“You probably won’t last more than two years in the bush.”
Those were the words Greg Lawson heard from his predecessor when he was first invited to minister in Moree.
Now, 30 years on, Greg has well and truly proved the statement wrong and is retiring from a long life of service to Impact Moree Church. His wife Kris will continue the couple’s work.
Country and gospel artist Steve Grace heard of Greg’s retirement and at 30 years into his own ministry, will perform a concert in honour of Greg next Thursday.
“It is nice to have a proper send off, and to have him do it,” Greg said.
Greg said the farewell of a previous Moree minister cemented the couple’s conviction for the area.
“They got up and they said ‘ministers are all like bankers and teachers - they’re transitory. They just come here for five years and move on to a better position,’ and that is when we determined that we were going to be here for good,” he said.
Greg cherished his many years working in partnership with Kris, and said that the people of Moree had been very good to them.
He remembered growing his understanding of the local Aboriginal population by learning to listen to their stories.
He had a tough lesson while conducting a graveside service for an Aboriginal man who didn’t want a church funeral.
“Norah Nichols took me aside and said ‘Pastor, you’ve got to understand our ways,’” he recalled. Norah explained that his actions brought back memories of a time when Aboriginal people weren’t allowed to attend churches, and had to bury bodies themselves.
“I listened and I learnt a lot,” he said. “You’ve got to listen to people, and you hear their heart’s cry.”
One memorable moment was during Australia Day bicentenary celebrations in 1988, when a group of ministers invited Aboriginal people to talk about why they preferred the term Invasion Day.
“We had about 15 or 16 Aboriginal people explain to us their circumstances, which was quite an eye opener,” he said.
The event sparked a barbecue in Stanley Village.
“For the first time, white people went to Stanley Village,” Greg said.
Greg found that living in a rural area didn’t mean his impact was small. He had fond memories of backpackers visiting Moree to work in the cotton fields.
“They came from everywhere. And they went back home with their lives changed.”
To join in the celebrations at Impact Church, 7pm Thursday, contact Kris on 0427159185 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Entry is by donation.