Thanksgiving on 200th anniversary of Methodism in Australia
Wesley Mission congregation members, staff, volunteers and other Uniting Church members were drawn together in payer on the evening of March 6 to remember and give thanks for 200 years of Methodism in Australia.
It was one of several events held on the day.
It was on March 6, 1812, that three Methodists met together in the home of Thomas Bowden at Princes Street, The Rocks.
The Superintendent of Wesley Mission, the Rev. Dr Keith Garner, said the purpose of the 2012 prayer gathering was to give people the opportunity to give thanks to God for the legacy of Methodism in Australia.
The significant caring and community work that Wesley Mission conducts today can be traced to the first gathering of Methodists in Sydney in 1812.
That pioneering care went on to found the organisation that became Wesley Mission, which is now the largest Uniting Church parish in Australia with a wide range of community, aged, homeless, child and family, disability, mental health, employment and counselling services.
“From those modest beginnings, there has grown a movement whose impact upon Australian life is enormous, to say the least,” Dr Garner said. “We at Wesley Mission can trace our origins to this small group and the work they founded in this great city.”
The prayer gathering was chaired by Dr Garner and focused on the four areas which will be the heart of activity during the next four years: hope (2012), advocacy (2013), innovation (2014) and faith (2015) — culminating in 2015 with the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the first Methodist minister, the Rev. Samuel Leigh.
Prayers at the March 6 prayer gathering were offered by:
- hope: the Rev. Peter Pereira, Pastoral Services Coordinator, Wesley Mission;
- advocacy: Mr Graham Harris, General Manager, Corporate, Wesley Mission;
- innovation: Mrs Fran Avon, Executive Manager, Communications and Fundraising, Wesley Mission;
- faith: the Rev. Andrew Chin, Pastor, Wesley International Congregation, Wesley Mission.
Other people were invited to pray for the ministry and work of Wesley Mission focusing on the four themes.
Candles were lit and thankfulness to God was kindled.
“It was significant that it was children who were last to light a candle,” Dr Garner said. “They are the future of Wesley Mission.”
Clear Christian priority
Other special prayer events will be held during the next three years.
“All across the organisation — and significantly in our congregational life — we will offer our work to the Lord,” Dr Garner said. “This speaks of the clear Christian priority that has helped to guide us down the years and will keep us firmly fixed on a Christian heritage that will sustain us in the next 100 years and beyond.”
Earlier in the day Wesley Mission staff filled the Pitt Street church to give thanks and to hear from Dr Garner about the history of Wesley Mission and the foundation and impetus it provides for the future.
Again, four staff members spoke of the importance of the four themes in the life of Wesley Mission, and in their own lives.
Pastor Don Walker, chaplain to the congregation at Wesley Mission’s emergency accommodation centre Edward Eagar Lodge, reflected on the message of Christian hope and its impact on one particular congregation member. God’s grace, he reasoned, had reached across the centuries.
“The hostel, Edward Eagar Lodge, is named after one of Wesley Mission’s illustrious forebears. Edward Eagar was a convict but he was someone who saw beyond his predicament by coming to faith and who looked forward with hopeful eyes on not only his own future but also how to inject life into Britain’s new colony,” Mr Walker said.
“Psalm 9:18 says the poor and the homeless won’t always be forgotten and without hope.
“So, in this homeless hostel bearing his name, I asked for a definition of hope.
“The prevalent answer was that hope is a yearning, a longing in the heart, something possible, reaching out for what you don’t have.
“Without hope, life ceases to have meaning. Why else did Wesley Mission start Lifeline? Why else do Wesley Church and its ministries exist?”
Manager of Volunteer Services, Alan Bates, spoke about the advocacy work of Wesley Mission, Rosemary Cottrell on innovation, and General Manager, Enterprise, Elizabeth Orr shared her personal reflections on her Christian faith and journey.
The day also witnessed the launch of Wesley Mission’s Bicentenary multimedia website, which will go live to the public on 16 March. It includes:
- audio files of the late Sir Rev. Dr Alan Walker’s sermon “Christianity at the crossroads”, Carl Lewis sharing his faith at Reachout 2000 during the Sydney Olympics, and homeless worker Mary Reay speaking about her work with homeless families;
- Ivan Reichelt, who took Lifeline’s first phone call in 1963, tells his story and that of Lifeline;
- information and timeline about the yearly growth of Wesley Mission’s pioneering care plus featured stories beginning with the first Methodist meeting in Australia in 1812.
Visitors will also have the opportunity to share their story alongside that of Joy Bond, who was the receptionist at Wesley Mission for nearly 40 years.
Other activities during 2012
On Sunday July, 15, 2012, Wesley Mission will be holding a thanksgiving service at the State Theatre in Sydney to celebrate 200 years of Methodism in Australia and the ministry of Wesley Mission.
A walk of congregation members, supporters, staff, volunteers and community leaders will be conducted through the streets of Sydney on the day, ending at the State Theatre.
The thanksgiving service at the State Theatre will also feature music, drama and a multimedia presentation showcasing Wesley Mission’s history and current services.