Missional Community Development at MUC – living out our values, some great stories………

Missional Community Development at MUC – living out our values, some great stories………

This contribution celebrates some very promising outcomes of MUC’s decision in 2015 to develop and implement a Missional Community Development Strategy (MCDS) that better connects with and serves our community. The MCDS responds to our MUC Strategic Plan ‘Our Journey Forward’ (OJF).

Together with and supported by the broader MUC Ministry Team our Missional Community Development Worker (MCDW) Emma Hanna has really brought this to life over the last few years with a focus on being relational, Christ-centred, and risk-taking. This has opened doors to a wide range of community connections ongoing and several related prospects as we consider how our new building may be shared, be welcoming, and be open to all. A group of us form the MCDS team that supports the MCDW role and we’d like to provide some background and to share some of the excellent outcomes and opportunities.

What is the Missional Community Development Strategy and where does the MCDW fit?

The MCDS contains primary objectives that guide and drive the MCDW role:

• Developing more focused community initiatives/projects within MUC

• Building relationships with community leaders in Manningham

• Developing tools and resources to assist MUC members in innovative project development and implementation

• Assisting and leading implementation of MUC Plan and Vision.

From inception the MCDS strategy has used an appreciative inquiry focus to implement an Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) model both within and beyond the MUC congregation. This allows individual assets to be matched with others for particular purposes that further our connection, our walk with God and our sharing with others. It builds on first recognising what are the available gifts.

The MCDW role is three days a week and is designed to be an active resource role, creating connections and opportunities, using the initial MCDS project that identified the skills, gifts, passions and new ideas within MUC to open doors more broadly and involve others. It is not a duplication role but one that better facilitates responses through partnership. Over these years Emma has researched MUC itself and the broader Manningham community in great depth and is always alert to new and potential connections that relate to bringing OJF to life.

With the new MUC building due for completion in early 2021, the MCDS relational groundwork has been used and will be built on and enhanced as MUC more broadly develops and facilitates ways for sharing the building, offering community spaces and using it in ways that embody the values and missional directions of OJF.

What are some of the achievements to date?

Within MUC the MCDW role has:

  • Been an active part of the MUC Ministry Team, its monthly representation on MUC Church Council, and of the Coordination Team
  • Regularly supported, encouraged and resourced several MUC portfolios, especially Mission, Community Building and the Social Justice Action Group
  • Passed on community opportunities and possibilities for connecting existing assets, connected projects and initiatives with community partners and opportunities, facilitated several neighbourhood connections and events, and much more
  • Connected MUC members with MUC activities and opportunities related to their ABCD survey data e.g. Building Bridges, social justice initiatives
  • This role has also been involved in planning for the new site and with advocacy for the engagement of, for example, children, youth, the indigenous community
  • Significantly, the MCDW role has been called on recently to bring clarity to the MCDS ‘Why?’ factor to resource the current Café Board discussions and also the MUC Transition Team during current building considerations and development.

Externally the MCDW role has:

  • Developed close relationships with Doncaster Secondary College, staff and students, instigating and taking part in a Wellbeing Action Team, the DSC Connecting Communities Committee, peer support for students, and the MUC Connections group @ DSC. This relationship has now largely been taken up for further development by Rev Claire as part of the Children Youth and Families Strategy
  • Worked with the Police to develop the Social Cohesion Project (pop-up kitchen trailer)
  • Fostered and built relationships, often reciprocal, and close connections with:

            o  Doncare about a potential presence in the MUC building that recognises shared missional priority areas e.g. emergency relief, young people, and family violence

            o   Manningham City Council (MCC) on a wide number of fronts, as noted below

            o   Benevolence Australia from an inter-faith perspective

            o   Living and Learning @ Ajani – a valuable resource for Building Bridges

  • ….and many more on a daily basis as opportunities become apparent – this capacity to think broadly and be alert to emerging circumstances is a great benefit of the role.

What are the current stories that celebrate these ongoing MCDS / MCDW initiatives? Please read and enjoy:

At our May 2020 MCDS meeting Emma outlined how these developing relationships are becoming anchors with the broader community. These are wonderful examples of what has been possible, and what might be a springboard for the new building and relationships over the next few years. Recently of course this role has also worked with others to support our neighbours and the community as we are learning to respond to and live with COVID-19.

World Knitting Day

• Following the MCDW suggestion to take this MUC event online, the Mission Portfolio has put this into action. This has enabled a great audience with 40% of current registrations being non-MUC members, another worthwhile community connection and testament also to the connection of the MUC website.

Manningham City Council (MCC)

• In response to COVID-19 MCC set up the Manningham Community Resilience Network made up (uniquely) of Community Groups, with no formal agencies or services included. MUC is the only church to have been so far invited. This is a reflection of the relationship work we have done with the council to date and their value of MUC

• MCC has followed the example of Ballarat Shire Council’s successful ‘Be Kind Ballarat’ initiative and created a ‘Be Kind Manningham’. This has 3 components – Be Kind to Yourself, Be Kind to Others and Be Kind to Business. MUC has had strong influence and impact in the Be Kind to Others area:

            o   Neighbours – Through the sharing of members of MUC successfully using the #viralkindness card and through the Be Kind Ballarat connection MCC created a Manningham neighbour postcard for the use of local residents in their neighbourhoods

            o   Ways to support your community – MUC’s online World Knitting Event is highlighted in this section and remains the only non-service related way of supporting community. This event has drawn such positive attention due to its innovative stimulation of social connection during social distancing and the focus on knitting for refugees that it will be a story in ‘Manningham Matters’ in June.

Partnership and community connection during COVID-19

In reaching out to our community partners during this unsettling time and checking in with how they are going and if there was anything that we could assist with, we were contacted as follows:

  • Victoria Police asked MUC to assist with care packages for vulnerable seniors living alone on their Whitehorse Manningham Senior Citizen Register
  • At the same time the MCDW was contacted by MCC about a new Emergency Relief Funding Initiative MUC was eligible to apply for to support the community. Using an ABCD model, the MCDW worked with the Mission Portfolio, applied for $2,500 and they have been advised of its success. This initiative will likely be rolled out in the next few weeks.
Gratitude Card to Essential Services           
  • At Emma’s suggestion and with the support of some graphic design skills a gratitude card was created for members of MUC (mostly Mission Portfolio members and the MCDW) to send to essential services in Manningham. One was sent to MCC, and it was mentioned by MCC at the Community Resilience Network that it warmed their hearts so much it was scanned in and emailed to all 600 staff – a great community outreach.
Connecting with our neighbours
  • Since the beginning of COVID-19 restrictions, and in the absence of being able to gather people together, the MCDW, encouraged by the Ministry Team, has tirelessly considered ways of both supporting the community and seeking their input into the potential use of our building
  • This MUC connection has included local letter box drops offering support and information, especially through our website; food gathering and delivery options; alerting the kids to put bears and rainbow drawings in their windows to connect with and encourage other kids walking past; looking at a potential survey to connect with local families and seek their wisdom, and more……
  • A local resident has recently been in touch with MUC, after supporting a woman in her 70’s and her 35-year-old son who are homeless and have been living in their car for some time. This resident has been supporting the pair with meals and blankets, assisted by generous neighbours (many who contributed despite having lost employment through the pandemic) and put them up in a hotel for a few nights so they could sleep in a bed and have a shower. She called on MUC for support and we are assisting with navigating the crisis accommodation system and supporting the local resident in her response
  • It is great to be visible and available to assist in this way and this has sparked a broader conversation for us at MUC about how we respond to such issues and what might be our call with relation to the growing homelessness issue in Manningham.

Since 2015 the Missional Community Development Strategy has broadened from an initial internal connection focus to substantial broader community connections with strong and developing links. In the role of MUC Missional Community Development Worker, Emma brings enormous dedication and passion to her work and we are grateful for the initiative, advocacy and creative thinking she offers in this role. We look forward to sharing more of these stories with our MUC and local communities.

Wendy for the MCDS Group