Friendship and Fellowship Cornerstone of St. John’s

       It was a big weekend for St. John’s Anglican Church Thurgoona marking not only the church’s Sesquicentenary but also 150 years of schooling in Thurgoona.
      The celebrations began on Saturday with the quarterly market, continued with a dinner at Trinity College and finished on Sunday with a wonderful outdoor church service; the singers (including me) and musicians performing from a large mobile stage, with a makeshift altar below and the congregation sitting out under the massive gums which for me are so much a part of the experience of worshipping at St. John’s.
      The original church was sited where the current church hall now stands with church services held on a Sunday, while during the week the building was used as a school. Also used by the Presbyterians and later the Uniting Church, it truly was a hub of the community which at that time was mainly engaged in rural pursuits but came together to worship. The service schedule depended on the availability of clergy from St. Matthew’s in Albury.
       I’ve been attending services at St. John’s on the Footy Field, as I’ve affectionately named it, for almost 18 years and as I looked from the stage during Sunday’s service, mingled over a cup of tea and lunch I gave thanks for this church and its community.
       I don’t live in Thurgoona, but an invitation to join a singing group there brought me into contact with the people of St. John’s and the Parish of Northern Albury. There are many members of this congregation who are as dear to me as family and who supported me through some major events, changes and crises in my life.  
     Many of them are older than me; that we have an ageing congregation is concerning, but having said that I’m yet to meet a more vital and energetic group than those who ensure that St. John’s and the other centres in the parish not only have church services but continue valuable outreach. This includes serving coffee at the courthouse; a bus service accessible to groups in the community; emergency food supplies for those in need and the quarterly market which isn’t a money maker, but a non-threatening way in which people can interact with parishioners and see that they are a group of people who aim to lead their lives in a way Christ would approve of; in service to him rather than just attending church services on a Sunday.  
     In any week there’s a busy schedule of activities people are welcome to attend plus some larger events including the annual debutante balls which continue to grow in popularity despite the view that anything traditional is considered daggy and unengaging by the young, and the upcoming Christmas Tree Festival.
     Babies and occasionally adults are still baptised, and just before Christmas a number of young people and adults will present for confirmation.
     The numbers involved in these activities may not be large, but the parishioners are working to change this. They well recognise that just as Christ spread his word by going to the people, they too must go out to their communities. For St. John’s this is Thurgoona with its growing population of people of all ages and at all life’s stages and includes the thriving educational community and its own Trinity College.  
     One hundred and fifty years ago St. John’s Anglican Church Thurgoona was a place where people gathered to learn and worship. Today the educational learning might take place elsewhere, but the valuable lessons of what real friendship and fellowship can contribute to individuals and communities continue.
     May they do so for at least the next 150 years.

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About Robyne Young

Writer, creative writing teacher, editor, columnist. Literary lover. Short story collections, The Only Constant and The Basket and the Briefcase available via website.
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