By Mark Brolly
28 February 2022
St Paul’s Boronia has taken on the fight against COVID-19 by offering booster jabs in partnership with community agencies.
It’s a well-established means of cooperative ministry for the parish, part of a broader pattern of offering care to its community.
In this case, what mattered was giving everyone in the community a chance to receive vaccination against COVID-19.
St Paul’s hosted a three-hour mobile clinic on Thursday in conjunction with one of its local partners, Eastern Access Community Health, followed by its long-standing Thursday community evening meal. This is run in conjunction with Knox Infolink, which provides material aid and information for families and individuals experiencing hardship.
The clinic followed St Paul’s hosting several clinics in 2021 where vulnerable people could receive vaccinations.
St Paul’s vicar the Reverend Vaughn Spring said the clinic was promoted on social media and was just one of several forms of community outreach the parish ran in conjunction with local agencies.
“We’re really embedded in the community here and there are lots of vulnerable people,” Mr Spring said.
“We just want to give everyone the opportunity to have a meal and to get the COVID booster if they would like to.
“There are great community partnerships that St Paul’s enjoys with community agencies around us. It’s just a good cooperative.”
Mr Spring said he was a member of a reference group for the Knox Emergency Relief Network, as well as for the Boronia Renewal Plan from Knox Council.
“We find that looking at the strategic plan of local government helps us find those places where we can connect and support with mercy ministry,” Mr Spring said.
“We’ve got that twofold purpose: [in] 2022, for us, our focus is celebrating Jesus and building community.
“The one ministry that didn’t stop right throughout COVID for the last two years was the community meal. That kept going no matter what because it was a real need in the vulnerable communities. Even in lockdowns, we got work permits for everyone involved so that that could happen.”
Parishioners volunteer to help with the Thursday community meal – which offers hot food, dessert and coffee – and are joined by volunteers from Knox Baptist Church and Waverley Christian College. Students help to set up tables, play music for guests and do table service, while people from St Paul’s join guests for conversation.
About 60 people normally attend the meal, back to pre-lockdown levels when attendance fell to about 25 rough sleepers and others in vulnerable positions, including families.
“It’s not just for the homeless, it’s for people who are really in need of community and relationships and a sit-down,” Mr Spring said.
Mr Spring said St Paul’s had really seen the value of community partnerships come into play in its ministries, especially its regular breakfasts, which are followed by a 10am service.
More people have come every week, partly because the Boronia police have been handing out invitations to rough sleepers in the area.
“I’ve seen more people rocking up every day and because it’s every day they know that they can get a hot breakfast every day … that’s a really great initiative and partnership that really works,” Mr Spring said.
A lunch hosted by the parish on Christmas Day also attracts up to 100 people.
The church is located in the heart of Boronia, with Centrelink and the National Disability Insurance Agency office behind it on land formerly owned by the parish, and the train station, McDonald’s and Boronia police station nearby.
“If you want to know about churches in a cracking position in the community, then praise the Lord that He planted us here!” Mr Spring said.
“We’re not judgmental about people, we actually want to demonstrate God’s love and demonstrate His merciful provision to all of us.
“There are people who have started worshipping with us because of that but the goal is to love without an agenda.
“We are really passionate about the gospel and about our outward focus as well.”