A third of this town attends their local Church
Drive 78 kilometres west of Nowra and you will stumble upon Nerriga, a tiny country town with only a pub and a church adorning its main street. It’s here in this village of 50 people that the Church of the Good Shepherd has recently seen surprising growth.
“I have gone to this church all of my life,” says Mr Colin Temple, who lives next door to the weatherboard building. “Church used to be crowded. For a time it was only [my wife] Betty and I still going. Now we have about five locals who go. My nieces from Goulburn and Nowra also come, so we have about 12 to 18 attend.”
The Rev Geoff Thompson, rector of Nowra (which includes Nerriga in its parish), says, “When I arrived, there were two locals in their eighties. Then two more popped up out of the bush, and then another two. We were up to six locals, when recently a bunch of related people who had moved into major centres decided that they’ll make it their once a month homecoming reunion... Amazing church growth.”
Mr Temple and his wife have had a long involvement with the Nerriga church. He was the first child to be baptised in the church building when it was built in 1934. He and his wife grew up attending Sunday school, saw three of their sisters married and all of their children baptised in the little church. Up until recently, Mrs Temple also prepared afternoon tea for the congregation after every service.
Pray for Nerriga
The Temples now spend their time looking after their farm, where they have bred cattle for the past 30 years. The weather has made this tough in recent times, and rain has been a long-term prayer point in their church.
“We’ve been in drought all this year [and] there’s no rain in sight until maybe next February,” Mr Temple says. The drought has meant that they have had to sell some of their cattle.
Historically, a small group of Nowra parishioners have travelled out with a ministry staff member to Nerriga each month to participate in church.
“It’s a fun little road trip on a Sunday afternoon,” Mr Thompson says. “We have these people who wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to hear preaching.”
Watching the town change over the decades has been disheartening for Mr Temple, but the recent growth of the parish has been a source of joy.
“We used to have a post office and a police station... It’s sad to watch the town change,” he says. “We hope that our church keeps going. It’s been here for 80 years – let’s see it go for another 80 years.”