Friday, 31 May 2013

A Word from BJ on Phill's trip to Bourke

As Phill sat ringing around a car pulled up.
I knew the smell. 
It was V from my new country retreat.
I gave Phill a quick look and then was off out the door across the yard and in the 4x4.

My escape to the country to see the gang.
Who needs coffee when you got chow? 

That's how it was when the kennel lady turned up.
I did not look back .


(Translated from Dog by Phill Matthews UC RC.)

Phill continues His Rural Chaplain Adventures

Since I last wrote I have been doing lots of foundational work chasing up things like cards connecting to the internet and a land line. Narrabri UCA has been so helpful in all this.

 I’ve been out and about to Balata and Moree, including doing an ANZAC day service at Balata, a small but friendly, village between Narrabri and Moree. This was a great day. Lyn and I marched down from the school to the hall for the wreath laying ceremony, followed by lovely cup of tea and some Anzac biscuits. We also had Sunday morning fellowship after I spoke at Gunnedah UCA.

Tuesday May 14th-Julie and I heard of a Forum in Bourke regarding Murdi Paaki, a service that runs programs for Aboriginal people across the western area of the state and in a number of the villages. Julie has done some programs and as she was tied up and I had some cancellations, I said I’d go.

Now to get ready-
“Right- need accommodation- as too far to hook up van for an overnight, plus I have no time to drop it off.'      BJ also needed to find somewhere so I rang his new home- away- from- home.
“Was it possible for them to pick him up this afternoon?”
“No problem”, and then 6 calls later had a room for me!

Vicky from the kennels pulled up to the kerb, BJ knew she was here before she got out of the car.  His excitement was extreme. His whole body was transformed into a puppy. For an old dog it was so cool! I had to get the tablets he needs -old football injury. By the time I got back he was on his way to the ute. As Vicky opened the car door, he was in like a flash, sitting up on the back seat like royalty- no goodbye !

I returned to pack and get the car ready for the sojourn- food for the road, water- always good to use bottled water as it saves that chances of drinking water upsetting your system, fuel up, water, oil, tyres , hook up the gadgets (GPS and CB Mobile) -ready for an early start next morning.

The Forum was very good.
 Looking at many issues affecting communities, it also looked at how organizations can work with Aboriginal people with respect. There was a good mixture of service providers and community members and some Government reps. I made some good contacts to follow up in times to come.

The trip home was excellent.
The water hole, which was flooded last trip, was now full of caravans. Two drover’s dogs, worked their mob of cows, who roamed across the road for about a kilometre. As I drove slowly through this mob I got some shots; dark clouds building up over still-dry Walgett, a rainbow near Burren Junction, wet road lit by the sun, the spray of the passing cars looking surreal in the mirrors, then the storm, more rainbows and  sun highlighting the silos. Just on dark two big roos, on the way to Wee Waa Dance party, crossed in front of the Camry!

Keeping eyes open, stopping for photos, checking things out, helps me as I drive this big country thinking of what you can do here!

BJ came home next morning and said “G’day” as if he’d never been away.   He’s now lost 4 kilograms and is a new dog. I’ve lost 8 kgs. This flat country means we can walk when I’m home.

Well- time for coffee !
           As Pentecost is upon us-

May the Spirit of the living God travel with you!

                                                                 Phill Matthews- Rural Chaplain

Friday, 17 May 2013

Planes ,(no) Trains and Automobiles

When your office covers the state from Northern border to Southern border,west of the Mountains there can be a lot of travel time ( and time away from home ) involved in getting from one part of it to the other. Julie's home is in Hillston but many of her conversations with her friends involve,
 "Well, I'm here this afternoon but tomorrow I go to ...then on to ....after that.... and then .....and I'll be home on Wednesday so I can be back before the shops shut to buy food for my visitors who arrive the next day. I'm free after that."

We need a calender to track where she is! Julie packs a lot into her schedule so she can keep the various projects happening and maintain relationships with people in the various communities she visits. There is a planned schedule and then there are the things which happen,which leap out and demand attention and loving care.Things such as fire, flood or suicide.

Travel around one of the largest offices in the state.

(No )Trains.
We have a train track here in Hillston but it is a reminder of a bygone era.
A great (and true) story is the one about the group of women at a meeting in Hillston in times past, getting to know each other over a cuppa. Most were property manager's wives and the question was asked of each,
"So what Station does your husband run?
One women, whose husband was in charge of the trains at Hillston, replied,
"The railway station."
Not sure what happened next!

Next train? -Before harvest -November 2013.
Trains still run here but only once a year to carry the wheat from the silo before harvest in preparation for the next crop. Despite this, because the line runs over the road into town in two places, we still have to stop to watch for trains each time we go into town!

A dutiful citizen waits at the stop sign
The nearest passenger train is Wagga or Cootamundra, 3 hours away. The distance between Hillston and there is covered by car or coach.
Needless to say, Julie opts for other modes of travel. 

The main way to travel is the car,which is a 4 wheel-drive to cope with all roads.A phone holder is hooked up inside near the steering wheel so she can do calls while driving and not hold the phone.This all saves time and means the time spent at the destination is all "people time" with the community there.

Two weeks taken from her calendar sees Julie driving from Hillston to Dubbo to Narrabri, back to Coonabarrabran, on to Weilmoringle then to Brewarrina, Bourke, Enngonia and home for 5 nights for Easter (with the Moderator and his wife as house guests). The following week sees her back in Sydney for 1 night and home to Hillston for 3 nights and then off to Nyngan and Dubbo and home for 1 night, before it's off to Synod for meetings for 4 days - covering 3,400 kms, not including the plane travel.(Makes you tired doesn't it? Don't think it's a rest at home.There's preparation,calls and meetings there too.) [Comment from Julie: Yes, but even for me this was unusually busy and thankfully it is not always like this.]

Of course, frequent trips to Sydney are necessary to deal with the more formal, organisational and advocacy parts of the Rural Chaplain's role. The rest of this work is done on the phone,but that's another story.

Naturally, to cover that distance the plane is essential but first there's a one and a half hour drive to Griffith airport. A bit like Sydney really.................except without the traffic!

Something you will never see on the Hillston to Griffith road.

                                                     And for that we do give thanks!

Friday, 10 May 2013

Good News from Synod Regarding the Murray-Darling Basin

Sometimes things are unbelievably difficult and sometimes things are inexplicably easy going.(Mind you a lot of well planned and executed graft often has to go into the later!) But the news from Synod on the Murray -Darling Basin Proposal was satisfyingly good.

When it is good it is very,very good.....
If you want it in a nutshell just read the 2 paragraphs below.

For a few years now the issue of the Murray-Darling Basin has been a contentious one. How can the water be best used? How can the land be protected? How can the farmers make a living and feed the nation in a climate of indecision and change regarding water use? Many on the land wondered if anyone has been listening to their side of the story and many scientist and ecologists felt no-one was hearing their message.

.........and when it is bad it is horrid!

Well - Someone has been listening and the proposal to Synod, developed by the task group convened by the Moderator, was a statement which considered all views and which placed the church and Christians at the forefront of seeking justice for all concerned and which obeyed God's direction to care for the earth and all in it. The proposal (outlined below) was passed at Synod with remarkable, even somewhat miraculous, agreement and the people of the West and those who care for the state of the rivers can now feel relief that they have at last been heard, at least in this forum.

We eagerly await further developments.

If you want more information read the proposal to Synod and the rational which underpinned it, copied below.

From the Moderators Murray-Darling Basin Consultation


That the Synod

i.                    Note that the current crisis in the Murray-Darling Basin is an extremely complex issue that impacts directly not only on the health of the Basin and the lives of people who live there but on all Australians.
ii.                  Affirm that all Australians must share in the cost of addressing the issue.
iii.                Affirm the efforts that scientists have made to warn Australians about the poor state of the Basin's waterways and to develop insights into living sustainably in the Basin.
iv.                Affirm the efforts farmers, especially irrigators, have made and are making to implement more sustainable farming practices.
v.                  Calls on the Moderator to ensure the church has a growing role in this debate in the areas of (a) pastoral care for the people and (b) a prophetic voice for the land and its peoples.
vi.                Request the President to encourage the Synods of NSW, ACT, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria and Tasmania to explore ways of working together for the common good of the Murray-Darling Basin and its people.


The current crisis in the Murray-Darling Basin affords us the opportunity to work together through a consensual process so that Basin communities can move toward a sustainable future, resulting in more resilient communities and a healthier basin river system.

It is important to understand that Basin communities are diverse and complex, and tensions exist between those of differing world views.  Further more, research has shown that many communities are vulnerable and fragile following the last drought and subsequent floods.  Many residents have lost trust in governments and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority which exacerbates their sense of fear and insecurity.

There is also the sense that farmers and those living in basin communities are not respected; their knowledge, skill and experience are not recognised and have not been heard by the various government authorities involved in water policy and management.

The Rural Chaplains and other members of the church are currently working with and alongside those communities most affected.  There is a need to harness further support for this mission in a time of complexity and uncertainty. 

There is also a lot of distress in the Murray Darling Basin and beyond about the damage that is being done by current policies to our wonderful rivers and the associated ecosystems. We need to work harder to restore the rivers to good health.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Can you help?

Prepared by members of  Hillston-Gunbar Uniting Church, copies of the following brochure were handed out by the Rural Chaplains at the recent Synod to let people know of the exciting possibilities in rural ministry.
If you and your church decide to be involved in this, your life will never be the same. What you give will certainly be repaid in wonderful ways.

                      Can you help?

               As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Jn 20:21

Did you know that substantial parts of the NW of NSW have no churches of any denomination and almost no ministry?
Hillston-Gunbar Congregation is on the edge of this unchurched frontier and has a passion to help develop ministries in the area, but doesn’t have the resources to do it all themselves.
Can you partner with us for this mission to these small rural communities? Together it will not be as daunting as it sounds. We know what it is to be rural and isolated and we can help make community contacts. Can your church offer people and skills such as
 Kids activities
 Christmas and Easter services
 Gospel choir
    Community concerts etc?

To find out more contact:

Julie Greig, 0429 344 456,


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