The Branches Are Just as Alive as the Wards
Small congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as “branches”, dot the land of Australia. This has been the pattern of Church growth worldwide—branches growing in number as the members grow in gospel understanding.
There are currently 81 branches in Australia. They are grouped into nine districts, each of which is presided over by a district president and two counsellors. The districts are under the direction of one of Australia's five mission presidents.
Larger units, called wards, often began as branches and are organized into stakes.
President David Griffith of the Port Macquarie Branch is encouraging his members to attend the upcoming Coffs Harbour District Conference. They will travel at their own expense to attend the two-day event, some driving over 160 kilometres. They will join with similar branches to hear counsel from district and mission leaders and from Elder Jeff Cummings, Area Seventy.
Such conferences occur twice a year and typically include a leadership meeting, a meeting for adults, a general membership meeting, and a youth or family activity—such as ice skating in Coffs Harbour this week.
“We are a family,” says President Loni Uhila of the Mudgee Branch in the Orange District. “Everything that happens to any of us--birthdays, ordinations, baptisms—we celebrate together.”
Within the branch, members are called to serve in Primary, Young Men and Young Women, Sunday School, Priesthood and Relief Society. Cheerfully the members frequently shoulder two or three callings. Even family history facilities are tended to by the branches, providing the surrounding communities with the Church's Family Search resources.
Full-time missionaries are typically assigned to the branches. They may be two young elders or sisters or a senior retired couple. The missionaries do service in the community, assist the members, and present a series of discussions to people interested in learning about the Church.
When membership in an area is sufficient to first organize a branch, the place of worship is often a rented hall.
“We used to meet in the high school,” says Michelle Faoa of the Ulladulla Branch in the Nowra NSW District. “We brought everything with us every Sunday, right down to the hymnbooks.” Now the small group has a suite of rented rooms for their own use all week long.
The Port Macquarie Branch also had its start in a rented facility. About six years ago the Church purchased a large home on several acres to better meet the needs of the growing congregation. The members there hope that someday a standard meetinghouse might be built on the site.
Every meeting place, whether two or two hundred assemble there, is adorned with the sign “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Visitors Welcome.” Sunday services are the same for every size congregation in every part of the world. They include a Sacrament Meeting, Sunday School instruction, and then separate meetings for children, youth, men and women.
To locate the nearest ward or branch near you, go to Meetinghouse Locator. Anyone interested in attending need not wait to be invited. Visitors are always welcome.