Each Sunday Mary-Grace Bingham spends many hours driving across South Australia’s mid-north to lead worship in small stone churches as old as the towns she visits. While the area awaits the appointment of a Minister, she is the Lay Preacher to grateful groups who love that a ‘local’ keeps their congregation going.
Travelling from her home in Jamestown to Hallet, Orroroo and Whyte Yarcowie where congregation numbers can be as small as 10, Mary-Grace plays a valuable role in providing pastoral care to local communities who have embraced her as one of their own.
A warm and caring person, Mary-Grace is the Director of Nursing at the Jamestown Hospital. When she felt called to provide care beyond this role, she undertook a 12 month Period of Discernment to determine where God wanted her to use her gifts. During this time she felt that rather than follow in father’s footsteps and become a minister, she would study Certificate IV in Christian Life and Ministry and become a lay preacher to her local community.
Her skills in nursing and ministry often combine, especially during extreme hot weather that can leave some congregation members wilting. With ambulances some time and distance away, Mary-Grace can be called on to help elderly members who struggle with the heat but are determined to attend the service, especially knowing their lay pastor travelled some time to lead it.
Mary-Grace remembers that on one scorching hot day while saying the Benediction, an elderly woman collapsed with heat exhaustion. Knowing the ambulance was at least an hour away, she cared for the lady and phoned a couple of local nurses she knew who quickly came and got the patient and took her to hospital where she recovered.
Mary-Grace loves being part of her local community and leading local congregations. She’ll sometimes take people in her car as she travels to have someone to share the time with and connect members of the extended congregation. “I love what God has called me to do,” she says.