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A photo of Arthur Bay, Magnetic Island by Alex Derr.
Arthur Bay. Photo: Alex Derr

Small is beautiful: our church on Maggie Island

A small congregation in one of Queensland’s iconic tourist destinations is demonstrating the power of the Gospel to draw people together. Dianne Jensen talks to members of the Magnetic Island Uniting Church.

Christians from all denominations and none have found a church home at the Uniting Church on Magnetic Island, a tiny piece of paradise just off Townsville.

There hasn’t been a minister in placement for 10 years, and the regular congregation of around 25 people share responsibility for keeping things running. It’s the only church on the island open every Sunday morning, with plenty of visitors dropping in.

Retired minister and church secretary Rev Alan Renton and his wife Shirley moved to the island 20 years ago.

“On an island, people come because our church suits them, not because of previous denominational allegiances,” says Alan. “Inevitably we come from many different theological standpoints—fundamentalist, liberal and everything in-between. Together we are the most Christian, most loving and caring congregation that I have ever experienced.”

Church chairperson Rachel Reese, a United States Southern Baptist, opted for the beach lifestyle when work took her to Townsville.

“I love the variety in this church,” she says. “It’s amazing how we can all read the same passage and each of us notices or is drawn to a different part—all part of the one same truth, but viewed through different experiences, stages in life and cultural backgrounds. Put it all together, and we are closer to the true kingdom of God.”

As in the early church, at Magnetic Island there are no committees and everything comes before the congregation for discussion.

“People pitch in and help where they can—with preaching, visiting the ill, morning tea and leading children’s lessons. We find when there is a need, someone seems to come along just when needed,” says Rachel.

The church has a craft group, a small Sunday School, and shares ecumenical Religion Instruction in the local primary school. There are plans for a school holiday program.

They’ve also established a partnership with the Catholic church in Paikgacha, a Christian village in Bangladesh, sponsoring the education of orphans being cared for by local families.

With some elderly members in declining health, the congregation is now hoping to share this ministry with other Uniting Churches and individuals. In the interim, the tiny community has stepped out in faith to guarantee the funds for 2017.

To find out more about the Paikgacha project contact Rev Alan Renton on (07) 4758 1205 or alanrenton@dodo.com.au

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