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From the Goldfields

God-Talk: Hospitality

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The Revd Dr Elizabeth J Smith AM, Mission Priest, Parish of The Goldfields

Be careful what you pray for – you might get it!

I’ve said before that one of my prayers for our congregation at St John’s Old Cathedral, Kalgoorlie, goes like this: “Dear God, make us ready to receive the people you want to belong with us.”

In the last 18 months, God has evidently decided that St John’s can be trusted with families who have come to the Goldfields from Zimbabwe and South Africa. Each of the fathers has been sponsored to migrate because he has vital skills for the mining industry. The families come, too, sometimes a few months after dad has arrived. The mothers also bring skills and experience: accountancy, education, automotive electrical qualifications. The children range in age from babies to teenagers.

These people are answers to our prayers! I have never been to Africa, but I know that the Anglican Church in many African countries is very different to our little congregation in the Goldfields. It’s a big ask for them to come to a church with no hundreds-strong congregation, no vibrant Mothers Union group, and a musical repertoire that is ten thousand miles away from home.

I ask people’s names, and learn how to pronounce them. Some have European-style names, others have Shona-language names that have equally beautiful Christian meanings when translated.

I find out where people are on their journey with church membership. Two teenagers had done their confirmation preparation in Zimbabwe, so we presented them gladly to the Archbishop last year. The baby and the toddler were baptised together last Trinity Sunday. Three other youngsters have not yet been baptised, as the town they had been living in was so small and so remote that it had no Anglican church. So we have enrolled them as Catechumens, anointing them with the special oil, presenting them each with a copy of the Bible, and using every Sunday morning to share the teaching that will help get them ready for baptism and communion, come Easter. Two adults grew up Catholic, but now gladly worship with their Anglican spouse. So when the bishop visits in the Easter season, we will receive them as full members of the Anglican Church.

We invite the over-16s to come onto the parish electoral roll, and, as the volunteer screenings timeline allows, we ask what skills and talents they would like to share with their church here, from property and planning to bible reading and prayers.

And, importantly, we make time to eat together beyond the Eucharist. Friday night pizza after a saint’s day service; midweek icecream for Epiphany; a feast of Zimbabwean classics for a crowd at my place on Boxing Day; a huge, after-church, birthday cake for a one-year-old; ice cream for Epiphany; pancakes before Lent.

Around the bible readings and the communion table, we get to know God. Around all these other tables, we get to know each other. Every time we gather, the Holy Spirit is doing the mysterious and beautiful work of making us one body in Christ.

Goldfields God talk Hospitality permission from parents obtained

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