Photo: Church member David Rankin and Southern Illawarra pastor Stephen Cathcart at one of the local breakfasts.

By Naomi Giles

What happens when a local church offers its heartfelt thanks to people who serve the community?

Members of Southern Illawarra Church of Christ show their gratitude to the police by running a breakfast cook-up at the local station. During the morning shift change, officers are invited to enjoy a hot breakfast barbeque before heading home or heading out on duty.

The idea sprang from a prayer day when former police officer and church member Tim Hall revealed that police get precious little thanks for their role in the community.

“As we shared in prayer around Thanksgiving Day in 2017, Tim mentioned to me that police are rarely thanked, and their role meant they often see the dark and grimy side of life,” says Pastor Stephen Cathcart, “We thought we should do something about that.”

Tim contacted the local police station and expressed a desire to bless the officers. Even though Tim had previously served in the force, it took some time before the idea was embraced. In its second year, the quarterly breakfast is a highlight for the officers and the serving team.

“We don’t take along any brochures or signage from our church; we are just there to say thank you,” says Stephen. “People often expect a ‘switch and bait’ approach from Christians, but our intention is simply to be present and say thanks.

“Police officers witness horrific events, terrible accidents, human heartache and drama. In the confines of their barbeque area, we are able to offer food, thanks and a listening ear to those who want that.”

Stephen says the team feel it’s a privilege to be invited into the station, and while they provide the food and service, it’s the police who are the hosts.

“When we first started, we parked out on the street and carried everything in, but now they wait for us, open the gates into their protected carpark area and help us unload,” he says.

 “One of the sergeants has shared with us how encouraged he is by seeing the positive interaction between his officers at the breakfast, remarking that it was better than any team-building event they get sent on.”

Over time, the thank-you breakfast has helped build a degree of trust and openness between the officers and the team from Southern Illawarra church. As a result, several opportunities have arisen – all from just being present.

“Whenever we’ve gone, it seems that something traumatic has happened in the week before we arrive, and so it seems timely for us to be present and available to listen,” says Stephen, “Now we’ve even had some senior officers asking if any of their officers want to talk further, [and] if we have people at our church they could talk to.”

Stephen says learning about being ‘simply present’ and available among the officers has been a gift to the serving team and the church.