How one Bush Chaplain inspired another
Rev. Veronica Bradley was inspired to become a Bush Chaplain after seeing Rev. Rowena Harris lead the way in remote area ministry. Recently we bid fond farewell to our former Bush Chaplain Rev. Rowena Harris who retired from her placement in the High Country Remote Area in Victoria. Rowena was a pillar of strength and affection for those that experienced some of Australia’s worst natural disasters in history.
As a single woman, Rowena was a trailblazer in her role. As we speak with Veronica, she reveals her deep-rooted connection with communities that live on the fringe and the people who do it tough.
What inspired you to become a Bush Chaplain?
Veronica: My association with Frontier Services began as a heart longing in my time at college. I was inspired by Rowena’s role in Swifts Creek. In my heart, I feel drawn to communities that are living through challenges. People who live elsewhere take so many things in life for granted. I have a heart for communities that can no longer afford to gather in a sacred place where all the big moments in life can be celebrated.
I am also a volunteer Police Chaplain and so I am able to connect with them and find ways to support them, as they deal with the joys and struggles of local people. Sometimes that involves the trauma of responding during the worst experiences of people’s lives – families going through the trauma of drownings, shark attacks, bush fires, search and rescue events and more.
What sets you up for success as a Bush Chaplain?
Veronica: My ability to connect with people outside of the church. I have noticed a great hunger for someone to connect pastorally to people in communities I serve. Local Community Centres have been delighted with the chaplaincy support and are already lining up people for me to visit, who are falling through gaps in services or waiting for mental health services to be set up.
Tell us about some of your work in the recent months?
Veronica: My day consists of travelling around the most beautiful parts of the country you could imagine. In each community I am trying to build relationships with community organisations and individual people. One connection leads to another and I never know how the day might unfold. I also try to incorporate police chaplaincy and pastoral care with visits to different areas. This helps me to get to know people.
Staying connected in crisis
It was not exactly the kind of ‘first day at work’ Veronica was hoping for. Veronica developed flu-like symptoms just a couple of days before her start. But members of her new congregation rallied behind her with support. More than 50 people attended a secured Zoom meeting they had set up. It included members of the Presbytery and everyday folk from the community.
“People were patient and enthusiastic even if they couldn’t greet me in person. It would have been delightful for all of us to stand next to each other, but everyone went along, and it became the talking point for people in the Corner Inlet Parish.”