From the Goldfields
The Revd Dr Elizabeth J Smith AM, Mission Priest, Parish of The Goldfields
It does rain in the Goldfields, more than you might think, but the rain is not predictable. Summer rain is often comes as the brief, intense accompaniment to a thunderstorm, or as the soaking remnants of a tropical cyclone that crossed the coast somewhere up north in the Pilbara, and is still dumping its moisture thousands of kilometres away in my back yard. Winter rain will usually be gentler, drifting in from the west.
The earth drinks it up greedily. It rinses the dust off trees and shrubs, and brightens the eyes of birds in their tree hollows and lizards in their burrows. In town, gutters swirl with temporary rivers, and the reservoirs fill up with storm water to keep our sporting fields and school grounds green. Rain settles the dust on mine sites and construction zones. At every season, each drop of rain is a blessing.
There is something about rain: the sound of it on a roof, the feel of it on your skin, the reflections of the sky in the puddles it leaves behind – that evokes God’s provision of grace in season and out of season. I am not the first to sense this connection. The Psalms were written in another dry land where rain was always welcome, a spiritual as well as a physical gift. The old gospel songs give praise and pray for showers of blessings. Both dry lands and dry hearts need drenching.
What refreshes my heart, in this landscape, both physical and spiritual?
It’s a gift to live close to the bush, to be able to spot a parrot, a skink, the tender shoots of a new branch of a gum tree, many times a day. Life and growth are everywhere, bringing forth something new. If human society sometimes depresses, or if the life of the church seems stale, the complexity and beauty of nature nudges me back towards the God who is endlessly creative.
My spirit is softened, too, by the people that God entrusts to my care. I look into the wide eyes of a newly-baptised child who is gazing at the candle-flame of the light of Christ. I hold in my hand the arthritis-twisted, sun-spotted hand of a nursing home resident who can no longer speak. I listen for the grief and the courage mingled in the voice of someone telling me their story of change and hope. In these moments, I know I am in the right place, at the right time, both for these people and also for me as a servant of Christ, a priest of the Church.
My ministry may not be enough to break a long drought for someone else. Nor will my presence reverse the climate change that the church is experiencing. I still have times when my energy is low, and the mission field seems more withered than white for the harvest. But every gift of time and care and love, given or received, every drop of grace is always a blessing.