Friday, 24 July 2009

Bringing in the sheep

I wouldn't normally write about what I do on my days off but I thought some of you might be interested in the day I had at a friends property near Roto
about 65km north of Hillston. The property is 25, 000 ha but we were mustering sheep (finding and bringing them into the yards) on a neighbour's property in a paddock that is 4000 ha and full of scrub so you can't see more than about 200m in any direction. Driving through it is an exercise in picking the most likely path through the trees, and often getting stuck and having to back out. It was quite an operation with 2 utes, 3 motor bikes, 6 adults and a couple of very excited grandchildren, and took a lot of planning. Being on a sheep farm for nearly 30 years I thought I knew how to muster but I have only ever done it before in small paddocks (none bigger than 120ha) and mostly cleared. This was very different. It was almost impossible to see the sheep unless you were right on top of them but the guys on the bikes were very good and seemed to flush the sheep out of all sort of bush. Lunch was sandwiches and tea in the middle of the bush and we finally had all the sheep (about 300 of them) in by about 3pm. Needless to say I had a great day!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

The services come together in Bourke and Cobar

Two new rural service networks started this week in Bourke and Cobar . With each network covering large areas of the outback it is great to get together and plan events with each other. The Bourke network has planned a couple of information days for Louth and Fordes Bridge and the Cobar network has planned some workshops for Nymagee and Cobar. With resources still very scarce on the ground this is an ideal way to make the most of all that is out there.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Roundtable on Rural Church Life

An excellent two day ecumenical conference was held in Geelong in June. There were representatives from Anglican, Catholic, Baptist, Salvation Army, Lutheran and Uniting churches there from all over Australia - so much discussion on different ways of doing ministry in the bush. I very much enjoyed talking to others who were trying innovative ways of bring the message of hope to the rural areas.

There was some very interesting research presented on rural congregations, as well as a presentation on the rural context by Prof John William, and then time with those there to share with each other in small groups.

On the second morning I participated in a session where 6 different models of ministry were presented. We heard about ecumenical parishes run jointly by the Anglican and Uniting church, area team ministry with multiple congregations, resource ministry, lay lead ministry, itinerant ministry and integrated ministry with "op shops". I talked about the model of rural chaplaincy that we use in NSW.

Following the session we broke into small groups and it was a good exercise for me to discuss some of the issues around our model with others from other denominations and other states.

Sunday, 12 July 2009


One of the initiatives of the Broken Hill Centacare Drought Worker, Ellen Day, is to facilitate a gathering of the Station families near Packsaddle on a station called "Milpa". Many of these families live long distances from each other and the children are home-schooled until they go away for High School. The area is a pastoral area with the stations running sheep, however, many of the stations have now been targeted for mining. Under the mining laws the station owners lose a lot of control over their land and this is the cause of a great deal of stress, not to mention a loss of production.

Monthly the women gather to do some craft and catch up, have a bit of pampering and generally recharge the batteries. Ellen asked me to come along to group to talk about communication and listening so whole families came, not just the wives. It was a beaut gathering of all ages including babies and young children and grandparents. Milpa is a beautiful homestead and the hospitality was generous and gracious.

Intrepid Lyndal

During last week I went to Forbes to be interviewed by Lyndal Irons a reporter for the Uniting Church NSW and ACT Communications Unit.
The Communications Unit publishes the magazine Insights and performs many other roles relating to advertising the church's activities.
Lyndal decided that she would report on what is happening in the bush and asked me for and interview. I thought it was only fair that I might report to you about Lyndal and her important work, particularly about her adventurous trip west of the Blue Mountains.
I am sure she will enjoy the wonders of our state and the stories the people have to tell her. Broken Hill is a long way from Sydney but I am sure she will find the work of the Lord wherever she goes.

Kel Hodge

What to do in Dandaloo?

Dandaloo is small village due west of Narromine and slightly east of Tottenham. There is not much to see except a few houses and great old country church in a paddock with a graveyard nearby.
The church has much history attached being located above a crypt built for the pioneering Martel family.
Whilst there is history underground there is a lot of life above the ground as Dandaloo is really vibrant community.
I was pleased to be asked to preside at a baptism and lead the monthly service last Sunday. As you can see fro my photos the Dandaloo people are a happy bunch who rely on the rich farming land around the area. Whilst the rainfall has not been what it could have been in the last decade the people have faith in God and each other to deal with what may come.
It was an honor and pleasure to welcome Mackenzie James Scott Hamilton into the church family at Dandaloo.

Kel Hodge

Responding To Disaster's

The annual gathering of the Uniting Church's State Disaster Response group took place in West Meade recently.
As Rural Chaplains Julie and I attended as disaster response is an important part of our role. It is pleasing to see that our state co-ordinator Rev. Dr. Stephen Robinson has moved our committee forward to the point where we have a clearly defined role and parameters to work with.
The Uniting Church in NSW is working towards a Memorandum of Understanding with the NSW State Government so the Uniting Church will have a key role in co-ordinating Pastoral care in relief centers.
Julie and I hope to participate in critical incident training this year so we may have the skills to support those affected by disaster.

Kel Hodge

Cootamundra Gets Together

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to speak at the Cootamundra Uniting Churchs' annual Parish Dinner.
It was a great night that was well attended by the Cootamundra congregation.
There was food, fellowship and hospitality all of which I enjoyed immensely.
For me, the highlight of the evening was the performance by the "Four Fivers"(Cootamundra's answer to the Ten Tenors.) These four chaps entertained us with various numbers selected from spiritual and popular repertoires.
I will never forget there rousing version of "Old Man River". The great bass baritone Paul Robeson was smiling in heaven when the Cootamundra boys hit their dulcet tones. Well done chaps!

Kel Hodge

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

In the midst of adversity a church cares for others

In March the South Turramurra in Sydney, Uniting Church building was completely destroyed by fire but it has not stopped the congregation from caring about the plight of others. Recently I had the privilege of speaking about the work of the Rural Chaplains to members of the South Turramurra and Turramurra churches. They were a great audience with lots of good questions but the biggest surprise was at the end of the meeting when the Ladies Fellowship handed me a sizable cheque to help support the rural work. I was really touched that even though they face the mammoth task of rebuilding their church they are still able to think of others.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Fun with the kids


What fun the kids at West Ryde Childrens' church have. I was invited along to the their time together on a Thursday afternoon to join in their activities and also to talk about how the drought affects children in the bush. It was a wonderful lively discussion with the kids. They had already been thinking about the drought and had raised over $135 for the Living is Giving program to go to kids in the bush who are doing it tough. Their enthusiasm was infectious and their caring wonderful and I felt very privileged to be able to share the time with them.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Merriwagga celebrates 80 years of church

Julie Greig:
Over 130 people gathered in Merriwagga on the 28th June to celebrate the 80th anniversary for the Uniting Church. With the church packed the singing was "roof raising" and very inspiring, and the service was a holy time of worship. Some of those attending were previous ministers and pastors who had served the congregation over the years, and the locals were delighted to welcome them back, including a couple from Tasmania. Quite a number of locals and visitors took part in the service and communion was delivered by Geoff Flynn, President of the Riverina Presbytery.

After the service everyone adjourned to the Merriwagga Hall for a delicious lunch and a talk on the history of the church. All in all a beaut time of worship and sharing and catching up.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Expanding the network of networks

One of the new service networks that has started this year is the one centred in Broken Hill covering a lot of the north west corner of NSW. This network helps to fill a gap that has been in this area. Many of the service providers, working over vast distances, were unaware of others who also in the area so it has been extremely helpful to bring them together. As a result a number of activities have been planned with the services working together, and this month there will be a men's health evening in White Cliffs and next month their will a series of events across the area using John Harper (see Kel's post "Build it and they will come") and focusing on depression. It certainly has an impact when agencies from churches, government and non-government groups all work together.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Hatfield Ladies know how to have a good day out

When you get to Hatfield all you see is the lovely old closed pub, an old school which is now used by the mobile childrens' service and the community hall with tennis courts. All this standing in the red dirt. But distance and drought are no barriers to the ladies who gathered for the Isolated Childrens and Parents Association Ladies Day. The Uniting church paid for the child care and a bus to bring some ladies out from Balranald . The women had all travelled to get there and were treated to speakers talking about legal issues, working in Saudi Arabia, insurance and beauty therapy. I spoke on the important role that listening to each other plays in keeping us all well. There were also displays of art works, crafts and handiwork, all done locally. It was an excellent day of learning and fellowship.

Weethalle explores the world of story telling and grants


6 enthusiastic people in Weethalle gathered to attend the workshop looking at family stories and how to make them meaningful as well as how to find, write and win grants. It was an excellent morning followed by lunch in the local pub.

As always the folk in Weethalle are incredibly keen to build their community and make it better for their families and friends. Their enthusiasm is infectious.

If anyone would like to look at the story telling or grant writing presentations they are on the right hand side of the page and apologies for no pictures, but we forgot to take any.

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