Lismore Uniting’s new dawn after floods
The last time Insights spoke to Lismore Regional Mission Uniting Church minister, Rev. Robert Griffith, he gave a sombre account of the flood damage that wrecked the church building and surrounding communities after ex-Cyclone Debbie in 2017.
A year later, Rev. Griffith is optimistic of what he describes as a new dawn for Lismore Regional Mission after partnering with three Presbyteries across the Synod to help renovate the church site.
“Moving forward there is a whole new day dawning and there was a real strong conviction that we want to prepare the whole site for the church of tomorrow,” said Rev. Griffith, who is also grateful for Uniting Insurance’s support.
“The new building and renovations will allow us that opportunity, so that’s part of the vision of all of this is to effectively rebirth the church.”
Since the floods, the congregation has been able to reopen the Lismore Regional Mission’s café, op shop, and downstairs hall. However members are still unable to worship in the building’s main worship centre due to the extent of the flood damage.
In August 2017, the congregation that includes around 80 members made the decision to renovate and modernize the inside of the building.
The proposal recommended to “…remove the pews, pulpit and pipe organ (the console was already destroyed in the flood), level the floor, install air-conditioning, a new sound system, lighting, carpet, chairs and transform it completely,” said Rev. Griffith.
Rev. Griffith called the decision a “huge step of faith” by congregation members, whose average ages is well over 70 years old and were comfortable with the 19th century church design.
“God was moving in their hearts because they didn’t make a decision based on their own needs or their own experience of church.
“Because for them they were very happy with the old building, that’s what they grew up in. But they made a decision for tomorrow and well beyond their time here,” said Rev. Griffith.
Up until this point Lismore Regional Mission had no resources to make this vision a reality. That is until they put forward their proposal to presbyteries and were able to partner with Sydney Presbytery, Far North Coast Presbytery, and Sydney Central Coast Presbytery.
Sydney Presbytery Business Manager, Ian Goff, said the financial assistance for Lismore was made possible by a property sale in Sydney.
“It’s one of those beautiful alignments. There was a need in one part of the church and a capacity in another and God brought that together.
“So typically we wouldn’t have had the funds available to help Lismore in such a way, it [was because] we had undergone a significant process to sell a building where we knew we were going to have additional funds to give to the wider church,” said Mr Goff.
Mr Goff explains that not only did this partnership build a relationship with the regional church it also strengthened Sydney Presbytery’s relationship with the Far North Coast Presbytery.
This interconnectedness is what Mr Goff calls a process of sharing resources and “the blessings across the state.”
Rev. Griffith said the vision and focus on mission of Christ in transforming the building to better serve is what made this project and partnerships a reality.
“Three Presbyteries embraced that (vision) and we are now well on our way to seeing those resources do what they were always meant to do: bring people to God, in Christ, through Christ and for Christ.”
“We now have an opportunity to start a new congregation alongside the current one. At a different time maybe on a different day. We might have a look at Friday night church and Saturday night…” said Rev. Griffith.
Lismore Regional Mission is hoping the renovations will be complete by the end of the year.
Image: Lismore Regional Mission in 2017 after ex-Cyclone Debbie.
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