When it comes to lay preachers, Sprent Shalom Uniting Church is Miles ahead of all others.
After all, three generations of the Miles family have preached from the pulpit of the North-West Tasmania rural church since the end of World War II.
For the last 50 years, Keeton Miles has stood where his father, Gordon, previously led worship. Keeton’s daughter, Bronwyn, is also a regular lay preacher.
The family’s lay preaching goes back a further generation with Keeton’s grandfather, George, operating on the Mole Creek Methodist circuit for more than half a century.
But it is not only as preachers that the family is well known within the region. Keeton’s wife, Beth, is a church organist, a role which was ‘passed down’ from her grandmother, Mildred Scott, to her mother, Sheila Haberle, and through Beth to Bronwyn as well.
Keeton remembers the town of Ulverstone having 13 local churches and congregations when he first arrived with his parents and family in 1946.
Now, just two churches remain.
He still preaches about seven times a quarter and enjoys it.
“One needs to be enthusiastic and enjoy working for the Lord,” he said.
However, Keeton admitted that even after so many years the ‘busyness’ of life sometimes made preparation for Sunday mornings a little difficult.
“There are some weeks it is a bit harder than others because of work commitments and sometimes I will be sitting down at 6pm or 7pm on a Saturday night preparing, although I have thought about the message during the week.
“I always read the lectionary and it is very rare that after a couple of readings the message doesn’t come.”
Keeton was one of three lay preachers to be recognised by the Presbytery of Tasmania for achieving significant milestones last year. Ivan Badcock also reached his 50th year and Bob Humphries 40 years.