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The church on the frontier

IN A WIDE variety of life situations, our ministers and members are frequently in contact with people who have no regular relationship with a local congregation or any other activity of the church.

Such interaction often occurs in response to personal, family or community crisis and offers a special opportunity to share the good news of God’s love and grace along with the provision of appropriate care and support.

As I write I am mindful of the quite superb pastoral ministry that has been exercised by Rev Glen Louttit in Innisfail in the aftermath of Cyclone Larry, and by Rev Iain Watt in the Mary Valley following the announcement by the State Government of its intention to construct a dam at Traveston Crossing.

Such ministries are truly significant because they unashamedly invite people to find faith and hope and strength in the presence and promise of God.

However, there are particular situations that cannot be readily and regularly accessed except by those who have been recognised and accredited for that purpose.

These are mission contexts in which our chaplains are offering care and sharing the gospel. They have access to people that local congregations never see.

Today you will find our chaplains in hospitals and prisons, in industry and the police force, in aged care and amongst those with disabilities, in our schools, colleges and universities, in the defence forces, and in relationship with a variety of sporting groups.

Chaplains have been part of the church’s interface with the wider community for a long time.

However, it is only relatively recently that we have begun to better understand the strategic importance of chaplaincy in furthering the mission of the church and to explore what that might mean.

There is still a lot of work to be done in this area, not least in establishing priorities and finding the necessary resources.

But it is imperative that we recognise both the importance and the potential of this ministry and affirm and support those already engaged in it.

The tourism industry represents one relatively new context for chaplaincy that has exciting possibilities.
Rev Terry Ayling is our chaplain in the Whitsundays. Terry and his wife, Amanda, live on Hamilton Island.
It might sound exotic and romantic, but it is demanding and challenging work. It is also vital and strategic.

The ministry needs are great, not least because of the large number of itinerant young adults working in the resorts, many of whose lives are in disarray.

Work amongst this group is particularly demanding.

This is a key area in which Terry has been offering ministry and endeavouring to encourage local management to be proactive.

It also happens that “dream” holidays can be upset by crisis, including accidents, serious illness and even death.

It is at such critical moments that both staff and tourists look to Terry for help, and he is there to offer the pastoral care and spiritual nurture that is needed.

In addition, there are a growing number of permanent residents and therefore the potential for developing a faith community, within which people can participate in worship, be nurtured in the faith, and become engaged in mission themselves.

Terry has developed significant relationships with many of the key people in the area, both professionally and personally.

It is obvious that he is well known and respected in the community.

He has the gift of relating readily and naturally to people he has never met before and a clear vision and a deep passion for his ministry.

Such is the work of chaplaincy. In many different contexts it represents, without doubt, a mission frontier.
As such it demands our best efforts as a church in support of those who exercise this ministry on our behalf!