Necessity is the mother of invention, which is why on Sunday morning you might find Tallangatta Uniting Church members looking for gifts in an op shop rather than seated in pews for a traditional worship service.
Tallangatta member Carmyl Winkler said that when the small congregation in north east Victoria suddenly found itself without a minister last year they were forced to rethink the way they did church.
“The first thing that happens is that you realise how much the minister has been responsible for, especially the obvious leading of worship services,” Ms Winkler said.
“Over the last six months, we have made a preaching plan which includes retired ministers, lay preachers, congregational members, community group leaders and joining with the Anglicans.”
The congregation also decided that the fourth Sunday of the month would be an informal gathering known as ‘Sharing on Sunday’.
Typically, Sharing on Sunday sees attendees seated in a circle, where they might stand or stay seated for hymns. The session often involves activities and invites discussion.
“Sometimes it is a challenge, even a threat, to leave the back pew and sit on a front chair around the communion table,” Ms Winkler said.
“Nevertheless I’m sure we get to know each other better once we take the plunge and do it. We look forward to new ‘Sharing’ this year.”
One Sharing on Sunday was held at a local farm and included a Frontier Services barbecue. On another occasion the congregation met at the local op shop where they were encouraged to buy a small gift for someone else.
The congregation also showed their willingness to improvise in the lead-up to Christmas when the Sunday of the Nativity Play clashed with a local swimming carnival.
This meant that children weren’t available to play some of the roles, so adults stepped in to be Mary, Joseph, the innkeeper and family.
However, there was a scene-stealing exception in the cast.
“One delightful addition was a four-year-old angel complete with wings,” Ms Winkler said.
“The play was a great success. A few days later, we went up to the long-term care wing of the hospital and had a service.
“We performed the play a second time, which was a big hit.”