It’s not often you can combine a passion for children’s ministry with a passion for mission and a love for the red dirt of the outback. The Rev Naomi Ireland is thrilled to be able to do all three in her new role supporting children’s ministry leaders across the Northern Territory.
After spending seven years ministering to families and children at St Matt’s, Manly, Ms Ireland has started partnering with Bush Church Aid to work for the Anglican Diocese of the Northern Territory. Her role will be to work alongside churches, building relationships with children’s ministry leaders, to see the faith of children grow across the territory.
“I can’t tell you how God will use me, I don’t have a clue, but I’m looking forward to seeing it!” Ms Ireland says. “I’m looking forward to seeing how God works in those individual relationships that may come, and how I can invest in the lives of little people around the diocese.”
Many of the churches Ms Ireland will be working with are located in remote, Indigenous communities, where she will have opportunities to hear from local leaders and find ways to helpfully and appropriately support the great gospel work that is already happening.
“I’m excited about growing in my understanding and knowledge of Aboriginal culture and building deep relationships with my Aboriginal brothers and sisters,” she says. “I’ve got a real desire to be a strong and good ally for Indigenous people.
"The biggest preparation is holding in balance the fact that you have something to offer, and you need to come willing to learn.”
“I’m not Indigenous. I can’t pretend to understand the things they face, even today, whether they be remote communities or urban Aboriginal people. I want to be someone who listens and learns and is eager to support in ways that are useful. Listening to what they need, rather than telling them what they need, is important to me.”
In preparation for ministry in the Top End, Ms Ireland spent six months training at St Andrew’s Hall, the Church Missionary Society’s intensive training centre for missionaries. “I don’t know that you can totally and utterly prepare,” she says. “You do your best, seek to learn and understand as much as you can, but until you engage with people… The biggest preparation is holding in balance the fact that you have something to offer, and you need to come willing to learn.”
As she settles into life in Darwin and begins her role, Ms Ireland’s prayer is for the churches in her new home. She asks for others to join her in her prayers.
“Pray that I’ll be a humble learner and a good ally to my Aboriginal brothers and sisters, and that I will listen well to what they’re saying,” she says. “Pray for the continual ministry that’s happening in communities, and that God will continue to provide good support for leaders. Pray that God will raise up the next generation of Indigenous leaders who will lead churches in these communities.”