Fund helps community

Rev Brian Morgan and harpist Peter Gibson at last week’s community lunch at Rochester.

By Andrew Humphries

In his role as Northern Rivers Cluster Uniting Church Minister, which includes Rochester, Rev Brian Morgan wears many hats.

Ask him what his main role is, though, and he doesn’t have to think hard to provide an answer.

“My main job here is to love people,” is how Brian describes his approach as Minister.

That love of people was on display at the Rochester UC Hall last week when Brian and his wife Desri, assisted by members of the congregation, including harpist Peter Gibson, hosted a community lunch for some of the many residents affected by the widespread flooding which hit the town in October last year.

The lunch, which was attended by over 60 residents, was made possible through the Moderator’s Emergency Response Fund (MERF), which was established to react quickly to support communities in times of major disasters, such as bushfires, floods, storms or other crises.

Last year’s devastating floods in Victoria and Tasmania and the 2019-20 bushfires have highlighted the need for the sort of emergency assistance provided by the fund, with individuals, congregations and church councils invited to contribute.

Moderator Rev David Fotheringham said events like the flooding in Rochester showed how useful the MERF could be in times of crisis.

“The Moderator’s Emergency Response Fund has demonstrated the generosity of members of the Uniting Church, across the whole church, as we’ve recognised the massive nature of the flooding event which began last year and has a long-term impact for so many affected people and communities,” David said.

“Churches and Ministers in many of the affected communities have shown amazing resilience, but restorative work for homes and regions that have been damaged will take a long time.

“The fund has enabled supportive supply ministry alongside Brian Morgan’s wonderful faithful pastoral work in Rochester and Elmore, and this recent community lunch is an excellent example of bringing people together to share strength and support with one another.

“We are in a good position to plan for longer-term supports for the community, as well as responding to more immediate needs.”

Rochester residents enjoyed a community lunch in the Uniting Church hall last week.

Brian said the lunch was an opportunity to bring community members together who continued to do it tough after October’s flooding, with many residents living out of town or in caravans on their front lawns, still unable to return to their homes.

He said the town had initially responded very strongly to the disaster but then residents had gone through a “flat patch” as they dealt with the day-to-day struggle of rebuilding their homes and lives.

“There have been a lot of highs and lows for residents and it’s been very tough for them,” he said.

“We thought the community lunch offered an opportunity to help them deal with that sense of loss and grief and just put a smile on people’s faces, and provide a bright spot in their week.

“It provided a chance for the residents to have a chat with each other and open up to each other, and it was a phenomenal response, with a real buzz around the hall.

“A table of donated patchwork quilts, jams, chutney, and ‘CareBears’ were eagerly carried off by the diners.”

As Minister, Brian said his role was to listen to people and provide support in their time of distress.

“My role here is to love people and, at the moment, these people need a lot of love because they feel they have been bashed around,” he said.

“My wife Desri and I have been listening to people a lot, loving them, caring for them and offering some insights into what might be happening to them.

“It’s about helping people to connect, and reassuring them that they are loved and cared about.”

Brian said the Moderator’s Emergency Response Fund played a vital role in supporting communities hit by natural disaster.

“The MERF enabled us to bring in outside catering by Golden Roast, who provided not only delicious food, but also the plates and cutlery, and took the rubbish away afterwards, so congregation members were free to enjoy the day too,” he said.

“I want to say thanks for the fund because something like the lunch is the sort of thing we can’t always do alone, we need to work together and the Moderator’s fund provides that opportunity.”

Click here for more information about the Moderator’s Emergency Response Fund

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