Beaming from ear to ear, the Rev Jodie McNeill spoke on the first afternoon of Synod about ministry growth in his provisional parish of Jamberoo as he asked members to approve its reclassification as a full parish.
“It is with great joy that I share with you the work of the Lord in the parish of Jamberoo,” he said.
Mr McNeill spoke of the history of the South Coast church, which began in 1842 with a congregation in the village school. The Church of the Resurrection was opened in 1867 but, he said, while the regional population grew, Jamberoo remained relatively small. In 1976, it became a provisional parish.
“Ten years ago, we had around a dozen people at our traditional service, and around a dozen people at our contemporary service,” he said. “Most parishioners were in their 70s or 80s, and every parishioner but one was aged over 50. Our wardens were determined to have one last shot at revitalising ministry in the only evangelical church in the village. So, they sold the run-down rectory and bought a modern residence, and they met with the bishop to consider options for a partnership with another parish.”
The parish Jamberoo partnered with was Oak Flats where, at the time, Mr McNeill was the rector. A new Saturday night service was launched, more people began to attend, ministries grew and everyone was delighted to see God at work.
After three years of the partnership it was clear a full-time minister was needed to keep the parish growing, but it needed to find another $1000 a week. Members were willing to take up the challenge, and so was Mr McNeill. At the end of 2018, he finished up at Oak Flats and became the full-time rector of Jamberoo.
“The Lord has been very, very kind to us,” he said. “Within two months, a few local Christian families decided to move over to our church, so that they could join with us in reaching the village and valley. And by that first Easter, we met budget.
“In these recent years, we’ve found that most Christians who move into Jamberoo now choose to join our church. In the past, they would have driven out of Jamberoo to join a church in a neighbouring parish, but now often the opposite is true... and whilst the pandemic has been hard, it’s been in these past two years that we’ve experienced the most growth. And that includes unbelievers who have come to know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and have repented and believed the gospel.”
Members are deeply involved in the community and the parish’s intergenerational approach – keeping kids in church for the first half of every service, including all ages in leading, prayers and Bible reading, and always having a meal together afterwards – is very appealing to newcomers.
Mr McNeill said the partnership between Oak Flats and Jamberoo, and everyone’s desire to see Christ proclaimed faithfully, has meant that “an unviable parish has returned to full health”.
“This has been an extraordinary journey for the parish of Jamberoo,” he added. “During the past decade we’ve been prayerful, faithful and hospitable. And in his overwhelming kindness, the Lord has brought the growth. And not only have believers been strengthened for mission, but adults and children have been converted to Christ. And there’s nothing greater, is there?”