Prayer through the longest drought
Thunder clapped overhead and there was a short, sharp downfall at the start of the Synod of the Diocese of Armidale in northwestern NSW, but the region is still in the grip of the worst drought since Federation.
As representatives from across the northwest met in Tamworth, not a single farmer in the area will harvest a winter crop, which hasn’t happened since 1965. Rainfall, soil moisture and plant growth measurements are all in the lowest 5 per cent ever measured.
For the first time since 1965, not a single farmer in the area will harvest a winter crop
“The realities of drought have brought significant stress to many and tears to others,” Bishop Rick Lewers told the Synod. “It is a stress that will only continue for many, through an incomeless next 12 months – and longer, if rain does not come.”
As the drought appeal by the Archbishop of Sydney’s Anglican Aid topped more than $250,000, Bishop Lewers said partnership and friendships were vital.
“Our diocese, in partnership with Anglican Aid, has received financial assistance for those who are in need,” he said. “We want to offer assistance to those most in need in a way that does not humiliate. I have found the saleyards and agents to be fertile ground for encountering those in need.
“We often complain about the big cities forgetting the rural world, but city populations have been challenged to partner with our rural communities and give generously. That partnership and generosity will suffer if those in need are too proud to receive the help offered.
It is commendable to be concerned for those who are worse off than ourselves, but equally commendable is an honest humility that can receive some help and say ‘Thank you’ when others offer it.”
Dominated by Prayer
The Synod was dominated by prayer, both for the drought and the ministry challenges facing the Armidale Diocese. An entire session was devoted to praying for churches – and the Synod stopped immediately to pray after a motion from Moree parishioner Jo Horton calling for regular prayer meetings with specific requests for rain and for the mental health of those suffering because of the drought.
“My husband is a wool broker and buys and sells sheep,” Mrs Horton said. “He has had about four hours’ work in the last five weeks. It will take years for the agriculture industry to come back from this and farmers to rebuild their stock. Australian wool is now in high demand but we don’t have the stock to export.”
She also reported regular answers to prayer.
“We have been praying on Wednesday afternoons for a while now,” she said. “We have people from other churches come and pray with us, which is really encouraging. Furthermore, it has rained after all our prayer meetings within a few days.
“Our God is a faithful God and I cannot encourage you all enough to be praying as a parish on another day [apart from Sunday] each week for rain for our communities. It is a fantastic witness.”