I first heard about Curate in 2009 when past Tauranga City councillor and musical director Bob Addison was looking for a location to put on a Jacques Brel musical.
Back then Curate was called Mosaic, a church meeting in a large commercial building in Newton Road, Mount Maunganui.
“Go check them out Rosalie. Good people. Great location. Good sound,” said Bob. Sadly, he died shortly afterwards and we never did stage the show.
But I went along on a Sunday afternoon about 5pm and stood in the carpark watching people pour in through the door, mostly in beachwear and jandals.
Some waved and said hello, so I joined them, was warmly greeted, and found myself at the back of a large auditorium perched on a bar stool, holding a cappuccino. The music was amazing, the people were friendly, the preaching was stimulating. I went home and told anyone who listened: “that was amazing”.
One thing that captured me was the community view the church has. My first experience of this was Easter in the Park, where hot cross buns, a sausage sizzle, bacon and egg sandwiches, fruit, entertainment and bouncy castles were provided free.
This spirit of generosity permeates all areas of the church and is encapsulated by a programme senior pastor Katie Milgate helped initiate called ‘Beyond Us'.
“We have a lot of people that believe in loving the community in really tangible ways,” says Katie.
“We don't believe in just giving a hand out, but going above and beyond. So it's not just meeting physical needs, it's about showing a caring heart and that we believe in them.
“Beyond Us is simply about going beyond ourselves. Anything we do in Beyond Us is not to benefit us in the church, but to benefit those in our wider community or globally.”
The idea for Beyond Us Saturday came from Hillsong in Australia.
“They call it Citycare, with teams that go out every fortnight. It's the same group of people going into the same street and meeting any needs they can.
“Over the years, they've found that, as they've built relationships, crime, domestic violence and drug use dropped significantly in that street.
“The police invited them to go into other areas because they knew that where the church went, social problems started to diminish.
“We saw that and thought: ‘let's do it!' We just go around one by one painting fences, doing gardens, doing up houses. There was a family that were expecting their fourth child.
“They had a really small house, so we managed to connect them with Habitat for Humanity and they have a home being built for them.
“My favourite part about a body of people is that what you do as any individual is great, but when a whole lot of individuals come together you can achieve so much more,” says Katie.
Another project the church is involved in is providing community meals at Arataki and Merivale.
The Arataki meal started by Jake McLean is a partnership with C3 Church and held weekly.
“It's been going for so long now that it's just like a family dinner,” says Katie. “The community meal in Merivale has been incredible too. It's sparked neighbourly relationships. Neighbours were saying they hadn't talked with each other in years, even though they lived down the road from each other.”
Volunteers peel vegetables during the day for a steam hangi so the meal is ready when everyone comes together.
“We had 100 come along in the first week and now there's so many people we place invitations in mailboxes so if someone receives one they know it's their street's turn. It's been really cool to see great relationships form.”
The ‘Warm Up the Streets' project that Curate ran with Brent and Juanita McConnell from Stony Creek resulted in two and a half thousand packs of winter clothes being distributed during the 2017 winter. It was originally started by Brent and Juanita the previous winter when they saw children without warm clothes.
Supporting other organisations is part of the kaupapa and underlying ethos.
“One of the things we've always wanted to do is support organisations that are already doing a great job. So with our project ‘The Gift of Groceries', we provided bags of groceries to 27 organisations last year to give to families in their care.”
Curate has provided 1000 bags of groceries each year for the past three years.
“We expanded it in 2017 where they received a box of produce as well as a bag of food,” says Katie.
“We have an incredible team that cook all the Beyond Us meals. There's always a freezer full of meals, ready for anyone in the church to take to someone in need.”
Katie estimates there are about 300 people that help with the Beyond Us projects.
“What I love about the bigger projects like ‘Warm up our Streets' and ‘A Gift of Groceries' is that we have a whole lot of people asking if they can come and help. Even if they don't come along to Curate, it's a beautiful thing to be able to connect people who want to help serve the community.”