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 and
and the UME team can be contacted by phone  02 8267 4295 and email

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

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