Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Sporting Life - Enngonia and Ivanhoe

Is this some kind of giant sporting puzzle?

No's the product of several months of collecting softball gear by Margo Lowder and her team at Pymble Uniting Church. It was then donated to Enngonia Public School.What you see above is the result on Enngonia's school verandah.

After some time on the school verandah Julie and Sue had sorted the gear into 3 neat bags,each with an equal number of bats,balls, mits, helmets,bases and chest plates.

Why 3 bags?
One was for the school itself to use for school sport;the other will go to Bogan Gate Public School,where Rosie Earle, principal at Enngonia, will move to take up her new posting in 2013 and number 3 is at the request of Uncle Billy,who has recently moved back to Enngonia and wants to provide something for the kids to do in their spare time.

This project is one of several over the years organised by Pymble church and Julie, in her role as Rural Chaplain.

Julie and Darcy with the Pymble UC team on their last visit to Enngonia.

Another town to benefit from the Pymble team's efforts is Ivanhoe,which over the past year has received both League and Cricket gear for the junior league team,transported several hours to games each weekend  by dedicated school teacher, David Steedman. The Pymble team even had to learn about the strange code of League,being more used to Union in that part of Sydney, but they adapted well and Ivanhoe kids benefited.

It's a long way to go to buy your footy gear otherwise!

*This blog is dedicated to the work of David Steedman, teacher, Ivanhoe Central School, who has recently moved to a coastal school, after several years of dedicated service to the school and the junior footballers in Ivanhoe and to those at Pymble UC, who do their bit to make things just that little bit easier for those who live in isolated areas.

Thank you David for all your weekends spent taking kids to football games! and thank you Pymble UC for making it easier for kids such as these to have these opportunities!

If your church or organisation wants to be part of something like this,contact us through the blog or by email at greig.julie@gmail .com
You won't regret it!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Living in the Light of Christmas!

Hi All, and Welcome to the blog for 2013!

We start this year with excerpts from Rev. Steve Aynsley's Christmas sermon based on Luke 2:1-20 preached at Pymble Uniting Church, December, 2012. In it he recounts the experiences of members of Pymble Uniting Church and students of Knox Grammar and Presbyterian Ladies College in living " in the light of Christmas " at Enngonia, NSW.

"During the year I sat on a committee helping another congregation find a new minister.One of the questions we asked in the interviews is a common one in minister circles:

What is your understanding of the gospel?

It’s a question that goes to people’s perception of the core Christian message and how it might be shared meaningfully in today’s world.
One particular response to that question struck me for its simplicity and economy.

The fellow simply said: “There’s another way.”

As I read again Luke’s Christmas story I see that message of another way shining brightly…….

The Christmas story doesn’t suggest that the way of the empire has been obliterated – just that there’s another way to live within it.It is not so much revolution or anarchy,as a fresh set of eyes
and a new set of values to live by……….

Outback Christmas -Courtesy of the Dept.P.R.I Country Web web site 

The news of Jesus’ birth is not announced in the royal palace or even the Temple but in the fields where the shepherds mind their sheep. Some have wondered why the shepherds aren’t also madly making their way to Bethlehem or their place of birth but it might be because shepherds were next to worthless –counted or not, the governor wouldn’t get much money out of them. Shepherds really were on the bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder, and they were part of the large and unfortunate group the religious authorities designated ‘sinners’ because their work made it impossible to meet the requirements of the religious law.

And yet it is to this lowly, despised group, perhaps to people who had given up on God and maybe needed him most, that the news of the Saviour first comes.

The situation of Joseph and Mary tells a similar tale.
As Julia Baird wrote in the Herald last week,
[The Christmas story] is a tale of two refugees having a baby in a stable.
Much like an asylum seeker giving birth in a tent on Manus Island. There is no power, no hierarchy, no sense that God only springs from influence and respectability but, instead, [God comes] from the margins.

The other way of the gospel understands God this way and seeks to embody this type of living in personal and church life.

So by all means come to this lovely chapel on Christmas Day; continue to join us at the church during the year – I think you’ll experience something positive of the Christian faith – but perhaps in order to see the Christ being born into our world today we need to be looking on the margins;
we need to be with the poor or the sick or ostracized because the Christmas story tells us
that seems to be where God likes to operate.

Let me conclude with a story that brings together the 2 main themes I have spoken of; another way and God on the margins.

In November, a group of 5 from our congregation joined 10 girls from PLC and 3 boys from Knox , plus a few teachers for a trip to Enngonia Public School. This is the school 100 kms north of Bourke that our congregation has been supporting in a variety of ways for over 3 years.
And for the year 10 students from both Sydney schools the visit was a community service-learning project where they were to be teaching the primary school children,most of whom are indigenous.

Students at work in the classroom at Enngonia
Enngonia is a small and isolated town of around 90 people.It sits on the Mitchell Highway about 30 kms shy of the Queensland border.Besides the school, there is a pub, a police station, not manned and a couple of closed up shops. But it has a positive vibe about it – especially the school that boasts good facilities, a veggie garden and committed staff.

A view across the front of Enngonia School
Regardless of the huge amount of preparation undergone by the students, the culture shock going from large private schools on the leafy north shore to a tiny 1 teacher school in flat and dry Enngonia was always going to be enormous. But all the adults were so proud of the efforts of the Sydney students to engage and befriend and help the young kids of Enngonia. They worked really hard, with great imagination and flexibility, and gave of themselves for 2 full days in temperatures up to 40 degrees.

At first it was a little awkward, the 2 groups were unsure of each other as you would expect.When they broke up into smaller groups the Enngonia kids were all together on one side and the students from Sydney on the other but after about 15 minutes, the barriers came down and the friendships started to form. 

Barriers breaking down as all play together

And before long, the young kids were sitting all over and hanging off the older Sydney students –and it stayed that way for the rest of the visit.

Before long ..........
The trip was beneficial in so many ways.The young Aboriginal kids who have so few role models and such a restricted outlook on what they can achieve in life, saw engaged teenagers who cared for them and who clearly worked hard at school to achieve goals. The PLC girls were particularly struck by the fact that most of the girls in Enngonia have an expectation that they will be pregnant by about 15 or 16.The Sydney girls were about that age and couldn’t believe that was the extent of the Enngonia girls’ imagined futures. 

Perhaps through the visit, the Enngonia students began to imagine that there could be another way for them.The Sydney school students, most of whom had never been further west than about Bathurst, learned so much from the exposure to a different set of circumstances. They questioned why things were the way they were and began to realise there are no easy answers.

And through our Rural Chaplain Julie Greig, they were challenged to think that there could be another way for them – in considering how they might use their skills and even their working lives to support people in the bush.

Julie discusses a bit of context and perspective with the PLC/Knox students
Since the trip the Sydney students have continued to talk about what they have learned
and what they can do from here to continue to support the school kids.They have set up a Facebook page to that end,and they decided to write to the children at school.And as a sign of the care they are taking, they decided that they would each write and then send all the letters together in a large envelope, lest the children received them at different times and some would feel left out.

I haven’t done the trip justice in a few minutes but believe me when I say it was a wonderful experience for all concerned. 

But more than that it was a little bit of Christmas come to life.

Some experiences are so special, you never forget them.

The Sydney students preparing, traveling, in bus, plane and car, way out of their comfort zone;
the Enngonia children seeing something of another way,another life to strive for;the Sydney students being challenged with questions of equity and justice being raised in their minds.

And through it all, in a very real way, hope coming alive,not in the city or even the suburbs, but in the margins; in the outback.

The Christmas story of Joseph and Mary and Jesus in a manger sometimes seems so far away, so remote,but perhaps it’s happening all around us.

We just need new eyes to see it.

* Our thanks to Steve for this wonderful story and message. Just let us know if you would like a full copy of the sermon. It's worth the read!

* The Country Web magazine is a publication of the Dept.of Primary Rural Industries on rural  and family issues. You can apply  for it online. Recommended reading.


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