Balgowlah mural fosters community
Balgowlah Northern Beaches Uniting Church’s new mural projects have proven to be a point of connection to the local community during COVID-19.
Rev. Mata Havea Hiliau is the Minister at Balgowlah, Manly, Freshwater and Cromer Uniting Churches. She told Insights Balgowlah’s mural project had been an opportunity for outreach during times of isolation.
“The community mural Project evolved back in April 2020 as our church doors closed due to COVID-19 saw an opportunity to share Hope,” she said.
“The Balgowlah Northern Beaches Uniting Church Missional Team recognised that being disconnected from our congregation and broader community brought about some deeper needs and reflection.”
“It was as if the isolation accelerated an inherent need to connect and finding new and creative ways of doing this… It was as if isolation prompted invigoration.”
“This was an opportunity to make our church environment more dynamic and inviting to the local community.
“David Mosier was tasked to project manage this work in consultation with our local Northern Beaches Council, Lifeline Shops (church property), and the congregation.
After expressions of interest from several artists, Meg Minkley, a local artist, was commissioned to bring the mural vision to life.
“It was important for the congregation to demonstrate our central focus was on our Christian faith by having the cross fully integrated into the design. The ‘living’ design reflects our living faith,” Rev. Hiliau said.
Federal MP Zali Steggall launched the mural.
“It was very fitting to have Zali Steggall MP launch this mural,” Rev. Hiliau said.
“Themes of environment and community in the mural resonate with her proposals for a Climate Change Act and the Warringah ‘Roadmap to Zero’.
“This was the first and only Launch Zali had been able to attend in 2020 and upon arrival she “Oh wow – that is just great”. Zali enjoyed the opportunity to meet with the locals and for the church to see its vision of Sharing Hope as a welcoming church community come into fruition.
The launch event included a sausage sizzle, coffee truck and ice cream cart, and a Lifeline pop-up store. All proceeds on the day were donated to vital work of Lifeline.
“Zali Steggall’s presence showed that [she] valued what we were trying to demonstrate,” Rev. Hiliau said.
“She was pleasantly surprised by what the Northern Beaches Uniting Church Balgowlah is undertaking when she spent time talking with the locals. “It was nice to see the human face of the church.””
While the mural was being painted, there was “curiosity, lots of questions.”
“Cate Valpiani was one of the volunteer artists assisting Meg Minkley and she says it was interesting to see the number of passers-by and commuters who stopped to watch the mural taking shape,” Rev. Hiliau said.
“There were quite a few comments about the church doing, ‘something beautiful for the community after an awful year’. The main mural, as well as the ‘flowers of the world’ community mural seems to start conversations, including about how these murals relate to the church. One of the most common responses is that people ‘see something new each time they look at it’ and that the murals make the space more welcoming. One of my favourite parts was seeing the church community working on the community mural under Meg Minkley’s guidance.”
“We have received an overwhelming number of positive feedback and comments from the public and church community. The local Manly Social media page has sparked similar positive reviews and the mural is somewhat a landmark for the Church and wider Northern Beaches Community.”
“The mural has become a stepping stone to keep thinking on how else we can improve our environment.
“We now have two new outdoor seats for people to pause and sit and chat. The new seats make you feel as if you are in a nice garden space. The church is creating opportunity for community participation around the garden where the mural centres with a Garden Day or Working Bee throughout the year.”
The church also recently started participating in the Five Leaf eco awards
“There is an intentionality to integrate a focus on the environment in an annual Church Service and encouraging people within the church to be creative and get involved in new approach and outreach opportunities,” Rev. Hiliau said.
“I acknowledge and thank the many people involved with the mural projects. We have yet to name to mural so over to the people, What would you name this mural?”