FEBRUARY 2019 – Snippets from the Parish Council meeting at the Parish Hall

At the moment we are in such a busy time in our Church’s calendar.  Foremost in our mind is preparing for Easter and at the same time the Parish has been engaged in very important events.

The planning of services at Easter is underway.  Lenten devotions began with the Ash Wednesday service.  There will be a Eucharist every Thursday at 10am in the Church followed by a Lenten discussion in the hall.  As well these discussions will be repeated after the 9.30 am service on Sundays. All are welcome.  Details of the Easter ceremonies are being finalised.

We are pleased that Bishop John has extended Father Paul Dalzell’s time with us as our locum until the end of April.  This is particularly pleasing given the work already undertaken by Father Paul in preparing for this busy time in the Church calendar.  The Diocese has been very impressed with the energy in which the Parish has committed itself to the life of the Church with the help of the priests who have acted as our locums while we are without a permanent priest. The children’s services at the end of each month have continued and the next is on 24th March at St. John’s Church (see details in the email headed “Children’s Service”).

A careful analysis of our financial position is being undertaken at the moment to determine the needs of the Parish.  The major work undertaken recently has been the renovation of the Rectory from the sale of property in Jamieson and Bonnie Doon.  There is still work to be done in installing ramps at both St. Peter’s Jamieson and Christ Church Bonnie Doon. Careful management of finances has meant that our debt to the diocese has been greatly reduced.

Members of Parish Council attended the Lay Ministry Day in Wangaratta Cathedral on Saturday, 23rd February. This was a constructive day for Parishes in the Diocese

Parish Council thanks all who were engaged in two very important events.  The first was The World Day of Prayer held on 2nd March.  This year Slovenia was the focus of the day.  Christine Sheldrick organised the service which was attended by over 70 people from Churches across the area.  The World Day of Prayer is held in over 170 nationalities around the world.  Lunch was provided by St John’s in the hall.

The second event was the blessing of the renovated Rectory beside St John’s Church.  In a memorable ceremony Bishop John Parks blessed the house and then everyone was invited to inspect it.  The changes to the house will provide a more comfortable home for future priests.  Jane Freemantle worked tirelessly, with Father Paul, in organising the day. A delicious afternoon tea was provided under the shade of the huge trees in the garden.

The Ladies’ Guild has ended formally now as of this Parish Council meeting.  Parishioners who were members of the Guild have shared their expertise and knowledge with us so that activities such as catering have flowed smoothly.  Gwen Gray, who organized the catering for the World Day of Prayer and the reopening and blessing of the Rectory wishes to thank all who helped and contributed delicious food to these events. In the same way, Jim Freemantle is very grateful for the untiring help of many in contributing to the cleaning up of the Church property especially around the Rectory.  Jim has overseen many improvements in the fabric of the Parish over recent times.

The next major event for the Parish is the Open Garden day at the garden of Stuart Gray and Pamela Dalgleish at 323 Howes Creek Road situated amid spectacular views. See full details in the email headed “Open Garden”.

Included in Snippets is a piece by Sean White describing his work in a refugee camp in Jordan.  At the moment the Parish does not have a newsletter so Snippets offers an opportunity to share the work of people connected with the Parish.

Last year, I had a short-term contract in Azraq refugee camp, in Jordan. Azraq refugee camp is one of two camps in Jordan hosting Syrian refugees. Describing a refugee camp is a difficult and unfair endeavour: one can risk either sounding too positive by omitting certain realities, or too negative by making it sound completely hopeless.

Having been born in Mansfield, had all my schooling here and grown up as part of this community, the contours of my life were pleasant, safe, stable and solid. Although we all have our small difficulties or challenges which seem habitual with existence, we can each safely say that our being part of the Mansfield community and its beautiful surrounds is a wonderful thing.

The first time I arrived in Azraq, for whatever reason, Mansfield popped into my head. Azraq is surrounded by desert. It’s hot, dusty and desolate, and despite being open and stretching to the horizon, it feels suffocating and limiting. Looking out over the small huts and dust clouds as heat shimmered over the distant line of the horizon, even I – with freedom of movement – had a feeling of entrapment and stagnation.

Although the appearance of the camp was disheartening, the Syrian people who filled it were the complete opposite. I was part of a remedial education team working alongside Syrian refugees. The education centre I was based in was a warm and exciting bubble with a feeling of community much like Mansfield. Seeing children and adolescents come and go, eagerly attending classes and activities was inspiring. My faith in the human spirit and its resilience has never been stronger. I also had the great honour of witnessing truly marvellous humans. I felt recharged by the Syrian teachers as they greeted their students, energised them, fostered positivity and gave care and attention. Watching some of their classes I held back tears of joy and disbelief. The warm human light and invisible energy of those classrooms were nourishing. Never had I marvelled that much at humanity’s capability. Everything these women and men were doing was for the children. As I got to know the Syrian team and heard their tragic stories first hand, I became more amazed. They were dealing with missing relatives, destroyed houses; some of them had even lost their own children from the indiscriminate bombs and bullets of the fighting. They were each carrying grief and yet, within the walls of the education centre, they inspired the next generation. They laughed and played games; they planned surprises and played practical jokes. Students came to the centre and didn’t want to leave. The grief, anger, uncertainty and numerous other feelings of the conflict were shed like a snake’s skin around the students.

Mansfield feels a long, long way from Azraq. The Syrian conflict, ongoing since 2011, shows no signs of abating. Sometimes I feel sad when I think of the people there, waiting in limbo, each uncertain of their personal futures surrounded by the unforgiving desert. But other times I feel hopeful and it’s hard not to. After witnessing the activity and vibrant ecosystem of the education centre, I see a future of Syrian children learning and acquiring the numerous skills they will need to rebuild their country and heal the very deep wounds of war. The mystery and strength of the human spirit inspires my thoughts to know that despite conflict and tragedy, the warmth of Mansfield I felt growing up (and still feel now) exists in places and communities we may not expect it.

Trish Gilson
Parish Councillor
7 March, 2019