Poowong marks milestone

Rev Arnie Wierenga, Rev Deacon Judy McLeod, Father Peter Slater, and Rev Fran Grimes at the combined churches service in Poowong.

By Laurie Gregg

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” declared Rev Deacon Judy McLeod at a combined churches service to celebrate 150 years of Poowong settlement last month.

“Here in the dense rainforest of Poowong, the first public building established in 1878 was the Poowong Methodist Church,” Judy said.

Now called the ‘Pioneer Chapel’, it’s still standing, a testament to the early settlers’ faith that continues today.

We then heard the reading from Matthew 5:13-16

“You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.”

Poowong was also built on a hill, a high ridge along McDonalds Track, the route for many pioneers travelling through the Strzelecki Ranges to Morwell.

Worshippers at the April 21 service then heard from Father Peter Slater (Catholic Diocese of Sale), who reflected on his time as a student at Poowong.

“I have spent the greater part of the time since my ordination in 1975 in parish work in different Gippsland parishes,” he said.

“I have supported and worked with Catholic schools in those places but I have always been proud to say that all of my primary schooling was at the Poowong Consolidated School.”

Rev Fran Grimes (Anglican Diocese of Gippsland) spoke of the challenge to be able to “share God’s love in an ongoing manner every day, considering that we only had church services every fortnight”.

“In November 2020 the first sod for the Poowong Community Garden was turned and as we enter our fourth year of operation, we rejoice in the ways this space has become a place for the whole community every day of the week,” Fran said.

“We have celebrated harvest festivals, All Saints festivals and even a blessing of the animals, which have been well attended by all the community.”

Rev Arnie Wierenga from the Uniting Church Presbytery of Gippsland invited people to remember how the Poowong community has been the salt of the earth and light of the world through the last 150 years.

The stories from Peter and Fran invite us to remember how the community has been supportive and encouraging through both good and tough times.

Arnie mentioned the weekly Uniting Church Mya Mya café as an important gathering place for the community to reconnect, yarn, and to care for each other.

In the journey of God with us through the last 150 years, we can be confident that “God gives us a future, daring us to go, into dreams and dangers, on a path unknown” (words by Elizabeth J. Smith, from ‘Together in Song’ 687).

The Poowong community has a long and documented history of faith and seeking to serve others that continues today.

The 150th anniversary was an outstanding event well supported by this community of 700 people, highlighting its ability to adapt and embrace change, yet retain a connectivity to its past.

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