The initial focus of Churches of Christ in Victoria and Tasmania (then two separate conferences) was on evangelism and planting churches. In common with other religious organizations, in the late 1800s ‘Churches of Christ’ held their annual conferences for the purposes of devising plans for the co-operative work of evangelization. The churches working harmoniously together for the consolidation and extension of the Kingdom of God.
Within this wider CCVT narrative, the story of Community Care is the story of God’s people reaching out to care for people who were in need of support and assistance. The story also includes the stories of visionary leaders who were committed to discovering relevant ways in their context to love God and to love people, and so to announce the Kingdom.
In 1921 the ‘Churches of Christ Anti Liquor Temperance and Social Questions Committee’ was elected at that year’s Churches of Christ in Victoria Annual Conference. By 1923 it had been re-named the ‘Social Services Committee’. The Social Services Committee was established to provide material help to needy persons and families, and to give assistance to those with personal family problems. In June 1925, confronted with the social and economic problems created by World War 1, and with the great Depression beginning, the Committee resolved to appoint a part-time worker. The work had expanded enormously, particularly in the following areas: Meeting immigrants and arranging hospitality, investigating cases of charity, and responding to their needs; and finding employment for the unemployed.
By 1935 a benevolent fund known as the Christian Fellowship Association was established by the Committee. The purpose of the CFA was to provide interest free loans to people experiencing financial difficulty. Also during the 1930s a Fund to provide a ‘Home for the Aged’ was established, beginning a long Churches of Christ involvement with aged care, as an expression of the ministry of Jesus. In the 1940s Community Care’s work of ministry and mission included care for the aged, chaplaincy to migrants following World War 2, industrial and hospital chaplaincy, and support for local church welfare programs. In the 1950s the Victorian and Tasmanian Conferences merged. By 1979 the CCVT Social Services Department (formerly Committee) had changed its name to the Department of Community Care. From the 1990s Community Care took steps to reconnect with churches and to partner them in community mission through CareWorks. This was a strengthening of an aspect of Community Care’s charter to be actively involved in public benevolence activities.
In 2011 Community Care transferred the management of three of its aged care facilities, Oak Towers, Arcadia and Betheden, to Churches of Christ Care, Queensland. A fourth facility was sold, with the proceeds being invested as a financial basis for a newly shaped Community Care that would re-focus on public benevolence and community engagement.
Unlike large welfare agencies which provide centralised community services on behalf of their churches, in Churches of Christ care most often occurs at the coalface through churches and agencies. This is consistent with the Churches of Christ theology that every church member is a minister.
Community Care now exists as a legal entity within CCVT, supporting the work of CareWorks partners and groups seeking to provide care and support to those in need in local neighbourhoods. CareWorks partners continue to have profound effects on their neighbourhoods every day, offering friendship, support, and care to vulnerable people.