Sunday, 31 May 2009

Sorry if you have been trying to email us

Have you been trying to send a reply to the emails you have been receiving and not having success? I have just discovered that the reply address was wrong so most of you will have had a frustrating time with your emails returned. Sorry about this - we are keen to get your emails and hopefully it is now fixed so you won't have any more trouble.

If it is still not working please let me know at I look forward to getting lots of comments!


The church extends a warm welcome


One of the delights of the job is that I get to talk to urban churches about the work we are doing. Yesterday afternoon I traveled to the Wollongong area and had a very pleasant evening with Andrew, Kate and their 4 children. This morning I spoke at Corrimal church on the work of the Rural Chaplains. Many in the congregation have links to and lived in the bush so it was great to hear their stories and share some of my experiences.

It was also a great pleasure to hear how this church is doing so much community work by employing a community pastor, running a Men's shed, working with NA&AA and many other projects. They have a great passion for being a part of their community.

And of course the tradition of church hospitality was there with everyone joining together for lunch. For me it was another example of the broader church "family".

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

"Where two or three are gathered in His name.."

All over rural areas small groups of people faithfully gather on Sundays to worship God. Many congregations have quite small numbers but this doesn't stop them from worshipping and fellowshipping together. Condobolin is one such Uniting Church and I was able to join them one Sunday morning. The normal 6 participants were joined by 3 visitors this week so it made quite a "crowd". This congregation is part of Project Reconnect and each week manages their service with the help of a DVD which has the components of a service on it. Like most small churches this a great place to visit.

Josephite Conference

Last week I had the privilege of running a workshop at the annual rural conference of the Josephite Sisters. The sisters came from all over NSW with a couple from VIC and QLD, and many of them work in small rural communities. I was able to join them on the first day while they explored the original vision of Mary MacKillop and what it means to work "on the margins". The workshop I ran on the second day looked at some of the social justice issues in the bush and different theological models of working. I got a tremendous amount from the discussions and very much enjoyed hearing the thoughts of this remarkable group of women.

Many things took me by surprise over the two days. A few are:
- how much I enjoyed sharing common spirituality
- the amazing singing of the Sisters
- what an incredible force working for God this group of women are.

I was a very uplifting couple of days and I was delighted to be part of it.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Riverina Small Communities Project

Over the past couple of years NERRCS or North East Riverina Rural Counseling Service, has put in place a project to build capacity in small, drought affected villages.

The project manager Yvonne Hitchenor stated that the networks core role of the network is to build capacity in the villages within the networks bounds. This particular network is well funded and supported. The network has many talented service providers as members who have formed informal partnerships to service the villages in a variety of ways.

An example of partnering with other service providers would be Julie and myself offering workshops in Tallimba and Weethalle under the auspice of Sarah Heinjus a community health worker in the area.

Kel Hodge

Thursday, 21 May 2009

A New Way

Last week it was my pleasure to be a co-host for some Greenchurch members from Sydney. I was asked to set up some farm visits in the Canowindra area of the central west.
Richard Statham from the Rosnay farm and David harrison from "Brighton" at Cranbury kindly consented to sharing their journey with the visitors.
Rosnay farm is a collective farming venture that is divided into small blocks where people may buy in on a freehold basis and agree to farming using organic and or bio-dynamic practices. The farm produces wine grapes, figs and various livestock. Richard with the assistance of another owner Andrew Wooldridge explained their farming methods as well as the philosophy behind organic farming on a community level.
It seems that the great benefits include healthy soil, chemical free produce and the benefits of sharing resources on an agreed community level.
The quote of the day was from Andrew who said that, " Every complex problem has usually got a simple solution that is invariably wrong."
The Harrison farming venture is very different as David explained. Brighton farm and the adjoining family farms total about 2500 acres. The Harrison's run their business as a family venture that includes David and Jan's sons Michael and Anthony, and their families.
The farm produces canola grain, wheat, oats and some fodder crops. There is a small flock of meat sheep, however, the emphasis is on cropping. The Harrsion's have a large investment in machinery to manage the cropping. Their farming practices have changed over the years with less tilling of the soil and more intergration of ground cover.
The Harrison's are not an organic enterprise and yet conservation and care of their soils are paramount to their operation.
I must say that both farmers shared their journey and passion with us freely and I must thank them both for their great hospitality.
Kel Hodge

Saturday, 16 May 2009


Twice a year the Ivanhoe Ladies Lunch is held for the women of Ivanhoe (Map showing Ivanhoe ) and the surrounding districts.

This is a great time of catching up, lots of noise from all the talking, a lovely lunch and a chance to browse the stalls from the retailers from Hay. Hats off to those ladies who take the time to arrange these events each year for their friends and neighbours - it is appreciated in an area where people live long distances from others. Some women had travelled over 150kms on very bad roads to come to meet with others.

Drought Welfare Coordinating Committee


Every three months the state-wide Drought Welfare Coordinating Committee meets. This committee is comprised of a number of state and federal agencies as well as most of the charities and churches working in the bush. It is an excellent time to network and find out what other other organisations are doing and how we can work more effectively together. At this meeting Kel raised the issue of people who are presenting with very complex problems, usually exacerbated by age. These are the sorts of issues we are both increasingly coming across but its great to know that there are lots of good people out there helping others.

A Few Workshops

Julie and I thought it would be a good thing to respond to the suggestion of running some workshops in the snmaller villages around the Bourke area.

We chose to go to Byrock (Map showing Byrock ), Louth (Map showing Louth ) and the Wanarring (Map showing Wanaaring )communities. Byrock is approximately 80ks. south east of Bourke and is a village centred around the Mulga Creek Hotel. Our workshop was in two parts, the first being about networking and the final part was about grant writing. Unfortunately the numbers at Byrock were not what we hoped for, none the less we had a great night and met some of the locals.

The next day we made our way to the community of Louth which resides peacefully on the banks of the Darling River. Great hospitality was given to us at the Post Office B&B from Robyn and Dave. The workshop went well at the local tennis club at which the P&C managed the catering for the evening. There was a great roll up of participants and whilst imparting some of our knowledge we also made some good contacts and learnt a lot about the Louth disitrict.

The next day we made our way to Wanarring on the banks of the lovely Paroo River. After pleasant afternoon talking with the Salvation Army Chaplains Ted and Vickee we launched into the workshops as the day waned. The people at the workshop asked some probing questions and are keen to pursue some projects in their village.

The hospitality offered by Moc and Cherie Parkes at the Outback Inn was second to none.

Kel Hodge

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Telling The Story

Over the past months I have had the privilege to meet quite a few people from Uniting Church metropolitan congregations.
The congregations I have visited have been Oatley, Dee Why, Pittwater and Blackheath.
The aim of the visits were to tell some stories about my ministry experience with the people of rural and remote NSW.
I hope that my stories helped the people who listened to understand something of what is like to live in rural and remote communities. I also hope that those who listened appreciated that God is with the people of the bush.

It is without exception that I enjoyed hospitality and kindness from the people I met in their respective church congregations. It filled me with hope to experience the fact that there are people of good will everywhere who are concerned about others in our world who may live much different lifestyles and yet share the belief that God cares for us all.

Kel Hodge


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