Cooking up a storm: Feast of Stories Community Dinners are held monthly, where two members share their stories over a community cooked meal. Photo: SUPPLIED

Old Church fosters new connections

June 12, 2021 BY

ATOP Russell Street in Quarry Hill sits an old church with a new purpose.

Co-founder of the Old Church on the Hill, Rose Vincent, said the organisation allows people to develop deeper links with their community by offering space and support to resident-led groups.

“A lot of people are looking for connection and for an opportunity to be able to contribute in a small way even to the common good,” she said.

“The Old Church is place where people can meet others and what I love about it is that it’s intergenerational… and there’s people from other cultures.

“Really what it’s doing is, by offering a space and by offering other volunteers to come and support that, we’re able to strengthen an initiative that’s coming from a grassroots community group.

“We’re not a hall for hire, we’re rather a community space partnering with other community groups and associations.”

Families enjoy a community lunch at the Old Church, held every Tuesday at 12.30pm. Photo: SUPPLIED

Over 30 groups use the space for a variety of offerings including Latin dance classes, craft groups and even a ukulele orchestra, and since becoming incorporated as Neighbourhood Collective Australia earlier this year the Old Church can add to this list.

As co-CEO of the not for profit, Ms Vincent said “That’s going to mean that we’re able to broaden our work”.

“Neighbourhood Collective Australia will increase our impact and our scope in the sense that we’re able to connect with more people who might be isolated.”

Ms Vincent said the Old Church had already started to experience such an increase, as those isolated by last year’s lockdowns sought connection to their community when restrictions eased.

“They’ve really struggled during the last year and this is part of their self-care to actually come along and get involved in things that are happening at the Old Church,” she said.

“That is seriously happening. I cannot believe how many extra people I’ve met just in the last few months as we’ve opened up who are in a way self-referring to community.”

Organisations like the Bendigo Repair Café also use the space. Photo: FILE

Ms Vincent said the Old Church uses an asset-based community development model in its work, highlighting the strengths of communities rather than their shortfalls.

“I’ve been a community planner for quite a long time and involved in community development projects in regional places for most of my working life.

“I think part of the problem is that community services have in a lot of ways, instead of working with what’s strong in communities, have come from outside of a community targeting what’s wrong.

“Certainly, we need services and professionals but they need to be coming alongside and looking at what communities are doing and working with what’s strong there already.”

For more information or to get involved visit theoldchurchonthehill.com or join the Old Church on the Hill Facebook group.