Paul Dare spoke a moving Welcome to Country at the 2021 May Assembly.
“This is the beginning of something amazing.”
Paul writes of his emotions and responses to that moment . . .
For those unlucky enough not to be at the Assembly in May, there was a welcome to country done for the first time I can remember. To me this was an incredible release of emotion and relief – let me tell you why.
As a proud indigenous Lia Pootah man, this was momentous.Setting aside years of ‘whiteness’, we acknowledged the traditional custodians of the land.
There are some times in my life where I know I’m going to be emotional before it happens, and this was one of them. To me it was akin to the acknowledgement of Jesus, and welcoming of the Holy Spirit into my life. I have thought about it and these are strong words, but the relief I felt with the welcome to country was similar to the peace I felt when I first felt God within me. It was as powerful as that!
I have thought about why this was so and it has a lot to do with oppression and the whitewashing of my history not only by society, but my family’s history.
When I was growing up we were toldtherewere no Tasmanian aboriginals left. My dad was told never to mention it. But through time I began to understand more of my history, and more of my ‘connection to land’. I have discovered a peace in my ancestral home that in whiteness is not normal, but for me it’s confirmation of everything that I am as a person and I am in God.
Welcome to country is important because it is our way of welcoming all, regardless of your history, in peace and friendship. We welcome you to take from the land what it can sustainably give and no more. We want to encourage growth of bonds and ideas. As well, we want to encourage you to grow in spirit (Holy Spirit) and see the land the way we see it. I use ‘we’ here because it is all about community and not the individual.
When I was growing up, we were told there were no Tasmanian aboriginals left.
So where to from here?Baptist people can help with reconciliation can heal wounds, both known and unknown, by having a welcome to country at your church. It is a powerful statement to the community and to your heart.
Yours in Christ, Paul Dare
Born in Wynyard, Paul is a “proud” indigenous Lia Pootah man who grew up in Myalla. He has been an electronics technician, aerospace engineer, army officer and pastor. He retired in 2019, but currently serves as the pastor of the Levendale Fellowship (Citywide).
Paul is the author of the Tasmanian Baptists’ Acknowledgement of Country on this website.
ADVANCE | step by step now features a series of church profiles. This issue it’s all about Hobart Baptist Church.
In this church profile, read an overview from the Church Secretary, Heather Galloway. Then continue scrolling for highlights from church member, Sonya Ambrose.
From the Church Secretary: Heather Galloway
My name is Heather, and I am the Secretary of Hobart Baptist Church.
That sounds simple, and I’m sure it would be if admin was my area of expertise, and if our church life was “normal”.
Jim and I have been married for nearly 39 years. We are both “retired”, have three lovely daughters (pictured), and we’ve just been blessed with three grandsons in under five months!
I am Tasmanian-born, my parents having emigrated from England post-WWII. To quote the late Graham Clements, I was “carried into this church as a baby”, and have grown up in the church with my family. I was baptised at the age of 20, and have been a member of HBC for 46 years!
My days of serving the church began by helping my father count the offering. He was Treasurer for five years until I was eight, so I clearly began at an early age! I guess that set the scene, and it’s probably not surprising I follow in his footsteps.
A tiny taste of heaven!
Hobart Baptist Church is a city church with a long history of engaging the City of Hobart in many ways. We continue to do so, trusting God, who calls us to serve the people here.
For well over 100 years migrants, and refugees from around the globe, have found welcome and “sanctuary”, making HBC their home. We’ve had an active refugee support team for 40 years, and the current ethnic diversity reflects that care, and a willingness to mirror what Heaven will look like. Joel Ortiz, our Multicultural Pastor supports us in that ministry.
Pictured: Back in 2014 we took a church photo which shows our diversity. It’s probably time for another one!
HBC in the political arena
In the past, politicians from all levels of government have been members of HBC. However now, our Senior Pastor Stephen Baxter, as Chair of the Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast, can speak into Tasmania’s political arena in a different way.
I’ve discovered the value of having conversations with politicians from all sides of the spectrum.
HBC and The Arts
Some years ago, we expressed a desire to engage with the city through the Arts, and that has now begun! Artist-in-Residence Michael Henderson is using Dark Mofo as an opportunity to engage with the city with an art installation during our new Luminous Festival. The exhibition is titled Breathe, Shine and Seek to Mend. We’d love to see you if you can make it! (You can REGISTER HERE >>>)
This will create opportunities to have conversations to bring the Light of Jesus into the dark world. This year, our second Christmas in Winter will follow the Festival.
Becoming real: Our redevelopment dream
Over my lifetime at HBC there have been many changes, both in terms of the physical building, and the people of the church. For decades there have been dreams of improving the facilities.
Now, as Hobart Baptist nears the end of a substantial building redevelopment, it is easy to see why earlier dreams have not been fulfilled. There has been so much blood, sweat and tears involved! The redevelopment cost nearly $9m, and was a lot of extra work, and stress, for a small group of people, me included.
Pictured from left: New glass-doored entrance to foyer between “The Tab”, and old Soundy Building with doors to the new cafe; The apartments built on the back of the property; Forecourt works underway; New foyer nearly complete!
Why did we do it? We want people to see life in the building! To have facilities the community will find welcoming, thus providing opportunities to have conversations with people who would not normally enter a church building.
We began the redevelopment before Covid-19 changed our lives. Now, more than ever, we need to discern where God is leading us and to trust him. We have to discover the depth and breadth of our current church family, and what God is calling them to do in our new spaces, as we seek to be a prophetic voice in the City of Hobart.
Moving into the future
We’re in for an exciting time. There are so many opportunities right before us. I envisage the church alive through the week – I look forward to meeting friends in our cafe, having conversations, engaging with those around us, reaching out into the community, people coming to know Jesus, and others returning to the fold.
Where will I fit in? I’m not sure, but God knows. I trust him to give us the strength for the next phase of life of Hobart Baptist Church. Please pray that he will!
By Sonya Ambrose
Sonya Ambrose participates in the Kids’ Church ministry and the Music team at Hobart Baptist church. She is the mother of five, and is married to Scott.
Last year, after several months of online worship, it was exciting to begin meeting together again in “The Tab” and seeing the faces of our wonderfully diverse congregation. In March we celebrated ‘Sanctuary Sunday’. We reflected on the way that HBC has long been a refuge for people of many different nationalities.
Our children particularly enjoyed the opportunity to resume Kids’ Church. Building developments have necessitated some re-shuffling of kids’ activities such as Kids’ Church and Boys’ Brigade, but the children have enjoyed using our new church hall for active games, singing, dancing and craft activities. Boys’ Brigade have temporarily moved to Hobart City Church of Christ, who have graciously accommodated approximately 30-40 energetic boys every Friday evening.
Our family were delighted to participate in several church gatherings over past months. ‘Meeting Jesus at the Beach’ was a big hit, with beach cricket, swimming, treasure hunt and some wonderfully dramatic and interactive storytelling of the house built upon the rock by our multicultural pastor Joel Ortiz dressed in flowing white robes. (He was “Jesus”!) More recently, our church families fellowshipped together at Bellerive park for lunch and kids’ activities.
Our HBC family have been observing the building redevelopment with eager anticipation. Whilst it has been a long, and sometimes painful process, we can rejoice that the end is now in sight. We are hopeful that our new facilities will provide exciting new opportunities for connecting with and serving our city.
Pictured: The Ambrose Family – Scott, Sonya and their children
Tracey Avery attends City Baptist Launceston, and is a long-term foster carer.
Tell us about where you live and what your family looks like at the moment?
I live in Launceston with my husband Stephen. Between us, we have five children aged between 16 and 28 years. In our home at present, we have my three children and my daughter’s fiancé, and we are preparing for our first grandbaby. Stephen’s two adult children live independently.
My children are not biological, they have all come through a government-run foster care agency. The oldest has lived with me since he was two years old, has tried living independently three times, and for various reasons that has not worked out for him. The middle girl is 18, has lived with me for 16 years, and her fiancé also lives with us. They are expecting a baby in August.
The youngest girl is 16, and has lived with me since she was eleven months old. I became legal guardian to the youngest when she was three, and the middle when she was nine years of age. Having guardianship made parenting easier in regard to decision making.
When and why did you begin fostering?
I have been fostering for 26 years. I started foster caring for two reasons: the desire to become a parent; and wanting to make a difference in the lives of children who were unable to live within their own biological family. Stephen is new on this journey with me. God knew exactly what we all needed when He brought Stephen into our world.
What are some of the challenges you face as a foster parent?
It can be lonely if you don’t reach out, it takes courage. Fostering is rewarding and has daily challenges. For me having three children, all from different families under one roof, felt like I was like parenting three different families. Since the beginning I have facilitated contact with their families, and although challenging at times, I believe it has benefited the children in making their own decisions in regard to relationships within their families.
I would love to see the church rise up and support carers and the children they are caring for, even to somehow connect with their families.
When my girls were young and we would go to church, and many Sundays I really had to push through to be there. I would watch people within the congregation connect with other children, just not mine. Perhaps it was because the congregation didn’t want to connect with them, but I do wonder if they just didn’t have the skills.
As I journaled about this I wondered: if the church cannot love and connect with the children that come into the church through foster care, then how will the church ever love the people out in the communities and on the streets?
Fostering changes your life forever, and it comes at a cost to all. As a foster carer I have chosen that path. My eyes are wide open to the hurt and brokenness the children and their families experience. Whilst I have a choice to be a foster carer, the children don’t have a choice to come into foster care.
How does being a Christian foster carer make a difference to what you do?
I love the peace that God places within. On days where I have been challenged beyond comprehension, I still have this sense of His peace. Knowing that God loves my children more than I can ever imagine, I know He is my strength and He will carry me through those days.
What is the best piece of advice you have received about fostering?
I would advise others to connect and build a community around you, and the children, in your care. Most importantly, be kind to yourself, schedule time out.
Do you ever feel sad, or guilty, or uncomfortable about the idea of raising other people’s children?
I have had a range of emotions over the years. My heart breaks for my children, that they were not able to be raised within their own biological families. I am thankful for the relationships I have with my children and their families. It is my privilege to be a light and carry a banner for God into their lives.
Do you have support from others to assist you in your foster care journey?
Yes, over the years I have gathered a team of friends who are supportive of myself and my children. Honestly, I’m not sure what I would have done without their support.
What are some practical things people can do to assist a foster carer?
Befriend them. Come alongside them, and do life with them. We all need community, love and acceptance. The children need a community around them. They need that reassurance that there are people available to step in, to help out through times when circumstances are out of our control.
How can we pray for you and your family?
Pray that our children will all have a relationship with Jesus, and find the love and acceptance that they crave within the world. At the end of the day nothing matters, only our relationship with God.
I am thankful for my journey as a foster carer. I would not be who I am today if I had not had the privilege of raising and loving other people’s children. Even in the hard days I am thankful.
Denise Stephenson is a trained Spiritual Director and, until December 2020, was Spiritual Formation Pastor at LifeWay Baptist Church Devonport. What is #nofilter church? Read on to find out!
I love Instagram!
All those squares filled with beautiful pictures of magical places, designer interiors, and adorable children dressed in linen!
Most of us (on our good days) recognise that Instagram is the home of “This Filtered Life”. Isn’t it tempting to apply a “filter” to life so it looks good on the outside?
Whilst none of us really expects social media to be an honest reflection of life, most of us hope our communities of faith would be the one place we feel safe enough to be our “unfiltered” self. But if I am honest, church is often a place, as much as any other, where I have felt pressure to look, act or feel a particular kind of way.
We say, “Come as you are”, but really we mean come if you feel upbeat, on top of things, happy and well – and if you’re not, at least try act as if you are. Apply the “worship” filter where it’s smiling, happy people holding hands. “We’re here to worship God!!” Amen?!
We try and “stay together”
What would our community of faith, and our worship, look like if it was #nofilter? In the weeks following my husband Mark’s cancer diagnosis, I really didn’t feel like going to church. But, being one of the pastors, I turned up to church each week, determined to keep it all ‘together’. I had my “filter” firmly in place.
As soon as the songs started, every word would punch into my gut, and I would start crying… which was the LAST thing I wanted to do. Welcome to #nofilter! It was awful but it was real. Without me noticing, people would come to stand with me, and after the service, friends would slip into the chair beside me and pray for me.
I would go home, still in pain, still afraid, a blotchy, red-faced teary mess but having what I needed to keep going.
Embrace what God does for you
It takes guts to show our vulnerabilities, our weaknesses, and our messiness – to be real. But that’s exactly what God wants from us. God isn’t fooled by the filter, and wants to see the real person made in his image. I find that such a relief. I love The Message translation of Romans 12:1-2 which says:
Here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life–your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Let’s start #nofilter Sunday, and see what happens when we give God our real self. I think it could change church.
Denise, and her husband Mark, recently moved to Lymington (south of Cygnet) where they are exploring new ways of being a community of faith in their new neighbourhood. Even so, Denise still works in Cygnet as an offshoot of LifeWay Devonport. Denise and Mark sail, garden, chop wood (it’s cold down here!) and hang out in cafes, getting to know their new neighbourhood, and keeping a lookout for what God is doing down in the deep south.