Learning on the job in Alice Springs

Janine van den Tillaart

It has been eleven months since Topher, Chica, Daniel and Laura Hallyburton moved to Alice Springs. As a ministry trainee, Topher is learning on the job working alongside former Field Staff Kristan Slack. Not only does he preach one in three Sundays, Topher also has the amazing opportunity to learn from the six other clergy who currently worship at the Anglican Church of the Ascension.

The Hallyburton family and the Slack family picnic together on the sand banks of a Top End river. In the background other families are picnicing and swimming in the river. All look very summery and the kids are all dressed for swimming.For Topher, there has been a time of transition, getting used to being a church-based worker again: “It’s unlike when I worked for Scripture Union in Schools Ministry, there is so much flexibility around the week, so it requires a lot of organisation, and that forms part of my training. No week is the same.” In recent weeks (at the time of writing) Topher had helped run a Scripture Union Kids’ Program, spoken at the BCA Victoria Spring Lunches, preached in church, and visited the local prison.

A ‘regular’ week starts off for Topher with a two-hour meeting each Monday where he and Kristan discuss the Sunday past and the Sunday to come. They also meet again during the week to talk big picture ministry and make plans.

“It has been great to share life and ministry with Kristan & Kath,” says Topher. “They have been very encouraging and welcomed us into family life. What is exciting for Alice, is that it is the first time in the history of the church that the rector has young kids, and the Sunday School has grown because of this.”

Outreach ministry takes the form of visits to the prison and the hospital. Each of the seven churches in Alice Springs take turns in going to the prison and running services there.

“At the prison, services are optional, but we get a lot of men coming to listen,” explains Topher. “We hold short services in different areas of the prison. This past Sunday Kristan used the same passage he preached at church but cut it down to a five-minute message. We also had a couple of songs, and a few prayers at the end. While only five women came to listen in their section, in the other two services, over 35 men came.”

In the near future, Topher will have the opportunity to start visiting some of the Aboriginal Camps in Alice Springs. Hiley, a member of the church and clergyman, originally hails from Papua New Guinea but has lived and worked in Alice Springs for 20 years. Indigenous people make up about 18 per cent of the population in Alice Springs and Hiley does much work with them, visiting the camps each Sunday evening for a meal and fellowship.

Alice Springs is proving a great training ground for Topher and he looks forward to learning on the job over the next two years. “I am very excited that BCA is training people in remote locations,” says Topher. “We weren’t looking forward to moving back to a big city and it was wonderful that this role was an option for us. As BCA continues to support us and looks to support other people into the future, I can definitely see the benefit for the Kingdom.”


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