Friday, 27 February 2015

But what do you do as a Rural Chaplain?

If you are a regular reader of this blog you will have a good idea of a number of the projects that the Rural Chaplaincy Team are involved in but as I was recently preparing my annual report for the Riverina Presbytery I thought it might be helpful to give our blog readers an overview of the whole job.

On the right of the blog page or in the notes section of the facebook page you will see the values that we endeavour to work under. Our objectives are also listed in both places. Each of us have our own projects and some we have in common, but below are the ones that I am working on.

1. Assisting congregations and UCA schools engage in beneficial community development.

I have been working to facilitate partnerships between Pymble Uniting Church, Knox and PLC Schools and Enngonia community. This partnership has been going for some time now and is producing good fruit.

Knox and PLC Students at Enngonia School

Another partnership, between Weilmoringle Primary School and Mosman Boys Preparatory School, has focused on literacy and has brought great benefits to both schools.

A new partnership is now forming with Gordon Uniting Church, Ravenswood Girls School and Ivanhoe and Clare. I am looking forward to the some interesting developments during the year.

Recently we have written about the wonderful partnerships that are coming together for the Small Schools Super Camp. 

Communities I work in and some of the partnerships that have formed
2. Facilitating small rural communities to discover their strengths.

The map above shows the 6 communities I have been particularly focusing on. 

Briefly some the projects in each place are:
  •       Weilmoringle -Literacy project
  •       Hillston  - WNWN
  •                      -  Grant projects
  •                      -  Show
  • Merriwagga - 
-        Computer lessons                              
-        Craft group
  •       Ivanhoe -Youth Centre – TV
  •       Hay – suicide prevention (more later)
  •       Enngonia – school and community programs
As you can see it is very varied - and great fun! 

In the next week or two I'll look at some of the other things I do.

Cheers Julie

Friday, 20 February 2015

Uniting Care Ageing West provides Language Resources for Local Library.

Grants, such as those provided by Unitingcare Ageing West, can make all the difference to the services provided in a rural town. Already starting to provide a service teaching English to those newly arrived in Australia, Hillston has now increased the resources available to both students and teachers.

Local librarian, Helen Underwood and UC Rural Chaplain Support,Sue Chapman, enjoy discussing the new resources. 
Funds, allocated in the Creative Solutions grant, which offered computer classes to Seniors and Craft workshops in Merriwagga, gave the opportunity for the local W.G Parker Memorial Library to add to the resources it already provided for this important service.
Once resources were purchased, it was decided that the library was the ideal place to store and distribute the DVD and books. Being a public venue there is greater opportunity for teachers and students to access resources than if they were stored privately.
The grant was administered by the Uniting Church chaplains and the Hillston Uniting Church, allowing local decisions to be made about what to purchase. 

An example of an exercise from the DVD
A DVD -The Interactive Picture Dictionary has 5 licences, allowing wider use. This DVD is easy to use and teaches beginners new vocabulary and how to put words in a sentence. It also shows those further advanced how to pronounce words and correctly put them into sentences in English.
Text books at various levels of difficulty - on Work, Leisure, Maths and Living and Listening in Australia - prepare people for life and work in this country. Other books, in their own language, assist new learners of English to get started.

A range of textbooks are available
The library also has a range of readers for learners of English and books in Punjabi available for borrowing.
Soon English Conversation Groups will restart, this time with an emphasis on providing services to local non-native speakers. These are all run by local volunteers and are held at the Uniting Church hall.

One student is currently studying English through the AMEP distance education program available to new comers to Australia who plan to stay. Another is being helped to improve her English speaking and writing. Both are assisted by volunteer tutors, a luxury many such students do not receive elsewhere but which Hillston provides,thanks to the generosity of these volunteers. 

Friday, 13 February 2015

The Rural Presbyteries Meeting 2015

 January is a quiet time for many but not Rural Presbyteries.  It was the time for the annual meeting in Dubbo and just to make it worth the trip we had a RMU meeting the day before too. This is not a report on the meetings so I am not going into a "who's who at the Zoo" or a word for word of what was said but I want to sketch for you what happened to keep you in the loop.

The trip for me started Monday afternoon. I drop BJ off at the kennels and headed out. The land had a green flush as I drove, then some dry spots and  back to green. Lots of candy*cars even on the back road and lots of trucks. I caught up with contacts on Tuesday morning, then had our first meeting -good to catch up with the team. We shared things that had been happening as a way of devotions. The field days in August was the main item.

Discussion, networking, catching up, swapping insights and numbers.
Come on the Darling River run and then stay over for the field days! Wow - lots of great things planned! Plus teaching, pampering and..... well, tell you that later.

Networking is a key part of these days. The Synod staff made themselves very available to all present. I find this time so useful -what you do,what we can offer and "No, that's X does that but I can give you contact number for them." We also had the Moderator  present. Her smile is infectious, her love for the Rural Presbyteries is real.

A number of  Executive Directors*..... well, all of them ..were there. I think I found it a positive interaction overall. Yes, we have issues about money and stuff but let's see what to change and ask can we do things in a different way together! Not the same in a different box!

More discussion, networking, catching up, swapping insights and numbers. 
Peter Walden, Executive Director of Uniting Care, told us the facts. We are the leader in non- government organisations offering more service provisions than the Salvos and the Catholics.It is Uniting Church - the feeling of it as not part of the church has changed. He outlined his vision and plans based on Isaiah and Matthew 25 but also making it pay and that funds come back into UCA.* Great passion!

UME* was there too - Kath Merryfield outlined what UME is looking to do. It is about to come out to Rural regional areas. Ask your reps about the great things planned plus think about what you need so this can go back to UME and we get what is relevant on issues of education for Ministry Agents who work in our churches - those lay and ordained, scripture teachers and Church councils members and elders.
The Rural Chaplains had a say too -the news in the last blog from Julie and I talked about my work with drought and those congregations who have supported me in this in a number of ways.
Paul Creek showed a video on the Darling River tour 1st - 9th of August and handed out poster and flyers - letting us get on board.

Meeting time 

Bronwyn Murphy, UME's Rural Ministries coordinator, did a great job setting this platform for discussion of the rural church and education.  As I said earlier, talk to your Presbytery Rep for feed back. I saw this meeting as a hope we can move towards a new way of being God's face in our communities.

 It was good to hear of Peter Waldon's base on Matthew 25.  This is the key to the drought work and what makes us different to many services.Working with one person is valued as that person is a child of Christ.

This great week ended sadly with the passing of BJ, my sometime talked about, pet. He loved going to the kennels and loved coming home but he will sleep in peace at his other home.

Thanks to the wonderful people, Danny and Vicky, owners who like all who met him, loved him.
Thank you,
Phill Matthews.

Vale BJ

* candy cars- police highway cars (for those non-roadies like me- Sue)
* Executive Directors - Directors of various departments within the Uniting Church administration.
* Uniting Church in Australia.
*UME -Uniting Mission and Education.

Friday, 6 February 2015

City Schools line up to help those out West.

It's 2pm and around NSW people are reaching for their phones to call in for a teleconference.

Julie -on the phone again.
The reason?
To organise the details of the Small Schools Supercamp to be held at Nyngan  this March for 11 schools - Weilmoringle, Enngonia, Bourke/Walgett Distance Education, Quambone, Hermidale, Louth, Girilambone, Marra Creek,Carinda,Wanaaring and Gwabegar.

This has become an annual event and much work has been put in by public primary school teachers and Uniting Church chaplains to apply for grants and solicit the assistance of Sydney private schools for the event.

Several schools have said they will  offer, not only staff and resources, but senior students to teach a range of courses. Team sports, science, art,ceramics,dance, drama,singing and IT will be offered to outback students. Presbyterian Ladies College (PLC), Ravenswood and Knox  all came on board very readily when asked by Julie at a private school's Principal's Conference last year to be involved in the Supercamp.

Students playing football at Weilmoringle in April last year.
The idea was to ask larger schools to share expertise with smaller, isolated outback schools so small school students could experience a wider curriculum than can be offered in one teacher schools and to give those students experience in larger groups than they have access to every day. As Marg Coddington,Weilmoringle Principal, commented,
 " These schools all have excellent experienced staff  but there is a need for additional expertise in areas like music, science and drama and for kids to play team sports against kids their own age."

As the teleconference began it was clear that schools were keen to offer as much as they could to the camp. Gordon and Nyngan Uniting Churches will also be involved by providing catering and helping out generally when they are not up to their eyeballs in potato peelings and bread crusts.

Sue at work at her desk in Hillston.
All in all 12 people were present at the conference from as far afield as Sydney, Narribri, Weilmoringle, Hermidale and Hillston. Technology has certainly made organising such events much easier -we could even say -possible.

When the 1 1/2 hours was up, Sue,who was scribing, had pages of notes, reflecting the enthusiasm of all involved. It looks like being a great camp!

The program will be full of educational and social opportunities, including input from Bradon French, Uniting Church Next Generation worker, who will be present at the camp and will organise some evening activities.

 I noted with a smile, that when Julie was asked if Bradon realised he had 150 kids to entertain and the reply was simply -"Yes -he is an ex-primary school teacher."- everyone nodded sagely(I imagine) and immediately agreed he had the expertise to handle it. Such is the respect teachers have for each other when they have done time in the classroom.  They all know the skill involved in managing a large group of students in a learning situation. It truly is a myth that -"Those who can, do and those who can't, teach." As anyone who has been a teacher will tell you -teaching is very much a "can do" profession.

Thank you to all those school teachers -public and private - who are prepared to go the extra mile to give the kids at the Supercamp a great time and a great learning experience they will never forget!


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