Twenty-five members of the Anglican Historical Society visited the south-west of our diocese on the weekend of 7 and 8 May. This region was severely affected by the bushfires of early 2020 but received only limited attention in the face of the tragedy on the South Coast.
The Society had hoped to visit the area in 2021 to offer support to the churches but COVID-19 restrictions meant that the visit had to be postponed.
The weekend began on Saturday morning with a sumptuous morning tea at All Saints’ Tumut followed by a visit to the beautiful church. Lunch was at St John’s Batlow, and it was along the road from Tumut to Batlow that the impact of the fires became apparent. Huge areas of pine plantations, apple orchards and pasture were completely destroyed and while subsequent rain has encouraged some regrowth, the scene is devastating.
Batlow does not have a permanent priest but the parish continues to be a vital part of the community thanks to many energetic lay people who conduct services, visit those in need, run a busy op-shop and get involved in the community in other ways. A hearty soup and sandwich lunch was served in the op-shop where racks of clothes and shelves of books had been moved to create a cosy environment on a cold day.
From Batlow it is a 30-minute drive to Tumbarumba. St Jude’s church is also without a priest but as in Batlow a group of enthusiastic parishioners ensures that the church continues its ministry. A priest from Tumut attends Batlow and Tumbarumba as required.
The catering skills of the parish were evident in the form of a smorgasbord dinner in the parish hall. One of the parishioners commented that it was the first time since the fires and COVID restrictions that the parish had been able to come together for a large social occasion.
Holy Communion was celebrated on Sunday morning by the Reverend Harvey Sloane from Tumut, with Canon Kevin Stone preaching. Kevin was particularly keen to visit the area as, prior to his ordination, he had been a teacher at Rosewood School about 21km to the west.
Rosewood and Tumbarumba have seen a revitalisation since the opening of the Tumbarumba to Rosewood Rail Trail along the route of the long-closed railway line. Thousands of cyclists visit the area each year and two new cafes in Rosewood provide sustenance for the weary cyclists. There are also bicycle hire shops in both towns.
Historical Society members decided to drive rather than cycle to Rosewood, which was the final visit of the weekend. The church in Rosewood is a community church available for use by all denominations although at present only the Anglicans conduct services there.
At every church visited during the weekend, parishioners talked of the trauma of the bushfires and the pain is still apparent. However, the disaster has led to a renewed sense of community in the towns as churches, community groups, businesses and individuals work together to assist in the recovery. The Anglican Historical Society was pleased to make financial donations to the churches in Tumut, Batlow and Tumbarumba to assist them in their vital work.
by Charles Body
The featured picture is of St Jude’s Tumbarumba.