Join In ... at Murray Bridge Church of Christ

Grant Spangenberg invites you to join the local congregation, or volunteer at its cafe or bookshop.

“Join In” aims to promote community connections and wellbeing in the Murraylands – and it could promote your business, too. Murray Bridge News is seeking an ongoing sponsor for this regular feature. Call Peri on 0419 827 124 or email peri@murraybridge.news.

Join In would ordinarily focus on a volunteer, someone who potters about behind the scenes for a community organisation.

But this is no ordinary week at Murray Bridge Church of Christ.

Pastor Grant Spangenberg will retire as the church’s pastor at a service this Sunday, after seven years at the pulpit and in the community.

The church’s COVID-mandated capacity of 177 might be tested at the 10am service, a farewell to someone who has played a leading role not just within the congregation, but as a chaplain to local police and organiser of Murray Bridge’s annual Christmas carols, too.

Though he and his wife looked forward to retiring to a new home at Encounter Bay, Mr Spangenberg said it would be hard to leave the river city behind.

“I’ve enjoyed being a part of the community,” he said.

“There still is a sense that Murray Bridge is a large country town ... that people do care about their neighbours.

“We’ve felt very blessed to have been called here.”

He thanked the church’s elders and board members, and everyone else he had worked with over the years.

The church’s next pastor has not yet been appointed.

When did you first get involved in the church and ministry?

My parents were both Christian, so we were raised in a Christian home, for which I’m very thankful. We always had the church as part of our life. In my teens on three seperate occasions I had people say I should think about joining the ministry. It was an audible voice I heard when I was driving the school bus one day, saying “I want you to be a minister for me”. It took me a fortnight to tell Helen I had the call; she said “I married a teacher, not a minister”. I had a confirmation of that call when I preached one Sunday at Mundulla: the late Eddie Milne said “you’re wasted being a teacher, you should be a minister”.

What will you take away from your ministry?

The relationships with people. Seeing people enjoy life, enjoy coming to church, grow in their faith. Being able to care for one another, that has been a real positive, certainly with COVID last year, being able to negotiate our way through all that.

What is your fondest memory of your time at Murray Bridge Church of Christ?

The time with people. Being allowed the privilege of visiting people in their homes. Ministry is one of the few professions that people will allow you in simply because of who you are. When people have made confessions of faith and been baptised, that is always an exciting time ... As the police chaplain, I value the acceptance I have been offered in that role. The superintendent has been a wonferful support. I've enjoyed being part of the police family ... Funerals are a special time. I’ve always felt one of my special gifts was being able to relate to people who are going through the loss of a loved one. One thing, too, would be my involvement with the Murray Bridge Inter-Church Council and the community carols. It’s been hard work, but gratifying to see people come and have an opportunity to celebrate Christmas.

How does a pastor spend his time?

Part of it is being available. It’s a 24-seven profession. You never know – the next phone call could change everything. There’s a saying: ministry is about interruption. You might have something thought through, then there’s an emergency you need to help with. There’s sermon preparation; thinking about people who may have a need I can help in caring for; I do devotions here in the (Church of Christ) coffee shop; I provide a bit of input into the church newsletter; then there’s time preparing Bible study and prayer. But people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. I’ve always tried to go through my ministry with that in the back of my mind. To preach is one thing; to care about those to whom you preach is another.

What has been your goal at Murray Bridge Church of Christ?

To see the church in a healthy state, with people enjoying being part of a faith community, growing in their faith and enjoying life ... I do (think I’ve achieved that). We had a baptism last Sunday. I opened the tank and there was a bright yellow rubber duck in there. The fact someone was willing to do that as a joke (is encouraging). I want people to enjoy going to church, to feel like they’ve learned something and grown in some way.

Why should people join Murray Bridge Church of Christ?

The Christian life is something to be enjoyed. In the world at the moment, where there’s so much loneliness and lack of hope, the Christian message still provides that ... God loves everybody and is desirous of a relationship with everyone. That’s why we exist.

“Join In” aims to promote community connections and wellbeing in the Murraylands – and it could promote your business, too. Murray Bridge News is seeking an ongoing sponsor for this regular feature. Call Peri on 0419 827 124 or email peri@murraybridge.news.