Sharing God’s love through the Christmas Bowl

It was 1949. Millions of refugees were starving in war-ravaged Europe. And as Frank looked at his heavily-laden Christmas dinner table, the contrast between our abundance in Australia and the needs of others around the world could not have been more stark. 

As a Christian, he felt that he had to do something. After all, it was Christmas, the one great day of sharing! 

So he called his congregation to “get a bowl to put on your Christmas dinner table as a Bowl of Remembrance and see if you can get everybody round the table to make a generous gift so that you can share your good dinner with hungry children in other lands.” 

That first Christmas Bowl appeal raised £1,808 for refugees. No small sum for a congregation at the time. But Frank didn’t stop there. His mission was to unify all Australian Christians, of all traditions, to work together to put the word of the Gospel into action. 

As Frank wrote in 1958: “The evangel is complete only when the action of the gospel matches the message of the Gospel.” 

Rev. Frank Byatt 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). 

It’s a beautiful legacy – and an incredibly important one. Just last year, the number of people displaced worldwide by conflict or persecution reached over 70 million – more than any time since records began. 

Among those most in need are the people of South Sudan. In South Sudan, brutal conflict has forced more than four million people from their homes. 

The conflict along with harsh weather has made it almost impossible for people across the country to access clean water, forcing families to drink dirty and polluted water, leaving them vulnerable to sickness and other waterborne diseases. 

70 years on we continue to respond as the Church together. From providing emergency relief for World War II refugees in 1949 to most recently delivering life-saving shelter and medical services to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, Australian churches have been instrumental in reaching out with God’s love during some of the most urgent crises of our time. 

And, over the past 70 years we have seen that real change is possible and we will continue to respond as the Church across Australia and commit to loving our neighbours around the world. 

Read another perspective of this story here.