Revd Jackie

Rev. Jackie Bullen

Letter from the Vicar

Lessons ‘Down Under’

As some of you will know, in March this year we went to Australia to visit our son James and to be there for his marriage to an Australian girl, Grace.

This trip was intended to be a mixture of celebrating their wedding, sightseeing, meeting Grace’s family and their friends and to experience something of James’ new life style.

We achieved all this and so much more but, what I did not expect from this trip was what I was going to learn about living in community and caring for each other, things which the Christian faith holds as important.

In the church we often talk about community and the importance of relationships. We use terms such as servant ministry, sacrificial giving and we talk of the importance of loving our brothers and sisters in Christ. Well, on this trip to a relatively remote community in South Australia, I found examples of this kind of behaviour that far exceeded what I have generally witnessed in communities both Christian and secular.

Where James lives and works is a remote, fairly arid, farming area. The soil is dry and very sandy. It is a harsh environment where the attitude to life is realistic, we may even think brutal. People work very hard on the land, at busy times up to 20 hours per day. And they play hard too, with much heavy drinking and socializing. People are VERY straight talking (we might even feel rude) and swearing is considered normal, both for men and women.

Animals exist purely to do a job. Dogs are working dogs, cats keep vermin down. Cattle and sheep are used for meat, milk and wool or sold as stock. If they are no good for their given task, they will be killed and the meat used by the farmer, if possible to feed the family or the animals.

Yet, in this unlikely sounding environment, community is central, important and done really well. Maybe it is because of the harsh setting that people genuinely look out for each other.

There is a very open sense of sharing possessions with one another. While we were there, several people offered us the use of their vehicles so that we could get out. People would just appear at one another's houses at meal times, often without warning, and all those there would share in the available food. A ‘Bush Barbie” was laid on for us, the preparation was immense, organized by a large group of people and the event lasted all day.

The generous hospitality we experienced from all we met went on and on. Our hosts spoke of various occasions when they had put people up who had found themselves lost, broken down or stranded in this remote region. Not for reward but just because it is the way they are, it is what they do.

This sense of community, care and mutual support is at the heart of the Christian life that we are called to live out every day. I am so grateful to the people of Tintinara, not just for their generosity, but for reminding me of the kind of life that I, as a Christian, should aspire to.

No worries mate!