Friday, 29 November 2013

Conduits -Chaplains Helping to Make Things Happen in Rural Communities

Conduit- Chaplains act as a link between places and people, people and resources.

Last week I wrote about the visit of the ministry students to Hillston Uniting Church.

The theme Hillston church members spoke on that night,as they outlined their involvement in ministry in this town was really,
       "Do what you can,where you can, with what, and who,you have and God will bless what you do."
It reminded me of the saying of John Wesley,

"Do all the good you can.By all the means you can.In all the ways you can.In all the places you can.At all the times you can.To all the people you can.As long as ever you can."

This sums up very well the ministry of the Rural Chaplains.

As they connect with people from all walks of life across rural NSW and listen to the dreams and heartaches of isolated communities they seek to "do all the good they can" by healing hurts and making dreams a reality.

Rural Chaplains act as a link between places and people, people and resources-hence the metaphor- Conduit.

Doing this may take several forms.It may mean listening to people affected by natural disaster,such as fire or flood. It may mean visiting tiny isolated communities over several years,working to improve literacy or education opportunities.It may mean finding ways to connect city churches with country towns so they can work together to improve outcomes for kids in town and expand horizons( literally, for those from the city).It may mean finding funding for buses,sports gear,music days,sports events or organising a Good Day Out for those demoralised by drought.It may mean teaching people to make church a safe place or helping to improve communication about difficult issues such as water use.It may mean working to improve the mental health and well being of those in rural communities.It may mean finding a way to send otherwise wasted crop to the hungry in the cities.

There are endless possibilities and Julie and Phill have discovered and done, many of them.

One particular way,which is little thought about when we think of intrepid Rural Chaplains 4 Wheel Driving across open country "outback", is the finding of and application for, grants as they sit in their office at home.
A monthly task is to look through the grant lists to find grants which will bring funding to communities with very little in the way of facilities or services so that they can make happen the things they dream of for their town.
These dreams are not for"trips to Disney Land" they are for real services or activities which it is hoped will bring genuine improvement to life in their part of the world.

Thus the Rural chaplains act as conduits, hearing hopes and dreams from communities and finding ways, resources or quite frankly, money,to help them make those dreams happen.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Hillston visit from "The Secret Seven."

From left at back -Ellie, Bridget, Paul, Kodjo and Do Young. Front -Christine and Simote.

 I don't  know how secret they really are but it sounded a good title!

I guess you could say it's a well kept secret how great these students are. 
(Well, it was a secret from Hillston until the visit last week from this energetic,interested and caring group of future Uniting Church ministers.)

On November 14th Hillston hosted 7 ministry students visiting as part of their training, finding out more about the church in rural NSW. The students visited several towns and churches,of varying sizes and run in a variety of ways, during their exhaustive Riverina church tour over 10 days.
After their very hot drive up from Hay over the very flat Hay Plain, Sue met them at the local Historical Museum, showed them around and then handed out maps for them to have a walk and a look around Hillston.

John's lovely garden
They visited the local water spot, Lake Woorabinda, dug out by locals and at the moment, empty, waiting for the summer water allocation; they cooled themselves in the shade outside the lovely garden of church member John Kirton; bought postcards at the Red Dust and Paddy Melon Gallery and found their way to the church. Once there, they enjoyed the cool of the church building as we sat and talked about Hillston life and the lay ministry here. That led on to afternoon tea and then a BBQ, using the food which magically appeared in the church fridge after the word went out last Sunday that the group would be coming and would be dining at the hall.

Hillston Uniting Church building looking fresh and cool after its recent paint job.
In the evening Sue and John ( Uniting Church members) and Lindsay (Anglican lay pastor) talked about the activities of the church. We listed all the different ministries in the community, had a slideshow playing and a display table of flyers and posters we’d used to advertise.
They were very interested in the various activities, particularly in our hosting of the Backpackers at the BBQ last year and in church. (You can read about these in past blog entries.) 
The way we do lay ministry,with all members putting in towards the life of the church, according to what we can do, without an ordained minister, was very different from how things happen in Sydney so they found that, too, of great interest and inspiration.

We hope that they picked up lots of ideas to take into their future ministry during their time in the Riverina.

In return we got information about and offers of help for, the various activities we have running here but most significantly the students were an appreciative, open audience and those present from Hillston on the night felt greatly encouraged by their warmth and enthusiasm for what we are doing here.

The group prepares to leave on the following day.
On their way to the next venue the next day the students met up with Julie in Griffith (on her way from one place to the other as she does) for a few hours to hear about the work of the Rural Chaplains serving the communities of  NSW west of the mountains.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Asking the Hard Questions, Living with the Hard Answers -Part 2

The following week I took part in the Moderator’s Murray Darling Basin Consultation in Albury.
We heard from farmers, scientists, experts, economists and environmental and just good folk. It was a robust conversation held in place by the Moderator who helped us listen to each other in a state of Grace. 

 We witnessed God’s Spirit move over the room, as a question was put regarding asking “Hard Questions” about the keeping the river healthy and how we use it.
Some of the farmers said, “How can we answer when we are seen as the problem? The blame always comes to us”.
A person explaining the science of the river asked the question,
“Do you hear blame in what I said?”
Answer –“Yes!”
This led into a state of Grace.
Affirmation that the farmers had worked hard at finding ways to use water better was offered and accepted.

It was pointed out that one of the hard questions is -How do we meet the needs of all groups without demonising and still get the best outcomes for the river?” 
What followed were people hearing each other, and themselves, resolving discussion and reconciliation. It’s not my place to tell who and why and what but this for me changed the rest of the consultation.
Friends, God calls us on risky paths by asking the hard questions but by acting on the even harder answers we can “Unite for the Common Good”. Forgiving is not always forgetting but it is moving forward with God’s help through His Son Jesus Christ.  The church has always been in the hard places when one no one else can or will go there.

Secondly, Jesus takes us out of our comfort zone. He opens us to hear and walks with us to lead his people. Like Moses and Jesus we are not about doing “nice things.” They stood for those hard questions that make us wish someone else would step up but only by hearing each other do we move towards an answer.
Thanks to all who bravely ask and try to answer those questions in Christ’s name.
Rural Chaplain, Rev Phill Matthews

Friday, 8 November 2013

Asking the Hard Questions. Living with the Hard Answers -Part 1

Life has had me doing some trips down to Sydney and beyond. These where, for the most part, learning experiences.

The Safe as Churches Conference in Sydney, held at the most unusual school I have ever been to! In the heart of Town Hall Square is the St Andrews Cathedral School in a 9 storey building. The roof was our lunch spot also their playground and sports area.A basketball court was inside. Meeting with leaders from the major denominations from Anglican and the Coptic Church to Uniting and all in between, Lay and Ordained sat side by side round tables. The daily worship was very good. 180 people in a space for 100 led to great conversation!  
The key note speaker, Rev Dr Marie Fortune, from the USA was very much a part of the Conference. Not just an expert, she came to hear our stories and sat in the electives. Her stories were relevant for our own journey as churches. I found Marie also added a sound theological foundation to what it means to be a safe and open church facing the reality of what has happened and how we move to make things right for survivors in a legal and pastoral way. She challenged, and also encouraged, the leaders of the churches present.
The two days has in many ways given me much broader experience to call on when presenting a Safe Church Workshop.

Active listening 
The “Trauma and Hope” seminar, led by Richard Elms, was again very helpful for me, particularly as it crossed over the work as a “Safe Church” person and as a Rural Chaplain, working with people in trauma after a disaster. I picked up a number of ideas to help me grow my skills. This talk supported the information from the “Recovery from Trauma” workshop held for Coonabarabran agencies by Dr Rob Gordon the previous week. They both said that we have a role in helping people move forward by listening to the story and if they have a spot that they forget, asking them what happened and helping them join the dots together. This helps them move on in their recovery, simply by asking and listening.

Making our church safe is not some regulation. It is God’s call for us to care for His sheep and as more of you take on the ministry of God in your community we need people, including you, to feel safe in all aspects of your mission.

Phill Matthews

*CSG - Coal Seam Gas

Friday, 1 November 2013

A Good Day Out in Weilmoringle

While those in the East were fighting the fires of last week,in the North West there were different issues.

This view of a dried out crop due to the lack of rain this season shows the reason for the Good Day Out, to give people a welcome break from the bleakness of that landscape. 

                   " And come they did from all around, to eat the food and hear the sound."

But that's enough from me -
Phill was there and gave this report of the day.

 "It was a great day from the start. 
We had church run by the Anglican Minister from Bourke, Graham Yeager. Lloyd, the Salvation Army Rural Chaplain and I, assisted with singing and a reading, Communion was shared and the crowd was growing.
Judy had got all our needs for us as she runs local shop and Post Office. We loaded the caravan with the boxes and brought them from the shop to the Shed.

All ready just in time! Eleven AM after church, the utes came from every direction. 

The BBQ was fired up, snags and steak- none your 'rare', 'medium'- just, "cooked." Salads laid out, quick word of thanks and we’re off. (Luckily one of the church goers had brought bottles of iced water. Gee, you get hot cooking in a shed in the bush.)

 First course done, they settle in for the long haul. I’d never been to one of these but people were yarning and laughing and making the most of their time together.

The Bush Poet, Andrew Hull, asked for hush and off he went. Funny poems, sad poems and in between. The Darling River Dirt Band (less 2) kept saying sorry for being short of members but they were excellent!
Next thing I know a member of the Dirt Band calls out,
 “Well time for the fruit!”
I raced to van and brought across oranges, bananas, mandies, pineapples and other such treats. I got some big plates and threw it all on.

Time then to speak. I thanked them for coming and explained about Julie having to attend to the fire situation and told them I’d been left with the fruit buying job. (Well, I had volunteers fixing it up. Funny what happens when you act helpless!)* Prayers were said for those in bush fire zones, the fire fighters, the support workers, for rain on the fire and out here too.

Well, the idea did work. The day was indeed a Good Day Out! Eighty people turned up on the day! All the info bags and lots of the papers with info all went, food was eaten.

By 8pm the last ones left. Every person said,

 “Thanks and gee, it was good! Be sure to come back!”

I make it sound fun and it was, but conversations of fears were in the middle of food and music “dry storms”. Talk of tanks empty for the first time in decades, stock away with a month of feed left.

                       But as one lady said, “When we come to this we know we not alone.”

* ( Ah,Phill -we're on to you now!)


View My Stats