7 hours. 116 kilometres. 11 Presbytery Leaders.The Casey-Cardinia bus tour was a day-long introduction to presbytery’s outer south east for the Standing Committee accompanied by presbytery ministers. e boldly went were no Standing Committee had bussed before to explore a mission frontier of PPE.

Casey Council and Cardinia Shire comprise about one third of the geographic area of our presbytery, with a population the size of Tasmania, expected to grow by 50% in the next 20 years. We have six small to medium-sized churches across the region.

Boarding the bus at St Andrew’s Berwick, people were given a travel pack containing maps, data, and a quiz to complete along the way.  First stop – Beaconhills College local campus, where Campus Principal Sam Watson and Chaplain Steve Terrell gave us a tour and spoke about the college’s vision, values and character. We responded by stating our hopes to strengthen ties with the College  Steve then showed us his new experimental chapel space and told of the Beacons of Hope project which connects students with wider community needs..

Up the eastern perimeter of the urban fringe to Narre Warren North UC and a wander around the community garden, then across the top of Carey City to Endeavour Hills UC where the joint was jumping with the weekly Playgroup. Along the way, special guest Rev Inneke Gyles provided expert commentary on changes in the area.

A lunch stop at Uniting Place, Hampton Park, where the weekly Carers Group was meeting. We heard from Rev Ric Holland and Chairperson David Taylor about a range of community programs, including a weekly community lunch, free legal advice, a domestic violence support program, and the recent Arts and Multicultural weekend. Another community garden to visit.

The Standing Committee held its monthly meeting at Hampton Park – how refreshing it was to be considering business matters out amongst our churches.

Travelling south, we stopped briefly at Cranbourne UC, home of the Food Truck, before heading on to Cranbourne Central, where we dropped in at the Fresh Food Market to get a sense of the cultural breadth of the local community. As we saw at the College, the population is increasingly multicultural, and multifaith. What does that mean for our churches?

A key feature of the day was a drive through and past the new housing estates in the Clyde area, beginning at Eliston Estate and then heading north. These new suburbs are astonishing in number and size, with new construction in every direction. I told the story of the café being built by the Baptist Church in Smiths Lane Estate and the intended link with the new College up the road where a congregation was planned. Mat Pendle, formerly working with Berwick UC, is the new café manager.

Driving on past many more estates we made our way to Pakenham UC and saw some of the new housing downtown, before driving through Officer and Beaconsfield back to Berwick.

The bus was abuzz with conversation. The trip could have been twice as long. We have much to think about and much more to learn. Maybe this can become a model for experiential learning across the presbytery?