There’s no ministry like snow ministry
Ministry is still going strong on the NSW snowfields with a residential holiday lodge and a church and chaplaincy program serving the needs of, and reaching out to, holidayers hitting the slopes.
Southern Cross Alpine Lodge, a ministry first begun by the Anglican Youth Department (now Youthworks) in 1963 as the Southern Cross Ski Chalet, has seen thousands of visitors over its time – providing accommodation for mostly Christian families and groups, but also guests and visitors joining friends for a snowy retreat in Kosciuszko National Park.
“Most of the people who pass through here come again, I feel,” says Southern Cross Alpine Lodge host the Rev Graham Morrison. “There are a lot of people who make this an annual or near-annual event.
“We are generally pretty full through the year but we always welcome people. We particularly enjoy when they bring guests, because frequently non-members and guests who visit are non-Christians, so there is a real ministry to those people as well.”
Mr Morrison’s time is divided between his role with the Alpine Lodge, his job as one of Perisher Ski Resort’s honorary chaplains alongside the Rev Lloyd Bennett, and his leadership role with his wife Margie in the Anglican parish of the Snowy Mountains.
“Chaplains are different to being at the Lodge or out the front at church,” he says. “The company [Perisher Ski Resort] wants you to be skating around and meeting people, helping when necessary. Sometimes we provide a listening ear after disasters, and sometimes we just end up having conversations with people that come out of nowhere – little opportunities to pray or to chat with people.
“Some conversations have even begun with people saying, ‘A chaplain? I didn’t think people like you still existed’. There’s still plenty for us to do.”
One of the things Mr Morrison has noticed is that visitors to services at Perisher’s Alpine Church are often people who have not attended church in years. He believes three such visitors became Christians after attending this year’s Easter service.
“In some respects it’s like a beach mission with snow,” he says. “What we saw at Easter was obviously God’s work, but I think it also illustrates that people will do things they wouldn’t normally do when they’re on holiday.
“We get congregations at the Alpine Church full of people who have long since dropped away from Christianity. But they’ll see the chapel – which is right in the middle of a snowfield and often with a barbecue running before services – and be happy to relink to Christianity with us in a way they might never choose to do back home, because they’re too busy or too worried about what people might think. It’s refreshing to see people actually give church a go again.”
Photo: Visitors to Perisher Valley enjoy a BBQ before one of the weekly Alpine Church services. credit - http://www.taylorbrantphoto.com