November 14, 2013
Recently Andreana Reale, Urban Seed Philanthropic Engagement Coordinator, reflected on her experiences with food and hospitality, at Spirituality in the Pub, in Appret Café in Laurimar. Here is what she said...
As a child, I remember that Mum and Dad were friends with all sorts of interesting people. Many of these people would drop around without prior arrangement, and would sit at our kitchen table for the better part of a Saturday morning, or afternoon, or more often than not, both. Stan, for example, would sit there eating the special choc-chip biscuits that Mum made – one after the other – telling long winding stories about his horses, or his dog, or his ex-wife. We all came in and out of the room, sitting for periods of time to hear part of a story, before moving off to do something else, while he continued to sit and eat biscuits and talk. It didn’t really matter who was there, as long as there was someone.
Sometimes we also had prearranged visitors, who weren’t just dropping in from down the road but came from further afield. Like David Baretti, who gave us Cherry Ripes and spoke very, very slowly. Or Murray, who was a big man with a square jaw and glasses, who Mum described as ‘a bit simple’. These people would come on a Saturday for a barbeque. I remember Sharon and Ben, who Mum used to laugh hysterically with at the kitchen table, and who had a daughter whose birthday party we all attended.
When I was older, I discovered that Sharon and Ben were drug addicts, and that Murray had an intellectual disability, and David Baretti had schizophrenia. When Stan died, I learnt that he had been a very, very lonely old man.
I am really grateful to my parents for not using those labels. To me, these people were just people – who had interesting quirks, were often funny, who played with us and were generally really nice. For example, Stan taught us how to ride his horses and how to shoot a gun. David Baretti talked to us kids on the phone and always laughed heartily at our terrible jokes, especially when we called him “David Spaghetti Meatballs”. He once shouted the whole eight members of the Reale family to Red Rooster.
For most of my childhood, I was bursting to grow up and leave home, and make new fabulous friends and have a life of my own. As soon as I finished school that’s what I did – packing my clothes and a new kettle into the family Tarago, and setting up my new wonderful life in the Halls of Residence at Monash University. I had always been very social justice-orientated. In school I was involved in the 40 Hour Famine, and later became passionate about the issue of sweatshop labour. I remember handing out fliers outside Disney on Ice, informing the parents of excited children exactly where and under what conditions their cute Micky Mouse toys and printed pyjamas were made in. I decided to study politics and international relations and law, with the vague hope that I would do something ‘social justicey’ with it all, at some point in my life.
While I was at uni, I was involved in a few different social justice movements. The first was Fair Trade, where I helped set up a group that campaigned for Fairtrade coffee to be served in all the cafés on campus. Then when I was 21, I went off to New Orleans, where I worked as a legal intern to assist people on death row who had no resources to defend themselves. Mainly I did a lot of photocopying.
These were all amazing, formational experiences, and I made some wonderful friends throughout it all. It was not, however, incarcerated people in America, or coffee farmers in Brazil, that won me over, but an old church in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. This church was Collins Street Baptist.
I actually came across this place while I was still in high school, when a small group of students and teachers ventured into the city on a weekday evening, to see how an inner-city church was responding to homelessness and drug addiction. Collins Street Baptist is a stately, Corinthian-pillared church on the Paris-end of Collins Street. Its Sanctuary is stark and formal, with an enormous organ dominating the wall at the front. However it wasn’t the church sanctuary that drew me in, but the church basement. It was a long, oddly-shaped room that was painted in bright colours, with a big long table running down the middle of it and seats all around. It had a peculiar smell, somewhere between candle-wax and lasagne, and a half a dozen flies perpetually flew around some imaginary spot at one end of the room. A battered guitar hung on the wall, next to a heavy gnarled cross. It was love at first sight.
I learnt that the place was called Credo Café, and it was where Urban Seed – a ministry begun by Collins Street Baptist Church – hosted a daily lunch. Most weekdays, a variety of people from all walks of life filed in through the side-door to share a meal. People who were homeless, others who were students, people who were unemployed or struggling with mental illness, people with drug addictions, others from local churches and businesses. Everybody sat around that big long table together, and shared good food and good conversation.
Credo Café had not always been there. Here is the story of how it started:
It was the late 1980s, and Christendom was seriously in decline. Not only that, but the people who weregoing to church weren’t attending in the city, but were going to suburban churches, closer to where they lived. Gone were the days when every wooden pew of Collins Street Baptist Church creaked with the weight of a family, and when journalists sat in the gallery to take down the sermon in short-hand and report it in the evening paper. Gone were the days when the service was broadcast on 3AW. While Collins Street Baptist Church was once at the centre of life in one of Australia’s largest and most powerful cities, it now faced a crisis of relevance. Like many long-standing institutions, it was forced to ask itself this question: “What is the point of us existing?”
The answer to this question came in an intriguing way. The minister of the church at the time – a guy called Ron – was one day standing under the beautiful white-pillared portico of the church, overlooking the plush Paris-end of Collins Street. His gaze panned across the Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren shop fronts, with their $1000 handbags and garments, and settled on City Square. There he noticed people who were clearly homeless, lying on benches and begging to passers by. Ron asked himself, “How is it that this church is housed in this beautiful old building, while there are people – just across the road – who have no house at all?” And how, he may have added, could we, as residents of the Kingdom of God, let this happen on our watch?
To our question, “How are we relevant?” we heard a clear answer: “Just look outside your front door!” I think that sometimes, when gazing at our navels and wondering what God wants us to do with our lives, what God actually wants us to do is look up, and see who needs our help.
What Collins Street Baptist Church did was invite three young people to move into the church building. There was a caretaker’s apartment on the ninth floor of the building annexed to the church sanctuary, and this is where they lived. They were charged with the task of caring for the church, but also venturing outside and seeing who else was in the neighbourhood. So when they weren’t changing light globes and fixing broken pews, these three young people wandered the streets of Melbourne, meeting the people who called the streets their home. And then they invited the people they met into their own home for a simple meal, sharing in food and conversation. I imagine that it was probably not so different from the hospitality my family offered, to the wonderful, sad, beautiful, troubled friends that sat at our kitchen table all those miles away, in Whittlesea.
Eventually that simple meal, in the living room of the caretaker’s apartment, moved downstairs into the church basement, where many more people could be welcomed. This was Credo Café, the place I fell in love with that day as a high school student. A few years later, as a fully-fledged university student, I made my way back to Credo Café. I found myself instantly at home again, this time in the company of the many unique and wonderful Credo regulars. It’s funny how you can travel such a long way, and you think you are in a completely different world, and then you look up and realise that you’ve come a full circle, and you’re right back at home.
When I was at the tail end of my university course, I became an Urban Seed Resident, which meant I moved into the church building, just like those original three. Here I also practised inviting people who others saw as outcasts into my home, to share in good food and conversation. In some ways, I was simply doing what my family had always done: making sure there was always room available for someone else.
I don’t live in the church anymore, but live with my husband in an apartment down the street, way up in the sky overlooking the city and the hills beyond. But we continue to open our home to our friends: some of whom are homeless, or struggle with mental illness, or have drug or gambling addictions. There is a group of us that have one of these meals every second week. I was down at Rye the other week, spending time with Gran, when I casually mentioned that I had eight people coming to dinner that night. It was already early afternoon, and Gran nearly had a heart attack at the prospect of me putting on a dinner party for eight people in less than four hours, when I still had to get back home. I think Gran had in mind canapés and beef wellington, but I told her to relax because this was going to be a one-pot wonder. My mum used to cook for eight people every night, and I have learnt over the years that putting on a meal for a group of people doesn’t have to be a big deal. It can be a way of life.
The gospels are full of stories of Jesus eating with people. This was a world in which it mattered who you ate with. If you were Jewish you obviously wouldn’t sit at a table with a non-Jew. If you were wealthy it would be ridiculous to even think about sharing a meal with a beggar. In some ways, it’s no different to how we eat now. We tend to break bread with people who are a lot like ourselves. That’s, of course, when we’re not eating alone.
But Jesus flouted all of that, by deciding to share food and conversation with people at the bottom of the heap, like beggars and people with disabilities, as well as people that others despised, like prostitutes and the tax collectors that made a career of ripping their fellow-citizens off. And of course, he ate with the religious, economic and political elite as well. Often he would completely do their heads in, but having them all share a meal together.
In the army, officers are not meant to eat with their soldiers. Social workers are not meant to share meals with clients. Why is that? Well, it’s because breaking bread is a powerful thing. In that moment, we come together, in a way that is deeply humanising and deeply equalising. There is something about partaking in the same meal, dished up from the same one-pot wonder, that says, “We’re not so different, after all.” We all chew, and swallow, and go to the toilet at some point afterwards. It’s an admission of our common humanity, the act of sharing a meal. A nod to our common vulnerability, that says that we are as dependent on the gracious provision of sustenance as the next person – whether private or officer, social worker or client. And it’s a celebration of life – a rejoicing in a party of flavours and textures, that our bodies, delightfully, are designed to take in and enjoy. It’s hard to keep everybody in rank and file with all that going on!
In short, sharing a meal is a kind of bodily communion, of flesh and spirit coming together to give thanks and celebrate life. It is nothing less than sacred.
So that’s what we do, at Urban Seed. It’s pretty simple, really, this coming together of people who are homeless and marginalised, to join in common humanity with other people who are also damaged and broken, in other kinds of ways. In the end, it’s what we all need, right? A kitchen table, or a table at the pub, to sit around; a family to belong to. Not everybody has a family or a kitchen table, which is why it’s important that we share what we have with each other, and why it’s important that we come to the pub, and share in communion there as well.
You know, my family didn’t open their door to all those weird and wonderful people as an act of charity. Neither do I eat lunch in Credo Café out of deep and pure sense of altruism. Basically, we all just really enjoy each other’s company! And the delightful thing about serving our neighbours’ needs by inviting them round for lunch, or going out to the pub together, is that if we do this with truly open hearts, we will find our neighbours serving our needs, too! This is the Kingdom of God at work, and it’s a tasty, wondrous thing to take part.
Cheers to that!
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October 19, 2013
"I have a dream..."
In honour of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous speech, Collins Street Baptist Church and Urban Seed have invited three eminent Melburnians to share their dream for this city and society.
Our guest visionaries will be:
Adam Bandt, Federal Member of Melbourne
Jessie Taylor, Barrister & Refugee Advocate
Father Bob Maguire, ‘Larrikin Priest’ & Social Activist
Rev Carolyn Francis from Collins Street Baptist Church will be moderating the conversation.
This is an annual Conscience on Collins event.
When: Tuesday 29 October 2013, 6pm
Where: Collins Street Baptist Church, 174 Collins Street Melbourne
Details: Entry donation $10 ($5 concession), in support of Urban Seed
More about the speakers:
Adam Bandt is the Federal Member for Melbourne, and the Australian Greens Deputy Leader. Before entering politics Adam worked as a lawyer, representing some of Melbourne’s lowest paid workers, and working on cases involving freedom of speech. Adam completed a PhD in 2007, on government and human rights. Adam lives in Flemington with his partner Claudia and their two dogs.
Jessie Taylor works as a barrister in a broad range of law, including migration and human rights. Drawing on her experience in research and practice, Jessie co-wrote and produced of the film ‘Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’ (2011), which tells the stories about asylum seekers fleeing to Australia. Jessie has been a foster-mum to a young Afghan refugee, who she met in a detention centre in Indonesia.
Father Bob Maguire has been described as part Billy Connolly, part angry Old Testament prophet and part Mother Theresa. From 1973 to 2012 Bob was the parish priest of Sts Peter and Paul church in South Melbourne. Drawing on his own difficult childhood, he cared for the homeless, sick, criminal and addicted. Bob became a national media figure, and now in his late 70s is still coming up with lots of new ideas.
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October 10, 2013
Urban Seed needs a new CEO due to the recent announcement that our existing CEO Chris Lacey will be concluding his role and time with us after 13 years of incredible service.
Chief Executive Officer
Employer: Urban Seed
Applications close: 8 November, 2013.
▪ Full time but negotiable.
▪ Commencing Jan- April 2014
About Urban Seed
Urban Seed is a small, Christian community development organisation that serves communities experiencing disadvantage, and engages others to do the same.
For all people, including those facing homelessness, addiction, mental illness, poverty and isolation, our vision is to see communities of healing, hope and justice. We believe in the power of food, creative art and sport to create spaces of hospitality and belonging. It is from this place that transformation can become a reality.
Urban Seed prioritises dynamic projects run for and by locals in Melbourne CBD, Norlane (Geelong), Flemington and Bendigo. Through education and exposure, we engage the wider community (including schools, churches and corporates) to identify and respond to the needs and strengths of their own neighbourhoods and contexts.
Summary of Functions
The CEO will lead, represent and manage Urban Seed in its activities to strengthen the position of Urban Seed as an innovative, caring and viable Christian community development organisation.
The CEO is responsible to a Board of independent directors and will support a team of approximately 20 staff, 12 residential volunteers, and 40 volunteers.
This full time, executive position is based in Melbourne’s CBD, and involves travel to our other locations in Geelong and Bendigo.
Overall the position requires a strong commitment to the values of Urban Seed, confident and collaborative leadership as well as an ability to speak and write persuasively on a wide range of issues experienced by the communities in which we participate. She/he will lead a small leadership team and interact productively with supporters, donors and other stakeholders. The CEO will be expected to successfully lead fundraising efforts in order to maintain and grow Urban Seed’s influence.
Required skills for the CEO include leadership and management, proven involvement in community development, fundraising abilities, a strategic mind and highly developed interpersonal skills with a track record of maintaining good relationships with stakeholders including the broader community.
Salary Guide: $90,000 depending upon experience.
If you require further information before submitting your application please email Board Member Naomi Swindon NaomiS@suvic.org.au with your questions and details and she will seek to assist you.
To apply please download the full position description from the Urban Seed website: www.urbanseed.org
How to apply for this job
In your application please:
Applications close at 5pm on Friday 8th November and should be emailed to the Board chair firstname.lastname@example.org using the subject line 'Urban Seed new CEO application'.
- Demonstrate your suitability for the position and your knowledge of Urban Seed and its values,
- Directly address the role and responsibilities of the position,
- List at least three recent and relevant professional referees and,
- Include a formal CV/resume.
Download the Urban Seed CEO position description here...
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August 27, 2013
Mission Exposure 2013 is on from September 28th to October 4th. More details here
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July 23, 2013
You can still support
Team Urban Seed
for Run Melbourne 2013!
10.30am, Sunday morning, St Kilda Road. July. Eleven thousand people in runners. Half of them shivering in Lycra. The other half shivering in whatever they could find that morning.
We, the fearless athletes of Urban Seed, are decidedly in the second half.
But we are raring to go; eager for the sounding blast that will mark the beginning of the gruelling 5 kilometres before us.
Executive Director Chris Lacey is getting centred in his headphones and hoody, staring at the track ahead.
Andreana is looking decidedly worse for wear after miscalculating a long-haul flight that meant she had stumbled off a tarmac a few hours before.
Bella is getting pretty excited about participating in Run Melbourne for the second time, while her dad Woodsy, still wearing his akubra, is talking on his mobile phone, no doubt receiving a pep talk.
The siren goes off, and away we go. It’s a pretty good vibe out there, being amongst the great throng of runners from Melbourne’s not-for-profit sector. Everybody is passionate about their cause – perhaps none more so than Team Urban Seed. We are running for healing, hope and justice in the communities that we love and are a part of, in Melbourne, Geelong, Bendigo and Footscray. There’s gotta be no better reason to get up early on a Sunday morning.
Five kilometres later Team Urban Seed runs, walks or staggers over the finish line. We are pretty excited to finish, but probably more excited that something hot and fried is just around the corner. Medals swinging proudly from our necks and rubbing sore muscles, we reconvene with friends and fellow runners in Credo Café. While we have been running hard, Sarah, Raylene, Foxtel and others have been cooking hard. We sit down to a banquet of pancakes, hash browns, fruit platters and sausages.
Thanks to the support of people like you, our Run Melbourne team have raised around $5000 for Urban Seed.
We are hoping to get to $10,000.
The good news is if you love the work of Urban Seed and want to support it into the future, you can still sponsor our participants!
Who you can sponsor:
If you want to sponsor our valiant leader Chris Lacey, go here: http://runmelbourne.everydayhero.com.au/chris_lacey_1
If you would like to reward Andreana for managing to get out of bed, go here: http://runmelbourne.everydayhero.com.au/andreana_reale
If you think that Bella is pretty awesome and want her to smash her $450 fundraising target, go here: http://runmelbourne.everydayhero.com.au/isabella_wood
If you want to help Woodsy catch up with Bella, go here: http://runmelbourne.everydayhero.com.au/paul_wood_3
Thanks everyone for your support!
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March 19, 2013
Credo Café is a funny place. I never quite know how to explain it. It’s like a café, but not. You get food, but you don’t get to pick what meal you have. And it’s free, so people don’t go hungry. So like a soup kitchen? Not really. In a soup kitchen you give people food, and that’s it. Here you kind of get the feeling that most people around you are here for more than food. At Credo the people that come and eat are mostly not strangers. And it’s not really clear who has come just for lunch, who are volunteers and who are paid staff.
The room has three parts: The Kitchen, the Stage, and the Table.
From 10am the Kitchen is busy cooking a hearty meal that will be served in two hours’ time. Staff, friends and strangers wander in and out during this time. Some linger to help and chat. Some sit quietly around the corner, sipping a hot drink or having a nap.
At around quarter to 12 the meal is just about ready and we gather for prayer and singing on the Stage, which is a raised part of the room, with couches and a coffee table (not an actual stage). We light a candle, someone picks up the guitar. Whoever wants to join may join. By the time 12pm comes around there are many lingering in anticipation of the meal.
Then we gather around the Table. This is a long skinny Table in middle of the long skinny room. We share announcements, say grace, and start serving the meal. We serve food and eat with those we serve. We listen to stories and converse.
I started volunteering at Credo about 6 months ago. And it’s funny. You’d think the staff or the volunteers would own the place. But so many people who come to eat have been coming for 10 years or more, and have well outstayed all the staff. It is more their place than anyone else’s.
As a volunteer it is my role to cook and clean. But as a volunteer it is also my job to listen and learn. To sit with an unlikely stranger and make them a friend. Not to help people more than I let myself be helped, not to judge people more then I let myself be judged. Not to give more than I can receive. As a volunteer I come into a place that is a home for many without a house, a family for many without parents or children. Safety for those living in fear, and a place of worship for those who have been rejected by their church. It is a place of radical belonging and transformative hospitality.
I have learned a lot in the time I have been coming to Credo. I have learned to let myself be Mary sometimes (sitting and listening) and Martha at other times (cooking and serving). Sometimes the greatest thing I can do on a Friday is to sit and listen to someone’s story, even if they talk for ages. One day I sat next to a gentleman who I felt to be particularly odorous; but this simple situation highlighted my own judgment and need for comfort and security. My own flaws are constantly being challenged and brought to the surface at Credo as I meet people who are very different from me. I think it’s harder to know yourself if you hang out with people who are similar to you all the time. I think it’s harder to grow if you don’t step out of your own level of comfort.
Ultimately, Credo is a place where heaven meets earth. It is a taste of what is to come. For many of us, our hope lies in Jesus and the knowledge that one day, he will return and this world will be renewed. This Jesus ate with the poor, the sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes. He said ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven’. He was a refugee, a homeless man. He felt and smelt and bled and hurt. He came to establish his kingdom, not of this world, but of God. This is the man we follow, this is the kingdom we long for. And Credo is both a creative and practical expression of this hope.
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November 08, 2012
Conscience on Collins 2012 was a great success, focussing on the theme of social inclusion under the title, "Who's in? Who's out? Who decides?" Panel members represented issues of asylum seekers, marriage equality, indigenous issues and disability.
Tim Costello did a magnificent job as moderator of directing discussion amongst the panel members, throwing in some challenging questions and drawing themes together. Julian Burnside made passionate advocacy for more engaged democracy and fairer treatment for asylum seekers. Gordon Preece was an irenic and intelligent voice on Christian ethics, while Rodney Croome's gentle and heartfelt words moved the audience. The exchanges between Gordon and Rodney modelled respectful ways forward in the marriage equality debate. Anne Manne did a fantastic job of tying the diverse issues together, emphasizing the importance of initiatives like the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Grant Paulson had some of the most memorable lines of the night, communicating issues of indigenous Australians with sensitivity and resolve.
Thanks to all who contributed to making the night a success, from organising to sound to food provision.
You can download the podcast from here (127 mb) or stream it on Soundcloud here.
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October 04, 2012
Urban Seed and Collins St Baptist Church are excited to announce that Conscience on Collins is back in 2012! This year an all-star panel will focus on social inclusion across four areas: disability, indigenous issues, marriage equality and asylum seekers. Rev. Tim Costello will moderate the panel, which will include barrister and asylum seeker advocate Julian Burnside, campaign coordinator for Australian Marriage Equality Rodney Croome, author and disability advocate Anne Manne, Reconciliation Australia's Grant Paulson and Christian ethicist Gordon Preece.
Download the flyer here.
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August 07, 2012
In July this year Urban Seed participated in Run Melbourne for the third time, building on the buzz and excitement of previous years. This time, we had more donations and more community participation than ever before.
A highlight for our Executive Director Chris Lacey was lining up at the start line in a sea of lycra, standing alongside two of our core Credo community members, Pete and Steve, in their jeans, flannelette shirts and cardigans. Nearby was Carolyn, the Associate Pastor of Collins Street Baptist, and Bruce from the Urban Seed Board. On that brisk July morning, Newmarket Baptist became a ‘travelling church’, so that instead of singing and discussing the bible in Flemington, they were running and cheering in the city. Together this motley crew, alongside Urban Seed staff members and volunteers, helped to raise almost $9000 to support the work of Urban Seed.
Long-time Credo community member Woodsy was walking the race with his seven-year-old daughter Bella, before Bella decided she wanted to try running with our Credo Coordinator Tania. Tania kept going at her usual speed, and was amazed to look beside her and see that Bella was keeping pace! Bella proved herself to be a runner of great potential: the only question now for her sports-loving dad is whether she should pursue Little Athletics, or cricket.
The event encouraged our Church Engagement Coordinator Christop to get fit and think about how to eat more healthily. Christop built up the fitness to run and walk 5km, and now he is motivated to continue keeping fit and healthy.
Hopefully Christop’s efforts were not thwarted by the big brunch our participants and supporters shared in Credo Café afterwards. There were thirty or forty people there, tucking into bacon, eggs and pancakes. This proved to be one of the highlights of the morning. It was fantastic to celebrate what the community had achieved together. There was a wonderfully vibrant and welcoming atmosphere in Credo that morning.
The Run Melbourne event also cast light on how far we have come engaging with others outside of the organisation. We saw this in the diversity of our runners, and also the number of donations received. While last year we received 45 donations, this year the number grew to over 160. On many levels, this was a successful event!
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July 17, 2012
A huge thanks to everyone who participated in Run Melbourne on the weekend - those who ran or walked, those who donated, those who cooked or ate or supported others. It was the most successful Run Melbourne event ever for Urban Seed, with over $7,000 raised so far. There's still plenty of time to donate if you haven't already - head over here to donate. And thanks again for all your work making the day a success!
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