’s priority for the poor:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:3,6).

The latest chapter in this unfolding mission of St Peter’s began 25 years ago. A small group of parishioners would gather for Mass each weekday, as they do to this day, and then share in fellowship together over breakfast. One morning in 1991 a homeless man asked to join them. Joyce Newton, a former hospital matron, recalls this beginning of the breakfast club: “It all started quite naturally. The homeless came, they needed it, we gave them a cup of tea and something to eat and they gradually took over and we were serving them… There were as many different stories as there were people. Some struggling with health issues and addictions, and some needed support through a period of crisis” (Ree Boddé, “A Future Direction for the Lazarus Centre” 2013, pp. 6-7).

The Lazarus Centre was born.

Today, St Peter’s Eastern Hill:

  • works in partnership with Anglicare Victoria, under the leadership of the Revd Louise Lang, serving breakfast to between 50 and 80 homeless men and women, 365 days of the year
  • employs a part-time chaplain to the Lazarus Centre, Fr Philip Gill, and
  • last year launched a coffee cart social enterprise, aimed at providing employment pathways for those currently experiencing homelessness.

Our head barista is Adolf Mora, who in 2006 was one of 43 West Papuans who undertook a perilous four-day crossing that nearly cost them their lives and provoked a diplomatic crisis between Jakarta and Canberra. Soon after being granted a protection visa, Adolf secured a job cleaning dishes in Melbourne café, and he is now pumping out 200 coffees a day! In his spare time Adolf trains Lazarus Centre participants as baristas: “I have been blessed, and I want to give something back,” he says. 

Our dream as a parish is:

  • to extend the current barista training program to six days a week
  • to establish a coffee cart on our street frontage, and
  • eventually to set up a church café.

As the old axiom goes: “Give a man a fish, and you have fed him once. Teach him how to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime.”

Fr Tucker put it differently: “We … accept the Sermon on the Mount as the best plan known to man for his welfare here on earth. In this plan lies the one hope for humanity, through its application in solving all human problems” (John Handfield, Friends and Brothers: A Life of Gerard Kennedy Tucker, 1980, p. 193).

The Revd Dr Hugh Kempster is vicar at St Peter's Eastern Hill.

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.