Building bridges into our communities
Bishop Ian reflects on a year of challenges and opportunities
|The former South Bathurst Rectory, soon to become
the home of the Bridge Community.
By any measure we might regard 2015 as a challenging year for our Diocese.
It began with terminating the employment of four people in order that we might meet our budget. I then moved to Dubbo becoming a part-time Bishop and part-time Rector, as the Endowment of the See could no longer afford to pay me.
In April the matters relating to the Diocesan loans and the CBA began to be heard in the Supreme Court, a hearing that lasted 36 days! Then the Judgement was handed down early in December.
Pour into the mix my heart attack and significant dental surgery later in the year, and we might be forgiven for wanting the year to close!
Today, though, on the 4th Sunday of Advent, I’ve been listening again to the Song of Mary (The Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55) and once again my spirit soars.
Mary could have recounted all the disasters that had befallen her nation or her family, but instead she gives thanks to God for all God’s goodness, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour."
That’s not optimism, but rather her trust in the faithfulness of God. "He has come to the aid of his servant, to remember his promise of mercy, promises made to our ancestors."
There is a different story to our Diocese for this year: it’s a story of hope and gratitude for all that God is doing, and will continue to do among us, because God is faithful to his promises of mercy. Just one example:
After Liz and I had walked to Dubbo in the first week of February we returned to Bathurst to complete packing and move our home to the Dubbo Rectory. Time constraints meant that we could not complete it and there was still some stuff in my study at Bishopscourt to bring up to Dubbo when everything came to a stop as I was rushed into hospital on 14th February after a heart attack.
It took time to recover and moving was not complete when Liz and I went to the Bishops’ Conference early in March. While there we learnt of the sudden death of Fr James and Fran’s son Adrian, in the South Bathurst Rectory.
What sadness, what tragedy. We were back in Bathurst for his funeral but soon realised that Fran and James could not contemplate continuing to live in their Brilliant Street Rectory.
The delays meant that Bishopscourt had not been rented and they approached me to ask if moving there (still in the Parish of South Bathurst) might be a possibility. The EOS Board readily agreed. They moved in immediately and with St Barnabas Church having been destroyed by a fire a year earlier, the chapel in Bishopscourt quickly became a new place of worship for parishioners and very soon the house became a hub for all kinds of worship, fellowship and pastoral ministry. So much so that in November, the Bishop in Council agreed that it be renamed "The St Barnabas Centre".
But what of the Brilliant Street Rectory?
It’s a large five-bedroom house and during the cold winter months, including snow in Bathurst, it stood empty. But like seed bulbs hidden in the cold earth during winter months, there was life and growth waiting for Spring for the new life to be seen.
For well over a year Fr James has been meeting for fellowship and prayer with his friend a Jesuit Priest Fr Stephen Sinn. I have joined them on occasion. We have talked about Fr Stephen’s vision of a home for men who are on the margins and not easily accepted. Stephen worked in King’s Cross for many years and the needs of these people has never left him. He felt that God was calling him to Bathurst to work with men in this area.
Fr James and I have come to share his vision; slowly the parish has also appreciated it and the Property Trust too sees how it can serve people here.
Fr Stephen’s vision has developed from wanting a large place to gather a lot of men, to becoming more organic and seeing how it might grow. So in January he will move to live in the former Rectory (to be known and the "Bridge Community") and a ministry there – serving our community has begun.
"How are we serving our communities?" I often ask. It cannot be through big schemes but rather in humble and simple service.
Thank you for your fellowship, ministry and service in the past year. May you be blessed by the presence of Jesus today as you remember his first coming 2000 years ago, and may we go into 2016 "with peace, to love and serve the Lord" rejoicing in the powerful love of the Holy Spirit of God.
Bishop Ian Palmer .... still on pilgrimage