John and Heather McAlpine returned to their previous hometown of Tumut in March 2021 to run a marriage seminar. The area has really suffered not just with COVID restrictions but still rebuilding after the devastating bushfires early last year that led to Batlow being evacuated. After having the seminar cancelled in 2020, it was a joy to be able to meet with 22 couples from Tumut, Tumbarumba, and Batlow to encourage marriages from all generations.
When John and Heather lived in Tumut for 13 years, they would run marriage weekend retreats locally each year. It was such a blessing for them to meet up with participants who can still recall benefits from these retreats even 20 years later. One couple who were just engaged and attended their first marriage weekend delighted in still recalling some of the tips and advice from that time early in their relationship. They shared how it was “such an incredible strength and resource for them in the ensuing decades.” Illustrating the circle of life, there was a couple at the seminar whose parents had attended a Tumut Marriage retreat 25 years previously.
The McAlpine’s focused on communication skills and conflict resolution and gave couples the opportunity to explore what was underneath their anger. They also examined ways of becoming closer companions. Debbie Gadd, a pastor from Tumbarumba, described the event as “refreshing and real”, grateful for the personal examples that the McAlpines shared. “They were practical and resonated with my life.”
Heather in an interview to the local paper said- “We were mindful of the unique life stresses the local people have been exposed to over the past year, first battling drought, then bushfires and then COVID on the heels of that trauma. I think this has caused couples to reassess what’s important in their lives. You realise that having a strong and vibrant growing marriage is more important than physical day-to-day aspects of life. And that even the structure of one’s house that we assume will provide refuge, is actually very temporary and superficial……. It was beautiful to see couples of all ages and from all walks of life, valuing their relationships and investing their time and energy into growing better marriages… What a powerful way to create generational change and leave a living legacy for their loved ones.”