(An initiative of St George’s Uniting Church, Eden; our congregation and friends in our community)
From Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures
I’d like to share with you part of the story of Marie Walsh, St George’s Uniting Church, Eden and their local community. It’s a story I first heard from Marie in a group conversation about a mission tool called “Godsend – learning for mission”:
Godsend sets out a simple approach to getting started in fresh expressions of church: “first, find a friend or two and together find simple ways to love people around you – in your neighbourhood, work place or as you are doing things you love to do. Make friends with people around you, share your faith and a new Christian community emerges where you are.”
The key principles of Godsend made sense to Marie in that conversation, and she went on to tell this story as an example of how those principles can work. If you would like to know more about Godsend, you are welcome to join the five weekly one-hour zoom training sessions on Monday nights in November. Details of the sessions are set out in a separate item in this issue of the Presbytery notices.
Here is the story as told by Marie ….
St George’s Uniting Church, Eden is a small community parish in Eden, on the Far South Coast of NSW. Having faced drought, bushfire and now a world-wide pandemic we understand the importance of connection. We are connected by a single story. We are a fellowship of reconciliation, living God’s love and acting for the common good to build a just and compassionate community. We believe in Jesus and seek to imitate His character (Colossians 1:23 & 3:12-17)
In May, 2020, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the support of our congregation, I approached the Mental Health Team at South East Regional Hospital, Bega, with a new initiative – to provide them with Welcome Kits and Care Packages for the Mental Health Inpatient Unit. Our Welcome Kits and Care Packages, connect our faith to life. They carry a message of hope, faith, love and peace to people experiencing significant mental health concerns and mental distress, requiring hospitalisation. Given upon admission, they contain personal care items, such as essential toiletries, shaving kits, cosmetics and body lotions in a beautifully hand-made toiletry bag, together with a soft towel and a thoughtful hand-made card, which contains a message of hope and peace:
“May you be blessed with courage to face what lies ahead. And strength when you need it most.
Thinking about you in my thoughts and prayers, and in my heart.
This card was made by someone in the community who is thinking about you tonight”
This project was born, from my own lived experience of complex trauma, as well as my professional role as a Mental Health Educator and advocate. With my own personal history of childhood abuse, family, and domestic violence, I lived in a world of fear, despair, anguish, isolation and hopelessness. But in my darkness God found me, and though Jesus, He showed me a way out.
And so, I wanted to ‘give back’ – to our gracious God who showered me with His most perfect love, a love so pure, it reached into my darkest pit and freed me from my chains through Jesus, our Saviour, who wept with me, who suffered with me, who died on the cross for me, and gave me life through the resurrection.
And through my faith, I wanted to “give back” to the hospital and to the many courageous people I have been blessed to meet, in Mental Health Units, as they shared with me their struggles and pain, their joys, hopes and their dreams. I wanted to be able to provide them with something personal, that they could use for their own self-care, whilst at the same time, inspire hope and empowerment. I wanted them to know, they were not alone, that people in the community cared about them. I wanted them to know God’s perfect love. And so, after approaching members and friends of St George’s Uniting Church, Eden, we soon had a great team, united to make this dream a reality.
On Wednesday 24 June, we were pleased to welcome Renata Sheehan, Consumer Engagement Manager, from Southern NSW Local Health District, to St George’s Community Hall to promote our Mental Health Community Project throughout Southern NSW Local Health District.
On Friday 7 August, I was pleased to deliver our initial Mental Health Care Packages to the Nursing Unit Manager of the Mental Health Inpatient Unit at South East Regional Hospital, Bega. Our Care Packages have grown since their origins to include: Crisis Care Packages; Self-Soothing Care Packs; and Community Discharge Care Packages.
I would like to sincerely thank all our congregational and community friends, from Eden to Queanbeyan, who have dedicated so much of their time, skills and resources in bringing this project to life. Together, we have worked united, through our faith, in our commitment to help improve the mental health and well-being of our friends in the Mental Health Inpatient Unit, so that they may find hope, faith, love and peace. I would like to offer a special thank you to Petra Palmer who has given so much of her time, her dedication, support and commitment from the onset, and for her creativity as the artistic designer of the Star of Hope cards and toiletry bags; and to Rev Michael Palmer, Pam and Peter Skelton and the Garden of Eden Community Project for their kind donations, inspirational support, encouragement and prayers; and to Renata Sheehan from Southern NSW Local Health District (SNSWLHD), for promoting our Mental Health Welcome Kits and Care Packages, throughout Southern NSW Local Health District.
I feel blessed to be part of this awesome team!
If you would like to be involved please contact our Church Secretary, Pat Coates, via email on firstname.lastname@example.org
May God continue to bless you all,
St George’s Uniting Church, Eden