When people think about the Christian Church, they often associate it with baptisms, marriages and funerals. And rightly so – these are some of the sacraments we can expect a church to fulfill. But many churches are so much more to the communities they exist within, and St John’s Anglican Church in Bega is no exception.
The church has served its community for a massive 160 years in numerous ways. Reverend Captain Stuart Haynes has been with Bega Valley Anglican Churches since March last year and says he’s seen how embedded the local congregation is in the Bega community.
“We are a vibrant congregation,” he said. “So many [congregation members] have grown up here and live here, there’s such a rich history in the church, and to celebrate 160 years is just fantastic.”
Reverend Haynes said St John’s Anglican Church served the community in many different ways, through faithful ministries such as Friends of Court, Ricky’s Place, a food pantry, Mainly Music and other outreaches.
Longtime congregation member Joan Tucker has been involved with many of the ministries run by the church over the 24 years she has been attending.
“Friends of Court supports people going through the court system,” she said. “They don’t know when they might get called so we have tea and coffee, biscuits and cordial and books and toys for the kids. We are available if anyone wants to chat.
“We’ve been doing that for over 20 years, we have a roster and of course, we are very particular not to discuss anything we see or hear.”
Ricky’s Place is held at the church and serves meals on Monday night and Friday lunch to people in need. “We make no distinction,” Joan said. “Anybody can turn up and get a meal and have a chat.” The church has a food pantry – which delivers parcels to people in need also.
Mainly Music is a program for preschool children, run on a Monday morning. “I’m a great believer in music education for you children,” Joan said.
Something Joan said was very special about St John’s is the fact it is open during business hours for prayer, meditation or to seek help. “The rector is available if anyone wants to talk to him,” she said. “The town would be a lot poorer without the church.”
She said the 160 year milestone was impressive and said what she loved about the church was its friendliness and support. “I’ve always found it a lovely place to go to, people are friendly and you are always welcome there,” she said.
Jo Chapman has been at St John’s in Bega for 31 years and is the resident historian. She said the church had evolved over the years and had always tried to be a part of the local community.
“Every year means something and it doesn’t seem 10 years since the 150th,” she laughed.
“It’s great the church is still here and that we can be open during the day if someone is in trouble or needs someone to talk to.”
Join in to celebrate 160 years of service
St John’s Anglican Church will begin its 160th celebrations on Sunday with a service in the church hall at 10am. Bishop George Browning, deputy mayor Liz Seckold and other VIPs will be in attendance.
There will be a catered luncheon held in a large marquee on church grounds after the service. Tickets are $25 and anyone interested can see Jill Short in the church office.
There will be a string ensemble from the Anglican college performing and Heartsong will be singing through service, led by Geoffrey Badger.
“One of our main messages has been, the church has served for the past 160 years, our challenge is to serve our community well over the next 160 years and beyond,” Reverend Captain Stuart Haynes said. “The church has so much to offer the community. As a church we can walk alongside them and help them out.”
Future events this year include Bega Big Thing on September 23 at 2pm – a Songs of Praise style event and an art exhibition in November themed ‘Christ, cheese and community’.