What is the Christmas Bowl?

Karen McGrath/Act for Peace Act for Peace -  Christmas Bowl 2016 - Fight hunger and help refugees

The story of the Christmas Bowl has now become a key part of the history of Christian compassion in Australia. On Christmas Day 1949 the Reverend Frank Byatt of Victoria placed an empty bowl on the dinner table and asked his guests to give a gift to bring relief and hope to refugees who had fled the horrors of World War II.

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). 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 on 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 in to action.

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

Frank’s vision and action over many years did just that, and now thousands of Australian Churches from over 15 different denominations work together each year through the Christmas Bowl appeal. While many of us now give online or through the giving envelopes handed out in church, rather than by putting a bowl on the table, the Christmas Bowl appeal remains a vital mechanism for sharing God’s love with our brothers and sisters in urgent need.

Gifts to the Christmas Bowl support Act for Peace’s dedicated local partners around the world to meet urgent need and to create change that lasts; equipping communities affected by conflict and disaster with the skills they need to solve their own problems and get back on their feet - giving them a hand up, not a hand out.

And most importantly, gifts through the Christmas Bowl will help share God’s unconditional love for the world’s most vulnerable people, regardless of their race, religion, gender or background.

It is clear that the Christmas Bowl is as needed and relevant today as it was in 1949. As Frank Byatt said:

“The love of Christ can be made more vivid through Australian Christian concern, on Christmas day, the one great day of sharing.”

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