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Organ keys opened door

By Andrew Humphries

A chance conversation brought Edna McCormack to Hadspen Uniting Church and, 42 years later, she is still an important member of the small but vibrant congregation.

Edna and her husband Eric would travel to Launceston to worship as part of a Christian Brethren congregation when they first arrived in Hadspen, before that brief chat with a retired minister brought her to her home town’s Uniting Church.

“One day this retired minister came to me and said, ‘we don’t have an organist at Hadspen, so would you be willing to come and play,” Edna recalls.

“I’m certainly not a professional organist but I thought it would be nice to support my own town’s church.”

Hadspen sits just 10 kilometres from Launceston in Tasmania but, in many respects, its Uniting Church congregation represents the quintessential example of a small faith community that refuses to die.

These faith communities rely on the hard work and dedication of their members and, in the case of Hadspen, it’s Edna who carries a great deal of the heavy load.

Edna can remember a congregation numbering about 40 people at one time, but these days it’s down to about 10 members.

Yet Hadspen continues to punch well above its weight, thanks to members like Edna, who fills the dual roles of treasurer and secretary.

As well as that there is maintenance of the small cemetery behind the church, and looking after the community building next door, to add to the list.

It means a lot of work for Edna and her husband Eric, who has the job of keeping the cemetery grounds in tip-top condition, but Edna says the reward comes in seeing the small church and congregation continuing to contribute to the community.

At one time the Hadspen congregation boasted a strong youth group, the reason the community building takes pride of place next to the church on Main Street.

That building has become a hub of activity and hosts many functions and events, as well as a child health centre administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.

“The department pays us rent and that continues to keep us financially viable,” Edna says.

“A playgroup uses the community building every week during the school term, while the Lions Club, hospital auxiliary and gardeners from Entally House also use it regularly.

“It’s a Uniting Church-developed building which gets a lot of use and we’re quite proud about that.

“There is a lot of work involved with it but it’s well worth it and it plays an important role in the community.”

As for the future, Edna admits the Hadspen congregation, like so many others throughout Victoria and Tasmania, is facing the reality that its days might be numbered.

“We’re all getting old and it’s just one of those things,” she says simply.

Edna hopes, though, that all is not lost and that Hadspen’s emergence as a “satellite town” for families with members working in Launceston might prove positive for the congregation.

“We would love to see some families become part of the congregation,” she says.

“We’re a small but engaging congregation, a very supportive one and everyone is very caring.

“Financially we are okay because we receive rent from people using the community building, and we do support organisations like Frontier Services and the Bible Society.

“Congregation members feel any money we have should be used to help others.”

When Edna sits in the church itself, built in 1846 by the Wesleyans, she is conscious of its long history serving the people of Hadspen and surrounding area.

“I think it’s an all-encompassing sort of church which welcomes everybody,” Edna says.

“We have a wonderful minister in Chris Duxbury, who is very supportive of anything we want to do.”

Ask Edna and she will tell you that there is something a bit special about small country congregations like Hadspen and how they can bring a community together.

“It’s about a common interest, of course, and how we all support each other,” she says.

“For example, we have a lot to do with Evandale, which is a small congregation like us, and we have Westbury congregation members here for communion on the first Sunday of each month.”

The small cemetery behind the church offers a window into much of Hadspen’s history, and Edna feels privileged to be responsible for its upkeep.

Thankfully Eric is on hand to carry out the labour involved, which started when they became part of the Hadspen congregation and found the cemetery was in need of some serious love and care.

“When we started coming to Hadspen church the cemetery was overgrown and there were weeds and trees and bits and pieces everywhere,” Edna recalls.

“We spent a lot of time cleaning it up and getting it into the state it is in now.

“We also talked to local residents and started to do a bit of a history on the cemetery, which wasn’t well known.”

Forty-two years after becoming part of the Hadspen congregation, Edna reflects with pride on the great joy it has brought to her life, and how the congregation’s need for an organist opened such a rewarding door for her.

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