Reverend Claire Wright is about to say farewell to Bathurst, the community that welcomed her with open arms and hearts more than three years ago.
When she arrived in Bathurst in February 2017, it was to fill the void left by long-serving Reverend Oto Faiva.
She has become a beloved part of the Bathurst Uniting Church, but the time has come for her to move on herself.
Rev Wright will be moving to the mid-north coast after being called to be the ministry development minister in the Manning region.
"I'll both be helping a group of churches to develop their own ministry in their communities and i'll be looking to start what the church calls 'A fresh expression of church', so a different way of being church that will be life-giving for people who currently don't have any spiritual or faith affiliations," she said.
"And, until I get there and do some dreaming and listening, I won't know what that looks like."
Rev Wright has loved her time in Bathurst and would have been just as happy to stay, but the wider church felt there was more she could do on the mid-north coast and she trusts that decision.
"Bathurst was my first place as an ordained minister in the Uniting Church and it's customary to review at three years, so that first-time ministers get to use what they've learned in their first ministry to think fresh about what they can offer the church," she said.
"I made myself available to the wider church to think about where I might be useful. It's definitely not that I was looking to leave Bathurst, but that I was just allowing that journey to unfold of 'Now you've seen me in action, where do you think I would be helpful, in terms of the rest of the church in NSW'.
"... The Uniting Church has a process for ministers stating what they think they've learned and have to offer, and then churches who are looking for a new minister state what they are looking for, and the church does a little bit of match-making.
"There was a specific area that was looking to do creative, innovative things beyond the usual ways of being church, and that seemed to match my own sense of what I might have to offer as a person who tends to think outside the box a bit.
"It was a very exciting opportunity. I feel like it's not that I'm leaving something, but I'm going towards something that is a next step for me before I retire."
Before being appointed to Bathurst, Rev Wright knew she wanted to be based in a regional area.
Thankfully, Bathurst did not disappoint.
She will be leaving with some wonderful memories of people and what they have achieved together as a community.
Among those achievements is the Uniting Safe Shelter (USS), which has provided an inviting place for the city's homeless to eat and sleep over winter in 2018 and 2019.
In 2020, the service couldn't run as normal due to COVID-19 restrictions, but was altered so it could at least provide hot meals to people in need.
"It's not my achievement, but I will always be really proud that came to fruition while I was here and I got to see it happen," Rev Wright said.
"It's wonderful to be a leader with great people around you who have these passions and these ideas and these competences and all you have to say is 'Bless you' and 'How can I help?'.
"And the really special thing for me about the Uniting Safe Shelter, apart from the fact it met a need and the amazing job the USS team did, was how much of the city got behind it.
"To have something where so many of the churches and the agencies and just the general public have been so supportive and worked together with us, that's what church ought to be like."
It's not just the big projects that have meant a lot to this reverend. She also loved the opportunity to be part of special moments in people's lives, and to be there for them when times were tough.
"I think this has been my first experience of what it means to journey with a community," Rev Wright said.
"So to marry a couple, then the following year to baptise their child, is just such a privilege. To sit with the dying and to walk with their loved ones in grief is a huge privilege."
She also remembers the unique experience of farewelling rugby identity Ken Laird, whose funeral service included the hearse being piped down the street.
"Not every city can give you these amazing experiences of community and culture and heritage and pride, the privilege of walking with people through the ups and downs of life," Rev Wright said.
Those ups and downs have included the drought and bushfires, the latter of which saw the reverend be part of the Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network and also raise money for BlazeAid.
On top of those challenges, there is now COVID-19.
"I had to announce that I'd been called to another placement on the same day that we had to shut the church for COVID-19, and that was a grief for me and the congregation, but they were so gracious," Rev Wright said.
"People came up in tears and said 'We are really happy for you' and they have been so flexible and so resilient through the time of COVID-19 that I think that has helped, because they have really focused on looking after one another.
"They haven't felt like they've been relying on the minister and now the minister is leaving; they've realised that they are the church. It's not the minister that's the church, it's the people."
The most difficult part about leaving at this time is not being able to say goodbye in the usual fashion.
There will be no final in-person service, no big gatherings of the congregation and wider community, and, the saddest thing of all, no goodbye hugs or handshakes.
"It has been strange not being able to say goodbye to people in person or to have a physical service for the closure of my ministry, which would be the norm, but we did have a very nice virtual morning tea on Zoom, which is a very COVID-19 thing to do," Rev Wright said.
"I hope at a future time I can come back and shake a few hands."
While she can't do the usual things, Rev Wright will meet with a couple of key people in Machattie Park on Saturday, with appropriate social distancing, to say goodbye.
As she prepares to leave Bathurst on Monday and assume her new position on July 1, the reverend has just one last thing that she wants to say to the community.