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From the Goldfields


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Goldfields God-Talk: Museum

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

Kalgoorlie has a fine little outpost of the WA Museum. There’s a gallery with the history of gold mining, some tiny, early gold rush buildings and union banners, and a courtyard that hosts community events. You can take the lift up the historic headframe for a grand view across the town, explore a garden of local Aboriginal food and medicine plants, and find a family member’s name on a memorial to the thousands of people killed in mining accidents over 130 years.

This month, the museum invites us to add our bit to a rug-making project. Imagine a host of hula hoops and an assortment of old sheets. They are torn into narrow strips to make, first, spokes of a wheel, then longer strips to weave from the centre, around in a spiral, to fill the space within. Each rug will be one tiny dot in a giant project to “reclaim the void”, covering with art an old mining pit somewhere out the back of Leonora.

The project co-ordinator gets me going on a rug she has begun in shades of blue. She shows how right strand goes over left, then left goes under the next spoke. There’s another clever trick for joining a new strip of cloth to the end of an old one. You add new spokes, as the weaving expands from the centre and the gaps between the original spokes grow wider.

I have a go. I discover, yet again, that I’m a slow learner at 3-D ins-and-outs and over-and-unders. I have to unpick half of what I weave when it goes sadly wonky. Around the room, there’s friendly chit-chat among the participants, mostly women, some of whom I know from other networks and some of whom are new acquaintances. Other museum visitors poke their heads around the door. I am better at inviting them to have a go at ‘my’ rug than I am at actually weaving it. Having learnt how to join the strands, I love showing the trick to interested children. Names, languages, skills are shared, and time passes quickly.

Ministry is often like this. I pick up something that someone else has begun, and try to add my bit. But what I really enjoy is stepping back and inviting others in. They may only have a short time to give, but better they should have a go, be involved, add something, than stand by, watching me muddle along.

Ministry needs experts, and I have confidence in my own fields of expertise, especially verbal creativity and down-to-earth Christian teaching. But every expert was a beginner once. Someone made room for them to have a go. Someone made room for them to try, for the first time, something they would take to with delight.

I plan to buy up old sheets, the more colourful the better, at the Southern Cross Anglican Op Shop. I may contribute to a wonky rug, but someone else will make a fine one, if I invite them to have a go.

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