Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Community spirit strong in Goolgowi


I've mentioned Goolgowi before and as a small community it continues to amaze me. Recently the Community Development Officer from the Carathool Shire, the Drought Support Worker from Industry & Investment NSW, and myself held a planning evening in Goolgowi. There were about a dozen of us and the discussion was wide ranging and very stimulating. Some of the assets of the community that were identified are:

• Progress Association has a focus on building community
• Lifestyle, good people
• Good infrastructure: pool, sports ground, golf course, school
• General community and the Club
• Agricultural industry and its benefits eg economic, self-reliance, inventiveness

The group decided that one of their main focus would be the young people and they are starting by surveying the kids and the rest of the community to see what ideas they all have.
I look forward to hearing the results and standing alongside this small but enthusiastic committee as they work to strengthen their community.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

$7 for each man, woman and child!


At this time of the year many communities hold a "Shave for Cure" event to raise money for CanAssist. Hillston is no exception. In a small community of 1000 people everyone knows those suffering from cancer and the CanAssist group here is well supported and very active.

One family affected was the McMaster family when Campbell was diagnosed with leukemia. Thankfully Campbell responded to treatment and is now in remission but since then Campbell and his family have been raising money to help the children's hospital and other cancer victims. At the last count they had raised nearly $40,000.

To help this along Ellen McMaster and Lisa Curry worked with the local CanAssist group to raise funds by holding a "Shave for Cure". The community got behind these ladies and $7000 was raised, which is $7 for each person in Hillston. It was a wonderful event and really demonstrates small town community spirit. Well done Lisa and the McMaster family.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Make a Difference out West Launch


Yesterday I had the privilege of helping to launch Pymble Uniting Church's "Make a Difference Out West" campaign. It was a terrific morning starting with a service focused on working within the broader community. I spoke was invited to do the children's talk as well as the sermon and the congregation happily joined in and participated.

The service was followed by a morning tea and the official "launch". There were a number of "official" visitors from various levels of government, the NSW/ACT Synod and the local Presbytery. I have written in the blog before about the project that the Church is undertaking in rural areas. The four part of the project are:
  • Book groups
  • Expertise Brokerage - linking the expertise of city people with rural people trying to help their communities
  • Enngonia partnership - range of projects with the aim of improving the employment prospects of current school students
  • Family time out - providing accommodation and meals vouchers for rural families travelling long distances fr health or sporting appointments.
It is great to see this church committing itself to this long term project.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Riverina Presbyteria looks at its goals for the next few years


The Riverina Presbytery of the Uniting Church covers a large area from Tumut in the east to Hay in the west and from Finley in the south to Hillston in the north. It comprises 33 parishes, many of which have multiple congregations spread over different centres. As you can imagine issues such as isolation, small congregations and distance make running the Presbytery a challenge.

At their last meeting the Presbytery decided to look at some of their goals for the next couple of years. After some preliminary ground work by Tony Davies, the Presbytery Minister and Darren Wright, the Youth Worker and myself, I helped facilitate a session with all those present and everyone worked extremely hard in a very short time to find common goals and prioritise them. There was remarkable agreement amongst those present and the top three goals they prioritised were Discipleship Formation, Pastoral Support for Congregations and Resourcing. The challenge now for the Presbytery is take the goals and find good ways of integrating them into the way Presbytery does business.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Visiting the 2 G's


Just occasionally I have the privilege of preaching at small rural churches and recently I got to do so at Goolgowi and Gunbar. Both congregations are part of the Hillston parish but Goolgowi is 60km to the south and Gunbar is nearly 100km to the south west, so I don't get there very often.

I started at Goolgowi and because there was on only one young person there all the dozen or so adults got down onto the floor to help with the children's story.

Then on to Gunbar, a beautiful building sitting in the middle of nowhere but with an enthusiastic congregation who meet together monthly. One of their nicest traditions is a fabulous lunch together after each service. It was a quite a "bush" affair with people contributing home grown milk, fruit, eggs and of course great cooking.

Both services reminded me that even though the drought has been quite devastating, population is declining and congregations are getting smaller and older, there are still special times when people of faith gather together to praise and worship their God. On this Sunday this was especailly so for 7 yr old Archie who was had just lost his cousin in a tragic accident as was very keen that the congregation pray for him and his family.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Rankins Springs has a beaut night at the Pub

A few weeks agothe communities of Rankins Springs and Weethalle came together for dinner and to hear John Harper talk about managing depression. 100 adults and children had a great time in the family atmosphere and of course John was his usual dynamic self.

For me it was a lovely time to catch up with people I haven't seen for ages and to hear how they are going. One family is selling their wheat and sheep property and moving into oyster farming on the coast, which is quite a change.

Most farmers however and just looking forward to getting a crop in the ground with the excellent subsoil moisture that this rain has brought.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Rural Chaplains meet in Cobar

Monday and Tuesday of this week saw the Rural Chaplains Network meet in Cobar.
It was good to catch up with the chaplains who have been a part of the network for some time.
We had representatives from the Salvation Army, Presbyterian Inland Mission, the Baptist Church in Cobar, Uniting Church and a representative from Chaplaincy Australia came for the first time.

Pastor Ian Charles of the Cobar Baptist church provided a great program of local people presenting local issues. Of particular interest was the Buckwaroon Land Care Group who shared their struggles with land management in the light of native vegetation legislation, the drought and the stuggle of maintaining a strong family unit.

The presentation by the Buckwaroon Land Care group prompted much discussion on how the church should respond to the justice issues of the communities we minister with.

Unfortunately, the representative from the Cobar mine was unable to attend and provide a perspective on the issues faced by those in the mining industry that has a great impact on many of our rural communities.

Kel Hodge

Sunday, 7 March 2010

All Those Meetings

It's is good to be back in harness and planning out the new year. I have begun the active process of work by once again connecting with the schedule of meetings Julie and I are obliged to attend.

It can be the bane of those in large organisations to front up to meetings that seem pointless, unproductive and just going through the motions of keeping the organisation ticking along. A wise friend of mine pointed out that it seemed to him that the meetings became and end in themselves and the action part of the process was forgotten.

Three of the meetings I have attended this year have been quite the opposite. Some of the highlights I would like to share with you are;
The Macquarie-Darling Presbytery ( a regional representation of the NSW UCA church ) met at Dubbo recently at which one of the key note presentations was from a young member about "Hospitality" as understood by the Y generation. It seems that we older folks have much to learn from this generation who see hospitality as intentional, relational and integral to who we can be as church.

The Uniting Church State Disaster Response committee met in Sydney last week at which it was revealed that a network of inter-faith chaplains have been recruited and trained by the UCA in partnership with NSW community Services to offer chaplaincy in recovery centers post a disaster in NSW. It is hoped that the chaplains will have no work and yet we are there if needed.

Last but not least the Rural Ministry Unit ( a body of the church passionate about ministry in rural NSW) met last week at Wellington to map out strategies that might best serve the interests of rural communities across the state. As NSW is primarily an urban culture the interests of rural people have to be presented vigorously to share in limited resources.

So it is that the meeting process can and should be action based. I hope these meetings set the tone for the year to come!

Kel Hodge

Thursday, 4 March 2010

It's all so green!


It's amazing what rain will do. Last week I went to the Bourke area for a network meeting and just couldn't get over the green growth all the way. As Bourke has had lots of rain and some areas around Brewarrina have had as many as 800mls the pasture growth is phenomenal.

It is just a delight to travel anywhere at the moment and see the lush growth - such a change from driving through red dust. It has also given those that live in the bush new hope. Although most of the state (but not all by any means) have had good rains this year, there is still a long way to go before we can declare the drought "over". We need at least a whole year of normal rainfall and the catchments filled.

This has been recognised by the Federal Government who have just extended the Exceptional Circumstances declarations for a significant part of the state. If you want to see the map of which areas have been extended you can see it here.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Disaster Exercise in Deniliquin

Emergency Management Australia and Community Services NSW held a simulated bushfire emergency in Deniliquin a couple of weeks ago and I was invited to go as part of the Red Cross Team (the Disaster Chaplains are still waiting for the final go-ahead from Community Services). The exercise was to see how various welfare agencies could work together to run an evacuation centre. Under the NSW Disaster Plan the roles of each agency are specified, so we had Red Cross providing personal support and registering people, ADRA providing emergency housing, The Salvation Army doing food, St Vincent de Paul providing personal needs and Anglicare filling in where needed.
It was a very well thought out exercise with lots of interesting and varied situations (including one person who had their pet snake with them) to test us all out. I'm pleased to be able to say that most situations were handled well and hopefully everyone is a little better equipped when the real situation comes along.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Hillston gives thanks for the rain


On Sunday the community of Hillston gathered on the banks of the now flowing Lachlan River to give thanks for the recent rains. Over 60 adults and kids from all the churches in town and other community members came together to celebrate the 141mls of rain that have fallen so far this year and also the fact that the river is running again.

It is hard to explain the impact that the river has on a town like Hillston but to see it drying up and going stagnant was a constant source of conversation. Now we have people showing pictures on their cameras or phones of the water starting to run and talking about how excited they feel seeing the water again .... and of course I get to go kayaking again.

So it was with a profound sense of gratitude and a great deal of excitement that the service yesterday was planned by representatives from all the churches. The day went really well, and the service was a lovely blend of different traditions. I was very privileged to be able to do the kids talk.
lunch in the park together afterwards was a terrific time of fellowship.


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