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Prince George: Perhaps this disgusting fellow is some sort of blessing in disguise.
Blackadder: If he is, it’s a very good disguise. 
Prince George: After all, did the Lord not send Moses a lowly earthworm to comfort him in his torment?
Blackadder: Nope.
Prince George: Well, it’s the sort of thing he might have done.

The old BBC ‘Blackadder’ series  occasionally stumbled into a biblically illiterate, but still valid, theological insight: sometimes God’s blessings  do come in very good disguises. When termites were discovered in the floor of the Op Shop run by St Mary in the Valley (Parish of South Tuggeranong), it created more than a little anxiety.

For many years, St Mary’s Op Shop – ‘Mary’s Market’ – has operated out of the church building – a valuable community outreach which has created a close-knit team of volunteers.

However, with its renewed focus on children and youth ministry, the parish had been agonising about how to create some much=needed physical space, without unnecessarily uprooting Mary’s Market.

When it became clear the termite infestation would require a temporary evacuation, the result was much prayer and some tentative conversations with the management of the nearby Calwell shopping centre. Seeing the benefit to the community, the Calwell Centre
offered a lengthy – and very generous – ‘peppercorn lease’, allowing Mary’s Market to relocate into a commercial site within the shopping  centre.

‘What originally looked like a minor disaster has instead given us two great gifts’, says SMiV’s rector, Reverend Dave McLennan. ‘We now have a much stronger presence in the middle of our community, and more space in our parish centre, which we’re repurposing to support our growing children’s ministry. Instead of seeing the end of one ministry, the termites have given a significant boost to two ministries.’

In January, Mary’s Market began trading in its new location – no longer hidden inside a church building, but now in the heart of the local shopping precinct. Carol Willey, the co-ordinator of Mary’s Market, has been amazed by the interest in the shop.

‘I felt a little nervous to say the least about relocating to a commercial environment such as a bustling shopping centre. But step out in faith we did, and with the prayers of all our parishioners and friends and wonderful support from the Calwell Shopping Centre Management, we are enjoying an opportunity now for outreach to our wider community. A true answer to prayer and a blessing indeed!’

With a cross prominently placed on the wall and parishioners very well represented among the 30 volunteers serving in the shop, Mary’s  Market has become a tangible sign of God’s kingdom among the people of South Tuggeranong.

Mary’s Market is now open Wednesday-Saturday, from 9.30am to 4pm, at the Calwell Shopping Centre.

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