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Salvos back 'in the thick of it' at Tamworth Country Music Festival

Salvos back 'in the thick of it' at Tamworth Country Music Festival

Salvos back 'in the thick of it' at Tamworth Country Music Festival

2 February 2018

The Gypsy Royals busked at The Salvation Army’s street mission at the Tamworth Country Music Festival, saying: “What an incredible few days! We have had a blast playing at the Tamworth Music Festival, met some talented artists & soaked up the incredible atmosphere.”

By Lauren Martin

A nine-day street ministry is putting The Salvation Army back in the thick of the Tamworth Country Music Festival.

Around 40,000 people flock to the north-east NSW town of Tamworth during January for the annual festival, this year held on 20-29 January. For Tamworth Corps, it’s the biggest event of the year, but one that keeps most of its people bound to the corps building.

Tamworth Corps is one of the event venues and also hosts a makeshift caravan park on its property. Corps volunteers work shifts from 6.30am until 8.30pm serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks and there can be up to four concerts each day in the hall.

The Salvo Country Band performed for many years on the main street of Tamworth, where thousands of people throng to hear buskers perform every day of the festival, but for several years they have been unable to attend.

So, when Majors Norm and Isabel Beckett became Area Officers of north and north-west NSW, one of their first priorities was to bring a Salvation Army presence back to the heart of the festival.

“We ended up giving away 1400 balloons, about 500 notebooks, stress balls, hessian bags, whatever Salvation Army merchandise we could get our hands on,” said Major Isabel. “And we had two music groups come and perform on different days and staff from local Salvation Army services like Doorways and Moneycare attend.” 

“It’s a ministry of presence,” added Major Norm. “To show who we are and to try to engage with the public. That’s what it’s about. You’ve got 40,000 people coming to Tamworth and The Salvation Army should be there in the thick of it.”

The Salvation Army’s tent on the main street had free giveaways, a prayer fountain and a guitar set up with a pen attached for people to write names of people they were thinking about or praying for.

“A lot of people used the prayer fountain,” said Major Isabel. “Some of those instances were very moving. One day I saw four women, they were sisters or friends, and they stood in a line and together they each placed a stone in the fountain. It was very moving.

“I don’t know who they were thinking of or praying for, but among all the noise and chaos with the crowds and the buskers, they had this peace.”

The Becketts said they believed local festivals provided a unique opportunity for The Salvation Army to have a presence in local communities. “Rather than having mission teams, like a band or songsters just go to places for a weekend ... there are festivals all over Australia that we could have a Salvation Army presence at,” said Major Norm. “You just need a tent and some Kidzone magazines and giveaways. And just engage with the community and get into the spirit of what’s happening.

“It’s caring for people and building faith pathways,” added Major Isabel, “and building a better community by being part of the community.”

The street mission complemented the existing Salvation Army corps ministry at the festival. Tamworth Corps is open for the whole 10 days of the festival, acting as a venue for concerts and a temporary caravan park and kitchen for visitors. On the Sunday during the festival, Christian gospel artist Gavin Chatelier and his wife, Trudy, were special guests at the corps meeting.

“We had a larger crowd than normal at our Sunday meeting,” said Corps Officer, Captain Rhonda Clutterbuck. “Gavin led the service and his wife Trudy gave a powerful testimony which touched many people.

“One couple who were visiting who were estranged from church said they felt welcomed and a real sense of God’s peace upon them when they entered our corps building ... that’s great positive feedback and encouragement that what we are doing is making a difference.”

* Anybody who feels called to support the Tamworth Music Festival mission financially should contact Majors Norm and Isabel Beckett at: norm.beckett@aue.salvationarmy.org or isabel.beckett@aue.salvationarmy.org

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