ADVANCE | step by step now features a new series of church profiles. This issue it’s all about Riverlands Baptist Church, Longford.
Firstly, read an overview from the pastor, Rodney Marshall. Then continue scrolling for highlights from church member, Meg Roberts, and some memories from former pastor Jeff McKJinnon.
From Riverlands Baptist Pastor: Rodney Marshall
I’m Rodney, the Tas Baptists’ Administrator, Riverlands Pastor, insurance man . . . and I have many other hats. Today’s hat is that of Pastor of Riverlands Christian Community at Longford, where I’ve been for over three years. Tracey and I have three married daughters, and five grandkids. (No. 6 is coming soon!)
I grew up in Ulverstone, becoming a Christian in a cult at age 23. It took me 10 years to break free from the cult, and many more after that to work out what I really believe.
Riverlands is known to many in the Baptist community as the place many Assemblies are held. We have a wonderful building, that is only 20 years old, and it is a blessing. While it is a little out of the centre of town, it is increasingly becoming an important part of the community.
Riverlands is known to many in the Baptist community as the place many Assemblies are held.
New opportunities to connect with our community
Last year, in the midst of the COVID-19 troubles, we opened our door to Meals on Wheels, who now have their regional distribution base here. As well, a Kiosk for Carers to access support and information will open soon. These community programs are part of our engagement with the people of Longford and surrounding area.
Late last year the Northern Midlands Council approached us to ask if we would host a Neighbourhood house. The house would have a goal of seeking to provide services and support to struggling groups throughout the area. Council was unsuccessful at its initial attempts to gain funding through the Tasmanian Community Fund but continues to seek funding from other sources.
Our church partners with chaplains at both Longford Primary and Cressy High School, providing mentors and support to the Breakfast Club. We are actively looking for other ways to engage the children and parents of Longford. Recently a young mum has come to us seeking to hire a space to run Alpha for other mums. She seemed surprised when we offered her not only the space for free, but support in setting up and running the program.
Sundays . . . and moving forward
Most weeks our Sunday morning service has someone new in attendance. Visitors traveling the state, old members testing the waters on returning, new people to Longford looking for a church, and the new Christians who church members have walked alongside. It’s lovely looking out and wondering “Who is that person?”
It’s lovely looking out and wondering “Who is that person?”
With all that’s happening around the place it’s important to keep our focus on Jesus and what he is doing. His heart is for all the people struggling in life and reaching out for help in so many wrong places. Finding the right way to engage is a critical part of moving forward.
The church has been looking for someone to work with us in reaching young families, and providing support to parents. Maybe that is being provided for us by a young mum in a way we didn’t ever expect. Maybe it is just a step down a path we never thought about. Either way we are excited to see what Jesus does.
Please pray for us as we seek wisdom, boldness and passion in seeing God’s kingdom come into the lives of the people in our community.
By Meg Roberts
Riverlands’ Baptist Groups Connecting With Local Community
At Riverlands our various groups have been up and running again for a while, some with more participants than before lockdown, some with less.
- Neighbours Group meets fortnightly. Lunch used to be on the menu before COVID-19 struck, but is not practical now. Folk still come for a good chat, the occasional quiz, and a very good morning tea.
- Threads of Friendship Craft Group are working on a variety of individual projects, from “Diamond Painting” (about which a few said, “I could never do that” but who are now really enjoying it) to crocheting and card-making. As a group we will no doubt soon be back into making gifts for the Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes.
- Games Group ladies were meeting in private homes for a while after lockdown but are happy to have joined together again at the church. All the groups are meeting in the foyer for the time being to comply with social distancing.
- Stay and Play have their own area and it is a busy time with little people and their carers – mums, dads, aunts, or grandparents. Feeding the sheep in the adjoining paddock is a highlight, along with a variety of activities. There are also a few folk from our congregation to help or be a listening ear.
Heather Hockey’s Farewell
On Sunday 14th March 2021, we at Riverlands Baptist held a delightful farewell service. We gave thanks for the various areas that Heather Hockey, and her husband Les, contributed to over 18 years of attending Longford Baptist/Riverlands. Les is now with his Lord, and Heather is moving to Queensland to be near family.
It was lovely to have some of Heather’s friends as part of our congregation, including some from the Neighbours Group that Heather has looked after for many years.
Various members of our congregation spoke in appreciation of Heather. For many years she led a team of caterers for functions held in our church building. Participants noticed her care for people in general, and for those with special dietary needs. We even had a poem read to us highlighting some of Les and Heather’s exploits! Heather has also put a lot of prayer and work into the Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Shoeboxes: “There will be many in heaven who will thank her for bringing them to Jesus”.
Heather spoke of how much God had helped her and Les, and of the help and blessing that many in the church had been, especially as Les’ health deteriorated.
Her strong Christian walk and faith shone out during all parts of the church service, which ended with the Elders praying for her. Heather is a friend and encourager to many and although she will be very much missed, we were glad to give her our blessing as we sent her on to her next adventure, led by Jesus.
Memories of the Transition to our New Building
As the pastor who oversaw the move from the old Longford Tabernacle to the new Riverlands building, Jeff McKinnon has some unique perspectives!
- Prayer was a very important element right throughout the decision-making and building process.
- The building was not to be ‘a church’. Rather, the church would meet in a community centre, Riverlands.
- However we also had a strong emphasis on operating mission off-site. We didn’t want the building to dominate our sense of identity and vocation.
- The church had a careful process of about 5 years to decide to relocate, and how to relocate (eg refurbish a building, build on a ‘greenfield’, etc).
- The church employed two of our members, John Pitt (builder) and Tim Preece (bricklayer) to construct Riverlands. Others provided significant time covering some other trades. During the building program we had one or two evening working bees most weeks.
- Two of our oldest members, Miss Gladys Long and Mrs Doris King, opened Riverlands by cutting the ribbon, and turning the key respectively. A large crowd was present.
- The church opened the new building largely debt free (a $10,000 interest free loan from Tasmanian Baptists was outstanding but repaid quite quickly). All up, the new facility cost about $500,000.00.
- Initially the church retained its former name ‘Longford Baptist Church’ and the building only became known as ‘Riverlands’. After 2004, the name ‘Riverlands’ became the name of the church as well.