IRCA Oceania exists to bring a uniquely antipodean perspective to the work of the International Rural Churches Association
We endeavour to encourage rural people in the islands of Melanesia and the South Pacific, Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia and Papua New Guinea to connect to together to share their experiences and challenges.
IRCA Oceania grew out of a long-standing relationship between Australian and New Zealand rural churches. Since the early 1980’s rural people in New Zealand and Australia have been linking ecumenically to support, encourage, and resource one another. The first Trans-Tasman Conference was held in Darfield, NZ in 1984, followed by Kyogle New South Wales in 1988, Waipawa, Hawkes Bay in 1992, Myrtleford, Victoria in 1996, Northland in 2000, Clare, South Australia in 2004, Nelson/Marlborough in 2008, Atherton, North Queensland in 2012, and Wairarapa, Aotearoa New Zealand in 2016.
We recognise the heritage of this history together and seek now to do a new thing – to be a network for 21st century rural churches, valuing what we can learn from one another face-to-face and with creative use of technology.
Next IRCA Oceania Conference
Listening to One Another: Sharing Struggles and Joy as Rural Churches in Oceania
Face-to-face and ZOOM
Planning is underway to meet face-to-face again (finally!), with ZOOM option, in Fiji. At this point the date is not confirmed but it is likely to be in the late autumn of 2025.
The initiative for a Fiji hosted conference has come from Wessley Manasa Vatanitawake. First involved with IRCA when he attended the international conference in Lincoln, Aotearoa New Zealand in 2018, Manasa has worked with the Fijian Council of Churches and at the beginning of 2024 began a communications and ecumenical role with the Fijian Methodist Church.
To be confirmed are the dates and the location, with options being considered in close proximity to the airport.
The conference will be accessible on ZOOM.
Email with any queries or suggestions to help ensure wide advertising of the event once details are know and/or to help enable people to attend.
Around once a quarter we have an open ZOOM session for any who are interesting in connecting across the Oceania region. Our next network ZOOM will be on
Friday 26 April 2024 1100 NZST
Our key purpose is connecting together. We introduce ourselves and raise any issues of concern or stories that could be followed up. With a small group we do this as one; if it is larger we will use ZOOM’s option of break out rooms. Email [email protected] if you’d like to know to be on the list for regular links to the ZOOM meetings.
eNews – IRCA Oceania Stories
Bridging Hawkes Bay
As a feature for the first ZOOM session in August 2023the Rev Jill McDonald from Te Matau a Mauī/Hawkes Bay told us about the community ministry “Bridging Hawkes Bay” that they are developing in their region. Her focus has always been community-facing ministry and that was built on as she encouraged church and community to work together to support rural people in particular following the devastation of Cyclone Gabrielle.
This in-person and ZOOM gathering was held in Alexandra, Aotearoa New Zealand in May 2023, following the IRCA conference in Dubuque, Iowa, USA and using material from Dubuque along with exploring the theme in our own context. For more on Flourishing: Land, People, Community click here
IRCA-Oceania 2016 met in Wairarapa, NZ, with the theme was Life, Death, and Resurrection.
But those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ John 4:14
“Resilience – Building Robust Communities“ Report on the Atherton Trans Tasman Rural Ministry Conference July 2012
“Changing Seasons Changing Times“ Proceedings if the 7th Trans Tasman Rural Conference April 2008
The Sequel gathering in May 2023 was proof of the value of keep connected as rural church people. We were a mix of face-to-face from Australia and Aotearoa NZ and ZOOM participants from these countries, Fiji, and beyond, with IRCA Leadership joining us at times.
We will move ahead with contact people who will help us keep connected through ZOOM. We will also watch for opportunities to be face-to-face plus ZOOM, particularly when events are being planned in our region that we can link into.
Rev Dr Robyn McPhail, rural ministry networker and member of the IRCA Leadership Group, who lives in Alexandra, Central Otago, NZ
The Saltbush Team – Uniting the Scattered Community, Uniting Church of Australia, NSW and ACT
From the group appointed in Wairarapa:
Angela Dutton who lives in Wauchope, NSW, Australia
Katrina Graydon who lives on the Chatham Islands, NZ
Graeme Learsch who lives in Gippsland, Victoria, Australia
Feel free to contact us at any time. Ideas for networking and strengthening ministry in rural communities always welcome. Or to share your stories – stories of challenge and stories of hope.
The operating guidelines for IRCA-Oceania, adopted on the 6th July 2012, can be found HERE
Ruminations Journal of the NSW Rural Ministry Unit, Uniting Church in Australia
Rural Ministry Unit UCA in NSW and ACT
New Zealand’s ecumenical rural ministry newsletter: Rural Network News