Diversity and fellowship at patrol ministers conference
Travelling from remote locations across Australia, 22 Frontier Services Patrol Ministers met in Alice Springs for their biannual conference in September.
It was a rare opportunity for the patrol ministers to come together, travelling from locations as diverse as the west coast of Tasmania, Cape York in the far north east, Hughenden in north Queensland, Broken Hill in New South Wales, the Pilbara and Kimberley in the west and the Snowy River region in Victoria.
Frontier Services Associate National Director the Rev. David Buxton said it was an extremely valuable time for the patrol ministers to share with each other the joys and also the challenges of providing pastoral support to people living in isolated locations.
“The patrol ministers really valued the opportunity to have everybody together. Some of the ministers had not met each other before. It reinforced the sense that they were part of a family — they recognised how valuable that was,” Mr Buxton said.
“The meeting also highlighted the incredible diversity in the locations of our patrols. We had ministers who are based in the tropics wearing jumpers and warm clothing the whole time and we had people from Tasmania peeling off the layers because it was too hot.”
The conference was also designed to build the capacity of the patrol ministry network.
Clinician and educator Dr John Ashfield conducted training for the patrol ministers on how to identify and assist with mental health issues.
The training focused on gender and the differences between men and women in terms of how they deal with stress, grief and trauma.
The patrol ministers, who travel long distances to visit remote families, are often the first people to call on for spiritual or emotional support. The ongoing mental health training is invaluable for patrol ministers to address these issues.
Broken Hill Patrol Minister the Rev. Jorge Rebolledo led a session on a code of ethics for ministers. Mr Rebolledo was teaching this topic in New South Wales before he joined Frontier Services in March this year.
As part of their pastoral sharing, Croajingolong Patrol Minister the Rev. Rowena Harris and Parkin Patrol Minister the Rev. John Dihm both spoke about their faith journey and how that has influenced the way they sustain themselves when they do not have a church community around them.
On the Sunday, the Patrol Ministers shared in worship with the Alice Springs Uniting Church at the John Flynn Memorial Church. The location resonated with the patrol ministers because it was Flynn who established the first “padre patrol” as part of the Australian Inland Mission formed in 1912.
They also had the opportunity to enjoy an evening meal at the manse of Centralian Patrol Minister the Rev. Colin Gordon and, on another evening, met with Frontier Services staff based in Alice Springs, including aged care, respite and community services staff.
Cobar/Nyngan Patrol Minister the Rev. Ian Tucker said the conference provided “a great time of sharing”.
“It was a great time to get to know each other, to share experiences, ideas and our life’s walk.”
Travelling by road to the conference added another dimension. “It was great seeing parts of Australia I’ve never seen before and the beauty of the outback, particularly after the rain,” Mr Tucker said.