The Combined Weekend has in four years established itself as an integral feature of the Perth ecclesial calendar. Up to 350 brethren and sisters from most of Perth’s eight ecclesias, which altogether total approximately 500, join together for a weekend of study and fellowship. In addition, a number travel to the city from country regions. For all these brethren and sisters this weekend is a vital time of strengthening and encouragement in the Faith.
Background to the Weekend
The weekend commenced in 2001 as a joint initiative by the Eastern Suburbs, Foothills and Gosnells ecclesias. It was considered necessary to commence a weekend that placed an emphasis on the spiritual things that bind us together in our united walk in Christ. A special date was chosen – the second full weekend in September – being the weekend after the annual Sunday School examinations when the students were granted a week’s recess. The establishment of a settled date was an important element in ensuring that the weekend would cement a place in the Perth ecclesial calendar and gradually become accepted as an ongoing feature of ecclesial life.
The first Combined Weekend was held on September 7-9 2001, just days before the amazing events that would impact so significantly on world affairs. On this occasion, Brother Darren Tappouras (Gosford, NSW) led studies on the theme “Lists for Life”, dealing with the range of ‘lists’ in the New Testament and their relationship to our daily living. How important this would become as the subsequent week unfolded!
In 2002 a bigger venue was sought, as the Yokine Ecclesia joined for this occasion. Brother Roger Lewis (Christchurch Suburban, New Zealand) spoke on “Parables of the Lost”, based upon Luke 15. His searching words caused all present to reflect upon their standing in the sight of God. In particular, the exhortation on the theme of “Recovering Lost Brethren” challenged all present to consider the welfare of their brethren and sisters – both those present and those who, for whatever reason, were absent. The new venue was almost filled to capacity as over 300 were in attendance for the memorial meeting.
The following year, 2003, saw the recently formed Ascot Ecclesia become a joint organiser of the event. The speaker was Brother Shane Kirkwood (Sutherland, NSW) who delivered a series of highly practical addresses on the theme “Our Upward Calling – the Challenge of Discipleship”. The individual studies considered the aspects of renewal, witness, love and working together. Although all present benefited from the many practical ‘daily life’ lessons Brother Kirkwood put forward, many young people and those newly baptized in particular expressed appreciation that the issues they have to face each day were discussed in a realistic and vibrant manner.
For the 2004 event Brother Roger Long (Coventry, Grosvenor Road, UK) visited a number of ecclesias across Australia in conjunction with his work at the Perth Combined Weekend. During his time in Perth, Brother Roger spoke on “Waiting for Christ’s Coming”, based upon 1 Thessalonians. He detailed the commencement and development of the Thessalonian Ecclesia, the need for perseverance under pressure, the example of faith shown by Paul and, finally, the need for believers to be steadfast in view of the impending coming of Christ.
More than any previous Combined Weekend the four sessions were consistently well attended to a level above expectation. The memorial meeting on Sunday saw possibly the highest ever turnout for such a meeting in the recent history of Perth, with 350 brethren and sisters from seven ecclesias, plus brethren and sisters from the country and interstate. It was truly a heart-warming sight for the eyes of many in this city.
Working Together in Love
What then are the major lessons that can be drawn from the process of establishing the Combined Weekend in Perth? In addition to a settled annual date there are a number of other key points that can be highlighted.
A simple set format is followed of four studies across the weekend, these being one study Friday evening, one study Saturday afternoon, and the memorial and evening meetings on Sunday. On Saturday, a combined fraternal tea after a single afternoon session provides the opportunity for all to meet and converse without time pressure. The fraternal side of the weekend is of much benefit to all, giving us as a group the opportunity to keep in touch, renew friendships and get to know others better.
The weekend provides an excellent opportunity for the young people of Perth to get together and to form strong bonds and friendships with each other – something that is of ever increasing importance in the world in which we live.
A desire for cooperation and true fellowship by the ecclesias involved sets the scene for good organisation and a positive atmosphere at each study session. It has also been helpful to gain the service of an ‘out of town’ speaker external to any of the ecclesias involved, who can come and address all in attendance ‘without fear or favour’. Furthermore, such a feature is an important reminder of the worldwide fellowship we hold so dear in our community. Perth is a very isolated place, being quite some distance from any other major city in Australia. Having a speaker external to our local scene really enables us to broaden our horizons, and to experience first-hand the benefits of being part of a very special, worldwide family of believers.
In addition, the weekend provides an opportunity for musical items, and the benefit of this is in the shared fellowship during the rehearsals, as well as the obvious uplifting benefit for the listeners. The musical items are often performed just prior to the memorial meeting, and act as an important time for meditation.
The weekend has seen many brethren and sisters work together to move chairs and tables, cook and clean, preside and read, and also plan and pray. The Perth Combined Weekend has proved an outstanding opportunity practically to demonstrate the words of Paul to the Ephesians whereby “the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (4:16, NKJV).
(Graham and Sarah Tucker)
– The Christadelphian, November 2004