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Mission all sewn up at Elanora

Elanora Uniting Church Leisuretime participants. Photo taken by: Holly Jewell

Elanora Uniting Church Leisuretime participants. Photo: Holly Jewell

Christian women coming together can be a powerful force for mission. Dianne Jensen visits a booming community program at Elanora Uniting Church.

Is this the biggest craft group in Australia? Elanora Uniting Church on the Gold Coast opens its doors every Wednesday during school term to around 280 people who gather to share skills and fellowship.

The Leisuretime ministry started more than 20 years ago, when church members visited local caravan parks to invite interstate visitors and young mothers to a safe meeting place where they could learn new skills.

This term there are 37 electives available, ranging from embroidery, to painting and Mahjong.

President Maureen MacMaster leads the committee of 12 people, each with a designated role, which she describes as key to the effective delivery of such a large program.

“Our committee, teachers and helpers are all volunteers,” she says. “Many of our helpers are from other churches in the area. Thanks to the Border Council of Churches, we have many ecumenical friends.”

The program operates under the umbrella of the Elanora Uniting Church, with a weekly charge of $4 for participants plus an annual $2 registration fee.

On the morning of our visit, the huge, packed car park was the first indication that Leisuretime is something special.

The dozens of women and some men clustered in small groups across the sprawling church facilities were engaged in a dazzling range of traditional and contemporary crafts. Many are long-time attendees, drawn mainly from the large retiree community on the Gold Coast, plus the annual winter influx of people from the south.

The informal networking which takes place at Leisuretime is important, says Ms Macmaster, especially for those who may be isolated.

“At morning tea everyone’s birthday is recognised with a card, and ‘Get Well’, ‘Sympathy’ and ‘Thinking of you’ cards are sent out where appropriate, often signed by the whole class the person is in,” says Ms Macmaster. “People seem to feel loved and secure.”

Group members contribute to community projects such as Frontier Service hostels, Missions without Borders, the White Butterfly Foundation and the Samaritan’s Purse initiative. At the end of each year, donations are made to church and local charities.

It’s an approach to church which Rev Ian Lord, minister at Elanora, describes as “recreational ministry”. He provides a regular, low-key presence, a familiar face to whom many without church connections turn when crisis or loss occurs.

Maureen MacMaster also sees a flow-on effect.

“Many of the Leisuretime people attend our church functions, and some with no church affiliation have joined our congregation.”

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