BEECHWORTH Anglican priest Bethley Sullivan formally officiated on Easter Sunday at her last service in the parish she has led for more than eight years.
The gregarious priest in charge of Beechworth’s Christ Church and Eldorado’s St Jude’s congregations has been a champion for the elderly, disadvantaged and for prisoners at Beechworth Correctional Centre.
Wangaratta Anglican bishop John Parkes said Mother Bethley had served Beechworth parish with “energy and commitment”.
“Under her leadership the parish has reconnected with the community in many ways – the parish farmers’ market, ‘Proms’ concerts, and the support of Vietnam (War) veterans spring immediately to mind,” the bishop said.
Her spirit had also remained undimmed while she had dealt with some recent health challenges.
“She moves into retirement with my prayers and best wishes,” Bishop Parkes said.
Mother Bethley – whose often-changing hair colour was a distinctive sign of her presence in the community – told a packed Easter Day congregation in Beechworth’s historic Christ Church that she was deeply grateful for the support of many local people.
She was ordained priest within a month of her appointment in 2009 and, with her congregations and parish council, set about rebuilding the Anglican denomination’s spiritual and temporal standing in the community.
She drove the restoration of the faith community and also a campaign to refurbish the fabric of Christ Church, which was built 1857-58.
“There are many things you could say on days like today but I don’t need to, as you are all people of faith – and that is all that matters,” Mother Bethley said on Sunday.
Jean Henderson said afterwards that Mother Bethley retired from congregational leadership with the “gratitude, prayers and love” of the parish and the wider community.
The bishop said he had made arrangements for ministry to continue in the parish until a new priest was appointed.
People from Beechworth and the wider community are welcome at a ‘drop-in’ afternoon tea for Mother Bethley at Quercus Beechworth, opposite Christ Church, on Friday (April 21) between 2pm and 4pm.