Myra Cowell and Wendy Frazier share some of their personal story of moving from death to life, a journey which is intimately connected to the story of Finley Uniting Church.
In January four years ago I was feeling exhausted as I finished the 9.00am service at Tocumwal and I still had the 11.00am service in front of me. We didn’t have many lay preachers at the time and the couple we did have were away for the holidays. Summer is a difficult season for me. I find my energy levels are very limited and I had three weeks with two services each Sunday. Another hot day was on its way. As I walked from the church at Tocumwal I said a prayer: “God I can’t keep going like this – I need help!”
At Finley, on that same morning, a new person arrived at the service, introduced herself and said “I am Wendy an accredited Uniting Church Lay Preacher.” I said, “Thank you God!” Since then we have all been truly blessed by Wendy’s ministry. She has sustained me in my low times with her wisdom and insight and she has celebrated with me in times of joy. I am still saying: “Thank you God!”
My husband Lew and I moved from being in 7 days a week business in Cootamundra to buy a house in Finley. I felt God was telling me to go back to the UCA and for a while I did not agree, but on the morning that Myra spoke of I listened. I had been accredited as a Lay Preacher in 1992. The Bible the congregation gave me at the time has the inscription Matthew 5:15 and 16:
“No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Who am I to argue with that? Since coming back to the UCA I have redone the Lay preacher training with Myra as my mentor. Her wisdom and the support of Finley worship Centre is humbling. Last year Lew and I built a playroom at our home and called it The House of Doors, because it was built out of old doors! We have a piano, artist’s supplies, coffee, tea and a water cooler. It is a good place to sit and chat or pray and it is a good place for all sorts of people to gather. Myra has been a great encouragement to me and we have travelled together, practically and spiritually over the past few years. We have been through a lot together. In have been stretched and Myra’s friendship has been valuable to me and her trust in me has been humbling.
Myra and Wendy
Although small, Finley Congregation is always open to the movement of God’s Holy Spirit and its mission has always been through hospitality. For more than 20 years people from the community have gathered for Bee Hive (BYO craft) and weekly Bible study. Then there is crazy whist, a friendship morning and hymn singing where people from other denominations and people from the wider community can share what is happening in their lives. Each group has its own following and friendships grow.
Supporting the community has always been important to our congregation and since 2018, with $5000 from the Moderator’s Drought Fund and a $2000 donation from Mansfield Uniting Church we have purchased $200 Murray Goulburn vouchers and given them to farmers in the area. We have received many thank you notes saying things like, “this is the real Jesus living among us.” The drought continues and with zero water allocation for irrigation we have just applied for, and received a further $5000 to distribute to farmers.
Some people might think our congregation is in decline, but that’s not how we see it. It is not about numbers it is about people. Some of our members have died or moved into care but someone new is always arriving and the House of Doors is beginning to play a part, acting as a gathering place for some very interesting and gifted people.
Twice a month we take Communion to Finley Regional Care and then share morning tea with the residents. Not so long ago we presided at the funeral of one of our Regional Care members and afterwards Wendy reached out to her daughter. After enjoying the hospitality of the House of Doors, she is now part of Finley Worship Centre and has started Lay Preacher training. God’s double blessing to Myra’s original prayer for help.
Adapted from Ruminations Magazine. Ruminations is the publication of Saltbush.