Month: April 2020

Hope Comes in the Strangest Guises

Published / by Dean Eland

 The following message is from a video clip sent by Jennie and Dr Bob Teasdale and shared with Pilgrim members via their on-line Easter Day service 2020.

Jennie (AM) and Bob (Deputy Mayor of KI) continue to be involved in providing support for Kangaroo Island schools through their Children’s Bushfire Fund.

 Bush Fire Smoke Tarnishes the Setting Sun

Kangaroo Island’s summer of catastrophic fires began on December 20. Days became weeks and still the Ravine Fire Storm raged, sulked, exploded and ravaged, consuming almost half our Island. Islanders grieved for our manifold losses. Livelihoods, lives, homes, sheds, livestock, destroyed; bushland, fences, pastures, wildlife decimated. The familiar Island world we knew inexorably changed.

But other people cared. You, our Pilgrim Community, reached out and shared, laying a foundation for hope.

 Australia Day 2020 – KI Re-gathers

As fires still smoldered, we gathered as a fragile community. On that day, Australia’s Day, KI began its silent, tentative journey of recovery.

At our airport, a temporary town emerged overnight. Members of the Australian Defence Force – 700 of them – came with truckloads of skill, goodwill and hope. With military precision they started the clean-up, doing everything and anything with care, carefulness and unconditional giving.

They made us feel safe. They buoyed us up. They attended to our fragility and helped us re-grow our hurting community. They offered us hope.

The RE-Growth Tree

People began calling our Island’s western end ‘The Black’. Stark, charcoaled tree trunks, hectares of eddying ash, contorted remains of buildings, dead livestock and deceased wildlife, dismayed and silenced us.

But already another silent miracle was manifesting itself. Post-fire fungi catapulted into life. Soon after insects and soil creatures emerged; echidnas, goannas and snakes explored their changed terrain. Remnant populations of kangaroos, possums, wallabies – even rare dunnarts – appeared, searching for food. The eucalypt forest and the amazing grass-trees sprouted. Seven year old Poppy, let loose on the fire ground with her Mum’s mobile, took this picture and named it ‘RE- Growth’.

Hope comes in the strangest guises.  Here it is captured through a camera lens and the eyes of a child. Nature does it without a fanfare.

Hope in a New Day’s Dawning

We here on KI are right now in a complex, multifaceted Recovery Phase. Questions line up like a million ants as we work to rebuild our compromised community. But we are discovering ‘how’ and we are moving forward. Like the regrowth on the blackened eucalypt, we too will regrow, regroup and recover. We see and feel signs of hope. It’s fragile – but it’s real.


And now the pandemic impacting us all … a silent, invisible, potentially soul-destroying force … changing our world.

Let us look for signs of hope. Together we must strengthen our resolve and move toward a new future. By connecting and caring for each other, we can create a stronger, more coherent, responsive community.

God of the ages, help us, strengthen us and guide us in this unchartered place. Be our road map, our inspiration for this unknown journey.


A Lot With a Little

Published / by Dean Eland

The Port Adelaide Uniting Church is one place where this is evident. With a congregation of about 50 members and no full time minister for the past 20 or more years, lay members have demonstrated how to be creative in sharing gifts and skills and in being generous with their resources at hand. There are at least eight specific ways this congregation expresses their love of neighbourhood, the place where they are located.  Founded 170 years ago this church has adapted its ministry in response to the many social changes over the years and that commitment continues.

In the past two years they have reworked the ministry of their CK Community Hub (CK), a shop-front at 160 St Vincent St (Bower Buildings 1870-1). This street ministry started in 1981 as a low-cost café provided a haven and a listening ear for people in need. The CK remains one of the few experiential and community based projects of the 70s and 80s to survive over the years. It now operates as a community centre and hosts several projects.

Its current aims include… a welcome to all: to actively find and work with local people: to make real friendships and grow together: to be a place where people can stop and talk about daily things or more important things.

Volunteers at the CK Community Hub have a heart for welcoming people with disadvantage (e.g. mental health issues), encouraging them to take on responsibility as appropriate, fostering self-esteem, skills, growth and friendship. We welcome people to be involved in an integrated community program where people can get to know each other and support each other. Those of us who volunteer here are very conscious of also being vulnerable listeners and learners and not always the ‘doers’.

The people who come are encouraged to set and review the norms: the values and behaviours by which we interact with each other. They regularly choose projects. Last year the group chose a watercolour and mosaic project and applied successfully to the local council to fund a local artist and materials. New people from the community joined us to participate in the project and we exhibited in Sala. This project like many others has enabled people to learn new skills, take on a range of responsibilities and welcome new people.

There are other regular CK programs and these include a community meal, exercises and walking groups. Email:

Bent Pine Community Garden

A recent project led by a few volunteers has led to the formation of a community garden in the church’s backyard. A fragile bent pine tree at the entrance gives the garden its name. The tree is a reminder of welcome, reminding all of the possibility that we can grow and dare to flourish with others even with our asymmetries and flaws.

We fossick in the dark, composted soil, planting and tending both flowers and vegetables; we recycle and compost organic waste which we find in our own space as well as that which we receive from two local cafes; and we talk with each other and with those who pass by. We try to create a beautiful green space in an otherwise concretized urban landscape.

Working on site at 169 Commercial Rd brings us into natural contact with our neighbours. There is greeting and sharing of fresh produce as those passing by call in and work with us.

The Bent Pine garden is also a member of The Semaphore Compost Network (SCN). SCN is like an extension of our neighbourhood. We are encouraged by what our neighbours and fellow community members are doing. We share experiences and food. And we learn from what others are doing. Together with the SCN we discover in our focus on the shared, common soil, the value of that which holds us together as a community in a larger environment otherwise characterized by polarization.

150th Anniversary Mural

One of several outstanding on site church art projects is on public view on a neighbouring wall. A large mural expresses the memories and symbols of the environment, a sense of place to be celebrated. This creative work continues to build on some very challenging moments when the 150 year old two story heritage listed building needed imaginative adaptation and major restoration work.

This public art project was created when PAUC and the local community came together to design and paint a large vibrant mural adjacent to the Bent Pine Community Garden. The project was a feature of the church building’s 150th anniversary celebrations and expresses the symbols and memories of the local environment, a sense of place to be celebrated. Using Mark 4: 31-32 as a starting point, the theme of Bent Pine became ‘Sanctuary’.

On two consecutive Saturday mornings open planning meetings designed the project with local flora, fauna with the bent pine tree in mind. The primary images include a great tree with roots into the ground (Psalm 1) by a stream (Tam ‘O Shanter Creek). Other images include beautiful flora and fauna, birds, reptiles, mammals, flowers, butterflies and bees that are seen along the Port River. Local totems of the Kaurna people include the black swan and emu.

A generous grant from City of Port Adelaide Enfield enabled the church to employ local artists Kalyna Mycenko and Bob Daly and they assisted by transferring our designs on to the wall in November 2018. Volunteers then spent two weeks painting with scaffolding for the brave. Over forty painters from four to ninety years old included passers-by and visitors who read about it on Facebook and came to paint or watch. The mural also adds beauty to the ongoing Port Adelaide ‘Wonder Walls’ project.

In addition to these commitments members have maintained their long term commitment to the Junction Community Centre at Ottoway. This community based organisation has been able to grow a seven day open house programme and brings residents together to share their many religious and ethnic traditions.

Members also keep in touch with the expansive UnitingSA agency, now one of the state’s largest community service organisations. In 2019 UnitingSA celebrated 100 years of church engagement in a changing community.

PAUC also has strong links with the Port Adelaide Historical Society. Over the past 50 years the society has played an important part in supporting the efforts of local and state governments to ensure that Port Adelaide becomes a historic tourist destination.  Check out their great photographic collection.

Not to be outdone in 2017 members welcomed and provided hospitality to a new congregation. The City International Christian Church shares the use of their sanctuary on Sundays and at other times. This independent congregation in the charismatic tradition is largely made up of immigrants from African nations with close links to home churches in Tanzania.

Meanwhile weekly and monthly events and group meetings continue to support and encourage members to live out their vision… Port Uniting is an inclusive community and as Jesus welcomed and valued everyone, so do we. We believe that every person is important and everybody matters. Our worship seeks to be a creative, vibrant experience, for all ages, and inviting to people from all walks of life.

The Morning Tea Club meet on the third Wednesday of the month at 10am and this session includes a range of activities including table games, jigsaws, draughts, scrabble, drawing and painting. In the winter its Soup and Toast at 12noon before they leave. A Craft Group also meets on the second and fourth Tuesday each month and members include both church and community residents.

A Playgroup meets every Tuesday morning during school terms for babies and children up to 5 including carers and parents. A regular Bible Study Group meets on Sunday nights during Advent and Lent.

Thank You

To Liz, Anne, Joan, Ian, Val and Norm for sharing your story.

Loving the Neighbourhood

Published / by Dean Eland

The purpose of this collection of articles is to record the stories of missional congregations in Australia. They will explore the what, who and the how of churches that are engaged and love their context, their local community.  Send me your notes and thoughts to add to this collection as there is much to learn from each other’s experience.

One of the aims is to demonstrate how the Uniting Church is missional when working in collaboration with others for the common good. Asset-based community development (ABCD) principles affirm the value of working with others with a focus on community strengths and assets rather than deficits and problems. Members and church buildings are a great asset, accessible seven days a week as neighbourhood centres. On location community gardens, art projects, murals, music groups, meals, hospitality programmes, interest groups and op shops become a way to build relationships and grow a sense of belonging.

This form of ministry has theological and missional assumptions that emerge by affirming the context and learning from experience.

Send your suggestions and ideas to the Editor, Dean Eland. Contact details on the contacts page HERE . . .