I hope you enjoy reading some of the wonderful stories from our churches that will begin to drop over the coming days and weeks. We are using a new format to communicate how we are participating in God's mission. I am looking forward to receiving more stories from our churches to share across our movement, along with stories from our ministry partners Life Care, GMP and CareWorks.
In addition to sharing some good news from our churches we were keen to tie the look of the Newsletter in with the theme of this year’s convention; Participate: in life: in Christ”.
Participating in the life of Christ through union with Christ (Christ in me, I in Christ) is a New Testament theme that emerges throughout the apostle Paul’s writings, John’s writings and the New Testament more broadly. (Col. 1:27) We are invited in these New Testament writings to align ourselves with Jesus. We are to follow the lead of Jesus as we live out our lives and to seek to be in relationship with Jesus as our primary response to the call of the Gospel.
Our lives are full of participation; in our families, our workplaces, friendship groups and in society as a whole. We are also called to participate in the movement of the Churches of Christ and for these many reasons we see this theme as relevant for us at this time. Our hope is that our reflections at Convention will help us to think about how we participate in the Churches of Christ movement. We also hope it will help us to participate in life as a response to our participation in Christ.
Naracoorte Church of Christ Friendship Centre is a big part of the ministry of the church and meets each week during school terms. Its doors are open to anyone and is a welcoming place for people to gather on Thursday mornings to share time together, encourage one another, play table games, maybe participate in a craft activity which they bring along— or learn a new one if there is one on offer at the time. There’s always a lot of chatter and laughter—and a whole lot of caring and sharing. Morning tea is available throughout the 2-hour meetings.
Committee members present a “Think Spot” each week. These are printed and made into a booklet at the end of each year and presented to all participants and supporters of the ministry. Extra copies are made available for hospital visitation or for those who are in the nursing home or shut-in with illness or (old) age.
Of course, meetings were suspended in March until July, due to the Coronavirus lockdown. What a joy it was to come together again at the beginning of term 3, albeit following specific guide lines for group gatherings— sanitizing hands, tables, chairs etc. staying 1.5 metres apart, and serving pre-packed biscuits and cake for morning teas.
During the time of meeting suspension, the committee determined to maintain contact with all participants with phone calls, text messages and emails. A “Survival Kit” was prepared and hand delivered, or posted, to everyone—a novel way of assuring them of our thoughts and that we were in this situation together. A fortnightly letter called “Keeping in Touch”, was published during this period. It contained greetings, Bible verses and notes of encouragement, a Think Spot, some jokes and even a recipe or two. Since re-opening, it was decided to continue this fortnightly connection as quite a few of our regular participants have not been able to attend as yet and others just wanted them to keep on coming.
On average, 35 attended the meetings each week between the period July 2019—March 2020, and an average of 29 attended July—September 2020 despite the Covid-19 restrictions. About half attending do not have further affiliation with our church. We pray that more will feel the need to come to Sunday services but, for now, Friendship Centre is their “church”.
Friendship Centre is in its 34th year of continuous ministry, which commenced in May of 1987 during the ministry of Grant and Julie Simpson.
The group supports the Global Mission Partners Christmas Gifts Appeal by the sale of donated garden produce, homemade jams and sauces, or the sale of craft items and original poetry booklets. Each year it is exciting to see how much there is in funds to purchase items needed in various parts of the world. Participants and church members also collect their 5-cent coins throughout the year for this cause.
Over the years, items of clothing and blankets have been knitted or crocheted and forwarded on to CareWorks, or to Ruth Telfer, to be distributed where best needed, either locally or overseas.
For many years the group and church members have made, or purchased, items to include in the Samaritan’s Purse Christmas (Shoe) Box Appeal—the aim is to fill 70 boxes each year. There is a dedicated couple who have this ministry close to their hearts, and enthuse others to participate. Friendship Centre has also supported the local Pastoral Care Workers funding for many years —mainly with donations from the sale of garden produce in the 3rd term.
The Cancer Council is supported through donations at Friendship Centre’s version of the Biggest Morning Tea, corresponding with its birthday in May each year.
Other appeals are considered on their merit as they arise.
We usually have a special mid-year Soup and Sandwich lunch at the end of term 2, though it was not possible this year.
Extra effort is made at the end of each year to make Christmas relevant and show participants, particularly non-Christians, that it is a special time when we celebrate the birth of our Saviour. The meeting hall and chapel are decorated appropriately and our beautiful nativity scene set up in the chapel for all to admire. A special Christmas program is presented with carol singing, quizzes, a group craft activity relating to the chosen Christmas ‘theme’, followed by a Christmas lunch provided mainly by the committee, with participants bringing Christmas ‘finger– food’ goodies as dessert. (This may need to be modified this year, depending on the restrictions—but we will adapt and still make it a special time.)
There is a dedicated and loyal team on the committee who have maintained the ethos of a Friendship Centre, sharing their friendship, care, gifts and talents throughout the years. We trust that the light and love of Jesus will be seen in our contact with those whom Jesus draws along each week. We long to see more come to know Him as Lord and Saviour.
2020 has been an unusual year, but that doesn’t mean that nothing has been happening. It has been good to meet together again, both in person and via social media.
On the 30th August the Riverland Christian College youth band took the service and did a fantastic job leading the worship. Erin Taylor, our PCW to four schools, spoke a great message that encouraged the young folk. With the College kids, their families, plus a number of other visitors, we had over 30 visitors and a total of 93 in attendance, our largest service ever, even with restrictions. It was a great service.
During lockdown work commenced on building the large shed to house the Berri Community Men’s Shed. This was made possible with grants and donations of over $100,000. We still need another $80,000+ to complete stage one of our project which includes toilets to service the Men’s Shed including a disabled toilet, a kitchen in the Men’s Shed, large rainwater tanks, as well as a new septic system. We will also complete some updates to our Sunday School room, a verandah on the side of the SS building, and a kitchenette in the rear of the SS room, all as part of stage 1 of our long term plans.
On the 26th September we are holding an Open Day for the Men’s Shed and a Spring Market on the Church grounds to help attract people. This is a day of promotion and gaining community interest for the Men’s Shed.
On the 27th September we are holding a special ‘faith offering’ to give our congregation an opportunity to give purposefully to the Building Project. Some members have already been very generous.
The weekly Sew and Chat group recommenced meeting some weeks ago and enjoy the company. Small groups have been up and down, sometimes not knowing if they can meet. The Peppertree Shack men’s ministry has not recommenced yet due to Covid restrictions - maybe next term. Our MOPS (Mothers of Pre-schoolers) will recommence next term.
The congregation is in very good spirits and enjoy worshipping together. We praise God that despite the restrictions we have maintained our giving and are still meeting budget. We praise God for his goodness. He is good, all the time.
The Brighton congregation only had a few weeks to enjoy their newly refurbished Chapel before the COVID-19 shutdown came into effect.
However, when “the great resumption” finally takes place, the members and friends of Brighton will have this sparkling new facility in which to witness and worship. The Chapel was built in the mid-60s and had remained virtually untouched during the intervening years.
Now, the look is light, fresh and much more contemporary, with two new overhead data projectors and a new sound desk. Split-level air conditioning is also a feature of the makeover.
Jim Bartlett (Wally’s son, for those who remember) is the builder who erected the original church. Today he’s a member at Brighton and, at 87 years of age, was one of the most active and enthusiastic voluntary workers on the project.
Brighton’s minister, Graham Agnew, says he has rarely seen more passion and dedication invested into a project, than what he saw at Brighton…