You don’t have to have a large church membership to be involved in the local community and Queanbeyan Baptist Church is an interesting example of this. In 2000 Queanbeyan Baptist established a community development organisation, with a view to developing a recognisable profile in the local community. This has led to a number of opportunities to participate in local initiatives, most often through financial management of funding for a range of projects or unincorporated community committees. Rev. Peter Junor has been able to get involved with many different community initiatives, quietly communicating a message that “churches have something to contribute” to the community. For some local committees he says that “Christian Churches simply aren’t on their radar and they rarely have seen any members of the clergy”.
As an example, Queanbeyan Baptist Church contributes as a member of a local domestic violence forum, including the hosting of a training event for local agencies that addressed aspects of family violence, as a contribution to the work of the Forum.
Other areas of participation include a postnatal depression support group, the Community Drug Action Team, a Men’s Shed, a School Holiday program for special needs children and several other causes. Every contact is a network opportunity that contributes to the profile of the Church.
A very significant initiative they have co-founded involves the creation of a Community Day Centre for Marginalized people. This remains a co-operative work of four Christian congregations in Queanbeyan, providing meals, advocacy and support for individuals and families who present. Queanbeyan Baptist participates through providing financial administration, and lay volunteers who serve in the kitchen and in pastoral support of Centre guests.
Members of QBC also conduct “Nurturing Womanhood” a program that helps to connect women in the community who often find themselves isolated, struggling and facing a range of challenges. The program attracts a diverse (in age & circumstance) group of women to help them connect, find support and build healthy relationships. The fruit for the church is found in the opportunities such trust produces, and QBC has been encouraged to have received volunteer & financial support from other sibling churches in the region, and enjoys favour from secular bodies in QBC’s network, who make use of the group.
To Pastor Peter and his congregation, this level of community engagement is all about being visible and available to the community. QBC has, (and is still) earning the privilege of being trusted by the community; learning the complexities of peoples lives and being invited to humbly walk alongside; finding opportunities for authentic expressions of discipleship; and personally, to explore the demands of a deeper pastoral theology. It’s about day-to-day living in the community and not distancing themselves from what is happening at the local level.
Thanks to Pastor Peter Junor and Queanbeyan Baptist Church for sharing their story.