Australian Deans reflect on resilience and wellbeing, call for prayer for rain in NSW and Queensland

The annual Cathedral Anglican Deans Conference met at St Andrew’s Cathedral Sydney from 2-6 August, hosted by the Dean of Sydney, the Very Revd Kanishka Raffel. Nineteen Deans from across Australia shared in worship and study, and were delighted to join in Sunday worship with the congregations of St Andrew’s Cathedral, and gave thanks the rich musical life of the Cathedral. Deans welcomed the Very Revd Elizabeth Dyke (Bendigo) and the Very Revd James Hodson (Bathurst) to their first conference. ‘I was looking forward to meeting my peers, to learn from their experience and to hear their wisdom’, Dean Elizabeth said, ‘I have been more than encouraged over these last few days’.

Resilience and Spiritual Wellbeing

Together the Deans reflected theologically on prayer and mission, resilience and spiritual wellbeing. ‘The Deans’ Conference provides a unique opportunity for the leaders of Cathedral ministry in Australia to meet, study and pray with one another. It forms an important part of maintaining “sustainable sacrifice” in the privileged but demanding context of ministry through Cathedrals’, the conference host the Very Revd Kanishka Raffel reflected.

Led by Archdeacon for Women’s Ministry in Sydney Diocese, the Venerable Kara Hartley, and organisational psychologist Kirsty Bucknell (Visiting Fellow UNSW) reflected together on the challenges of ministry burnout, and proactively fostering resilience and spiritual wellbeing, for their demanding roles. Dean Kanishka explained: ‘Archdeacon Kara and psychologist Kirsty brought a timely reminder of the “resources for wellbeing” that are intrinsic to living as a Christian, including practising thankfulness, forgiveness and “sabbath rest”.’

Growth in Children’s Ministry

Following their theological reflection on ministry to children and young people at their 2017 conference at St Paul’s Cathedral Bendigo, Deans were encouraged to hear about the growth of children’s ministries in Cathedrals across Australia. Dean James Hodson (Bathurst) reported significant expansion of the Cathedral’s outreach to young families, many of whom first came to All Saints’ Cathedral to seek baptism and experienced a welcoming community with child-friendly worship. Dean Susanna Pain (Sale) reported on the growth of Messy Church, and Dean Ken Goodger (Wangaratta) on ministry through their children’s playgroup, and the beneficial effects that those initiatives had on their Cathedrals’ ministry to young people.

Responding to Drought

The Deans of Armidale, Brisbane and Newcastle reported on the adverse effects of the severe drought in rural New South Wales and South Queensland on farming communities. Dean Chris Brennan (Armidale) reported: ‘The drought in New South Wales and Queensland is unusual in both its severity and suddenness of onset. Our rural communities are truly struggling and greatly in need of rain. They need our prayer: both for those on the land, and for those businesses and communities reliant on the rural sector’. Deans reflected on the impact of Climate Change, heard about Anglican Communion-wide initiatives to encourage safeguarding of creation, and Darwin Cathedral’s work with Aboriginal leaders in responding to Climate Change.

Deans shared in intentional prayer for rain with the Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Revd Dr Glenn Davies, and the congregations of St Andrew’s, and invite people across Australia to pray for an end to the drought. The following prayer, written by Archbishop Davies, was used at the conference and at St Andrew’s Cathedral:

Our heavenly Father, we acknowledge our ingratitude when we have taken your goodness for granted, when the heaven has poured forth rain and the earth has produced its fruit. Yet now we cry to you for help, as the drought in New South Wales and Queensland deepens. Have mercy on our land; have mercy on the people of the land. May your bountiful hand send forth rain upon our parched earth. Fulfil your promises that while the earth remains, seedtime and harvest shall not cease, so that those in remote and rural areas may find relief from their distress and glorify your name for the provision of their needs. We ask this in the name of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Other suitable prayers may be found in A Prayer Book for Australia (p. 205) andAn Australian Prayer Book (p. 92).

The national Deans Conference will next meet in August 2019 at St John’s Cathedral Brisbane, as guests of the Senior Dean of Australia, the Very Revd Dr Peter Catt.

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