As the season of Lent opened, the season of Network Gatherings for 2012 began   Mar 8, 2012

Modbury and Para Vista congregations treated us to a feast that included worship and hospitality, friendship and fellowship, information, and encouragement and concluded with Candlelight Reflections, a quiet space among the flickering candles to contemplate matters of the soul.


Modbury and Para Vista congregations treated us to a feast that included worship and hospitality, friendship and fellowship, information, and encouragement and concluded with Candlelight Reflections, a quiet space among the flickering candles to contemplate matters of the soul. 

In responding to the 2012 theme Ministry in our Community Modbury congregation and Para Vista congregation described for us their emphases over recent years and any emerging ministries. In sharing with us what they’ve learnt that may be of interest to, and helpful to, other congregations, both congregations outlined the drivers that brought them to where they are, described the issues that faced them and how they have, and are, engaging with them, and shared their challenges and successes.

Here is Para Vista’s presentation to the Network Gathering on Thursday 23rd February 2012 prepared and spoken by Meri, the Chair of Church Council and Congregation and Marlene, Church Councillor and Contact Person for the Network:

To have any understanding of Para Vista Uniting Church and where our church community is at this stage we need to look particularly at events, changes, challenges and successes in the last 4 to 5 years. 

I will mention a few statistics- average attendance at Sunday service is 60-70, made up of mainly seniors with less than 10 of our people still being in the paid work force. 

During the last 5 years we have had 4 ministers- one retiring, short term exchange minister from UK, a retired temporary minister and now our longer term appointment Tony Goodluck. Each one had a positive affect on our church community. We have accepted that our ministry is to seniors mainly but have been mindful of and try to cater for in some way for younger people including children eg a children’s programme of activities is ready to be implemented at any time there are children present. 

Two major unrelated happenings in 2009 -2010, one a catastrophe and one a long awaited project and answer to prayer, had a positive effect on the church community and indeed our faith.

On Pentecost Sunday 2009 our church hall was severely damaged by arson and was out of action for about 10 months. 

Of course it was irritating and disturbing and it did curtail many activities for us and difficulties for the many hall hirers. Our church community bonded more strongly with each other at this time as we weathered inconveniences like morning teas etc crowded into our foyer, portable toilets, mess surrounding us and so on. 

This disaster also opened up more communication with local Christian Churches – phone calls, prayerful support , a substantial donation from Clovercrest Baptist included in a letter with the statement “ When one part of the body of Christ is hurting we all hurt” plus the offer from our neighbours opposite our church, The Seventh Day Adventists, the use of their hall. We used the hall for a couple of our activities and on one Sunday when our carpark was unusable, we had our service in their Church

We can say “ From the Ashes to New Beginnings”

The other happening was an answer to prayer and at least 20 years of trying unsuccessfully to have our excess land used for a purpose. This answer was a an agreement, approved by us, between Synod and Portway Housing- part of Uniting Care Wesley Port Adelaide to purchase the land and build 10 units to be leased at a reasonable cost. These units were officially opened in February last year. Part of the agreement was for a paved carpark to be provided for us. Again the inconvenience of our church being in the middle of a locked building complex, became a positive one for our church community. Our church began to look more welcoming, attractive and cared for. 

It seems that this may have led someone confidentially to donate a large sum of money to build a much needed and longed-for coverway between our church and hall. This in turn has led to the developing of a Garden for Contemplation – with a cross as a central focus. and just recently another donation has enabled us to plan and erect a new sign at the front of the Church.

The make-up of our church community of course dictates some of our recent and present emphases. 

We have had a number of new people attending regularly in the last 2 years – about 20. Most are older people downsizing into Retirement Villages or smaller homes or reconnecting to a church after many years of non-involvement. Many have embraced our church community and have volunteered for various positions like Stewards, Scripture Readers and even Church Council. However a downside is that many of us don’t now have the energy or in some cases the health and mobility to organise and assist with activities and those of us who drive new initiatives like our minister and council members have to take this into account in our planning. A challenge is to be able to utilise the involvement that people are willing and capable of undertaking and to be realistic in our planning.

Our Strategic Plan – 5 year plan includes Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission and Service, Extravagant Generosity. We are working through aspects of this and have some successes.

For example we are working on plans to change the way we manage Pastoral Care as this is an increasing Ministry . We believe there is a place for people of all ages and states of health in this area- like our Prayer Chain and other telephone contacting, the sending out of Birthday Cards, Get-Well Cards etc. 

Because most people are pensioners, the financial aspect can be concerning. Some of our Council members attended the recent seminar on Spirited Generosity and we are beginning to plan to engage members of our congregation in preparing a Mission Action Budget for next year. Other types of generosity are successes such as the large amount of non-perishable food we send to Uniting Care Wesley , assistance to various missions and community Christian Activities like Christian Support Workers in Schools and the making of quilts signed by our church folk which are presented to Church Members who enter Aged Care Facilities.

We at Para Vista have a long history of providing music in worship including a choir. Our choir sings on special occasions eg Easter, Pentecost, Seasons of Creation and during Christmas Season. Some choir members are in their 80’s and some feel their singing isn’t great. Our stand on this is- we are not entertainers but are praising the Lord.

Our outreach under Mission and Service includes providing regular services at Aged-Care facilities eg Helping Hand Ingle Farm, Masonic Village and Ananda. One of our members is Chairperson of SHIN ( Salisbury Hills Inter-Church Network where a major aspect is the appointing and looking after the various Christian Support Workers in our local schools.

Last November we hosted “ An Afternoon at 137 Nelson Rd” ( our church address) to which we invited people who form the community at this place- church members, unit dwellers and hall hirers who use our church hall regularly. We plan to do this again. On this occasion because of information through SHIN we were able to assist parents from a local school who were raising money for a parent in crisis.

A new initiative and emerging ministry is the commencement shortly of a Mainly Music Programme in our hall – a number of people are volunteering to help with this initiative. This is a major challenge for this year. We must not just stay satisfied with the reality of the make-up of our present congregation, but prayerfully keep exploring opportunities to reach out to and engage with younger people and this programme, we believe, is one way. 

We are attempting to be creative and to be bold and to try new ways of worship and service but to keep in mind the limitations of our present congregation and to encourage people that there is something everyone can do in service for our Lord but what we would like to do and what we are capable of doing or are fit enough to do may change as the years pass.

March 8 2012

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