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Emotions run high over Flying Padre withdrawal

Friday, 10th April, 2015

Happier times: Local ëflying padreí Reverend Jorge Rebolledo with daughter April preparing for the Christmas run in 2011. Happier times: Local ëflying padreí Reverend Jorge Rebolledo with daughter April preparing for the Christmas run in 2011.

By Craig Brealey

The news of the imminent withdrawal of the Flying Padre has been with sorrow, anger and pleas to have the decision reversed.

The Uniting Church was accused of neglecting its Christian duty and of making a “crazy” decision after it announced on Wednesday that the Padre’s flights would end on June 30 due the cost of keeping him and his plane stationed in Broken Hill.

Last Friday after the BDT reported that this was about to happen, a petition was started and by yesterday afternoon it had attracted 351 signatures.

It was signed by people from throughout the Far West and from every state and territory in Australia. It even attracted support from overseas.

Ellen Day drew up the petition and posted it on the internet. Ms Day addressed it to the Reverend Professor Andrew Dutney, the President of the Uniting Church.

“Dear Reverend Dutney, I am shocked and disappointed in the decision by your church to take away the Service of the Flying Padre from western NSW,” she wrote. 

“For 30 years my family and I have felt supported by the service and have on many occasions called upon the Flying Padre for emotional and spiritual support. It matters not what denomination, the Padre never discriminates. All his outback flock is welcomed and nurtured.

“Shame on you for taking this from our struggling outback communities. There is constant talk about increased suicide and poor mental health... and you will just add to the issues by removing one lifeline that many families cling to. 

“Our current Padre David Shrimpton and his wife Jenny are loved and respected in our community. In the short time they have been here they have become actively involved right across the region.

“I would hate to see them go, from a personal level also, as they have become valuable friends, work colleagues and neighbours.

“On behalf of the Far West please stop this action and reverse the decision to close the service.”

Among others who had their say were Cassandra Leighton from the local district who wrote: “If people are already disadvantaged by geography, please don’t disadvantage them more by taking away the very limited access they have to support their Christian faith.

“Too many services are being cut in an already limited pool of services here in the Far West. Not everyone has the advantage of just trotting down the road to another suburb or a large rural centre nearby.”

Another local, Jacinta Cullen, said she was “shocked” by the Uniting Church’s decision.

“(The Flying Padres) have always been a shining light in times of need... The current Padre and his wife, in the short time they have been here, have become very active and much loved members of the community. Please reverse this decision!”

Gerald Handberg asked that the church “respect the reality and needs” of people living in remote areas of Australia.

“Even if it is more expensive, please maintain a physical level of spiritual support for them. This support must be similar to that which is readily available to the other 95 per cent-plus of Australian citizens. Would our Lord accept otherwise?”

Ron Arthur of Broken Hill added: “People struggling with the difficult conditions in the ‘Bush’ here in the Far West need and deserve the support that the Flying Padre is able to provide. They have lost so much, please do not deprive them of this.”

Frieda Morrison, from Victoria, said: “I can’t imagine a more needed service in outback Australia”, and Michelle Holmden asked “how does the decision to end the position of the Flying Padre in Far Western NSW work alongside Jesus giving us the Great Commission?”

Phil Holmden - “This ministry and David assist greatly bringing the love of Jesus into a very spiritually dry region.”

Carolyn Sharp - “The Flying Padre may be the only person some see for a long time - they are a lifeline.”

Annie Bartholomaeus - “People in the outback of NSW need and appreciate the Flying Padre. He is someone we can call on who is just there! Essential and ever so helpful in times of stress.”

Josie Tester - “Out here in Broken Hill it is imperative to have personal relationships with the living Christ. So far away, alone and if ever things are going wrong ... suicide is a real possibility! Please help our graziers!”

Jillian Fox - “Rethink this decision. It’s one of the craziest you have ever made!”

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