The new kid on the block in church circles is Rosemary Wynter, the Anglican Community Priest for the Byron Shire.
Rosie, as she is known, was born in London and grew up in central west NSW and the Southern Highlands. Apart from raising four children, working in retail and design and a natural therapy clinic in the Blue Mountains, Rosie was deaconed and priested in Bathurst Diocese.
When the chance came to take a leap of faith, she did. ‘I worked as a locum earlier at Byron and felt at home and connected with many people, so the return was easy in that sense. There is always adjustment – I’m missing family, but I feel called to work with community in this area.’
As well as feeling called to the Northern Rivers, Rosie is now a Disaster Recovery Chaplain for this region.
A new parish is always a challenge
Rosie says navigating a new parish is always a challenge, especially one which is newly amalgamated. ‘There are teething issues, but it’s great to see everyone pull together, and happily so. I look forward to working as a team when another member of clergy joins our parish in January.’
Rosie says she does feel a real pull leaving a parish behind. ‘One becomes part of the fabric of their lives and so there are tears – especially when they travelled much of the journey with you.’
Rosies says that in some ways it feels like she is starting again in Byron, and yet not. ‘I am familiar with many aspects of parish life and so adapting and creating is part of who I am. In this instance, the opportunities are varied and exciting. I am blessed to be able to serve the parish and the wider community.
‘There needs so much to be a link between the “church” and the wider community. That has been lost for many reasons over time. New ways of being relevant need to be explored, and for community to see that I am simply a person just like everyone else, with connectedness at the heart of it. To truly shape ministry based on love.’
Made welcome in the shire
Rosie says she has been made to feel very welcome by members of the faith community and the wider community. ‘Outreach at this time is vital for many. Being a priest of olden days no longer works. People need to see relevance, care and open awareness. My role as community priest covers the region on Byron, Bangalow and Mullumbimby including other smaller centres which I pray will open again very soon.
‘It is exciting to meet people from a wide cross section of society and to find ways of “being” with them. Remembering always, I am merely a servant of God. Hierarchical structure forms a function, but it is so much more than that. Somewhere in there, I am called to be.
Jesus was a teacher, healer and a man of love. Through the Holy Spirit, God can enter any situation in this century of those beyond. Any time. Any place
Speaking of God…
Rosie says she feels the role of God has been muddled with the different aspects of ‘church’, and so as focus on abuse in the church and the sense of irrelevance in the secular world has expanded, God has somehow become lost. ‘Jesus was a teacher, healer and a man of love. Through the Holy Spirit, God can enter any situation in this century of those beyond. Any time. Any place. As our world spins so differently now, and as unrest and pandemics become somehow part of our lives. People need something more. More than ever. So love is needed more than ever. Not simply human love between human beings, but love that can transcend sadness, loneliness, fear, abuse, exclusion and lost hope.
‘I think the concept of love and walking alongside covers all facets of our modern age… drugs… whatever. God fits in there because Jesus was marginalised, abused, walked with the poor and the excluded. Walked with those who were on the outer of society and was executed for doing so. I think that is important. A God who knows exactly what pain, aloneness and exclusion and hatred can do and what it feels like. So, God is relevant so much in today’s society.
Experiential connection to God
Rosie says her experience of God is not learned from a book. ‘It has not been indoctrinated or pounded into me. It has been totally experiential. Through all the stuff that life throws at you. I have been totally aware of a force so much bigger than me, guiding me through many paths since I was very young. I have never felt abandoned, and so I would love for others to know that peace. That inner knowing of something more, and that is why I am here. To share and to listen. To care and to dream with the community.’
And into the community she has rushed. She is part of a team who will bring some Christmas cheer to the churches in her parish.
It has been a rather yuck year for many and this is our chance to give the community a gift from us
With the wonderful help of parishioner Merridy Godwin, Rosie has devised as an outreach to employ local lighting specialists Dan Cassidy and North Coast Events, who usually do the the lights at Splendour in the Grass and other events. ‘They have truly struggled through COVID and so we wanted to support them financially and hope to advertise their work. We have asked them to light up three churches. One in Mullum, one in Byron and one in Bangalow. The concept is to uplight the churches for a week before Christmas and a week after, with colour and words of hope and love.’
‘It has been a rather yuck year for many and this is our chance to give the community a gift from us. Hopefully to put a smile on a few faces as they drive by.’