Vicar General, Archdeacon Cameron Venables
Each fortnight this year I have been driving out to the congregation at Blackwater for a Sunday afternoon communion service, and each Sunday the congregation at Blackwater have prepared food and brought it to church for a shared meal. It has been such a privilege to meet regularly with this community for worship and an evening meal. I give thanks to God for their friendship and faithfulness in the midst of the tough times related to drought and the contraction of the mining industry.
Last Friday I drove past Blackwater out to Emerald with my son Jack to commission Fr Honorio as Parish Priest of Emerald. Jack noted how green the grass was on the way there and I shared with him what a transformation there had been over the last two weeks because for so many months the landscape has been brown. Friends on the land assure me that the rain has been patchy and has not been as much as they'd like... but there's a profound sense of thankfulness all the same!
I have a profound sense of thankfulness for the last ten years of ministry in this Diocese based in North Rockhampton. In God's grace our lives have been woven together with friends and community through worship, prayer, and ministry... but a new call has come.
Three and a half weeks ago the Archbishop of Brisbane rang and asked if I'd be open to a conversation about the possibility of becoming the next Bishop of the Western Region in Brisbane Diocese. This was very unexpected so I asked for a few days to talk through the possibility with Kate, pray about it, and look at this very large part of Queensland on maps and websites.
We decided it would be good to have 'a conversation' so Kate and I flew to Brisbane for interviews. The feedback was really positive, and later the appointment was unanimously approved by the Brisbane Diocesan Council.
I will be ordained into Episcopal Orders at St John's Cathedral on Tuesday 24th June at a service beginning at 7pm.
My last services in North Rockhampton will be held on Sunday 8th June, which is the Feast of Pentecost.
So there are now a couple of months to transition leadership in the life of the Parish, at the Rockhampton Grammar School, in refugee settlement, and in the Diocese.
I ask you to pray for each of these communities as we travel through this time. I ask you to pray for my family in the challenges that lie before us... and I ask you to continue to pray for our Bishopric Election Board as they work together to discern a new shepherd for our Diocese.
May God renew within you, and me, this Easter - the daily experience of resurrection new life and love.
Vicar General, Archdeacon Cameron Venables
Just after 'First Turkey' on the walking track that ascends Mt Archer in Rockhampton is a rocky cliff with a fig tree growing out of a crack. There is a wide net of old roots splayed over the face of the rock suggesting that this tenacious plant has survived many years. The fact that it has grown without soil and endured long periods without rain reminds me of a quality found in most people who live on the land in our Diocese. When you've done everything right, but it doesn't rain at the right time... or it doesn't rain at all! When your stock is dying for lack of feed and there's no market for them. When the banks refuse to extend your loan, and bureaucrats in far-away places make decisions that chop the legs from under you... you have to be RESILIENT!
Resilience is also a quality I find repeatedly in my work with refugees and asylum seekers. Whether they are from the Sudan, or Afghanistan, or Burma... they are people who have had to run in fear of their lives. They have usually travelled long and dangerous roads to get away from the country of their birth, and they've found their way to overcrowded and under resourced refugee camps... but through it all they hope they will find a safer place to live. When they've been told by UNHCR officials that it may be fourteen years before their request to settle in a Western country can be processed some have given up hope... while others have borrowed money and paid someone to bring them to Australia on a boat.
Under the current government these people will never be allowed to settle in Australia even after their refugee status is verified. So they wait in limbo on Christmas Island, in Manus, and on Nauru their resilience sorely tested, their hope fading. To add to their despair a new policy was introduced in January that declared if you came to Australia by boat after 2003 and you were in the process of sponsoring your family... their application would go to the bottom of the list. Even if you were a Permanent Resident, working hard to provide for your family who were stuck in a dangerous camp far away... your application would now take upwards of ten years to be processed. Hopes dashed, resilience crushed, anger (rioting), and despair... where to from here?
I think Christian faith has much to say about our response to those who live in the drought affected communities of our Diocese, and to those refugees and asylum seekers being held in our detention centres: for we are called to love our neighbour. That love will lead us at least to pray, but it may also lead to many kinds of creative action. That action may include advocacy to government for policies that empower our primary producers, and to policies that honour international agreements about refugees.
May God's Spirit give wisdom to all in authority, and move us with compassion in the coming journey of Lent.
Yours in Christ
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