Friday, 29 May 2015

Moderator Comes to the West Part 2

Receiving a precious hand-made quilt at Griffith
Last week I talked about the things that small congregations in the Riverina wanted to share with the Moderator and this blog I'd like to focus on what the Moderator shared with us.

Myung Hwa is an extremely vivacious and bright person (Hwa in her name apparently means "bright" and it certainly suits her) so it was extremely easy for people to talk with her and also to share her wisdom. Conversations were always lively and often with a lots of laughter.

With Members of Coleambally church (with the sun streaming through the trees)

The visit was not only designed to highlight the good and bad of the being Church in remote NSW but also to bring encouragement to the small congregations. For those who don't live in remote areas it is hard to understand just how encouraging it is when someone like the Moderator of the Synod makes an effort to come and visit. In more than one place someone said to me, "this has been such a tremendous boost for us". It is often easy to feel forgotten, especially if you are not all that big.

Barellan Congregation

The other advantage of the visit was that Myung Hwa was able to bring some of the "big picture" perspective with her. She shared her vision for the Synod which is that we have a strong sense of social justice and that we are addressing the issues in our communities. For many of the congregations that we visited this confirmed the direction that they were heading in and gave enormous encouragement to keep going.

Talking with Church Members at Griffith
So thank you Myung Hwa for giving up your time to come visit and for working so HARD while you were here. We hope you've had time to recover!

Friday, 22 May 2015

Moderator comes to the West

Preaching at Presbytery Meeting

 How to fill five days - meet with eight Congregations, travel over 1000 kms, go to a Presbytery meeting, visit a farm, see lots of landscape, listen to many stories and enjoy much fellowship.

The Moderator of the NSW/ACT Synod took 5 days out of her busy schedule to visit congregations in the west of the of the Riverina Presbytery last week (You may remember reading about this in an earlier blog. Eight congregations were able to meet with the Rev Myung Hwa Park and talked to her about being Uniting Church in the bush.

A Traditional Cook Island welcome at Griffith

Lake Cargelligo, Tullibigeal, Barellan, Leeton, Narrandera, Hay, Griffith and Coleambally Congregations all extended a welcome to Myung Hwa and were able to share lots of stories as well as hear some of Myung Hwa's.
Morning tea at Hay

It was quite different for the Moderator to spend time with congregations who do not employ a ministry agent and are lay-lead. Many of those we visited are growing and doing very valuable things in their communities.

Window from Whitton church which has now been moved to Leeton community centre for everyone to enjoy

The other aspect that Myung Hwa found most surprising was the amount of ecumenical sharing that occurs in rural areas. Everywhere we went there were lots of examples of working with other Christian churches in communities.

Lunch with Lake Cargelligo and Tullibigeal congregation members

Saturday was spent at the Riverina Presbytery meeting and the installation of the new Chairperson, Paul Ballard. To complete the trip we were invited to the property of Jeff and Margaret King at Darlington Point to learn a bit more about farming.

Meeting an Angus calf

And of course I came home a couple of kilos heavier as the food for morning and afternoon teas, lunches and dinners was spectacular!

Friday, 15 May 2015

Back behind the wheel and on the road again

Hi all!  Thanks for all the prayerful support over last 8 weeks. My knee is now bending and holding a good course. Yesterday I drove the Forester for the first time since last December.  I have kept active with the odd activity - highlights being the 100th Anniversary service for Nabiac's Fellowship.  It was good catching up with old friends from many churches on the coast. I had a wedding in Narrabri last week and a Baptism on Mother’s Day at Moree. I also did a trip to Dubbo to catch up on the drought workers and have had the van accessed after it was damaged by hail when I was in Hospital - a number of friends lost their house roof and windows so we did ok.
Enough about the past. What is coming up?

Photo from Murray Darling Basin Tours (Thanks!)
The Tour is on again! August 1st to 9th 2015
This is a follow up from last year’s Murray Tour but we are going to do the Darling River this time.  Instead of reading about it, why not be a part of the fun, travelling through the outback seeing sights, wildlife, and history. So go to the Link:
This will give you all the information on the Tour and a registration page. 

The old North Bourke Bridge 
If you’d like to make it a real getaway, stay on in Dubbo for the "REKINDLING LIFE & FAITH" RMU FIELD DAYS 2015!” on August 10-13th at Dubbo UCA.
This is a not to be missed! For a copy of the flyer with all the info contact:-
U.M.E., 16 Masons Drive, NORTH PARRAMATTA NSW 2151
Ph: (02) 8838 8920
M: 0428 411 830

You won’t regret it - this one has all the boxes ticked!  Mark Berry (great speaker) is currently working for Church Mission Society as their Community Mission Facilitator; he is creative, thoughtful and is a pioneer with a passion for community. Mark is also in a pioneering ministry role in Telford, UK as a part of the “Safe Space” community.  Mark will be around for the Field Days, helping us rekindle life and faith in our communities.  If you can only come to The Field Days do it – there will be places to hang out and be pampered!!  These Field Days are about helping rebuild our Leaders and workers.  “The work is hard and the workers are few” - we want this time to rebuild and refresh you.

Yes this week’s Blog has been a bit of an info letter but these events are an important part of my work.  The care of the river system for all of us is vital in these times of change.  I also feel for those lay and ordained roles - you are like the fire.  If all you do is allow others to draw down on your heat and warmth, you too will burn out.  The tour and the Field Days are aimed at helping you “rebuild” so you can take care of yourself as you care for others.


Phill Matthews

Uniting Church Rural Chaplain covering NSW and ACT Synod rural and remote land

Friday, 8 May 2015

Uniting for a fabulous outcome

Art was great fun
Last week you read about the wonderful Super Camp held at Nyngan. (If you only have the version without pictures please go back and look again at the beaut photos which I have now fixed) and this week I thought I would add to the story.
Helen from Knox Boys school shares some quality time with Alex from Weilmoringle Public school

The week was one of those magic weeks where everyone comes away buzzing with excitement. The kids, staff and volunteers all had the biggest smiles on their faces.

Socialisation was very important for the kids from very isolated communities

Also important for Staff
But for me one of the biggest thrills came from seeing the various arms of the Uniting Church all working together to add their different skills to the Super Camp. The Uniting Church has seven schools and three of them sent staff and senior students to help with activities at the camp. They particularly focused on activities that the tiny schools find hard to do. Among other things being able to play team sports is a big thrill when you come from a school with less than 10 students of all ages.

Having a big kid to play with is extra special!

The NSW/ACT Synod of the Uniting Church also participated by sending Bradon French, Next Generation Worker, to run the evening activities. Not only did the kids have great fun but they also learnt a little more about Christianity.

One of the evening activities with Bradon in the background
In the past a lot of the catering for the camp was done by staff from the small schools. Can you imagine running activities during the day, organising food for over 150, doing evening activities and then bedding down for the night on the floor of a pavilion with your students. It was a herculean effort. So this year it was wonderful that two Uniting Church congregations were able to help with the food so staff didn't have to do it. Eight volunteers from Gordon congregation travelled out to do breakfasts and dinners, and the local congregation at Nyngan did morning teas and lunches. Not only was all the food fabulous but the volunteers all managed to have a good time while doing it and kept smiling. One meal was also catered by the local Nyngan Rotary Club which was also wonderful.

Gordon and Nyngan volunteers managed to find a time to meet one another and to sit down for a cuppa in a very busy schedule.
It is not often that it is possible to bring so many arms of the church together on a project. Yet when we think about it the Uniting Church is very diverse and has a lot to offer in so many areas. This was a great example of the various parts acting as the "one body" and being the people of God in a rural setting. But it was by no means one-sided as those from Sydney keep telling me how much they also got out of the project, especially for their students.
Making sherbet ensured we kept everyone's blood sugar well up!

The challenge for us now is to build on the outcomes for the camp to develop long-term partnerships.

Thank you to everyone from both sides of the sandstone curtain who worked so hard to make this a huge success.

Exploring music and drama
Somehow the science slime was everywhere!

Friday, 1 May 2015

Nyngan comes alive with a camp like no other.

Sorry everyone for the lack of pictures in the first post. Hopefully you will be able to see them all now.

Our blog this week is written by Rebecca Gibson, Lauren Jones and Hannah Walsh, Year 8 students at Ravenswood School for Girls, after their experience at the Small Schools Supercamp, organised by the small schools around Bourke, Julie Greig and 3 Sydney schools Julie enthused enough to want to contribute to the students in the isolated schools of the North-West NSW -and contribute they did! 

The article was originally submitted to the Nyngan Observer.

"On the second last week of term one, 130 students and 30 teachers from 10 small schools came together with 10 teachers and 22 students from Sydney schools to enjoy art, dance, drama, music, science, netball, touch football and soccer activities at the Small Schools Super Camp 2015.

Great Friendships were formed

Students from schools with as few as five students met students from schools with over 1,000 students while students who learn at home, attending Bourke and Walgett School of Distance Education, enjoyed the opportunity to play sport in teams with others of all ages, from all over the state.

Music Lessons

‘This is the third bi-annual Small Schools Super Camp,’ said Leone Dewhurst, Principal of Hermidale Public School. ‘It is great to see the camp going from strength to strength, building relationships between students of the various schools and staff. We often meet on sporting fields, which is competitive, but this is a wonderful opportunity to meet together, learn and play together, forming new friendships across communities.’

Art Lessons

‘It’s important for students from small schools to socialise with children their own age; for the city students it’s important to experience rural life and for the Uniting Church it’s important that we use our resources to support rural areas,’ said Julie Greig, Rural Chaplain from Hillston.
Primary students from Hermidale, Weilmoringle, Wanaaring, Marra Creek, Enngonia, Gwabegar, Carinda, Quambone and Girilambone Public Schools and Bourke and Walgett School of Distance Education met senior school students from three Sydney schools, Knox College, Pymble Ladies’ College and Ravenswood Schools at the camp.

Camp participants are especially grateful to the Bogan Shire Council for providing access to the Nyngan showground and its facilities. Students and teachers have camped in pavilions all week, the oval has been the venue for constant games and hands-on learning has taken place in the open air pavilions.

‘The showground kitchen facilities are wonderful,’ commented Jane van Beek, a teacher from Ravenswood, ‘and the generous team of ‘chefs’ from Gordon and Nyngan Uniting Churches have spoiled us with tasty treats all week.’

Plenty of Food

‘Everyone in Nyngan has welcomed us so warmly’, she added. ‘Maria, Tammy and Maria in the library helped us to print and laminate camp photos each day and Donna, the Community Development Officer at Bogan Shire Council, printed up a huge map of NSW so we could trace the journeys all the different schools made to come together at Nyngan.’

Dance Lessons

Judy Neale, a parent who accompanied her children from Weilmoringle Public School, said, ’I think it’s important for kids to get together and enjoy activities like team sports that are not normally available to them at their schools’.

Making Slime in Science lessons

Students have come and gone all week, some leaving camp to compete (successfully!) in State Swimming Competitions in Sydney; others auditioning for the Outback Choir via video conference at Nyngan High School while still others left to attend a Leadership Conference in Sydney.

Zoe Fisher, a student from Ravenswood School, commented, ‘I think this camp is really important because it allows students from small schools to have interactions with students their same age.’
Alice Gough, a Year 3 student from Hermidale, who loved the painting and ceramics art activities on camp, said, ‘It’s good fun and it’s good for your learning.’

Scoccer Lessons

Serena Troncoso, a Kindergarten student from Gwabegar, explained what she loves about dance. ‘Dance is the feeling in your heart. It gets faster and slower… and when it changes, you change.’  
Artistic learning activities included dance, drama, oil pastel drawing, watercolour painting and creating decorated clay sculptures of small animals. In science, students learned about flight making paper models and created slime and sherbet using household substances.

Netball lessons

‘I feel very privileged to be part of the week. I've loved watching our Pymble girls in action and the way they have responded very well to a new situation, but I feel we have probably learned more from the locals. Trips like this foster relationships between the schools, and we hope we can build on this and return very soon’, said Fiona, a teacher from Pymble Ladies’ College.

Knitting was offered as an optional craft - Note it only works of the Rural Chaplain has her tongue in the right place!


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