A triple treat at Tuggeranong

A triple treat at Tuggeranong

Pictured above: The results of the Spider-Man comic drawing workshop.

This past weekend has provided a “triple treat” for the people of the Tuggeranong Uniting Church and the community of the Tuggeranong Valley, in the south of Canberra.

The first “treat” was the emergence of beautiful tulips in the garden beds at the entry to the church. The colourful flowers are part of Floriade Reimagined, a community initiative that that ACT Government put in place in 2020 when the COVID pandemic meant that the annual Floriade display in Commonwealth Park could not be held.

The government provided bulbs to churches and community organisations, to be planted on their properties, and thus enable a reimagined form for Floriade to take place. During the period of lockdown, Canberrans were able to drive around the city and admire colourful displays at many dispersed sights. Tuggeranong Uniting Church was one of those, and since Floriade Reimagined has continued each year since 2020, the annual display of tulips was on again this year.

The second “treat” was the annual SpringFest, held on the grounds and in the building of the Tuggeranong Uniting Church (TUC). A fruitful partnership with local environmental advocacy group SEE-Change has led to SpringFest being a combination of a typical church Spring Fair and a community day with a focus on sustainability and environmental responsibility.

The carpark was filled with stalls, with the SEE-Change stall providing information on many ways to reduce our carbon footprint. Another stall provided a recycling drop-off point for a range of household items. Other stall holders offered demonstrations of how to make beeswax wraps, a Trash to Treasure Art Competition, an Indigenous Art collection of items, a Repurposed Art stall, garden tools sharpening and repairs, rock painting for the kids, and head and neck massages for stressed adults.

Information about Eco-Sustainability was provided by Suburb Zero (transitioning Canberra to fully-electric), ACT No Waste (a part of the ACT Government City Services Directorate), and the Southern ACT Catchment Group (an umbrella group for active environmental groups in the areas of Woden, Weston Creek, Tuggeranong and Tharwa).

In the Erindale Neighbourhood Centre on one side of the church, Spider-Man led a comic-drawing workshop—much to the delight of the children attending—and Elizabeth Raine explained how to reduce plastic by using alternatives in everyday household items that are more environmentally friendly. In the Erindale Community Garden on the other side of the church, workshops were offered on Composting and Worm Farms and Keeping Backyard Chickens, as well as an Introduction to Permaculture.

The church building had a cake stall run by the Girls Brigade, clothing from the Red Dove Op Shop, books galore, crafts from church members and community members alike, a stall for clothes and repairs, a nature photography stall, and a comfortable space to sit and enjoy the cakes and slices made by TUC members, while drinking coffee or tea, and enjoying the live music provided throughout the day.

Over 400 people came to SpringFest, making it one of the highlight events for the church each year. All who came were greeted on entry by the Mad Hatter—aka the Rev. Sharon Jacobs, Growth and Relationships Minister at TUC. When people entered the church building, the Spring Fairy—aka the Rev. Elizabeth Raine, TUC Minister—beguiled them with her sparkling wings and enticed people to buy monkeys made by vulnerable Cambodian women, to support their micro-enterprise.

The third “treat” was a gathering on the Sunday after SpringFest, to celebrate the ministry of Elizabeth Raine, as she concluded her time in ministry at Tuggeranong and moved into retirement. Colleagues and friends from around the Presbytery joined TUC members to give thanks for the energy, dynamism, plain speaking, and strong leadership that Elizabeth has provided throughout the past five years. The church has changed and transformed during the pandemic, but has held all its members and has been gaining new participants in the worship and mission of the congregation. It is a growing, lively, inclusive community of faith.

The Synod Secretary, the Rev. Jane Fry, has been a good friend of Elizabeth since their time together in theological college 30 years ago. Jane preached during the service, reflecting on the “grumbling” of the Israelites in the wilderness, and pondering how we might “grumble” constructively in today’s world. A collection of friends from years past and recent provided lively musical leadership for the Congregation.

Local Federal Member for Bean, David Smith MHR, spoke warmly about Elizabeth, noting her “deep personal faith and firm commitment to working for the common good in society … her passion in standing for justice and her compassion in serving people at their particular point of need.” David noted that, “as minister of the Tuggeranong Uniting Church in the electorate of Bean, she has worked collaboratively and energetically with the people of this church to extend its mission to be inclusive, community-oriented, rainbow-friendly, an advocate for climate justice, a support for people facing economic stress, and a strong advocate for the Voice to Parliament.”

Elizabeth returned the symbols of her ministry—baptismal jug, communion cup and plate, Bible, TUC Directory, Rainbow banner, and her fairy’s wand—to members of the Tuggeranong Congregation, before Church Council Chairperson thanked Elizabeth for keeping the promises she had made in her initial conversation with the church—she promised to challenge people, to test them in their discipleship and commitment, and to change the way that they were church. He noted that “she did—and we did!”

The Rev. Jane Fry, Synod Secretary, with Ms Janet Kay, Canberra Region Presbytery Chairperson, and colleague ministers from the Presbytery, with the Rev. Elizabeth Raine at her Closure of Ministry service

Presbytery Chairperson Janet Kay then led the group in praying for Elizabeth, blessing her for her retirement. Elizabeth has served in a rich variety of ministry placements—as school chaplain and SRE teacher, a tenancy advocate, a congregational minister, an Intentional Interim Minister in four congregations, in a Presbytery Minister role in two Presbyteries, and then as Minister at Tuggeranong, where she preached and led worship, offered Bible Studies and pastoral care, participated in Presbytery committees, and strengthened the missional outreach of the church through multiple community connections.

Elizabeth will move with husband John to the Hunter Valley, to rest and wind down after a very active time at TUC. That should be a treat for them. But to end the series of “treats” at TUC on the weekend, the whole gathering enjoyed a typically delicious Tuggeranong afternoon tea!

John Squires


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