Tuesday, 25 December 2012


" Mild, He lay His glory by,
 born that man no more may die."

"Hark , the herald angels sing.
Glory to the new born King."


Sunday, 23 December 2012

Santa Mail Boxes

What do you do when you live on a farm and the house is too far from the road for anyone to see Christmas lights?
Why you do a "Santa Mailbox", of course!

Here are some of the ones I've spotted.

As you look at them and enjoy the rural sense of humour I would like to take the opportunity on behalf of Sue and I to wish everyone a wonderful and holy Christmas. I trust that in all the haste and bustle you will have time to reflect on God's marvellous provision for us and to spend time with family and friends. We will be back in the New Year with more stories of the wonderful things that are happening in this part of the world.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Book Buddies in Weilmoringle * Apologies to Banjo Paterson

There was movement in Weilmoringle for the word had got around that the Rural Chaplain and the books were on their way,
They had been delayed in Cobar for Sue does so love her tea and they'd found a lovely tea house and were tempted stay,
After a 7pm start and the expectation of a 6 hour journey Sue needed a cuppa.
All had gathered for the book launch at the little school house building, all had come up from the village, all anticipating with delight, the books which were about to come their way.
But the call it came while waiting, they were yet an hour away and all decided they'd high tail it out of sight.

One of the lovely school buildings in Weilmoringle.
But eventually they made it down that long and dusty road and the four wheel drive divested of its load,
books in all shapes and sizes and for all types of child, unloaded on the table like a prize.
And the people, they regathered full of welcome and of smiles and the journey so long taken now seemed to strip away the miles.
Just one of 6 tables of books.
Over 100 books were supplied for 27 children to choose from.

Meredith, she sat there, and shyly at first, began to tell the children of her tale, of how she so loved her reading that she'd love them to have books and how Mosman Prep, her school, was prepared to foot the bill.
Slowly the children gathered, edging forward was their ploy, they wanted to hear her story, they could not contain their joy.
And when she read them "Fearless" of the bull dog not so brave, it wasn't long til they were 'round her. She didn't have to tell them to behave.

Meredith took time out of her holidays to visit Weilmoringle.
She had a wonderful time and so did we!
Then the time it came eventually, the time it did arrive, the time for which they'd waited and for the books they dived.
There were books there about Wally, about spiders and of space. There wasn't one about Weilmoringle but one of every other place,

Josie(left) runs the local playgroup and is seen here reading with the children.

And the children,they did love them, in the books they were enthralled and we went around among them and found what they were called.

Involved, active reading, boy style!



So the day it ended happily and after all had gone away, Meredith, Josie, Sue, Marg and Julie could not put their grins away.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Further happenings in Jenny's Garden

Before we take you North to let you know about events in Enngonia and Weilmoringle, some lovely things have been happening in Jenny's garden. As you know from a blog a few weeks ago Jenny opened her garden for a day to allow visitors to enjoy it and relax and be refreshed there.

 It all went well but since then the interest has continued in unexpected ways.

Even on the day there were a few lovely surprises. A young child of three led his mother around in wonder and excitement at finding the golden baubles hanging in the garden.His excitement was palpable. Backpackers from Taiwan,known to Jenny and Joe, came to the garden on the day. It was a further link for their friendship and a memory of an Australian experience for the girls to take home. It gave them the opportunity to meet more people in town.

Jenny decided to keep her garden open in case anyone else should want to visit. The local school was having a girl's day.The aim was to get all the girls together, give them some special experiences to enjoy as young women and also give them an opportunity to get to know each other and themselves better.They approached Jenny and asked her if the girls could visit.

A picture tells a thousand words as these girls enjoy the garden. They graced the garden with young and enthusiastic femininity,were refreshed by it and went home to tell of a day thoroughly enjoyed, full of new and lovely experiences.
This a a great example of school,church and community co-operation for the benefit of young people.
PS   Jenny came home one day to find a little pottery hedgehog in a Christmas hat perched cheekily on her outdoor table. She's still not sure where or who he came from.    
             Doing nice things is infectious!


Friday, 7 December 2012

Alternate Worship Workshop -An Introduction to Sacred Space

We've had some comments on the Garden Sacred Space so I thought I'd put in a blog about where the original idea came from.
 One early, Saturday, August morning saw Jenny, Julie and Sue, together with Gregor Newton*, load up the boot and head over to Griffith.

First light over the paddock at Hillston
We attended the Riverina Presbytery NW sector meeting to pick up some ideas on Alternate forms of worship and find out about the Camden Theological Library (CTLA) It was a freezing day but the welcome was warm as we met up with others who travelled in from Merriwagga, Coleambally and Griffith. The day started with devotions and then a phone link with the very helpful and friendly Librarian, during which we discovered about books available and how to join and borrow. This library is available for all members of the Uniting Church to borrow from.

The friendly library staff at CTLA-Adele, 2nd from right, assisted us that day by phone link.

Gregor then led us in the Alternate Worship workshop, starting with a worship time in the Church on the theme of nature and creation.

Table setting -Interactive display

He explained what we were about to experience and then we entered the church to find 4 small tables set up around the altar, each covered with a black cloth.

From the altar a long piece of calico, covered in writings about faith, fell down over the steps to the floor.On top of the altar a dark cloth was set with a table setting for three.

Each table carried a different display. On the first a bunch of wild flowers, on the second a bowl of dirt, then a grouping of fresh produce and finally a bowl of water.

Bible verses for meditation

We were encouraged to read the bible verses and instructions as we wandered individually around the tables. 

We could write our names on the plates set out for us on the altar as a sign of participating in God’s family.

 Each table gave an insight into the theme and food for thought. We could sit and pray or keep looking and moving around.

AlternateWorship forms can create some interesting and meaningful experiences

We were left with plenty to think about and as a group wondered how we might use this form of worship in our churches and communities. If you want to know more, leave a comment on the blog and we can contact you and pass on information and ideas.

*Gregor now lives in Hillston but has worked as a Youth Worker in Sydney and was involved there leading Alternate Worship and writing a resource folder called “Sacred Space”available in PDF form.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Darcy meets the Back Packers

Hi,  Darcy again,

 You can see me here thinking instructions to Julie as she converses with the Backpackers at the special BBQ held for them by the Combined Churches of Hillston. I was dying to get over there but some people are just not sure of dogs (Sigh!) 
Father Murray had the idea of a get together before the back packers left to wish them well from the Hillston churches and community. Then,as he said ,"Jenny made it happen!"* Several people from the local churches,including Julie and I joined in.(Yeah, I know,I'm a dog.)

You can see Julie below in the shirt matching my bag (I'm careful about these things!) After her stint buttering the bread, she welcomed the opportunity to spend time with these visitors from overseas who come to Hillston each year to pick the produce,mostly cherries. It had been a hard season for them as they came to the job as newbies and it takes a while for them to learn the skills to pick enough to make a good wage.
Some were sunburnt and tired;others, relishing the idea of continuing work,especially as their skills improved.

Back packers from UK and Germany with Julie
Many commented they felt very special to be served this Aussie BBQ.Such an event shows what we can do to make people welcome where we live.( However,we forgot the vegetarians and had to race home to get food from the fridge so they weren't stuck having bread and sauce for dinner!)
In the ice cream queue it was amusing to see twenty-somethings leaning forward to count to make sure they would not miss out on an ice cream cone and sprinkles.

 In all we counted over a 100 people from 11 different countries,which was a nice change for me as I am usually the only multi-cultural dog, being of French origin with previous Chinese owners.(I speak Cantonese you know and now English too!)

Just being there we had the feeling we were all friends and we deepened friendships with back packers we had met in town or at church.They now felt like locals.We had no idea who the 3 guys were in the photo below but they were instant friends and all part of the fun!

Everyone loves a photo.We had no idea who the 3 guys in the front were!

We also had the pleasure of some of the back packers coming to church on Sunday.Some have been coming for weeks and two new guys turned up last week. I met them at morning tea when Julie let me in from next door. (I like them cos they love dogs!)

* You met Jenny previously in the Open Garden blog.

Monday, 26 November 2012

"Same, Same but Different"

Those who have travelled to Cambodia will recognise this well know saying from the area. For me it accurately sums up how I felt about visiting a community development project near Seim Reap. Many of the  principles of community development in Australia and Cambodia are the same, with some notable differences.

Friday, 16 November 2012

"My Brain's Full but I'm Loving it!"- The Galong Field Days October 10-13

In the Riverina Presbytery, like many other rural areas, there are only a handful of fully ordained ministers. Most churches are run by lay people, all pitching in to encourage and teach each other and inspiring each other, to do something worthwhile in their communities.

Lay & Ordained leaders at the Riverina Kaltara April Retreat (Can you spot the Rev's?)

The Rural Ministry Unit (RMU) and Uniting Mission and Education (UME) and the Rural Chaplain, all act to support lay and ordained people in their ministry. The RMU acts as a forum for ideas and has an advocacy role on rural issues. The UME seeks to educate and share new ideas and resources. The Rural Chaplain works in and with communities and on the various committees.
Beautiful,Calm,Refreshing Galong

The Galong Field Days drew together all these parties, as well as lay people from other presbyteries, for 3 ½ days packed with information and activities. Get-togethers such as these seed ideas into the various centres and promote new ways of looking at things and fresh approaches.

The Rural Chaplain got an opportunity to share ideas on community development in a discussion group, asked people to speak about “good news” things happening in their churches and communities and advertised this blog! It was also a useful time to “touch base" with other RMU and UME colleagues and share new ideas or continue working on old ones.

Everything was interesting and useful but some things we, at Hillston, will really remember and think about doing are-

1)The ideas of Messy Church and Café Church (brought to us by Judyth and Lindsay) as possible styles of church which could appeal to people who wouldn’t normally think of going to church and provide opportunities to share a nice place to be and talk about God.

Cafe Church topics often relate directly to daily life

2) Every year in Hillston in October to December 400 backpackers from around the world arrive to pick cherries. The understandings and inspiration from Katalina’s Multicultural Workshop have given us new insights and made us think about how to approach and welcome the Chinese and Koreans who often attend our church and how to include their language in our services. An ecumenical BBQ for backpackers  for the 23rd November  in a local park is now planned –All are welcome for a free meal. God’s generosity in action. Café church is another possibility for this time of year.

3) As an ex-Ancient –History teacher I loved the Biblical Cultural Experience run by John and Elizabeth as they walked us through a traditional Jewish meal, offering foods from different eras of Jewish experience and history, explaining the customs and entertaining us with music, humour, song and dance.

Christmas Memories,written on baubles,were put on the tree
4) And speaking of this time of year –

Darren Wright shared with us many Christmas ideas and resources-The Christmas memory tree, the chalk board for recording “What I love and what I hate about Christmas," “Draw an Angel” and the make- it -yourself Advent calendar and nativity scene. We also reviewed useful Christmas videos from youtube and the art work of Si Smith. Well worth a look and considering using.

Note - Darren is a great source of ideas and resources. You can contact him by email at djwright@netspace.net.au and http://riverina.unitingchurch.org.au/?page_id=550
and the UME team can be contacted by phone  02 8267 4295 and email  umeinfo@nsw.uca.org.au

Monday, 12 November 2012

Meanwhile back in Hillston - Using Your Garden as a Sacred Space

1) Jenny's Garden

…consider how the lilies grow. They do not labour or spin –not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. Luke12:27

Inspired by ideas from the Sacred Space workshop attended in Griffith, Jenny wanted to do something to bless her community and celebrate God’s creation as it was revealed in her garden.

Jenny's front entrance made welcoming to visitors

Gregor Newton, previously from Sydney but now working in Hillston, had taught the workshop so he was asked to lend his expertise as she made her plans. Sue was asked along to share ideas too. One warm afternoon we wandered around enjoying the garden and looking for significant areas to highlight.

The idea was for people to “Look, Linger and Smell the Roses” as they merely enjoyed the garden or pondered deeper issues raised by the questions and brief notes on a sheet collected at the gate. Numbered golden Christmas baubles guided visitors on when to read the sheet.

The garden is a cool refreshing oasis
Areas to think about covered many aspects of the garden, 15 in all. A few have been selected to give you an insight into what visitors could experience on the day.

     1)   Lambs’ ears –Touch is often comforting.

      Who do you need to comfort, or, what do you need to be comforted for?

     2) Whimsical figures –    What makes you smile?
      May you laugh today, full of joy and possibility.

     3)   An unobtrusive plant, light green against darker foliage -

      Focus on the hidden gifts/talents of people around us and the value they contribute to our lives, just as an unobtrusive flower adds to the garden’s beauty.

The day I visited I had a few worries on my mind. As the garden worked its magic, my spirit was refreshed and  I was able to let them go and leave them in God’s capable hands.

And finally…..the Angel - number 15  near the tea and coffee.

                  “An angel might not have wings, might be a stranger, might even look like you!”

 2) Joan’s garden

In country towns like Hillston a lot of people and institutions are connected. Jenny’s idea (from the Uniting Church) inspired Joan (from the Anglican) to open her magnificent garden.
Both women are in the Hillston Garden Club; both have created these gardens from nothing after retiring from farm life.

Just one of the many beautiful garden rooms in Joan's garden
 Joan’s garden was originally a yard of grass graced by a Hills Hoist plonked in the middle.

Wanting to create a relaxing, colourful and private space Joan set to work and her current garden is the product of 18 years of activity. It is covered in flowers and shrubs and the view as you walk in the gate takes your breath away.

The garden is a tribute to what God can do through us as we work inspired by Him in his creation, His world.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

You just never know where you'll find her next!

"It seems quite amazing to be back in Cambodia."
"This wasn't in the job description but I'll give it a go!"
 "Much has changed in the three years since I was here, but of course there is much that hasn't. As difficult as it is to tell when you just "pop in" for a short time every now and then, I think that this time there is more hope for a future.

Today we went to the stilt village near Tonle Sap Lake. While there we stopped at a restaurant that was a community project of the whole village. The people have also got together to build a tree-top walkway through the mangrove swamp to attract extra tourist dollars. It was just great to see this sort of self- help in this community.
Highlights:-     1. Dinner last night with Rathany and Bophay who have started the project we are visiting tomorrow. They are both so passionate about helping the people of Bos Village. Their 3 month old daughter is just too cute for words. 

2. Today we met an elderly artist 76, who managed to escape the Pol Pot era and is now teaching young people to make carvings and architectural drawings. It was an honour to meet him and talk with him. His sculpture of Ankor Watt was just amazing.

But the most delightful thing was that his great grand -daughter had just been born a couple of hours before. She was the most gorgeous little thing and it was very special to be there on her birth day.

3. Talking with some workers who were ploughing up a paddy getting ready to sow rice tomorrow. 1000ha is now all owned by a company (most individual farms are 1 ha) and about 10-15 of locals work for the company. I wonder what happened to all the rest of the people who sold land to the company?"
                  -  Julie Greig

More photos at:

Friday, 26 October 2012

From Bre to the Gunbar Gathering *

Gunbar Uniting Church stands in a paddock beside the road on the way to Hay. The church and bell tower provided a stark contrast to the dusty paddocks of the 10 year drought but life is now evident in Gunbar.

Beside the church is a small hall. In the hall each Wednesday fortnight a group of young women and their babies and children gather to play, share stories and a cuppa. Also there will be community and/or church members whose children now have children, who come along also to play, share stories and a cuppa.

Jenny and I * went along on the first day to join in and take out a boot load of books and toys.But already there was a cubby house set up outside under the tree and trucks and toys temptingly left around. Jenny added the pram she’d brought and we went inside.

 We were greeted warmly and it wasn’t just the weather! First was the cuppa and amazing biscuits made by Anna and they were just part of what was set out on the table. A simple but well planned routine began. Play, story, songs, craft and then more play.

Soon Jenny was on nappy changing duty and Sue playing at the cubby showing the little ones how to climb up the steps and down the slide. Soon they were experts and lingered at the tower to wave and survey the scene before sliding yet again. Everyone gathered outside and we played ‘roll the ball on the plastic table cloth and bounce them up and down” Some children enjoyed the bouncing and others, picking up the strewn balls. There was something for everyone.

Anna Cochrane had the idea of starting the play group; the word got around. Julie let Sue know to ask if toys were needed. (They weren’t because Goolgowi playgroup had donated the equipment they weren’t using.) Announcements in local papers and church, emails circulated,a date set and the Gunbar play group was a reality.
Congratulations to Anna and the mums and community at Gunbar for showing how great things can happen in small places!

* From Bre to Gunbar and further, the Rural Chaplains "outdoor office" covers a wide area.
 *Jenny and Sue (Associate Rural Chaplain) are members of Hillston Uniting Church and drove 100 km to get to play group. Most people attending often have a similar drive to get to community events.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Darcy the Wonder Dog sees the Fish Traps at Bre

Hi ,I'm Darcy.

I'm the one you see here with Julie as she gazes intrepidly across the landscape. We were at Brewarrina taking a break in our travel and viewing the Fish Traps at Bre.

These are quite remarkable and worth seeing. That day several young men were fishing the traps. This entails standing in the river up to your thighs and catching the fish in your hands as they get caught in the traps. It was fascinating to see something which has been happening for hundreds of years in the same way and so ingenious.

I used to be a city dog but now I'm a rural dog. We regularly go kayaking on the Lachlan. I sit up the front and guide her on where to paddle.She can't do without me. It's the same on the push bike. I have a special box to sit in which balances on the bike. Sometimes I run alongside but it hurts my paws and Julie worries about me running on the road. One time in Enngonia I even got to roll in a dead pig carcass which is something I have always wanted to do but never got the opportunity in the city.

 You can see I have done lots of very different and scary things since I have been with Julie but I wouldn't miss it for the world and I love to go with her on her travels in rural NSW. ( Don't tell anyone but I cry when she goes away and has to leave me behind.)

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Hillston Hospitality

When Helen Miller-Brown came to town to conduct research for her Masters Degree in Adult Environmental Education, the experience of the interviews gave the farmers an opportunity to tell their story.   On her last night in Hillston, Helen told us that she was in awe of the farmers’ love for their land and how environmentally aware they are. They are caring for their land in constantly changing conditions with a view to handing it on in a better state for the next generation. The commitment to their land and tenacity in finding ways to learn and adapt to changing conditions is inspiring.

Helen views an irrigation channel with a local farmer

We asked Helen herself to comment on her time in Hillston.

“When I first decided to do this study I was concerned how I would find the farmers and once I had, would they talk to me?
Sue helped out with this. She found farmers and community members who were willing to be interviewed. Sue organized a broad cross section of farmers; from cropping and grazing, size of farms, age and wealth of interviewees.
Julie looked after me while I was in Hillston conducting the interviews. I can recommend her as a B&B as well as lunch and dinner.
Although there were only two and a half days of interviewing, due to the long distance of Hillston from Sydney, I was away Monday to Friday. Despite the intensity it was a wonderful and uplifting experience. The honesty of the farmers and members of the community is appreciated and I thank them for their integrity and courage. The generosity of spirit and good humour displayed made me feel sincerely welcome. I came away from Hillston thinking it is the best place in the world, and also with a sense of responsibility to do the right thing by the people who trust me with their story.
Now as I sit and begin the task of writing the thesis I am humbled by these stories and hope I can do them justice. This month I am attending a conference at the University of New England where I look forward to having the opportunity to share these stories with some of my fellow adult education researchers. Bit by bit let us hope justice is done for everyone.”
                                                                                                        Helen Miller-Brown

Friday, 12 October 2012

The Uni Researcher and the Farmers

Following on from the visit from the Moderator, Brian Brown and his wife, Helen Miller-Brown, Helen decided to visit the Hillston area again as part of her Masters in Education researching on-going learning.

 She had become aware of the issues facing farmers as a result of the Moderators visit. It occurred to her that coping with drought,constant seasonal weather change,changes in technology,the industrialisation of farming,together with the isolation, which is naturally part of farming life, meant that farmers are constantly having to adapt to changing conditions. This means they are excellent subjects in a study about methods of on-going learning.

Irrigated Wheat -Hillston
So .....Where did the Rural Chaplains come into it?

Helen was interested in interviewing farmers but simply did not know any personally. She approached the Uniting Church Rural Chaplains and asked if they could find out who would be good to interview in the Hillston area.
 One thing we are good at in Hillston is knowing everybody. Sue was deputized to the job and set about making a list of irrigation and dry land farmers on properties large and small but she had only been in Hillston 18 months and still needed more names.

What do you do?  Ask a local.

Down at the local info. centre and art gallery,The Red Dust and Paddy Melon Gallery, the question was asked. A long list resulted.Farmers of all types and descriptions.
"Ask....... they used to irrigate but now do dry land farming.That should be interesting. Then you could ask .... they are a small landholder next to a huge property. '' " You could ask ...they'd be interested but I think they are going to Melbourne that week."

The next task was to call the names on the list and explain the idea of the research and ask if people were interested. At times some translation was required as the terminology of the interviews was questioned. What seems an acceptable term to one group may not be to another and a term used casually by one person will put another person off. For example the term 'climate change' is viewed differently by many farmers as they feel it is used to justify many changes which greatly affect their livelihood. It was used in the questions but was misleading as to the true purpose of the interviews was concerned and put farmers off. Sue was able to act as a bit of a go-between in the situation as she knew both views held on the issue and most farmers were then happy to be interviewed.

Cockatiels in a Hillston paddock
Ten to twelve interviews were arranged,a mud map provided over lunch, as Helen arrived with 1 1/2 hours to spare before the first interview. In true Hillston style the first farmer turned up so she could follow him out out the farm and not get lost and 3 days of  successful interviews had begun.

Why was this a job for Rural Chaplains?

It related to the same concerns as those that led to the meetings between farmers and the Moderator. As a social justice issue and in the interests of having the rural perspective heard in academic circles and the wider community, these interviews fell within the role of Rural Chaplains to provide opportunities for rural people to tell their stories and have their skills and knowledge recognised as valuable members of our community. It will be very interesting to see the results of Helen's research.


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