Rockin’ the Goldfields: Music ministry with Lindsay Ginn

Pastor Lindsay Ginn has been working as a Uniting Church WA Bush Chaplain in the Remote Area Ministry, Goldfields Patrol for just over a year and has already made some big waves. Frontier Services, a Uniting Church Assembly agency supporting people in Australia’s rural and remote areas, funds the role, which sees Bush Chaplains travelling to remote areas providing a friendly ear, pastoral care and referral to other service providers if needed.

Originally from Bundaberg Queensland, and having spent time in Mount Isa, Lindsay was working as an instrumental music teacher at a school in Kalgoorlie when he was asked to help out the local Uniting Church while their musician, Jenny, was on leave. From there, Lindsay became a regular at church, eventually landing the Bush Chaplain role.

“I had moved to Kalgoorlie about two years before, and was working in a local Catholic High School,” he said. “I got asked if I would relieve Jenny for three weeks over Christmas as she had not had a break from playing for a long time.

“They were such a wonderful group of people and made me feel so welcome that I ended up staying there.”

Lindsay’s role sees him travel massive distances each week. His patrol covers from Kalgoorlie up to Leonora, Laverton and Menzies, including Coolgardie and all the way down to Esperance. He said he drives up to 1 200 kms each week to visit communities in the region.

“It’s a good thing I really enjoy the driving,” he said. “I love the countryside; I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of driving through it. “The other day I was heading to Laverton and it had just been raining a little bit. There were some puddles on the highway and the kangaroos had come out to drink from the puddles on the road. You can’t begin to imagine how dry it is out there really; it’s very, very dry.”

When Lindsay took up the role in January 2020, he was encouraged to use his personal strengths to connect with people in the area.

“When I first started, I didn’t really have much of an idea of what to do. But one of the great things with the role of a Bush Chaplain is that we can work in our strengths and gifts. My gift is music, and someone said to me ‘use music to reach into the communities’. So that’s what I’ve been doing.

“Music in small country schools is basically nonexistent. I started approaching principals of the schools and saying, ‘this is what I’m doing, would you be interested in having music at your school?’ And there was a resounding ‘yes!’

“A little place like Menzies for example, has only about 20 kids at the school. They actually had brand new musical instruments in boxes packed away in a room that had been sitting there for over two years, and they never had anyone to teach. So those instruments are now out and getting used.

“I go in and teach singing, drums, guitar, keyboard, ukulele and other percussion instruments. The classroom teacher comes in, everyone joins in and we have a noisy, but good time.

“It’s a way to get to know people in the community. If I can get to know the teachers in the school, the principals and students, then I can start to get to know the parents and the families.

“I see the role that I’m doing as a long-term goal. It’s not something you can just get up and establish in one year, it’s an ongoing goal and in time I want to become a trusted person within those communities.

“Music is something that people connect with. Sure, some students prefer sports and other things, but most students enjoy learning an instrument.”

Lindsay’s passion for music began at a young age, when his parents sat him down for organ lessons at the age of seven. At 13 he was playing in his first band with Youth for Christ, and in 1987 he spent a year performing across Australia with The Travellers, a Youth for Christ band that invited young people to travel and perform around the country. He has also spent time travelling Queensland performing harmony yodelling with his cousin, and in a family band with his then wife and their three sons.

Lindsay said one of his hopes is to pass on that passion for music and the joy it brings him with the kids that he teaches.

“I’ve always been very passionate about music, I know that it’s made a huge difference in my life,” he said. “I don’t know where I’d be if my parents had not taken a chance and given me my first music lesson. I’ve just held onto music ever since then. It’s brought such joy into my life, it’s the thing that drives me – that and my relationship with God.

“I’m hoping that as I start working more with these students it will become like that for them too – something they’ll have all throughout their lives. I see myself as giving them a gift that they can take and develop and then do whatever they want to with it.”

Lindsay’s music and faith journeys have been intertwined throughout his life, having a strong passion for both from an early age.

“I became a Christian when I was seven years old and I have always had a heart for serving God,” he said. “From a very early age I’ve always prayed: ‘I will do anything you want me to do, go anywhere you want me to go, at any time you want me to do it’. That’s been my desire, just to do what God would have me to do.

“It’s my relationship with the Lord that has taken me through some pretty tough times. As I travel, often I could be playing CDs or music in the car, but often I’ll just use the time to talk with the Lord, which is awesome.

“For someone who is struggling and at risk of suicidal behaviour, being able to play the basics of a musical instrument gives them a way to express their thoughts and feelings. Being able to do  that can greatly help their emotions and lift them out of a very dark place.

“I’ve been able to express my faith a lot in my music as well I’ve written a lot of songs over the years. Music and my faith in God are the rocks of my life.”

In 2020, Lindsay also took part in a two-day suicide intervention course with Living Works, which has sparked a new interest in combining music with suicide prevention. Later this year, he will be undertaking further study to become a trainer with Living Works, hoping to deliver the course among teachers and principals in the schools he visits, as well as church congregations and other community groups.

Once again, he is keen to share his gift of music to support people.

“A lot of people don’t know much about suicide and how to recognise the symptoms of it and what to say to someone who might be thinking about it. It’s a huge issue and it’s just getting bigger and bigger,” he said. “It’s something that I feel very passionate about. Combined with the music it will work very well together.

“For someone who is struggling and at risk of suicidal behaviour, being able to play the basics of a musical instrument gives them a way to express their thoughts and feelings. Being able to do that can greatly help their emotions and lift them out of a very dark place.

“One person I know suffered greatly during their childhood and teenage years, to the point of being suicidal. It was music, and being able to strum some chords of the guitar, that enabled them to express their thoughts through song writing. These songs often became prayers to the Lord and were a tremendous source of strength and encouragement to them.”

As well as helping people express themselves and their emotions, Lindsay said studying music has several advantages, including giving kids more options in life.

“It’s scientifically proven that being able to play music has so many benefits and advantages in helping people with their maths, with English, with all other areas of life,” he said. “I heard a university professor say that music and the arts should really be at the centre of the curriculum, not on the edge, because it’s so beneficial.

“It is a journey and it takes a little while for a student to develop that talent and really get a hold of it. It teaches you discipline because you have to practice and helps with organisation. When a musician plays different rhythms and uses different timing, when they play and create different melodies and chords, it’s like fireworks going off in their brain. Each area of the brain is stimulated and the benefits are incredible.

“The students come away from a music lesson with smiles on their faces. I had the principal at Laverton tell me one girl came back from music with a smile on her face. She then said, ‘this girl doesn’t smile’. She wanted to have more music. She wanted to stay, but of course she couldn’t.

“It is a vital worthwhile thing that schools can implement, if given the opportunity. They’re hungry for music and most of the schools around here don’t have any music at all.”

In the Goldfields region, most schools are small and isolated, and many of the activities which are often taken for granted in the city are not feasible to run – like school excursions for example. Many also don’t have the funds or the resources to run their own music programs.

“The small schools just don’t have access to a lot of the things that schools in the city have. For example, just to go on a school trip that’s an enormous thing to arrange for a school like Menzies.

“With the music, we’ll be able to arrange performances for them, concerts for them to put on for the towns that they live in, and also things like the eisteddfod, which they have never been to before. That will give them an opportunity to perform and get known a little bit.”

Having only been in the position for just over a year, Lindsay has made a huge number of connections with families living across the massive region, and still has plenty of ideas for projects to come.

“It’s been such a tremendous year, a huge learning curve,” he said. “I really feel as though I’m only just getting started in many ways.

“It’s a tremendous thing to be able to do and I’m just so thankful that I’ve been given the opportunity to do it.”

Find out more about the role of Frontier Services Bush Chaplains and how you can support them at frontierservices.org/how-we-help/bush-chaplaincy

If you or anyone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 131114 or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.

Heather Dowling

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