Diary of a Frontier Services minister

CROSSLIGHT asked Rev Rowena Harris for a snapshot of a typical month in the life of a High Country bush chaplain.

Wednesday 11 April

I begin progressing through a workbook, produced and required by the Victorian Council of Churches (VCC). It is a requisite for attending re-accreditation as an emergency services chaplain. I am the regional coordinator, and work with the local shire when disasters strike.

I write and send the monthly chaplaincy report to Presbytery Standing Committee before visiting a family to discuss a funeral…. it’s high up in the mountains… for my own piece of mind, I’m home before dark.

North East Presbytery of Victoria is organising teams of volunteers from all over the synod to come and fix it. Lindsey Oates is leading the volunteers,which includes local Kailex Black, who Lindsey said was painting like a professional after picking up a brush for the first time.

I write my sermon for next Sunday’s Messy Church, and then travel out to have lunch with a young family on a farm. I meet kids and cows, alpacas and sheep, dogs and pigs. As I drive home late in the afternoon, I reflect on some themes in my life…God is an amazing artist. I drive through spectacular scenery. I see incredible beauty…. And God made it.

I meet courageous, compassionate and strong people, resilient as they journey on difficult paths- fire, drought, flood – well, all the weather phenomena.

Poverty, difficult terrain, few support services… I meet people in unexpected places, filled with amazing and unexpected graces…. They are not conventional Christians, and they rarely attend churches (and may be way too far away to attend them anyway)… And I am incredibly blessed to spend time with them.


Friday 20 April

Various church folk pop in to see how things are going for the manse and reno team. They bring donations of food.

I lunch with an about-to-be mum. We talk about parenthood, hopes and dreams, relating to God….

I catch up with the local man who grows roses. We talk, beginning with roses, but then discussing some big issues of life.

Rev Caro Field from Presbytery is here. We dine together at the Little River Pub. It is great to spend time with her.


Sunday 29 April

Messy Church. We focus on making prayer hand-cards, as a reminder that we can talk to God.

Morning tea in the manse as usual. Then we have an informal church council meeting over more tea and cake.

Wednesday May 2

I regularly visit the Alpine Resorts, and catch up with the few folk who stay over summer. When winter comes, I continue to visit Dinner Plain but Mt Hotham has a visitor charge. I am the new police chaplain for the Hotham station that only functions in winter. I spend time with their HR to ask if it is possible to be classified as staff and therefore incur no visitor charge. I suggest that there may be other tasks I could do there… eg. disaster relief ministry, pastoral care of staff. HR says my request will be considered. There is paperwork to be done and supporting emails to be obtained from the state police chaplain and other work-related leaders.

Whilst up there today, I visit a few of the summer staff I know. Nothing major. We look forward to the season.

Friday May 11

The polar vortex arrives and there is snow everywhere! Not quite in Swifts Creek, but almost. It is exciting, incredibly beautiful and achingly cold! I spend a fair bit of the day driving around, photographing, and talking to everyone…. they are doing exactly the same! There is a great community connection, an important part of my role.

Omeo lookout

Saturday May 12

It rains and rains and rains. I visit a farming family and we talk about how God answers prayer.

Sunday May 13

I lead worship in Maffra UCA. Again, a great congregation! I am blessed.

Monday May 14

Mt Hotham HR contacts me. Request accepted! Yay!

You will have picked up that Rowena loves to hear from people interested in bush chaplaincy and emergency services chaplaincy. You can contact her on 0409111996 or at High Country Patrol based in Swifts Creek, Victoria. e next manse renovation team will go up to Swifts Creek from 21 October until 3 November. People with painting, carpentry, building skills are especially sought. Presbytery may be able to assist with accommodation. Come for whatever days you can. Please contact Lindsay Oates on 0408 343 531.

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