The Top of The Valley annual event grew out of a tired old Sunday School picnic model which we had always shared. This model needed a massive injection of initiative and energy. Pastoral vacancies in Lobethal, Woodside and Springhead brought the TOV churches together with Birdwood.
The first TOV event was a celebration of the Luther 500 in 2017. Our event was filmed and featured on the ABC Compass show. We transformed the Lobethal School ground into a medieval village. Members dressed in period costumes. The Local Bierhaus Brewery made a special beer with hops grown from seeds brought to Australia by the first Lutheran pioneers.
This was a great inaugural event giving us confidence to continue. Since then we’ve met annually on the Sunday before Reformation Sunday.
Our most recent event ‘Looking Forward Looking Back’, was held at Birdwood Lutheran Church, under their Oak Tree on October 25.
Pastor David welcomed around 120 people to worship ‘Under the Oak’, on a very brisk and chilly morning. The service was directed to the community still rebuilding after the 2019 drought, the 2019/20 Cudlee Creek fires and COVID.
Our theme ‘Looking Forward Looking Back’ was taken from Slim Dusty. We heard that we can only move forward with confidence if we look back and see those who helped us through the tough times. We see the Holy Spirit working through neighbours, friends and volunteers. We can move forward knowing God was at work in the past – the Dr Phil principle, “the best indicator of future behaviour is past behaviour”.
Theme songs included ‘Let the Flame Burn Brighter’ and ‘The Great Southland’. Members of the community were invited to share godly stories from the fire ground. We learnt much about the work of BlazeAid and their involvement in helping restore properties and fence lines from Cudlee Creek to Harrogate and in between.
Bronwyn from Woodside told how their food ministry grew from the ashes. To date they have shared over 10,000 meals in the fire ground. We heard it is not really about meals anymore; it is and always has been about making connections – now people do not want to lose the connection hence the meals. As with BlaizeAid, it is not just about fencing, it’s about helping people get back on their feet. It’s about listening to the stories.
Angie from Mt Torrens Hotel shared their story of losing their property and the work they’ve done with the community since, the friendships made, and how the fire was part of their ‘journey’. The TOV churches helped Angie with a “Christmas in July”. We provided breakfast, lunch, and dinner, free of charge, for two days, for anyone who came along to the pub.
Heather, from Tungkillo, also shared her story of having two minutes to evacuate her property with her dogs before she lost everything. Heather shared how the church helped her get back on her feet. More heartfelt stories were shared during worship and then as we enjoyed fellowship together over a sausage sizzle.
‘Looking Forward Looking Back’ was a healing time. As a church, the drought and fires have ‘made’ us be more outward looking, more community focused, and more active in the community. That’s a blessing – “the lemonade from the lemons” as was said.
READ MORE STORIES ABOUT congregations