In January, after a night camped at Mallacoota Foreshore Reserve, we carried our breakfast to a grassy spot overlooking the inlet. Behind us, a young woman sat at a wooden table, reading. When we walked past her on our way back to our tent, we noticed that she was reading a bible, and Catherine stopped to talk.
The early morning reader had just finished Year 12 at Aitken College, a Uniting Church school. The bible she was reading had ‘Acacia College’ stamped across it.
Acacia College, often shortened to simply ‘Acacia’, continues to be mentioned frequently in Uniting Church circles. The closure of Acacia College and the subsequent sale of property to repay debt have become a watershed moment for the Vic/Tas Synod. At a recent meeting discussing missional use of property, I noticed that Acacia was mentioned on three separate occasions. Although I’ve moved on from Acacia College, I still get a twinge in my heart with each mention.
On this Mallacoota morning, my heart was warmed to see an Acacia bible still in use. Acacia College bibles had been given to Aitken College, and Catherine had received her bible from Aitken’s chaplain, Rev Jeanne Beale. Memories flooded back of receiving donations for the initial purchase of those bibles from generous members of congregations at Mernda, Plenty Valley and Greensborough. I showed Catherine the acknowledgment in the front of her bible.
This encounter stayed with me for the rest of the day. I reconnected with the shock and grief of students, staff and families during the closing term of the school. I reflected on the unwelcome surprises that life can bring and how, surprisingly, I had grown in strength and resilience as a result of the experience.
I became mindful of those of you who grieve the loss of beloved churches, sold to repay debt. Maybe you, like me, have forgotten that everything we do has ripples of influence. Discovering Catherine reading an Acacia bible has reminded me that closing a school or closing a congregation does not stop the ongoing influence of a faithful community.
I am reminded of the words of songwriter Colin Gibson:
Nothing is lost on the breath of God
Nothing is lost forever
God’s breath is love and that love will remain
Holding the world forever.
Rev Ros McDonald
Formerly Chaplain at Acacia College
Currently Associated Minister at St James Wattle Park.