RETIRING Korumburra Uniting Church pastors Sue and Gavin Sharp will continue to be part of the community they have helped to build for the past 10 years.
The married couple finish officially at the end of January but are on leave after delivering their last service on December 29.
“It’s difficult to just turn it off, cut yourself off when you’ve made relationships, connections with a lot of people over the 10 years,” Gavin said.
The couple, who have ministered at the seven churches of the Korumburra Parish and the Loch-Poowong Parish since 2010, will continue to live in the home they built at Poowong.
Teamwork played a major role in Gavin and Sue’s approach.
They worked in alternating parishes on a weekly rotation. One week, Gavin would work in the Korumburra Parish and Sue in the Loch-Poowong Parish, and the following week they would swap.
In months with five Sundays, all the churches would come together and the Sharps would team up for a single service.
Gavin said working together was beneficial for both of them.
“We would do our own services but we would talk to each other about the service or about what we might be going to say about a particular passage from the Bible,” he said.
“We might ask, so what hymns did you pick today? You might have three [hymns] but be struggling to find that last one. It was a real working relationship, but we did our own thing. We helped each other, fed off each other for ideas.”
The Sharps have many memories of the people and the activities of the past decade including setting up a café in Poowong, running the op shop in Korumburra, musical activities and op shop fashion parades.
However, it is the 300 funerals they have performed that have had the greatest impact for them.
“Funerals are special, involving ourselves in the community in a way that is quite special,” Gavin said.
“It’s a privilege to be asked to come in to that time where families are grieving and they’re sharing with you and allowing you to be a part of that.”
In contrast, they have conducted just six to 10 weddings in that time.
“People are not getting married in churches,” Sue said.
“But when people die, families want the church.”
Speaking at their final service, Sue said the time had gone so fast and they had both grown in confidence and wisdom.
“The essence of all that we have done has been about people, been about a journey towards a deeper love and knowledge and understanding of God and that journey goes on.”
The Uniting Church has a policy which caps the length of time a pastor can stay in a parish at 10 years.
The church is putting together a mission statement on what it wants in a new pastor and assessing finances to determine how many days it can employ a pastor across both parishes.