In 1987, Collins Street Baptist Church (CSBC) began to ask itself a new question: what does it mean to be church in the CBD? Guided by the work of Rev Ron Ham, CSBC began to explore themes of regeneration and urban mission. In 1990 the Rev Jim Barr was appointed to further develop this new thinking. Closely supported by Ron Ham and Peter Chapman from the nearby Presbyterian City Life Mission, in 1993 Jim established the Urban Mission Unit (UMU).
Starting with a professional and academic approach to mission, the UMU was envisaged primarily as a research and training body with a focus on Australian culture and urban spirituality. The Seeds program, City Walks and the experimental Mission Exposures were all established during this early time.
In 1995 Tim Costello was appointed as a pastor at CSBC and tasked with leading the UMU. In the same year, the first three interns moved into Central House, forming the residential community that would come to play a major part in the development and ethos of Urban Seed. With a commitment to ‘growing’ home and a relational presence with those experiencing homelessness and marginalisation in the CBD, the residential community practised the discipline of hospitality, by inviting others into the home they had built in the church.
Inspired by Peter Chapman’s City Life ministry, this first internship was built around the ideas of a ‘monastic’ life. Spending time in mission, study and property duties around the church, the interns spent much of their remaining time walking the streets of Melbourne meeting people. These new friends were soon invited into church community for an open lunch, forming the basis of Credo Café.
A spirit of public engagement was also strongly fostered. Interns came together with Tim Costello to discern the spiritual nature of the city. They undertook walks and spoke publicly with prayer vigils and protests organised at the recently opened Crown Casino.
In late 2001, UMU became Urban Seed. Stemming from the idea that to really give life, things must be grown, the name Urban Seed consolidates the ideas of organic work in a truly concrete context. Around this time emerged the Youth & Schools team, a group that extends Urban Seed’s work to young people, educating them on homelessness, addiction and the work of Urban Seed.
In 2004, a small group of Urban Seed Melburnians moved into a church in Norlane, northern Geelong. Gathering around a weekly meal, the group aimed to build community with survivors of generational poverty. Urban Bean was born: a social enterprise café looking to rejuvenate the run down shopping square. The café produced much good fruit, and in 2013 was handed over to a local community organisation. Currently Urban Seed's Geelong work is based out of Norlane Baptist Church, and is growing in leaps and bounds.
In 2006 Urban Seed began the Edge program, working with schools to build resiliency and leadership skills amongst adolescents experiencing disadvantage. This program started with Norlane High School and has since partnered with schools in Bendigo, Footscray and Flemington.
Currently, Urban Seed is an exciting organisation that combines 20 years of hospitality and community development experience with continual energy and fresh ideas. We are proud of the dynamic energy at the core of who we are, which often spins forth new initiatives and projects. The initiatives often grow to a point where they can be released or ‘seeded’, to grow into new plants of their own.