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Lismore community gathers in unity a year on from devastating floods

Northern Rivers Corps Officer Captain Philip Sutcliffe (second from right) with Governor-General David Hurley (to his right) and members of the Lismore Ministers Fellowship at the Gathering of Reflection and Healing in Lismore (from left) Bishop Greg Hommeing, Pastor John Wilson, Aunty Thelma James and Pastor Rebekka Battista.


On 28 February 2022, Lismore and many other communities in the NSW Northern Rivers region experienced a flood that has been recorded as Australia’s biggest and costliest natural disaster.

A year to the day, Northern Rivers Corps Officer Captain Philip Sutcliffe, on behalf of the Lismore Ministers Fellowship, hosted a ‘Gathering of Reflection and Healing’ on a sports field in Lismore that still bore the scars of devastation.

It was appropriate that the churches of Lismore should have been asked to convene the gathering as the Salvos in particular ‘hit the ground running’ with refreshments as soon as the first flood victims began arriving at evacuation centres.

Expecting the crowd of 1000 to be in a subdued mood at the gathering, Philip said he was pleasantly surprised to find a climate of excitement about how well the community was recovering 12 months on.

“Every Lismore resident was affected in some way by the flood – either physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially or psychologically,” said Phil, adding that he commended the establishment of well-being facilities.

Governor-General David Hurley attended the gathering and had words of encouragement for the local community, which he described as strong and compassionate and an example to the rest of Australia in times of natural disasters. He then went so far as to acknowledge his faith in God, saying to the crowd they are “all in His good hands”.

Other speakers included the Catholic Bishop of Lismore, Greg Homeming, who had an answer for those wondering where God was during the disaster. “I have never stopped looking for God,” the bishop said as he related waking up on the morning of the disaster to find he was surrounded by water. “God was making us into a caring and sharing community, bringing us all together; that’s where he was. Without God, we can do nothing, whether you believe in God or not.”

Lismore Baptist pastor John Wilson reminded the crowd they could take solace from verse one of Psalm 133: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.” He prayed that God would help everyone to find hope beyond themselves.

A party of Samoans working at a district abattoir and who helped with the flood clean-up aptly sang ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’ followed by a minute’s silence and candlelight reflection, while a rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ by three pipers brought the event to a close.

The fact that Lismore churches combined to organise the reflection and healing event was further evidence of local denominations not only working together to help those in need but also of an emerging trend to join forces in weekly praise and worship services.


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