Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Christmas In the Cathedral Cave

I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at the Wellington Christmas event in the local caves.
The cathedral cave is majestic with superb acoustics. There were about two hundred people singing carols and enjoying the wonderful atmosphere.
I am sorry I was not able to take photos because of the lighting to show you what it was like. I must say it will be a memory that I will treasure always.
As this is my last post until February as I will be on annual leave I take this opportunity to wish you our visitors to the blog a very happy and blessed Christmas time!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Merriwagga Christmas concert


Merriwagga is a tiny village about 40km south of Hillston. It has a population of about 40, a pub, a hall, a church and a silo. However, this is a village that does community events really well. One of them is the annual Christmas concert. There were funny songs, lots of carols and a Christmas message. The highlight for this concert was the Griffith "Sing Australia" choir who came with over 30 members. They performed some wonderful songs for the very appreciative crowd and also lead the carol singing. It was a fantastic commitment by this volunteer choir to come and support the village event.

The other thing that Merriwagga is know for is its catering that the evening was no exception. The nearly 100 people that were there didn't have a hope of making a dent in the fantastic food laid out in the supper room. The night was a wonderful example of great community event.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

The Long Road to Wanarring

It was at the end of along couple of weeks that I made the trip to Wanarring to attend their annual school Christmas celebration.
The road to Wanarring from Bourke is considered to be one of the worse stretches of road in the state. There are 200k of bone jarring ruts, corrugations and bull dust to boot. On this occasion I was lucky enough to strike the road just after it had been graded. The track was much smoother and I was able to enjoy the unique and striking landscape. On the way back I was privileged to see a pair of wedge tailed eagles enjoying a feast of kangaroo.
Whatever the condition of the road I would recommend the trip to anyone with a capable vehicle. The people of Wanarring are friendly and happy to see visitors to their town.
The school children provided great entertainment and after Santa Claus had dispensed his gifts we all enjoyed a great Christmas feast.
Thanks to Moc and Cherie Parker for their kind hospitality at the Outback Inn.
Kel Hodge

Friday, 18 December 2009

Goolgowi Ladies Lunch


One of the nice customs in some of the small towns at Christmas time is to have a luncheon, usually at the local club, and invite nearly all the district and others to come together and enjoy the company and good food. This was no different at Goolgowi this year when nearly 50 people gathered at the Goolgowi club. With Christmas carols, items and skits it was a most enjoyable and entertaining time. Well done to those who organised it.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Ford's Bridge Celebrates Christmas

On Saturday I was invited to Ford's Bridge for their Christmas party. As the town is only a pub, a hall, a cricket ground and one house the pub is centre for all the community events. The Christmas party at Ford's Bridge has a great reputation and this year was no exception. With Stephen and Rosalie Goldsmith, Rural Chaplains with the Presbyterian Inland Mission, we had some Christmas carols, a talk for the kids and a short bible reading and prayer.

Santa arrived when we'd finished and of course all the kids were very excited. And where else would Santa arrive on a motor bike with thongs on his feet!

After all the excitement we had a BBQ with a couple of sheep that some of the local pastoralists had cut up and donated, and heaps of great salads that families had brought.

There was also a band and as I left at about 10.30pm they were just winding up for the dancing.

I was delighted that the people from Pymble Uniting Church were also able to come and meet some of the folk at Ford's Bridge. All in all a great night.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Pymble Church Visits Enngonia

Pymble Uniting Church members made the long trip to Enngonia to join in the school Christmas celebrations. The Pymble people are exploring the possibilities of a community relationship with Enngonia.

The children celebrated their many achievements over the school year and presented a great drama presenation of a Dream Time story.

Thanks must go to Rosey and her staff at Enngonia School for a great time and wonderful hospitality. Strange as it may seem Santa Claus called in and presented the children with some wonderful gifts.

Kel Hodge

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

More Utes in the Paddock

Julie: For those who enjoyed the picures of the utes in the paddock I was able to stop as I was going past and got some more photos of the extra utes that have been put up. No matter how many times I go I am still amazed by it. I have also taken some photos of the plaques that go with some of the utes. If you would like to see more of the photos click  here.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Kids have a great service

The Anglican and Uniting Churches in Hillston combine for their Christmas Children's service where the kids are able to present a play and receive a small gift for all their hard work at Sunday School for the year.

This year the service was especially enhanced by having the Salvation Army brass band supplying the music and the group from Forbes doing a drama and children's time.

It was fantastic to join with the others, fill the Anglican church and enjoy the fellowship - and of course the great spread in the hall afterwards.

Monday, 7 December 2009

The Salvos bring their special brand of Christmas hope to Hillston

Each year the Salvation Army organise groups to travel to into rural NSW at Christmas time to bring music, fellowship and a message of hope to small communities. The tours are organised by the Salvation Army Rural Chaplains and as I write this 4 different tours are happening.

It was quite a hectic weekend with a BBQ tea at my place on Saturday night (1st picture), a combined church service on Sun morning (see tomorrow's post), a community Carol's by Candlelight on Sunday night (2nd and 3rd pictures) and then carols at the nursing home on Monday morning.

The people on the tour were mostly retired Salvation Army folk who came from Sydney, the central coast and a variety of other places. They were joined for the weekend by the Officer from Forbes and some of the kids from their youth group.
This is a fantastic ministry and has been really enjoyed by the residents of Hillston.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

The Sydney Alliance

In the last week I have been privileged to attend Sydney Alliance training. The Sydney Alliance is a community coalition formed to bring about change for the good in the city of Sydney.
The member organisations are various community action groups, trade unions and churches. The organisations are diverse and would not normally cooperate with each other on any one project. The Sydney Alliance through relational conversations has brought the groups together to find common ground and a place to make an impact for the good of civil society in Sydney.

I have found the training stimulating and enlightening. I have met Muslim people, Jewish people, trade unionists and various other representatives of actions groups that I would normally not have the opportunity to meet.
 It has been a wonderful experience! It seems that we all have the most important things in common. That is , the desire for a better way of life for all people in the places where we live.
On Wednesday night over two hundred people gathered to express their willingness and excitement at being a part of the Sydney Alliance.
It would be wonderful to translate such a powerful agent for change into regional NSW.
Kel Hodge

Thursday, 3 December 2009

A great night to support the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS)


Everyone who lives in the far west understands the importance of the Royal Flying Doctor and how much we rely on them. The CWA in Hillston held a dinner last Thursday to raise money for the RFDS. Nearly 40 women gathered to chat, have a lovely meal at the pub and listen to Dr Katherine Hutt talk about her work with the RFDS in quite a few areas of the far west. Katherine comes to Hillston every 5 or 6 weeks to provide women’s clinic services as the town only has one male Dr. It is a very welcome service and her two days each visit are always booked out.

After dinner Katherine talked about some of her experiences in places like Enngonia, Louth, Hillston etc. As Katherine was a very entertaining speaker there was much laughter and sharing. Many of he women told how the RFDS had saved their lives or the lives of members of their family. The evening was completed by lots of rain and thunderstorms. It was fantastic to watch as many of the women in the room received phone calls from their husbands updating them on the amount of rain that had fallen on their properties. It has been one of the best rains for many months. Of course it also meant that a number of women were worried how they were going to get home on the dirt roads, but it still didn’t lesson the excitement of the rain. It also meant that the next day I had to travel an extra 200km to go the long way round to get to Ivanhoe (stories coming up in the next few days), but it was a delightful reason to have to do so.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Ladies lunch gets bigger and bigger


Twice a year the Ivanhoe Ladies Lunch is held with women coming from a large area. This year a couple of car loads came from the Hatfield area, some from Hillston , and some from Wilcannia, as well as those who live on properties within 100km of Ivanhoe. The aim of the lunch is to bring the women together and provide an opportunity to catch up and share their stories. There are some stalls for Christmas gifts and lots of laughter and fun. Some of the women that I was sitting with live in quite isolated circumstances and they very much look forward to these opportunities. Many of them work on the properties beside other family members but don't get too many times of socialising with other women.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Correction to the Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy post


My apologies to everyone but I made an error in the blog post on the Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy training. At this stage the Uniting Church is still working on the Memorandum of Understanding with Community Services NSW, it has not been signed yet.

A Social night in Ivanhoe


Despite the rain and closed roads more than 50 adults and 20 kids gathered at the Ivanhoe
club to hear John Harper speak. John has quite a reputation across NSW for speaking to groups in rural communities about depression. His presentation is always entertaining and informative and Friday night was no exception. His visit was sponsored by Workcover and organised by the Broken Hill Rural Service Providers Network.

After the talk we all had a BBQ dinner provided by Industry and Investment NSW and a good chance to talk about some of the issues. It was an excellent opportunity to catch up with some of the locals and of course there was a lot of talk about the good rainfalls.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Rain makes life interesting!


Quite a big weekend planned in Ivanhoe  last weekend. Friday afternoon the Broken Hill Rural Services Providers Network was meeting with some of the Ivanhoe community members to talk about what is happening in the area, Friday night was a social night with a guest speaker, Saturday was the Ivanhoe Ladies Lunch and Sun was the Anglican Christmas service. However, Ivanhoe only has one bitumen road to the south and all the other directions have dirt roads that are dry weather only. With the rain Thursday many of the roads were closed. As I said yesterday I had to go an extra 200km to get there but many others didn’t even have this option. The road to the north to Wilcannia was opened again about 11m Friday morning so some of the people were able to come on it. John Blair, the Flying Padre with the Uniting Church, came in by plane but it was very rough and another person with a smaller plane decided not to try it. One other person got bogged on the way but luckily she was right on the edge of phone range and we were able to go and get her. Many of the locals were not able to get into town. Others managed to get through and although the Friday afternoon meeting was very small it was still a worthwhile time. It is a testament to the Service Providers in the area that they made such an effort to get there. I will talk about the other events in the next few blogs.

Happy Retirement Norm and Narelle

Today I attended the service of closure for Pastors Norm and Narelle Hawkes.
Norm and Narelle are retiring to Tea Gardens from the Uniting Church congregation at Wellington.

The accolades the Hawkes' received were well deserved as they have served this congregation tirelessly and faithfully for six years.

I must say they have been champions of rural chaplaincy since its inception and a great support to me in the role. I wish them both a long and happy retirement and will miss them a lot.

Kel Hodge

Friday, 27 November 2009

Broken Hill Moments of Dreaming

On 12th and 13th November Julie and I were pleased to host a group of people fro the smaller centers around Broken Hill. The conference was along the lines of the Riverina Moments of Dreaming which allowed people to explore their dreams for their communities.
People came from Wilcannia, Menindee, Nanua, Tibooburra, Pooncarie and Broken Hill.
I must say that the people who attended were all passionate about where they lived. There was a keen interest in making a better life in these places.
Many stories came out of our time together and we hope to share those with over the coming weeks.
Dr David Lee was our evening speaker who spoke to us about the life of Stanley Melbourne Bruce a Prime Minister of Australia from 1923-1929. Dr Lee is an historian at the department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
It was a great time and new and important relationships have been formed.

Kel Hodge

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The River is dying!

I have written before of how much pleasure and rejuvenation I get from being able to kayak on the Lachlan River when I am at home. It is especially enhanced by the company and pastoral support of my good friend Jenny who comes with me. So it is with a great deal of sadness that I am watching the water turn stagnant and knowing that soon I won’t be able to go any more.
The Lachlan River has been closed below Condobolin because Wyangla Dam is now less than 5% full. The town of Lake Cargelligo will have some water “pulsed” to it from Condobolin when needed, Hillston has underground water and the same villages of Booligal and Oxley will get water carted in. For farmers on the river they are expected to make their own arrangements, which is causing some hardship. While I can understand the decision I will miss my river and I am certainly praying that there is rain in the catchment soon so they will open it again. In the meantime I have been taking some photos of the river and if you would like to see more of them just click here.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Training


The Uniting Church in NSW is working on a Memorandum of Understanding with Community Services NSW to train and coordinate Chaplains at evacuation or recovery centres. Up until now emergency services such as Police and Fire had their own chaplains but there was no-one responsible for the people who had been evacuated. From now the Uniting Church will be providing training for chaplains from a wide range of faiths including Jewish Rabbis and Buddhist Monks and will be responsible for making sure these people are coordinated and supported in this work.

Last week I spent 3 days in Sydney working through the course with some other very experienced chaplains so that we would then be available to train others or coordinate some of the work on the ground. Stephen Robinson who presented the course is extremely qualified and has spent many years doing this sort of work and the others in the course were all very experienced so I learnt heaps and feel that I will be much more useful in the situation, but at the same time I am praying that the fire season this year doesn’t mean that we are called out.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Church In The Garden

The Parkes Uniting Church "Currajong" congregation host an ecumenical service once a year in a garden.
This year I was pleased to be able to speak about rural chaplaincy to the gathering. I was also given an opportunity to baptise two children which in somewhat of a novelty for me these days.
The Currajong congregation hope that this service gives an opportunity for new people to attend and meet with others in a friendly relaxed atmosphere.
It was nice spring day and it seemed that everyone had an enjoyable time apart from the very friendly flies.

Kel Hodge

Sunday, 15 November 2009

CISMFA conference in Melbourne

Last week Stephen Robinson, who heads up the Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy for the Uniting Church in NSW, and I attended the Critical Incident Stress Management Foundation Australia conference in Melbourne. The theme of the conference was "building resilience" and I got some excellent information for the work we do in building resilience in rural communities and also for disaster recovery chaplaincy. Being in Victoria there was an emphasis on the work done after the bushfires, and there are some very valuable lessons for the rest of us.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Drought Support Workers plan the next 6 months

Drought Support Workers from Industry and Investment NSW spent last Thursday looking at options for their work over the next 6 months and how to make the most effective use of their time. A number of groups that have worked closely with the Drought Support Workers over the years were invited to attend the morning session and share thoughts on how to more effectively together.

The morning was an excellent time of sharing ideas and plans and some good discussion was generated. It is yet another example of how working and planning together can produce better results.

Monday, 9 November 2009

NSW Farmers seek solutions

NSW Farmers held two meetings last week to look at options for farmers who have yet another failed year. The first was at Lake Cargelligo with 140 farmers attending. The next day a meeting of stakeholders was held in Griffith and I was the representative for the Uniting Church. A board range of stakeholders spent the day discussing options and prioritising measures that they saw as vital to the future for agriculture in NSW. I was very heartened to see that maintaining small communities was considered extremely important by both meetings and was one of the priorities set by the meeting. All there recognised that without strong communities we cannot have strong agriculture.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

TAFE makes a commitment to women in Hillston

One of the issues of living in a small town like Hillston is getting access to further education. Last week the Outreach Coordinator from Griffith responded to my request and came out to Hillston to talk to women about a range of courses that it might be possible to run in Hillston. 12 women turned up (but of course I forgot to take a picture) and the end result is a couple of days will be held this year and then more courses run next year. I was very encouraged by the willingness of TAFE to respond to the need and the commitment of the women who came and I look forward to it leading to bigger things.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Birds of the Bush a great success in Rankin Springs

On the October long weekend The Birds of the Bush (click here to see the website) festival was held in Rankins Springs. This is the third year for this festival and it was even bigger and better. The community of Rankins Springs is not very large so it is "all hands to the pump" to make the weekend work. The festival consists of bird watching in the national parks surrounding the town, a dinner and a spring fair.

Last week I attended the debriefing meeting and a meeting of the Progress Association. In conjunction with the Carathool Shire and Industry and Investment NSW the Uniting Church will be holding some workshops in Rankins Springs to help strengthen the community. It was great to see so many of the locals at the meeting and it augurs well for the future of the community.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Women from the North West gather in Ivanhoe


I was invited to speak at the CWA Far West Group meeting in Ivanhoe. This group covers most of the North West of NSW with people coming from Menindee (200km), White Cliffs (280km), Tibooburra (540km)  and Ivanhoe Branches. Many of these women live in very isolated circumstances, travel huge distances but enthusiastically put their time and energy in various organisations like CWA. The women that I met on the day were remarkable women who have many skills and great insights into helping make their friends and communities stronger.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Marra Creek on a very hot afternoon


In 37 C heat the Marra Creek CWA group met to have participate in a Grant Writing Workshop. Despite the heat the group came up with lots of ideas for their community and we looked at a number of grants that might be able to help. With the Marra Creek school being over 100km from Nyngan and Warren the 4 students have long distances to travel to join in other school activities or participate in cultural, sporting or art events. So first on the wish list was a vehicle that could transport the kids and their teacher.

It was great to join with this enthusiastic group of people who have a passion for making it better in their little community.

As I travel around I see a great deal of wildlife but not often as I am coming into a town. These pictures show a family of emu I came across just as I was coming into Nymagee.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Cobar Rural Network meeting made easier with video


The Cobar Rural Service Network has people traveling long distances to attend, from Dubbo  (300km)  to Broken Hill  (450km). For this meeting, thanks to TAFE's video conferencing network those in Broken Hill and Dubbo were able to use the facilities in those towns and not have to travel to Cobar. The system worked well and saved many hours of travel and stress on individuals.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Koreans try an Aussie BBQ


Due to the large amounts of horticulture and vegetable growing in the Hillston area a significant number of back packers come to town for casual work. Many of these are young people are from Korea and with their cultural background often turn up at church on Sunday morning. A group of Korean backpackers have been in Hillston for nearly two months now and have been coming to church regularly so the congregation has had a chance to get to know them a bit. This had included meals and a BBQ where the visitors were most interested in what we cooked as it was so different to the BBQs they know. To help make the visitors feel more welcome the Hillston congregation now uses Korean and English in their liturgies.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Hillston Flower Show


In spring many of the rural communities have a flower show to display the gorgeous variety of flowers growing. Hillston is no exception and the flower show is a joint function of the gardening club and the Uniting Church. The flowers are displayed in the Masonic Hall and lunch is served in the church hall next door. Works really well and this always well supported by the community.


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