When and where do you feel closest to the Kingdom of God? In church, gathered with God’s people? While in prayer, crying out to your Father in Heaven? One sure place to get a glimpse of the Kingdom is down a long lane way in Melbourne’s CBD on a Thursday lunchtime.
Wander down Baptist Place off Little Collins Street, turn into the carport and you’ll find Credo Cafe. There you’ll meet a group of people from all corners of life—those who sleep rough, those who don’t, those with a mental illness, those without, those who are simply lonely and want some company and those who want to be a friend to the lonely—are all represented.
Hosted by Urban Seed, a community development organisation which began at Collins Street Baptist Church many years ago, Credo Cafe is modelled on Jesus’ own practice of eating with the marginalised. “Eating is embedded at the heart of what it means to be human,” wrote Simon Carey Holt, Senior Minister at Collins St Baptist and former chef, in his recently published book Eating Heaven.
Part-memoir, part-theological musing, part-recipe book, Eating Heaven quotes New Testament scholar Robert Karris: “Jesus got himself crucified by the way he ate.” Eating with sinners and making himself ‘unclean’ according to Jewish custom made Jesus an unpopular figure, because through his eating, Jesus was proclaiming that God’s table was open to all.
Down at Credo Cafe, they’re living the good news out. Gathered around a table, the gang eat and share life three days a week.
It’s why Urban Seed has commissioned a street artist from Blender Lane Studio to create a re-imagining of the Last Supper on a laneway behind the church, featuring the faces of those who come along to Credo Cafe. Called “Urban Supper”, the cafe attendees will help stencil their faces on the wall each Thursday across the next couple of months, starting today.
Susan Frykberg is a residential volunteer at Urban Seed and lives above the church free of charge in exchange for three days of work a week. “Urban Supper” is her idea. She says the graphic artwork will feature a “motley crew, both men and women” and will promote the idea that “everyone is welcome at Jesus’ table.”
When I meet with her at the church, Heritage Victoria have just arrived to find out more about the project and just how big it’s going to be. As they leave, Susan tells me she’s relieved the project has been given the green light. It’s difficult arranging this kind of thing when your church is 168 years old.
But it hasn’t stopped Susan from organising some innovative programs for Urban Seed, including their recent “Art from the Margins” exhibition. Wanting to get Credo Cafe attendees exploring their creativity, she decided they would run art classes, but the teachers wouldn’t be professional artists, they’d be people from the street.
“So I walked around the streets and met four different street artists,” explains Susan. “Wayne, who sits outside MYER on Bourke Street and sells cards, Robert who does line drawings, Mark who draws cats and Morgan who does Indigenous art—totemic animals. And I invited them in and I paid them to come and teach us their styles.”
Five months later and the group have produced 136 pieces of art all of which have been on display in the church foyer for the past week. 25 pieces have been sold to members of the public.
“It’s very empowering,” says Susan. “One of the chaps from Credo came in the other day and he hadn’t realised his work had sold until he came in, He was just sitting there smiling so happily. As a creative person, all of us need to be encouraged and praised.”
Behind “Art from the Margins” stands the conviction that God makes people in his image, gifting them with the capacity for creativity. “I’m a sound artist and a composer, and I became religious later in life, so I’ve spent quite a lot of time trying to figure out how it all goes together,” explains Susan.
“But I’m convinced of that basic creativity, of the divine spark in us all. We’ve all got it, whether we do it in our gardens, or the way we keep our homes, the way we dress, or do visual art or music, we’ve all got that creative spark and it’s almost like you have to do it, because it’s a God-given dignity.”
If you want to check out the progress of the Urban Supper stencil, go down Baptist Place on a Thursday lunchtime. If you’re interested in purchasing some “art from the margins” or for more information on urban seed contact Susan: firstname.lastname@example.org