Ministry on the Air

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Ministry on Norfolk Island is forging ahead with its eye on the long term, according to the island’s current Anglican chaplain.

The Rev David Fell, who is the full-time Church of England chaplain on the island, says the nature of the role is very different to that of a typical Anglican rector in a mainland parish. The island has a population of about 1400 residents, and another 500-700 tourists or other visitors on the island from week to week. It’s estimated about 30,000 visitors make their way to Norfolk Island every year.

“You can’t really think of the island as a parish in the regular sense,” he says. “The chaplain connects with everyone on the island – there’s a 24/7 element to it. It’s close-knit, you are involved in so much of the everyday life of the island, people watch how you live, how you talk to people when you’re out and about. In that sense it probably is not far from an old school English village type of ministry.”

Mr Fell sees about 60 people at church regularly on a Sunday, between services at All Saints’ in the island’s south and St Barnabas’ Chapel in the island’s west.

He also presents a regular prerecorded segment on the island’s radio station, which plays on Sundays, and contributes to the island’s newspaper – which he says often leads to conversations with people he meets during the week. Locals have become connected with the church and attend services as a direct result of things they have heard or read through these avenues.

“Often all I’m doing is sharing tidbits from sermons or blogs I’ve written, or offering a Christian perspective on major events, but I’m always trying to be evangelistic and I’m always trying to weave the gospel in,” he says. “People do reference things they’ve heard on the program, and that starts conversations and allows for invitations. It’s all about positioning myself to promote the gospel in the wider community.”

Mr Fell also says his full-time position has allowed him to take a longer view of ministry on Norfolk Island, and to build lasting relationships with Christians and non-Christians alike to open up further opportunities.

“One of the things we want to do while we’re here, what we’re working towards, is launching a contemporary family service,” he says. “It’s hard to see a new work starting only with the established families, because of the number of people here moving in and out. We want to reach less connected families and incorporate them into the church. 

“Similarly, we’re looking to starting a regular youth group. A couple of churches here have worked together to put on a youth worker, and I’m mentoring him at the moment. We recently ran a camp with 43 kids going along to that, which was great. Things are ticking along there.”

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