Pastor Chris Guise, the new bush chaplain for the Kennedy Remote Area, writes about his first experiences in the role. The Kennedy Patrol, established by Frontier Services in conjunction with the North Queensland Presbytery, covers the areas encompassing the Cape York Peninsula, the eastern Gulf Savannah and the Northern Goldfield regions.
As I travel the roads in the Gulf Savannah of North Queensland, I am struck by the vastness of this land; a land dotted here and there with glimpses of untamed beauty, but typically shrouded behind gum trees and acacia, as are the settlements and homes of pastoralists scattered through this often dry and arid landscape.
One can drive for hours without seeing another soul. Considering this, I am reminded of how isolation can be a big challenge to those who call this place home. Distances are huge, and something as simple as buying bread and milk requires more than a little careful planning.
It is intriguing that while living in the 21st century, with myriad options for connectedness, we are also growing in our sense of isolation from one another as face-to-face time with our community gives way to Facetime via a screen.
Living in remote areas simply adds further to this sense of isolation. It can feel like there is just a little too much space between us and our neighbour.
To bring encouragement and hope requires seeking out the gathering places of community, and upon finding them, I am welcomed by many others who have come from hundreds of kilometres around.
While gathering for a specific purpose, I also note that they come together with an overarching desire to be in community; to connect with one another, and to drive away those feelings of isolation that are often attendant to living in the bush.