The Parish of Hunters Hill has quite a full calendar of events between the Feast of St Francis through to the patronal festival of one of its two centres on All Saints' Day.
One of our highlights is the Annual Blessing of Animals. We partner with the local branch of the World League for Protection of Animals to host this service, followed by afternoon tea in the Parish grounds. Over 100 animals attend, along with their human companions. This year's blessing included dogs, cats, birds, snakes, goats, fish, lizards and turtles.
It has become a landmark event in the calendar of Hunters Hill, with some people even returning home early from holidays to attend. A further positive aspect of this event has been the number of people who return to other services throughout the year.
In the 1990's one of the teachers at Hunters Hill Public School was on exchange from the USA, and part of her influence on Hunters Hill has been Halloween. It is estimated that possibly 80% of the children in Hunters Hill participate in "trick or treating", with many houses now being decorated.
Four years ago the Parish decided to take up the challenge of telling the story of our Patronal Feast day (All Saints') and All Hallows Eve which is a part of this day.
On our first year we ran a children's activity in the Church which had a few people come and explore, but didn't seem to engage people. The next year we converted the interior of the Church into a maze, and at various places had stories about the saints. We had about 300 people come through the Church. The following year we built on the maze idea and had members of our Parish dress as some of the saints, and tell their stories. Around 400 people came through the Church.
This year we created an All Hallows Tunnel in the Church. Around 500 people came through, hearing about the saints and their faith in Jesus. It was very moving to see many of them at the end lighting candles and saying prayers of thanksgiving for loved ones.
The Very Rev'd Katherine Bowyer, Dean of Newcastle, was our preacher and reflected upon the saints in the stained glass, and the light of Christ which shines through them.
It has been a very busy few weeks in which we have managed to engage with a diverse and reasonably large number of people across our community. All have had the opportunity to see and hear the saints, revealing in their actions, singing, telling and service the love of Christ which shines through them.