Congregations in central Queensland are having their say about the ministry models they need to sustain them amid the ongoing challenges of life on the land. Dianne Jensen reports.
Rev Arthur Tutin, the new Central Queensland Presbytery remote/rural ministry project officer, is the man literally behind the wheel of a two-year project to explore how the presbytery might develop and resource new models of ministry across the far-flung Central Queensland region.
“In most places within the presbytery, congregations have been impacted by external forces—whether it’s drought or the mining downturn or the depopulation of rural centres—and so they realise that the old model is not necessarily going to work in the present age,” says Arthur.
The role entails meeting with congregations in an area which stretches from Nebo—100 kilometres south west of Mackay—out to Longreach and Winton and then south to Bileola.
While some rural placements have been filled, many of these smaller congregations are essentially lay-led or have limited access to ordained leadership, and there seems to be little chance that this situation will improve.
“We have places that have got lay leaders and all of a sudden these people have to take services, do funerals and that sort of thing and they are thrown into it,” says Arthur. “The model we are looking at is—how do we encourage, support and train people to engage with and be the people of God within their own community.”
Some of the options on the table include linking smaller congregations with larger churches on the coast, forming a central regional hub, increasing ecumenical cooperation and fostering community ministry.
Coordinating training and skill sharing will be key to resourcing the new ministry models.
“What I am doing is looking at the systems or models that may be implemented and I am also trying to model what a resource minister might be … for example, one of our congregations has asked for training on worship leadership, so I can do that or find others within the presbytery.”
Arthur has been on the job since March, clocking up the kilometres as he listens to the challenges and opportunities of continuing to provide a Christian witness in Central Queensland.
“I think there’s a sense of hope, faithfulness,” he says. “I don’t see these churches as weak congregations—I see that external forces have laid a lot of demands on them and they’ve responded in quite marvellous ways.”