God in the Gong
Jesus is going to be busy in the Wollongong Region over the next month or so as its 80 or so parishes, four mission areas and local Anglican schools and retirement villages hold concerts, dinners, talks and dozens of other events to encourage locals to engage with Jesus and what he has done for them.
The theme of the regional mission is “Jesus is____” and one of the first big events will be run by the Wollongong Mission Area, which includes a dozen parishes in and around the city, plus The Illawarra Grammar School and students from the Uni Bible Group.
“Jesus is… living water” will be held at Towradgi Beach Park on March 10 and one of the organisers, the Rev Mike Turner from Port Kembla parish, says they’re preparing for hundreds of people to take part.
“It’s very exciting for the people in the Illawarra,” he says. “I’m expecting 500 people, but I’d be hopeful for 1000. It’s an Anglican Aid fundraiser as well so people will walk, ride or jog for water, then there’ll be a dozen stations around the park with kids’ activities that all have a water theme.
“After a BYO picnic there’s even the possibility that some church groups will do baptisms at the beach. We’ll see. I’m going to try and get my whole church along on the day and I know other churches are trying to do the same. It’s an easy thing to invite people to, after all – a picnic by the beach! Anyone is welcome to join us at the picnic, even Sydney folk.”
Mr Turner says that apart from raising money and enjoying time together, the event’s purpose is to raise awareness about the region-wide mission, which, according to local bishop Peter Hayward, has been in the works for nearly two years.
“The feeling people get when they come to these training meetings, when they see all these people from other churches involved, is that we’re all in this together. We’re planning, we’re praying and we trust that God will act through us as we preach Jesus.” Mr Turner
“We’ve been working very hard on this for a long time,” Bishop Hayward says. “We learned the lesson from Connect09 to allow for local events that fit local circumstances. That’s why what happens in each mission area will have a different flavour.”
Thousands of “Jesus is____” T-shirts, wristbands, signs and badges have been ordered so there will be a commonality to the look of the local Anglicans as they run events and engage with the community. A number of training nights have also been held to help people prepare for conversations and interactions about Jesus.
And, for the first time, during the Moore College mission week from March 18-25 all the college’s mission teams will be in the one region: Wollongong