With responsibility for 15 parishes across almost one-fifth of the Australian landmass, Northern Territory’s Anglican Bishop, Greg Anderson, longs to see growing churches that celebrate, talk about and demonstrate the saving work of Jesus Christ in their communities.
“The main thing is for more people to understand the news about Jesus and I think a key for that is to have healthy churches, where people are able to celebrate the good news of Jesus and be reminded of it and encourage each other to live in the light of it,” he says.
Despite the size of the diocese (region), the total population of the Northern Territory is only about 230,000 people, 30 per cent of whom are Indigenous Australians.
The largest church in the entire diocese is St Peter’s Nightcliff in Darwin’s northern suburbs. Since Covid lockdowns, it has three inter-generational services all with a kids’ church, a vibrant youth group, and holds an annual kids’ club in the October school holidays, which attracts children from other Darwin churches as well as Scripture kids from a local primary school. It also has three pastoral staff, Joshua Kuswadi, Laura Wolfenden, and Jesse Morrison (starting in January 2022).
The other churches are smaller but many have grown a little numerically in the past few years, Bishop Greg says.
“My hope for 2022 is that our churches will be able to connect effectively with the communities around them.” – Greg Anderson
Christ Church Cathedral in Darwin’s CBD this year added a youth group during its 9am service and intends to start a night church in 2022 with a mission focus. The Church of the Good Shepherd at Fred’s Pass, south of Darwin, will have a new minister, Steve Walker, from January. Meanwhile, the bishop is still looking to fill the ministerial vacancy at Katherine, created when Kristan Slack moved to minister at the Church of the Ascension in Alice Springs.
“But if you compare the number of people who aren’t in churches with the number of people who are in churches, there are vast untouched swaths of the Northern Territory that don’t know about God’s love and God’s rescuing work,” he tells Eternity.
“So my hope for 2022 is that our churches will be able to connect effectively with the communities around them.”
Some examples include the Mega Kids Club at St Peter’s, the Robert Czako mural restoration project at St Mary’s Chapel in Alice Springs, Food for Life at Batchelor and Palmerston, the Sunday morning breakfast program at Christ Church Cathedral, the annual carol service at Leanyer Water Park and Christmas carols at the Pub in Batchelor.
“I hope we can go on doing more across a range of different things to place our churches in their communities and serve their communities so we just want to ramp that up in the communities around us. It’s not just about talking, but about living, demonstrating God’s love.”
“That’s the diocese hearing more effectively the voice of the aspirations and dreams and challenges and needs of the Aboriginal members of the diocese.” – Greg Anderson
Another of Bishop Greg’s aspirations for 2022 is around the creation of an Aboriginal consultation group called WALK, which was launched at the recent Synod (church parliament).
“WALK stands for the words for ‘word’ or ‘story’ in the four major Aboriginal languages used in the diocese: wed in Kriol, ayakwa in Anindilyakwa, lhaawu in Wubuy and kunwok in Kunwinjku.
“So that’s the diocese hearing more effectively the voice of the aspirations and dreams and challenges and needs of the Aboriginal members of the diocese.”
He says most church forums such as Synod and Diocesan Council don’t translate easily into an Aboriginal setting.
“The idea is that that group will come together physically a couple of times a year and maybe electronically one or two other times a year, just to provide a space for Aboriginal Anglicans to talk together and encourage one another and let us know what’s important for them and what they’d like us to do to work with them and share with them.”
“I’d love more people of all kinds still to be moving to the Territory with ministry motivation.” – Greg Anderson
Bishop Greg’s third hope is one he’s been petitioning for continually since he was installed as bishop in late 2014.
“We’ve been really blessed with people moving into the Territory with ministry motivation in the last few years, but we could still do with more such people. They don’t have to be official missionaries such as Church Missionary Society intentional ministry workers or ordained ministers. They’re just a small number of possibilities. But I’d love our church to grow, not just by people moving here who are already Christians – I’d love there to be more impact in our community. But I’d love more people of all kinds still to be moving to the Territory with ministry motivation.”
Finally, with the arrival of a talented new Children’s Ministry Worker for the whole diocese, Naomi Ireland, he hopes to see children’s ministry on a growth curve.
“It’s great that we have children and children’s programs in all of our mainstream churches and some of the Aboriginal churches, but we need to have the sense that people are excited about this ministry and want it to grow beyond just our church families. That would be another great thing.”