Friday, 28 November 2014

The Road to Nymagee........and back again.

The goats race across the road at Nymagee.
I loaded the car with water and some food for the road and "off we go" - as I said last time - out to Nyngan to help with some drought events. This was with the team from Uniting Care Burnside FY,   Nat and Cath, who had found that no other services involved were attending as there was another tour in the Brewarrina area. At Nyngan it was just the presenter and many of the providers where out at Brewarrina.  As we rolled out of Nyngan the temperature was climbing into the high 30’s. Armed with cold water, we headed to Hermidale, a small village on the side of the Mitchell Highway on the way to Cobar. 

Inside the CWA Hall at Hermidale 
The town has seen better days, they will tell you- shops and servo gone but the school is doing lots of things plus there's a new tennis club, air con, a pub and the CWA hall, which was our base. We joined in on the writing program (same one I was at in Wanaaring)  but this part was on journaling. The  rule when you attend these things as a pastor is that you have to take part, which was good, as a rumour had gone round that it was off,  so not all had come but those that had enjoyed a day off the farm. 

The day ended with a lot of planning for upcoming events ,including a Pamper Day. As I had a donation of some great pamper packs, I was happy to resource this and provide the packs for the girls.

The CWA hall
 The group here has connections with a Nyngan Uniting Church minister,with Frontier Service Patrol, Jo and Lou, so this brings 3 areas of the church together plus the Congregation and Fellowship from NENW by linking them in to Jo at Nyngan. When the drought money ends there is a ongoing link, not just a one off event leaving people alone till the next event happens. 
We spent the night with a farming family for tea of a baked dinner. This was a great time and yummy food. As the girls talked, I talked with the man of the house on a range of things, then home to my motel room.  Up next morning meeting with another local, again growing connections. Yes, and drinking coffee. Change back into passenger roll for our trip out past Hermidale to Nymagee. The day was a bit hotter. As we passed along the road farmers were hard at work bringing in their crop. We also saw two big tractors rolling the stubble over. Clouds of dust filled the air. 

Nat, who comes from a farming back ground felt this was to do a couple of things - lower bush fire risk and keep moisture in the ground .  We hit the dirt. Goats running in family groups across the road, then town came into view. The cars round the hall told us we had a good crowd. The heat was up there. The car outside temp gauge saying 45.  Luckily, we had ice for our water and were in time for lunch. We talked to the group men and women, mostly farmers, wives and some town folk. Mothers, daughters and sons of all ages.  We did the course touching our creative side,  then a cuppa and feedback time.  Most got things out of it, if not just a laugh  and a yarn and to forget about life for a time.  It was good meeting and been part of things. It was said that the service will be around to talk till Christmas but not sure after this. I jumped in and said the Rural Chaplains and Frontier Services will be here for the long run and we have links to the counsellors. It’s funny some service forget what we are about.  That give me space to say something the Uniting care team and also to push that I'll be around, that’s why they bring me along . 
I can see but can't reach the wheel! 

Sitting in the back been driven meant lots of photos :)  There was a lot of debriefing  this time and as we hopped in the car the temp had not moved. Before we left I'd started the car and put the air on as I took the last shots of town and talked with those still hanging round. Many had headed for the comfort of the pub. We'd done the cleaning and packing up and told everyone about the Pamper Day. 
"We'll be in that,! See ya!" and off we went. 

Nymagee CWA hall

By the time we made Nyngan it was 5.45pm and I was back behind the wheel, on the right side! Quick call on the hands free to report to Lyn. I was told not to keep going but the trip was very good, the break from driving and a good night sleep, a fuel stop and some coffee and food, cold drinks and a photo shoot had all done their job. 
Next thing I was in bed, washing on, quick clean up and vacuum - set Robovac to work, washed floors and off to Armidale  for NENW Presbytery AGM via Bingara as the highway was blocked. 

What a beautiful  drive! 
Lyn rang, "Where are you?"
"Beats me!" 
I got in to Armidale before I dropped out but I got there and back and Lyn was home.

 Yeah, see you somewhere out there!

Phill Matthews Rural Chaplain


PS From Sue - Phill sounds very handy at home! or was it just because Lyn was coming back?

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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

National Rural Ministry Conference

National Rural Ministry Conference

This trip had a lot of stories and events woven into it.  The main game was the National Rural Ministry Conference in Harrietville, Victoria. Yes, interstate again ,but I also set up a meeting along the way with Cath from Mission Aust, Dubbo, picked up Lyn on way home from Sydney and the Caravan from Dubbo .  So Dubbo was a shopping trip for Adult Literacy books for our Weilmoringle project. We bought a heap of children’s story books for the reading corner at play group - all of them had Indigenous stories and great pictures.

Hay in Southern NSW 
A wonderful night with Holly and Darren. I was also in time for the gathering they hold and met some great folk and shared a meal.

A family set up in rest area
I had to stop for this church  in a paddock 

Next day off to Victoria, but coffee first, of course….but what’s this: no steering wheel and on the wrong side of the car? How strange it is being a passenger, even putting on the seat belt. We travelled along some of the roads we had been on for the MDB trip and then out to Kelly country.The conference was in a beautiful village called Harrietville just past Bright at the foot of Feathertop   Victoria’s second highest mountain.

The views just go on forever.
There were ministry agents Lorraine Stokes, from as far as West Aust, 3 from SA -David Buxton, Ashley Davis & Rob Morgan. From Vic/Tas - John Thompson, Colin Thomson, Paul Blacker, Mike Lewis and Wendie Wilkie, who did a great job of keeping us in order. From the Riverina - Myra Cowell, Darren Wright and Dorothy Creek, plus others who popped in and out.
The time was broken into 2 sessions with guest speakers, Rev Jenny Byrnes, Executive Director of the Centre for Theology and Ministry, who led us in a session on sustainable, resilient leadership, and John Emmet, Mission officer with the Property department, previously mission catalyst with Commission for Mission, who led us in a session on mission in the 21st C – “being small and vulnerable - a theological reflection”  looking at the possibilities and understandings of rural life. Both these sessions gave a lot of challenging thinking into how we go forward and break habits of church to move into 21st.C

Hard at it with John Emmet 

Dorothy and Myra working on presentation

 There was an afternoon sight-seeing around the district and the rest of the time was in sharing stories from our patch. Again a helpful time allowing us to hear good and bad news and how it was dealt with.  Yes, all Synods are looking at new ways of “being church” and working around resourcing lay-led churches. We also had a visit from a local historian telling about those who had pioneered this area. Seems having children was a past time as most had around 10-12. We also heard of an interesting project in town of boarding students from a NT Indigenous community in 2 cottages as they attended school in Bright. They also can work in the project’s coffee shop.
It was good to worship and share over the time. The “race that stops a nation” was run and won as we travelled - it was funny seeing large groups of people hang around pubs in the middle of the week but it was a Public holiday down there.
We had a great cook whose cooking and sense of humour, added to the camp as she moved without intrusion, but also slotted in at the right time. 

Above Bright at the lookout but we need to lookout for the grader from the passenger seat

I headed north to Sydney, out the back way to Gundagai then up to Sydney for Lyn’s 

Birthday and some grand kid time, then home. Due to loss of a friend, Lyn stayed  and I headed in to my next blog……..…..empty car, wash cloths, re- pack and then early start to head  “Out West” for  a few days of drought work around Nyngan.

Sorry if this is not up to standard but I am on my L plates 

Phill Matthews Rural Chaplain


Monday, 17 November 2014

Getting a Good Idea Off the Ground.

When you work in the biggest office in the state and your co-workers can be anything from 5 minutes to 9 hours away, organisation can be interesting at times.This is particularly the case for projects which involve several elements and various people coming together to make them work. One such is the Outback School Satellite Scripture Project.

The plan and development of the project went something like this:-

1 rural chaplain is based in Hillston NSW- Julie Greig.

4 years ago Julie visits Weilmoringle and Louth schools and realises there is no scripture being taught there and that despite the schools wanting to have scripture,there is no one to teach it.

Caitlin enjoying her teaching over the satellite.
1 year ago a teacher was found and by now 3 schools want scripture,Wanaaring has been added to the list. The teacher had moved into the Hillston area. If you want to amaze yourself check out on a map where these towns are in NSW and how far apart they are and yet they are still considered to be in the same area in outback terms.

1 accessible satellite system to teach the lessons. A school is found when the local Hillston principal agrees to have the lesson taught from there. Other teachers at Hillston agree to train the scripture teacher.

The 3 schools need to be co-ordinated to fit scripture into the school program at a time the suits the scripture teacher and the host school. This is achieved by visiting the schools with the new teacher. It was a wonderful trip that allowed relationships to start to be formed.

Caitlin, teaching in a real classroom while visiting the schools.
Finally all the elements are in place and the project starts and goes well. 2 lessons are taught and everyone is happy.

Then ...1 husband of the scripture teacher gets a move to the Blue Mountains. She is still willing to teach but needs to find an available satellite in the Mountains. The Mountains public schools are all willing to help but have no available satellite space. All the time is being used for their own students needs.

Next step - Pray and Look for a solution.

This is a very worthy project as many children in isolated areas have no access to information about Christianity as there is often no local church or only one very irregularly.

It will take a little while to get the program started again so it's going to be interesting.

Many projects of the Rural Chaplain are like this.

It's interesting to see how God works behind it all to bring it all about.

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Monday, 10 November 2014

Working together CAN make a difference

"It is better a terrible end rather than terror without end".

This quote has come from research into those contemplating suicide and highlights some of the great pain and suffering of those who kill themselves. It also reminds us that suicide prevention is an extremely difficult area to be working in.

It was a recognition of this and wanting to support those who are working to make a difference where they live that lead me to gather a group of people to organise a Forum last Saturday. The Forum brought together community groups who are working to reduce suicide in their communities, and a few people who are interested in starting groups. People came from Hay, Wagga, Gundagai, Beechworth, Coolamon, Temora and Sydney.

Part of the organising committee - L to R Alan Woodward, Sue Murray, Merilyn Limbrick, Julie Greig, Tina McManus, Tony Cassidy and John Harper

The day was one of great passion, very innovative ideas, lots of interaction, good networking and learning. Most of the day was given to groups to share the story of how their group came into being and what they have been doing in their communities.

We heard stories of organising bike rides, media events, music concerts, huge numbers of people undergoing training, innovative ways of getting information into the community and continual efforts to raise awareness. The enormous energy and enthusiasm in the room was very catching.

We also had three excellent guest speakers. Sue Murray, Executive Officer of Suicide Prevention Australia, spoke about the "Communities Matter Toolkit" (more about that later) and how it could be used to help community groups. Tony Cassidy, Wesley Lifeforce, brought to us news of the expansion of the Suicide Prevention Networks and Alan Woodward, Executive Director of the Lifeline Foundation, spoke of what works in communities and self-care.

Lots of people helped  make the day work and my thanks to the committee who worked with me and Red Cross and UnitingCare who helped sponsor the day.

Julie Greig

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