Q&A with Elaine Stewart OAM: Warwick stalwart and committed Anglican

Spotlight Q&A

Meet the energetic and indomitable Elaine Stewart from St Mark’s Anglican Church, Warwick and find out why she was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia

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People across our Diocese recognised in the Australia Day Awards

The Anglican Church Southern Queensland congratulates the following local Anglicans who were recognised with a Medal of the Order of Australia at the 2019 Australia Day Awards:

Ms Myrna Wakeling, Forest Lake, for service to the community
Mrs Elaine Stewart, Warwick, for service to the community
Lieutenant Colonel David Phillips (Retd), Coolangatta, for service to veterans and their families
Mr Barry Kratzke, Camp Hill, for service to the performing arts
Mr Graham Hyde, Auchenflower, for service to medical administration
Mr Raymond Steward, Stafford Heights, for service to the community

If you know of other Anglicans living in the Anglican Church Southern Queensland who received recognition at the recent Australia Day Awards, please contact anglican focus.

Mrs Elaine Stewart was recently awarded an OAM for service to the community of Warwick, including for service to St Mark’s Anglican Church. Elaine was also a teacher aide at Warwick West State School for many years, working in the Special Education Unit. Since her retirement, she has been a volunteer with Riding for the Disabled. About 10 years ago, she became a member of the Leukaemia Foundation Australia, Warwick Branch, and helped raise money for research and patient and family accommodation. She has also been a committee member of Warwick and District School Chaplaincy for many years, recently stepping back from the committee and becoming a supporter for the five chaplains in her area. She has been married to husband Don for 41 years and has “lived in Warwick all that time”. She has three grown-up children and four lovely little grandchildren. She and Don have a sheet metal workshop and have been in business in Warwick for 30 years.

How long have you been involved in the Anglican Church?

I have been involved in the Anglican Church for as long as I can remember, and have been a volunteer at St Mark’s Anglican Church for over 30 years. My family attended a little country church, St Aidan’s at Tannymorel, about 30 minutes’ drive east of Warwick, on the Darling Downs.

What is the name of your current role and what does your role involve?

I am in my tenth year as Treasurer of St Mark’s Mothers’ Union, and I am a former Parish Councillor and former People’s Warden. I am currently Treasurer of St Mark’s Women’s Guild and Past President, now member and supporter, of Friends of St Mark’s. I also teach Sunday School and volunteer for most projects within the Parish.

(L-R) Prue Harslett, Wendy Finlay, Elaine Stewart and Gloria Brady after their monthly Mothers Union Meeting, outside St Mark’s Anglican Church, Warwick

What have been the highlights of your role so far?

One of the many highlights for me has been the celebration of our 150-year anniversary of St Mark’s last year.

Also, the completion of the renewed floor of the church after devastating white ant attacks. Many volunteer hours of work went into the removal of the floor and helping the builder to replace the complete floor from the front to the back of the church.

What are your plans and goals for the next few years?

I am looking forward to many more years as a volunteer, both at St Mark’s and in the wider community. I have received a great amount of joy and made many friends during this time.

You were recently awarded an OAM on Australia Day for service to the community of Warwick. Where were you and how did you feel when you were notified that you were to receive this honour?

In December last year, it was indeed a huge surprise to receive an email telling me I had been awarded an OAM. I would never have imagined, as an ordinary volunteer, that I would have been considered in the Australia Day Honours List. My husband had to convince me that it was actually true. I am extremely humbled by this honour.

Why is it important for us as Christians to serve the broader community?

I have always felt that serving the broader community is what Christians do best.

St Mark’s Women’s Guild catering for a funeral. (L-R) Don Meneely, Joyce Hammond and Elaine Stewart

Can you tell us a little about your faith journey?

As a child my parents encouraged me to attend church and church activities and I attended Sunday School from a very early age. As a young wife and mother, I joined ‘Eve Group’, which was the young members of Mothers’ Union here in Warwick, and this group gave me a love of the Christian faith.

What is your favourite scripture and why?

I don’t have a favourite scripture, but I do love our Mothers’ Union Prayer, especially the last few lines:

“Empowered by your Spirit, may we be united in prayer and worship, and in love and service, reach out as your hands across the world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

I feel that being Jesus’ helping hands is what being a Christian does in the church and in the community.

What person of faith inspires you the most and why?

The first person to inspire me as a young person was my minister when I was growing up in Killarney. The Rev’d Keith Clarke stood out as a very good, quiet, gentle person and an example of a very Christian-living man.

What are the primary strengths of the church and what is the best way to make the most of these for the benefit of our communities?

The church is the community. Church is full of all sorts of people and they all bring their own gifts and talents with them. The strength of the church is its people, and with their gifts they can reach out to the wider community in so many ways.

What are the challenges currently faced by the Church and what can be done to overcome these?

The church needs to encourage more of the younger generation to the church. This is our main challenge. Younger people are the future of the church. Most young people these days seem to live very busy lives and it is difficult for them to become involved with church, as well as all the other things that they must do. The encouragement must come early in their lives and that is why Religious Education in schools is so important. It may be the only time they will get to hear of God’s love for them.

What are the current challenges faced by people in western Queensland and how can the broader Diocese help?

There is a large decline in the number of people attending churches, especially in the smaller country churches. This makes is very difficult for Parishes to remain financially viable and harder to afford to pay clergy. The development of IT Programs and making services available online may help these people in the country and remote areas when the clergy aren’t available.

What do you do in your free time to recharge and relax?

I love to garden and at the moment, because of the drought and shortage of water, gardening has become very difficult for me. I also love to visit other people’s gardens and enjoy Diggers Garden Group once a month.

What is your favourite movie and why?

I haven’t really got a favourite movie, but I do love a good laugh and enjoy comedy. I also watch the English shows on TV, especially shows like Vera and Shetland and can always watch a repeat. I can never remember the endings and that’s usually because I may have drifted off to sleep a couple of times during the show. It’s always good to watch the ABC because shows aren’t continually interrupted by advertisements.

Where have you travelled to?

Since my husband and I have retired, we have enjoyed some lovely trips. We have toured Great Britain, and loved Scotland. We spent four weeks, accompanied by our son Cameron, in British Columbia and Alaska. We thoroughly enjoyed the North Island of New Zealand last year and a trip with several friends to the Kimberley in 2017. This year we have a trip to Cape York planned with the same friends.

Elaine Stewart and family taken at their Warwick property in October 2018

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