Dear Friends,

Thank you so much for the assurance of your prayers for Susan and me as I have begun my new role in the Diocese of Bathurst.

Encouragements in the early weeks have come from spending time with regional leaders in Gilgandra, Canowindra and Mudgee. In each of these places, I spent an hour or two with the regional archdeacon, lunch with clergy and licensed lay ministers of the region and then in the afternoon or evening, there was a public meeting for any in the churches of the region who wanted to meet their new bishop. In each case I was able to share something of my passions and future hopes/prayers for the future of the diocese and was warmly welcomed and received. People seemed to have a sense of excitement about the beginning of a new chapter and I was very grateful.

However, some of the challenges have also become clear. Having been granted a ‘deed of forbearance’ for a massive amount owing on a loan, the diocese has no money having sold its three schools and other significant properties. And yet, still more properties have to be sold to support victims of sexual abuse through the redress scheme. In addition, local parishes are doing it tough as a result of falling offerings due to the impact of the drought. Clergy are being asked whether they could reduce their days as parishes can’t afford their stipends. And insurance is increasing by as much as 50% for 2020 which will cripple some parishes.

So there are significant challenges, but also great opportunities to share the good news and hope of Jesus! Please pray for wisdom and energy!

Mark Calder

Former minister, now bishop of Bathurst Diocese, NSW.