EMPOWERING the next generation to be active leaders in their communities will be one of Jesse Baker's main focuses as the new minister at Scone Anglican Church.
The 26-year-old, his wife Jessica and their first child Evelyn moved to Scone last month so Jesse could take on the lead pastor role, leaving his hometown community of Camden Haven - a small district on the mid-north coast of NSW - where he worked as a youth pastor.
After completing his HSC, Jesse partook in a gap-year program known as 'Year 13' and during that time he travelled to Fiji for a month, worshiping among the local people and immersing himself in their culture, food and stories.
When he returned home, he was shocked to discover the cultural differences between the two countries.
"My friends were suffering from depression; my family was burdened by information overload; my neighbours were confused, incomplete, and lost," he said.
"My culture was not happy like the Fijian culture; it was overflowing with anxiety.
"The Fijian village leaders acted as billboards of peace.
"Whenever someone spoke, they intently listened. Whenever someone cried, they brought comfort. Whenever someone asked a question, they spoke with grace.
"While the people of Fiji have their own troubles, the relaxed presence of the village leaders filled the community with peace."
Reflecting upon his experiences in Fiji, he realised he wanted to be a leader of peace - someone who could create a space for peace in a world of anxiety - settled upon the Christian faith, and at age 19, began his journey to becoming a pastor.
Alongside his most recent role as youth pastor at Camden Haven Anglican Church, Jesse has previously worked as youth and children's minister at Randwick Presbyterian Church and a student minister at Campbelltown Anglican Church.
Speaking to The Advocate, Jesse said mental health and more opportunities for young people were some of the main areas he wanted to focus on and that he was very interested in getting to know the local community and other issues affecting them.
He said he has felt extremely welcomed since coming to Scone and described the local area as "hard-working" however also referred to the current "restlessness and insecurity" in the community as it "is troubled by the drought, bushfires and a changing landscape".
Scone Anglican Church's vision statement is: 'we exist to glorify God by making Jesus-centred disciples who gather in hope, grow in faith and go in love' and Jesse hopes to see local youth flourish in this message.
Since his arrival, the church has relaunched a contemporary service at 5pm and has also established a next generation ministry team consisting of school captains, scripture teachers, playtime coordinators, and seasoned children's ministry leaders.
This team will work to empower local youth to be leaders in the church, while at the same time empathising with them to understand their anxieties and encouraging them to choose a life full of compassion.
Jesse has also been active in modernising the church's online presence, and the church has plans to start monthly youth services with Scone Grammar School and run leadership courses for teenagers.
The Scone Anglican Church is also planning a prayer and praise event, to pray during this time of drought and bushfire, and to raise funds to assist firefighters and vulnerable families in the local community.