Stamp of approval for ministry volunteers
In an age when electronic communications are increasingly the norm, one group of Uniting Church volunteers and supporters continues to rely heavily on the humble postage stamp.
Members of the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW and ACT’s Stamp Committee collect and sell used stamps to help support the work of the church. The Committee has operated since 1977 and over this time has raised an estimated $670,000. On average, that’s more than $17,000 per year.
The Committee relies on supporters who make the effort to collect used stamps and deliver them to the committee’s sorting room in Pilgrim House – the Church’s head office in Pitt Street, Sydney. Many supporters also have friends and family members enlisted to help supply stamps. Sometimes whole Congregations are involved in the work. Occasionally, large stamp collections are donated to the committee.
There have been many dedicated volunteers involved in this ministry over the years, but the work of these volunteers is getting harder as our reliance on posted mail is replaced by electronic mail.
The number of posted letters sent in Australia peaked in 2008 and, since then, has been declining at an increasing rate each year. Despite this decline, there is still a strong demand from collectors for used stamps.
Committee secretary Carol Smith said the committee was always looking for new volunteers to be involved in this ministry — either as collectors or committee members.
Anyone can help with collecting stamps — just remove them from letters you receive. Some people have stamp albums they no longer use. Most Uniting Churches have a representative who sends bundles of stamps to the committee or you can mail them to: PO Box A2178, Sydney, NSW 1235.
For more information about the work of the Committee, contact Carol Smith on (02) 9484 5401.
Readers from the ACT and nearby can deliver bundles of stamps to the Canberra Presbytery office on the first floor of Pilgrim House, 71 Northbourne Avenue, Canberra.
Alistair: a long-time supporter
Although he retired from full-time ministry in the Uniting Church more than a decade ago, the Rev. Alistair Christie is still actively involved in various ministries — including the Stamp Committee.
Alistair coordinates the collecting and bundling of stamps within the Canberra Presbytery and has helped the Committee negotiate some significant challenges during recent years following the retirement of some long-serving Committee members.
Alistair, who grew up in Canberra and returned after retiring, is a former Moderator of the Synod of NSW & ACT (2002–2004). He first became aware of church stamp-collecting ministries during the 1940s, when one of his aunts collected stamps to support the work of the Presbyterian Church.
In most of the parishes in which he has served there have been parishioners involved in supporting the Uniting Church Stamp Committee. Indeed, Alistair’s late wife Connie was a big supporter — she would coordinate the collection of stamps within Congregations and would often be clipping and sorting stamps on the kitchen table ready to send off a package to the Committee.
After a long battle with breast cancer, Connie passed away in 1999. But Alistair has maintained his enthusiasm for the stamp ministry, which he says is one of those ministries that anyone can be involved in. “You do not have to have any special gifts or talents, you just have to clip and collect some stamps,” he said.
Alistair noted that several long-serving Committee members had made significant contributions to the ministry, including: Helen Thorburn — who was instrumental in establishing the Committee; the late Merv Riddle, who was known in Church circles as the ‘Stamp Man’; Tony Boughton (former committee chair); Joy Swanson (the chief stamp seller); and Edith Kidd (the publicity officer).
Stamp Committee ministry facts and figures
- The Stamp Committee was established in 1977 when the Uniting Church in Australia was formed
- The Committee comprises volunteers whose sole aim is to raise funds to support the work of the Uniting Church
- Volunteers from churches all over NSW and the ACT contribute to this ministry by donating stamps (and occasionally whole collections) to the Committee
- Donated stamps and collections are sold to dealers to raise funds
- The Committee also puts together books of stamps to sell to collectors
- In 2015, more than $11,360 has been raised through stamp sales
- The total amount raised since 1977 is estimated to be more than $670,000 (about $17,630 per year)
- An increased reliance on electronic communications has resulted in the number of posted letters declining
- Some Stamp Committee members have notched up more than 30 years’ service
- Anyone is welcome to get involved in this ministry