The parish office in Warwick got a call leading up to Synod about the need for a funeral to be taken at All Saints’ Anglican Church in Texas. The grieving family could only gather on the Friday of Synod. This made it difficult for our four full-time ‘local’ clergy, as they were heading east for Synod, and Texas is a 300 kilometre round-trip west from Warwick.
Warwick has been blessed with its retired clergy, but this year we’ve come to a point where we can no longer ask our retired clergy to do services that require all that preparation and such a lengthy drive. The Texas Anglican community has some amazing laypeople, but equally we don’t want to ask ministry of them that they don’t feel comfortable about doing.
I was able to meet with the family in Warwick to do initial preparations for the service. However, as I started to become quite anxious about what priest could preside, I thought of The Rev’d David Snape. David is retired, but like many retired clergy in the Western Region he is quick to step in and help when it’s needed. He is currently serving as a locum at the Oakey and Millmerran parishes, is on roster at St James’, Toowoomba and helps out at Airbus Australia. In some desperation, I contacted David about the funeral, and David – who was planning on attending Synod – changed his plans, drove from his home in Toowoomba to Texas, stayed overnight and led the funeral. Funerals in the county are serious work that require the gift of time and David stepped up and generously gave. And, then he attended Synod!
Up until just a few short months ago, a good many Anglican funerals in Texas have been taken by our retired deacon, The Rev’d Julie Simpson. Julie has been an inspiration to many through her funeral ministry. She is pastorally excellent – kind, warm and sincere. She is truly present in what she does – there’s nothing rushed or rote about it. She always prepares a homily for each different family and at her last funeral in Texas – I was her driver due to some back problems she’d been experiencing – Julie assisted the family in choosing readings that reflected their mum’s love of nature and gardening and then preached weaving these loves and the journey of faith together. Julie turned 80 a couple of years ago and “retired” – but she’s continued to offer so much, especially in the area of funerals and aged care ministry. The woman is a legend!
Similarly, The Rev’d Barbara Diery, from the Parish of Warwick, also offers wonderful ministry. On Synod Sunday she celebrated Eucharist and baptised four (very active) little boys! She is on roster when she can be, and she is the local Mothers Union chaplain and a spiritual mentor for many. She produced a huge volume of PowerPoint services as resources for our aged care facilities, changing the way we offer services there and included planned sets of hymn favourites. She also began projects like Warwick’s Christmas Down Under ministry for kids in the local shopping centre.
The Rev’d Rosemary Peterson – a Killarney local – is another beloved figure, not just in our Diocese, but also over the border in the Diocese of Grafton (COVID-19 permitting). Rosemary was reminiscing the other day about the “Women of the West” events that she once hosted at her beautiful property at The Head – on the eastern side of the Condamine Gorge. Rosemary’s devoted pastoral ministry and her many connections to local groups are well known. There are very few people in Killarney and the surrounds who Rosemary doesn’t know and her faithful and hospitable heart is a real gift to the community.
The Rev’d Stephanie Frances and my own darling dad, The Rev’d John Pryce-Davies, also help out in differing ways as often as they can around Warwick, as did The Rev’d Val Graydon until she ‘moved east’ a few months ago. Each of these clergy gives generously of their time and abilities and continues to sense God’s call in their lives.
The Archdeaconry of Cunningham is about 400 or so kilometres, stretching from Booval, Ipswich to Talwood, west of Goondiwindi. It covers Brisbane Valley and Boonah, Allora-Clifton, Stanthorpe, the Lockyer Valley, Ipswich, the Border Ranges and Southern Downs. As I write there are just three full-time priests remaining in the large western swathe that makes up the Southern Downs Deanery. Big challenges don’t just lie ahead – they’re with us right now. I am also incredibly grateful for creative, committed lay ministry – to the many folk who show up in their centres Sunday by Sunday and truly make liturgy “the work of the people”. We are richly blessed.
PS: I got in touch with The Rev’d David Snape again the other day, he was on the road to a funeral in Cunnamulla!
Editor’s note 19/10/2021: Additional image of The Rev’d Julie Simpson, The Ven Lizzie Gaitskell and The Rev’d Barbara Diery added.Jump to next article