Christmas Bowl: A light of hope in the darkness

Although Christmas may be different for many of us in this year of pandemic, churches across Australia are joining together once more to share God’s love with our brothers and sisters in need around the world through the Christmas Bowl.

“This year, the coronavirus has changed life for all of us but for vulnerable communities who are already struggling as a result of conflict and disaster, the effects of this crisis are catastrophic,” said said Hannah Montgomery, from Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia.

She said that in Zimbabwe, families who have suffered so much already through drought, floods and food shortages have now lost their livelihoods too. These families are desperately in need of support to survive, making the Christmas Bowl even more important than ever.

The Christmas Bowl is one of the longest standing Christmas appeals in Australia. It was established in 1949 by Rev Frank Byatt to raise money for refugees post WW2. On Christmas Day that year, Frank put a Bowl of Remembrance on the dinner table and asked his family to place a gift inside to help those less fortunate than themselves. The Christmas Bowl was born.

“As the world battles this pandemic, the legacy of Rev Frank Byatt, the founder of the Christmas Bowl, has never been more important. Frank believed we have a responsibility to share what we have with others who need it. He saw it as a fundamental part of living out Jesus’ call to love our neighbours as ourselves (Mark 12:31),” said Hannah.

The very first Christmas Bowl raised £1 808 – no small sum for a congregation at that time. Today, churches have raised more than $100 million, illustrating the incredible impact that Australian churches can have when they work together.

This year, more than 15 Christian denominations and 1 300 churches across Australia have pledged their support of the Christmas Bowl, including Dr Deidre Palmer, President of the Uniting Church in Australia.

As we live through the global pandemic of COVID-19, our focus more than ever, needs to turn to our global community and our compassionate and practical expression of Christ’s call to love our neighbours.  Giving to the 2020 Christmas Bowl appeal will support those people around the world who are most vulnerable in this global crisis,” Deidre said.

“Through our generous giving, communities will be empowered to respond to health and socio-economic needs in ways that address the impacts of COVID-19 and provide them with pathways to recovery. In this time, when we are so aware of our interconnection, God calls us to give and act, sharing our resources, so that all people can flourish.”

Hannah said there are some new resources available this year.

“Whether churches choose to organise a socially distanced gathering or opt for remote participation this year, there are some fantastic new Christmas Bowl online resources that are easy to download and share, including bible readings, stories, clip art and even fun colouring-in for the children. Churches can also have their own dedicated page so their congregation can give to the Christmas Bowl safely online,” she said.

Churches will also be able to hear directly from Act for Peace’s local partners in Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Jordan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh via Zoom recordings; learning firsthand how they are responding to the pandemic and about all of the work they’re doing on the ground despite the new challenges this has created.

“Thanks to the latest technology, we have been able to ensure the Christmas Bowl can continue to help those in need, even in these uncertain times. We are, as always, incredibly grateful for the support the Christmas Bowl receives. It is a wonderful interdenominational expression of faith and we welcome the support of all worshippers to respond to injustice and help those communities threatened by conflict and disaster around the globe,” said Hannah.

To register your church for the Christmas Bowl and receive a resource kit visit the Christmas Bowl website.

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