A time when you clearly saw God at work

19 Dec 2021 by Rev Andrew Smith in: Letters, Thoughts, News

Tell a story about a time when you clearly saw God at work – Presbytery mission planning

From Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures

Telling and hearing stories about a time when you clearly saw God at work in congregations and faith communities across our Presbytery is going to make for incredibly enriching conversations at the first of our Presbytery gatherings next year as an important kick off to our Presbytery mission planning throughout 2022.
As we retell these stories, we remember what God has done in the biblical narrative and in the recognised history of local churches. By doing so, we recognise God’s hand in the church’s narrative and amongst the congregations and faith communities. The emphasis is not on what the church is doing and has to offer but rather on what God has been doing amongst us all along. For a short video about the Christian practice of remembering and retelling these stories as part of mission planning, see the video “Dinner Table” at this link to the Uniting Mission and Education website – Mission Planning Tool - Uniting Mission and Education
One of the stories that quickly comes to mind for me about a time when I think I clearly saw God at work in congregations and faith communities across our Presbytery is an unfolding story about support for the new Community Chaplaincy position to be based in the Mt Dromedary Parish. The position will build capacity for communities which have been heavily impacted by a series of significant events: first, the profoundly serious drought conditions leading into 2019; second, the devastating 2019/20 Black Summer Bushfires on the east coast of Australia; and third, the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has had specific regional impacts. The Community Chaplain will be based with the Uniting Church, to work across the region, engaging with communities, organisations, and individuals. The focus of this position is to work with individuals and groups in the communities as they transition into a “reconstruction” phase of recovery.
We had a great start to raising funds for the initial 2 years for this position. The Moderator’s Bushfire appeal had provided a big chunk of the funding from money donated across the Synod and beyond. The Presbytery and Mt Dromedary Parish also committed important contributions to the funds.
With all these sources of generous funding, we still had a shortfall. That’s when a congregation in our Presbytery committed $15,000 per annum for the two years. Another of our congregations gave $2000, with plans to consider further contributions next year. One church couple donated $10,000, and another church couple also committed $5,000 per annum for the two years. How fantastic is that!!
In addition, a message came in from a member of another congregation saying … “over the last couple of years I have been making holding crosses for our Congregation - and others on occasion. I gathered timber as I travelled. I visited the South Coast not long after the bushfires and collected timber that had been burned in the fires and swept onto the beach after heavy rain. I made several holding crosses from these charred bits. I’d be more than happy to hand these over to the community chaplain if they might be of use.”

A further offer came in to give support to the person who is appointed to the chaplain role. The kind of support envisaged includes:

  • Prayer walking in the local area;
  • Establishing and maintaining some relationships with church folk, community members, community organisations or other churches in Cobargo;
  • Providing some pastoral care support or back up ministry support;
  • Research, analysis and planning for Fresh Expressions type community opportunities (including contributing to strategic re-imagining);
  • Organising community events or assisting with community events others are organising;
  • Drafting grant or similar applications or contributing to other processes to secure resources for community recovery and healing activities;
  • Considering how other churches in the area might provide some encouragement to the people of Cobargo;
  • General community development, capacity building and resilience strengthening.

This unfolding story of a time when I think I clearly saw God at work across our Presbytery is very encouraging to me. I hope it is encouraging to you as well. It reminds me of accounts in the Bible about people in the early church contributing to the mission of Christ in other parts of the church (Acts 2:44; 2 Corinthians 8 and 9).
I look forward to hearing stories from you at our first Presbytery gathering next year about a time when you clearly saw God at work in congregations and faith communities across our Presbytery.
The dates for these Presbytery gatherings next year align with the Presbytery meetings. They will be the first of half of the Saturdays on 19 March, 21 May, 20 August, and 19 November, starting at 10am. You will be very welcome to stick around for the business work of the Presbytery in the afternoons, but mostly we would really value your participation in the first half of the days.
These gatherings will be open for all to attend who are keen to be part of contributing to aspirations for the future life and witness of congregations and faith communities across our Presbytery as we seek a fuller participation in Christ’s mission in the world.