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UnitingforGood A sustainable future is in your hands
Leaving a bequest Bequest_Ad.indd 1
Bequests are important to the work of The Uniting Church, educating, transforming unjust social structures, safeguarding our vital community support, looking after the next generation and helping to continue our faith and mission. After providing for your family, a bequest is a special way of ensuring
that the mission of the Church is sustained. Find out how your bequest will allow Godâ€™s work to continue at www.nswact.uca.org. au or please call 02 8267 4303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
5/09/2014 2:45:56 PM
Welcome from the Moderator Connecting God’s spirit with each other
t the opening service of Synod 2014, I shared my vision for the Church as: A living sign of God; a dwelling place of God; an alternative community of God, and a people connecting God’s spirit with other people and the whole creation. This month I would like to reflect on the Church as ‘a people connecting God’s spirit with other people and the whole creation’.
Rev. Myung Hwa Park Moderator
The Moderator is elected to give general and pastoral leadership to the Synod, assisting and encouraging expression and fulfilment of faith, and the witness of the Church.
Last month, I participated in six days training with the Sydney Alliance. More than 40 people from non-government and non-profit organisations, as well as a few other individuals, came to learn how to work together as a broad community organisation. Since the inception of Sydney Alliance in 2009, many of its members have attended workshops to learn how to practice ‘relational meeting’. These are meetings arranged by two people, in order to intentionally get to know each other. As someone from a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse background (also referred to as a CALD) I found the idea of a relationship meeting rather demanding at first — as if I was doing speed dating! Surprisingly, even with my reservations, each and every relational meeting that I had with a union worker, community organiser or university student was a good experience. They enabled me to share my faith journey as I also genuinely listened to the other person’s story. I will continue to engage in relational meetings to share my story. In doing so, I anticipate that I will also discover the sacred story that forms who I am in my relationship with Jesus. So may I encourage each of you, even if you share some of my initial
reservations, to engage in relational meetings. In doing so, may I also remind you of the words of Paul the apostle, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ (Romans 10: 15) In May this year, I invited retired ministers to the first gathering of U-Talk. Among old colleagues and friends, there was sharing — through spontaneous conversation — of insights and wisdom, as wellas experience of moments of enlightenment. I was overwhelmed by the energy brought, and the passion shared, by our retired ministers, especially when they talked about God moments. They also reflected on their experience of enlightenment and their life-long witness to the mystery of God. But the most challenging insight I gleaned from the collective wisdom at U-Talk was that God is everywhere. Not only in the church, but also in the community; in the face of others, and in the nature around us. So we need to ‘be still, and know that I am God.’ (Psalm 46:10) So, let us remember it is the desire of our Lord that we all become one in Him and His Son. We should remember this whether we connect with friends through social media or arrange relational meetings with the aim of building better relationships (as we work together toward the common good). Or maybe it will be as we share our God moments and affirm our witness of God’s presence everywhere, or as we celebrate the Season of Creation in September. “Father, I pray that all who believe in me can be one. You are in me and I am in you. I pray that they can also be one in us. Then the world will believe that you sent me”. (John 17: 21) Blessings to you all in our connectedness. Insights August/September 2015 3
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14 16 Cover story
The 14th Triennial Assembly was held between 12-18 July at the University of Western Australia, Perth. With “Hearts on Fire” being the Assembly’s theme, many priorities and future directions were discussed at this important, national gathering of representatives. But there also were plenty of celebrations, international guests, and times of Scriptural teaching and reflection.
Regulars 3 from the Moderator 5 letters 7 news
37 making money matter 39 lectionary reflections
MANAGING EDITOR Adrian Drayton PRODUCTION/DESIGN/ EDITING Belle&Co SUB-EDITING Ben McEachen EDITORIAL/ADVERTISING/ DISTRIBUTION INQUIRIES PHONE 02 8267 4304 FAX 02 9264 4487 ADDRESS Insights, PO Box A2178, Sydney South, NSW, 1235
EMAIL email@example.com WEB www.insights.uca.org.au Insights is published by the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of New South Wales and the ACT. Articles and advertising content do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editor or of the Uniting Church. SUBSCRIPTIONS: Australia $38.50 (incl. GST); overseas $50. © 2014. Contents copyright. No material from this publication
4 Insights August/September 2015
42 fellowship news 44 belief matters 45 culture watch 46 entertain me may be copied, photocopied or transmitted by any means without the permission of the Managing Editor. CIRCULATION: 18,000. ISSN: 1036-7322 Commonwealth of Australia 2015
34 The Uniting Church in Australia is one of the country’s largest denominations. Our vision is that it will be a fellowship of reconciliation, living God's love, following Jesus Christ and acting for the common good to build a just and compassionate community of faith.
31/07/2015 1:45:33 PM
Your Say Giving a voice to climate change
[My wife and I] are Christians and we try to practice love (agape) for others as Christ did, and we believe that love involves helping others and not just preaching to them. But this month I read the article by Andrew Williams in Insights (June/ July 2015) and I was sufficiently angry after reading it to write to you and tell you – and Andrew – that we don’t agree.
Pope speaks out for our planet
The Pope’s encyclical letter about climate change is big news. No doubt our modern materialistic lifestyles must have some effect on climate. How big an effect? Who knows? The Pope says that curbing our greed should improve the health of our physical world. And that we must restrain our greed for spiritual reasons -- because that’s what God wants. Ultimately the spiritual issue is the basic one. The Pope ends his letter with a prayer for our earth. Here is an extract: All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one. Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognise that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light. We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace. The full text of the Pope’s letter is online at: www.news.va/en/news/ laudato-si-the-integral-text-of-popefrancis-encyc Arnold Jago, Nichols Point, VIC insights.uca.org.au
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According to the description under Andrew Williams’ photo, his job as Synod General Secretary involves 'leadership to the Church by actively engaging in strategic thinking about the life, direction, vision and mission of the Church'. And yet he has written a full page that is effectively preaching to us about what he thinks we should be doing. We could easily agree with Andrew’s comments if it wasn’t for the fact that Andrew is not 'doing what he is preaching'. Earlier in Andrew’s article he lists some of the 'great services' that Congregations are doing, but he goes on to say that these outwardly focused 'outreach ministries' are not enough because they are 'doing ministry for people, but not with people'. And yet Andrew is in effect doing exactly what he is telling us not to do. He is preaching to us! We are called as Christians to act as Jesus did, and that means that we also have to be prepared to listen to others and give them the chance to teach us. We should be willing to listen and learn from others. Now I will offer Andrew some advice, in hopes that he is listening. I strongly believe that climate change is the most important factor that we Christians can address in our 'strategic thinking about the life, direction, vision and mission of the Church'. I would be grateful for his thoughts about how we Christians can do ‘transformational ministry with people’ to ameliorate the impacts of climate change.
I think it is of critical importance for our strategic thinking, and perhaps Andrew is prepared to enter into a deep conversation about this subject. Bob Ross, Merimbula Uniting
Ben Myers writes about the forgiveness of sins and the third century debate concerning the nature of sin and forgiveness ['Belief Matters', Insights, June/July]. I would have thought ‘sin’ is a fairly alien concept to the 21st century mind and I certainly don’t define myself in terms of being ‘a sinner’. In the 21st century, surely it’s time for new interpretations. Belief is meaningless if it’s not personalised. Words imposed by others, whether centuries old or otherwise, can be very off-putting. One example is the Lord’s Prayer, thought by many to have been intended as a guideline on how to pray, rather than something to be learned and repeated by rote. Whether originally said by Jesus or not, depending on one’s point of view, surely it is time for the words ‘father’, ‘heaven’, ‘hallowed’ and ‘kingdom’ to be reinterpreted just for starters. Also due for revision, in my opinion, is the imagery associated with communion, which is offensive to many people today. For those who say ‘I never really think about it’, rest assured that young people of today do. They’ve been brought up to challenge everything. If we want to talk about introducing ‘contemporary’ forms of worship alongside ‘traditional’, language does matter. Is there really any reason why congregations can’t work on their own version or versions of the Lord’s Prayer and use them alternatively? Or simply sit around an ‘anniversary table’ and talk about what Jesus’ death means today? Bronwyn Mannell, Mittagong
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Your Say Don't pressure non-Christians
I have recently returned to church after an absence of close to 40 years. I am writing this to give a nonChristian perspective of life in the church and how to reach out to nonbelievers (although these are only my thoughts). I have a mental illness, known as bipolar disorder. This impacts on how I react to church. I have difficulty dealing with doubt and uncertainty in an environment where there is plenty of certainty. This arises from what I perceive to be pressure to believe. When relating to non-Christians it is important to earn the right to share the 'good news' by developing relationships based on acceptance. Be sensitive. Empathise. Listen. Don't make out it is an easy situation and the answers are clear. Don't think of what you are going to say next whilst the other person is talking. Don't be judgemental. Don't be patronising. Don't preach. Don't try too hard to convert. My Church has been very accepting and accommodating. The whole process of working this through has been fraught. I am very thankful to those who have shared their faith and listened to my story. The journey continues! Graeme Hanlon, Wagga Wagga
Fundamental issue of trust
I have no difficulty with the theological statements expressed in Insights and other Uniting Church papers concerning Church property. They obviously reflect considerable effort and consideration. Regrettably, however, there seems to be a fundamental issue of trust that has not been adequately addressed and is leading to real cynicism in some sections of the church and even resistance to the approaches now advocated. There is a widespread understanding that the Church lost 6 Insights August/September 2015
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a very large sum of money ($100 million is usually the figure quoted) by what is largely assumed to have been unfortunate, if not unwise, investments. Yet the indebtedness to which this gave rise is not openly acknowledged in Insights and other Uniting Church papers. As a consequence, quite a number of UCA members to whom I have spoken have complained of the truth being ‘covered up’, ‘whitewashed’ or, as one parishioner put it recently, ‘papered over with piety’.
Property for a Pilgrim People: Proceeds of Sale Policy
These suggestions may be unfounded, but they are heartfelt. An octogenarian member put it even more pungently: 'We worked our guts out to build our church and now they want to take it away from us to pay for some stuff up in Sydney. And we’re supposed to think it’s all very spiritual!'
The paper outlines a proposed Proceeds of Sale Policy and the role of those who read this paper is to review, discuss and provide feedback by 31 August.
These are good people who understand that we all make mistakes and would be likely to respond with generosity of spirit if not irritated by what they see, rightly or wrongly, as a lack of due candour by the UCA. These feelings are not likely to be assuaged by being ignored and there is no obvious reason to believe that most people will assume the current proposals are unrelated to the debts. Could we not clear the air by explaining what happened, what the consequences have been and, preferably, what steps have been taken to ensure there are or repetitions? I understand the desirability of avoiding unnecessary embarrassment, but I do believe the Church would be refreshed by such candour. If that is not done, I fear we will see some very bitter and protracted disputes. Ken Crispin
Congregations will have received recently printed copies of the latest document in The Property for a Pilgrim People series 'Proceeds of Sale Policy'. This paper seeks to provide some biblical reflection within a Uniting Church context on what we understand by 'mission' and how property fits into that mission story.
This feedback will then be considered and tabled at Synod Standing Committee for consideration and, if found acceptable, approval. Copies of the document are available for download at http:// bit.ly/ProceedsOfSalePolicy. Alternatively, if you like a printed copy of the document to be sent to you, email your request to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Be rewarded for having Your Say Every contributor to Your Say gets The Theory of Everything courtesy of Universal Home Entertainment Your Say letters should be sent to insights@ nswact.uca.org.au or posted to Insights, PO Box A2178, Sydney South NSW 1235. Letters may be edited for clarity and length.
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News Pension asset test essential first step to economic justice
Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums.
Achieving adequate retirement incomes while managing the fiscal cost of providing services to Australians as they live longer is one of Australia’s greatest social challenges. “UnitingCare Australia has been a consistent voice in advocating economic justice for the most vulnerable Australians,” said Lin Hatfield Dodds, National Director of UnitingCare Australia.
Celebrating first Methodist minister's 200-year legacy The whole Wesley Mission family will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of the arrival of Rev Samuel Leigh, Australia’s first Methodist minister, with a special service at Sydney's Wesley Centre on Sunday 30 August. In 2012, Wesley Mission celebrated 200 years since the Sydney’s earliest Wesleyans wrote a letter to the Methodist Church in the United Kingdom pleading for a minister. Three years ago, almost 2000 congregation members, supporters, donors, volunteers and staff of Wesley Mission marched through Sydney and gave thanks to God at the State Theatre for 200 years of Methodism in Australia. Wesley Mission Superintendent, the Rev. Keith Garner said the hope of the Sydney Wesleyans came to fruition in 1815, with Leigh’s arrival. Two hundred years later, Wesley Mission is giving thanks for Leigh's faith, ministry and endurance. “As Australia’s first Methodist missionary, Samuel Leigh showed remarkable courage and perseverance in the face of great hardship and the gruelling task of ministry in the fledgling colony of Sydney,” Mr Garner said. Chair of the Wesley Mission Board Mark Scott and Non-Executive Director Keith Suter will be at the anniversary service to share in the occasion. Choirs from St Stephen’s Macquarie Street and the Ashfield Tongan Parish will be singing during the service. insights.uca.org.au
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Christians can learn from Leigh’s faith and missionary work. He dedicated himself to preaching God’s word to as many as possible, often by door-to-door visiting or on horseback on roads frequented by bushrangers. He also had a concern for the poor and for the needs of Aborigines. “The legacy Samuel Leigh has left is not just about the churches and ministries he instigated or set up; it is as much about his sacrificial commitment to the work of God, his determination to continue in his ministry despite heartbreaking obstacles, and his humble and enduring faith,” Garner said. To mark the anniversary of Mr Leigh’s arrival, Garner has written a biography entitled Samuel Leigh: The first Methodist missionary to Australia and New Zealand. Copies will be available at the service on 30 August, or afterward by calling 1800 021 821 or emailing communications@ wesleymission.org.au. Everyone is welcome at the special anniversary service to reflect on Mr Leigh’s faith, missionary work and what we can learn from his momentous contribution to Wesley Mission’s history.
Join us in celebration
When: 2:30pm, Sunday 30 August Where: Wesley Theatre, 220 Pitt Street, Sydney
“UnitingCare Australia is pleased the Government and the Greens have responded to ours and the calls of COTA and ACOSS to change the pension asset rules. “These changes increase the amount of assets a person can hold before their pension is reduced. They also reinstate the taper rate that was in place until 2007. The changes will primarily affect people with assets worth over a million dollars (excluding their home), but will support increases for those who have less. “This change is a constructive step in the right direction. Further reforms are needed to both tax and income support systems and in particular, to superannuation. The status quo is wasteful, and does not target scarce public funds to those in need. “Just as we have for the last decade, UnitingCare Australia will continue to advance policy change with a view to improve the effectiveness, fairness and justice of equity of the delivery of essential human services and payments. We will support both constructive small steps, and welldesigned larger changes. “UnitingCare Australia will work with any elected representative to achieve these aims. Considering the enormity of the challenge before us we believe this is not only a responsible but an essential approach,” said Ms Hatfield Dodds. Insights August/September 2015 7
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News Asylum seeker transport concessions: A big step for inclusion Life in Sydney was made a little easier for refugees with the announcement in early July that around 8,000 asylum seekers will be able to access transport concessions in NSW. Sydney Alliance Community Organiser, Chantelle OgilvieEllis, said the move was a small step for government, but a big step for inclusion. The Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW and the ACT played a key role in this campaign for change. Many Uniting Church lay, school and clergy leaders took part in this campaign by speaking with local MPs, as well as sending letters and old tickets to the Transport Minister, Treasurer and Premier. Particular credit goes to Rev. Michael Thomas from Willoughby Uniting and Rev. Dr Rob Macfarlane from St. Ives Uniting. They stepped up and supported this campaign by building momentum on the North Shore. Additionally, Ana Pararajasingham, who has had a long relationship as a fellow traveller with the Uniting Church Tamil Communities, was key in forming the business case that made this reform credible. Sydney Alliance analysis has shown that the transport concession will come at no cost to taxpayers, as the cost of discounted fares will be offset by increased patronage. It will also bring NSW into line with the transport concession arrangements for asylum seekers in other states.
and teaching centre. He also brings a wealth of experience from the notfor-profit sector having worked with the Smith Family and as CEO of youth charity CanTeen. The Hon. Bronwyn Pike, a former Victorian Government Minister for Health and Education, brings a high level of professionalism and expertise. In addition to her time in public office, Ms Pike has worked in the community sector and has been a long-standing and committed advocate for social justice, refugee health, community education and environmental initiatives. Heather Watson is a lifetime member of the Uniting Church and former Chairperson of UnitingCare Queensland. Ms Watson is an experienced board member with specialist expertise in health and aged care, affordable housing and the not-for-profit sector. The UnitingCare NSW.ACT Board has also acknowledged and thanked the outgoing Board members Jonathan Rea and Alan Hoskins for their contribution to the organisation and the people they have served.
Justice McClellan’s address to Uniting Church Australia’s 14th Assembly The Hon. Justice Peter McClellan AM, Chair of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, addressed The Uniting Church in Australia’s 14th Assembly meeting in Perth last month.
The UnitingCare Board is implementing an ambitious growth and social justice agenda to better serve marginalised and disadvantaged people in the wider community. To renew and strengthen its membership, the Board has recruited three new directors: Dr Andrew Young, Heather Watson, and the Hon. Bronwyn Pike.
Justice McClellan conveyed the long term and devastating impact of child sexual abuse on some survivors and their families and explained the importance of a redress scheme for survivors. He said, “For redress to be effective it must respond to the ongoing needs of survivors. It is clear that survivors need an apology from the institution. There must also be funding for counselling and psychological care. A money sum which adequately recognises the wrong done to the individual is also essential.”
Dr Andrew Young currently leads the Centre for Social Impact, an innovative national university research
The Uniting Church has affirmed its overall support for a national redress scheme and its commitment to
The UnitingCare NSW.ACT Board has appointed three new directors
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ensuring that the UCA’s processes are aligned as much as possible with the concepts and principles put forward by the Royal Commission. Rev. Dr Andrew Williams, General Secretary of The Uniting Church in Australia Synod of NSW and the ACT, attended the 14th Assembly and following the address said, “We look forward to reviewing the recommendations from the Royal Commission. The Church and its institutions, including Knox Grammar School, are committed to actively contributing to the healing and justice process of the survivors and their families and we are working with them on alternative approaches for redress.” Acknowledging that the legal system can be adversarial, expensive, time consuming and impersonal for survivors and the desire to deliver a pastoral response consistent with the ethos of the Church, an interim Synod of NSW and the ACT redress scheme is available for survivors. The Synod interim redress scheme is the primary response to individuals who have experienced physical or sexual abuse as a child in Synod agencies. Assistance for survivors may include an apology, counselling and other types of assistance, and a financial payment in recognition of past abuse and apologies. UnitingCare also has a redress scheme in place for survivors of past abuse in children’s homes and foster care. How can people report a complaint or enquiry or find out more about redress? Please contact Rev. Jane Fry, Associate Secretary, Synod of NSW and the ACT: Email: email@example.com Phone: (02) 8267 4452 Post: Addressed as “Confidential” to the Associate Secretary, Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of New South Wales and ACT, PO Box A2178, Sydney South 1235. All matters are confidential and are treated in a timely and sensitive way. insights.uca.org.au
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New national music, arts and action festival tackles ‘justice’ and ‘welcome’ Popular Australian musicians Katie Noonan, Archie Roach and Blue King Brown, as well as a host of refugee advocates, academics, religious groups and development organisations, have joined forces to launch ‘Beyond’, a new national justice festival. The festival, which is being held in Canberra on the October Long Weekend (2 – 5 October), aims to tackle national and international justice issues, including indigenous rights, asylum and refugee policy, and equality. “Beyond festival has been a work in progress for some years and is birthed out of 30 years’ experience with the Black Stump Festival,” said festival coordinator Robert Howie.
First South Australian Aboriginal woman ordained The Uniting Church in South Australia celebrated the ordination of its very first female Aboriginal minister in a special ceremony at Adelaide West Uniting Church on Saturday 20 June. Denise Champion is the first Aboriginal woman to be ordained into Christian ministry, in any denomination, in SA. “My faith has been challenged in many ways as I’ve seen desperate and broken-hearted people looking for comfort and help," said Denise. "As a messenger, I feel compelled to carry the message of a healer of broken hearts. “I have been challenged, in my work facilitating reconciliation between First and Second Peoples, to create a safe community. A community where people can come together, sit and talk, and experience healing and forgiveness for the past, finding a new destiny together. “As an ordained minister, I know I will be empowered by Congress [the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress – UAICC] to fulfil insights.uca.org.au
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the mandate of Aboriginal people ministering to other Aboriginal people.” Noting the significance of the occasion, Uniting Church SA Moderator Dr Deidre Palmer commented: “It is a joy for us to affirm the ministry of Denise Champion as a Deacon in the Uniting Church in Australia. This is a historic moment in the life of the Uniting Church in South Australia as we move to ordain our first Aboriginal woman." "Denise’s work in growing our understanding of Aboriginal culture and spirituality will continue to contribute to reconciliation in our church and nation.” Denise Champion is an Adnyamathanha woman from the Flinders Ranges in SA. She has been following a call to ministry for many years through service and study. Denise recently published the book Yarta Wandatha in collaboration with Rosemary Dewerse. She also is a long-standing member of UAICC and is currently in a ministry placement at Port Augusta UAICC congregation.
According to Mr Howie, the timing is perfect for such an event. “Given the ongoing controversy around refugee policy, and on the back of a federal budget that has ripped billions of dollars from the poorest of the poor, we are more convinced than ever for the necessity of community voices to stand united on issues of welcome, justice and compassion.” “Add to this the Prime Minister’s recent comments relating to services for remote indigenous communities, and the case becomes clear that we need to work out better ways of living together. Beyond Festival aims to be part of that new conversation. “These are issues of national significance, so Canberra was the obvious location choice. “We’re absolutely delighted to have musicians of the calibre of Katie Noonan, Archie and Blue King Brown at our first festival – and loads more besides, as well as outstanding community leaders such as Rev. Tim Costello.” Full details and tickets for the festival are available at www. beyondfestival.com.au
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News U-Talk: A movement of the Holy Spirit U-Talk is a quarterly gathering of retired and current ministers in placement who discuss the witness of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church. Ministers gather to renew friendships, catch up on news, and to share their wisdom, experiences of calling, their learnings from ministry, as well as prayers for the Uniting Church. The Moderator, Rev. Myung Hwa Park, facilitated the recent event. It started with an acknowledgement of the country followed by prayer, then four short presentations by retired Ministers: John Pender, Marion Gledhill, Ruth Thomas and Dorothy McRae McMahon. They spoke of being moved by witnessing acts of forgiveness, love, compassion, as well as occasions of justice and, sometimes, great injustice.
Helping Dungog get back on its feet By donating $15,000 towards emergency relief work following devastating floods, Wesley Mission is helping the people of Dungog get back on their feet. Wesley Mission CEO, the Rev. Dr Keith Garner, recently presented a cheque to Dungog Shire Mayor Harold Johnston at the Dungog Shire Community Centre. He was joined by Sarah O’Brien, Manager of Dungog Shire Community Centre, as well as Wesley Mission staff and families directly affected by the floods. “The people of Dungog and emergency workers have shown wonderful resilience in the face of this unprecedented disaster,” Mr Garner said. “Tragedies can draw the best out of people and communities and we have seen that in Dungog.
We are pleased we can embrace the people of Dungog while they rebuild their lives. “We are not only part of the network of support in Dungog but also part of its extended family," continued Mr Garner. "The community has been working hard and today we want to acknowledge that and stand beside it in every possible way. We believe today’s donation will help your community breathe easier as it regathers its strength and moves forward into the future."
John Pender recounted stories of being moved by sacred spaces, creating balance between "being" and "doing", and a time of feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit when he travelled to St Petersburg where he visited Rembrandt’s famous painting, ‘Return of the Prodigal Son’: “I was invited into the painting to become a participant and I was forever moved,” he said of the experience. Discussion ensued of lives dedicated to Jesus and it was generally agreed that there is no such thing as retirement for Ministers of the Word.
Wesley Family Centre Dungog offers free family support services for any family caring for children from birth to 12 years old in the Dungog Shire. Qualified family workers and parenting coaches provide assistance to people individually, as a couple or as a family group.
“Wesley Mission has been providing family services to the Dungog community for more than 15 years. 10 Insights August/September 2015
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31/07/2015 1:10:26 PM
From the General Secretary’s desk I’ll just Google that..
’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt. You know, the one that says ‘I don’t need Google, my wife knows everything!’ Seriously, how did we survive before Google and the Internet? As I write this reflection I am attending the Assembly Meeting in Perth and I must say that during the sessions I am amazed at how many people are operating from tablets, computers and mobile phones. Seems Assembly is embracing the paperless meeting and accessing information, news, proposals and reports online. Either that or people are not paying attention and checking Facebook or Googling things!
Rev. Dr Andrew Williams General Secretary The General Secretary is appointed by the Synod to provide leadership to the Church by actively engaging in strategic thinking about the life, direction, vision and mission of the Church.
Google has become a verb. How often have you solved an argument on the latest sports score by saying, ‘I’ll Google that!’ When I was young, we consulted encyclopaedias for assignments or when we wanted to know something interesting about some obscure subject. These days, young people live and ask questions online. And it’s hardly just the young. So here’s the thing about being connected. You can find out all sorts of things, but you have to largely disconnect from those around you to do it! I am always amazed at the number of people waiting at a bus stop who have their head down, checking their mobile phones. Or pedestrians texting while crossing the street. I have never been a great multitasker. In attending to people, I need to give them my full attention as I am easily distracted. But is this just because I come from a generation where this is how I learned to interact? Here’s the other thing I know. I depend on Google and the Internet for more and more information. White pages? A thing of the past. Synod directory? Online. Printed papers for a meeting? Use Dropbox or Boardpad. God? Well...
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So how do we engage with the Information Age and not lose the things that are important to us? How will we continue to connect with real people and not just ‘virtual’ friends? Will it change the way we ‘do’ church? Couldn’t we all just stay at home and dial-in? What value do we place on being with others in a digital age? How can technology enhance our mission? The answer is, in part, to use the technology available to us to reach those who are searching for community online. To make sure when someone Googles “Where’s my local Church?” or “Who is Jesus Christ?” that we are there, with our websites and technology to answer those questions and bring those people who are increasingly disenfranchised with institutionalised church back to our communities of faith. To speak into their lives through the technology they use every day. After all, if we are serious about being a church that speaks to the margins, we need to see that in the 21st century the margins are moving online. In this way we can embrace emerging technologies to enhance communities of faith and life, both online and offline. We can assist in forming faith, rather than destroying it. We can seek out the new ‘digital natives’ and bring them into our faith communities. If our future is digital, I hope we also never forget we are an analogue, flesh and blood people. A people of the ‘logos’ – the Word of God. A people for whom story, and storytelling, is important. So whether you are reading this in print form or online, make sure you take time to spend time with real people today, as well as checking in to Church on Facebook. God made us for community! Turn to page 20 for Insights’ special report into ‘21st Century Faith Formation: Christianity on the digital frontier’. Insights August/September 2015 11
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We’ve come a long way, but the journey isn’t over T his year we celebrate three significant milestones in our Church’s life: 38 years since the inauguration of the Uniting Church; 30 years since the formation of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), and 30 years since the Uniting Church declaration “We are a multicultural church”. When we celebrate these milestones together, we speak volumes about who we are as the Uniting Church in Australia. We value and celebrate our diversity as part of our striving for life abundant in Jesus Christ. This year’s celebrations included the Uniting Multicultural Festival Anniversary Worship on the evening of Sunday 21 June at Newington College. It was followed by more celebrations and culture sharing at the Uniting Multicultural Festival day on Saturday 27 June at The Centre for Ministry, North Parramatta. We made time to gather for these special occasions, sharing, learning, praising together as one body. But as we move past those events, I wonder about what else we do in our local communities once we have dispersed from these mountain top experiences. These celebrations are important markers on our journey, but they are not just about remembering how we got here. They’re also about pointing us toward that which is to come. We are still the pilgrim people continuing on the journey to fully realise what it means to be a multicultural church, in a covenantal relationship, living faith and life cross-culturally. How do you mark a significant occasion? A birthday, a baptism, a graduation, a retirement? It is hard to do so without reference to the rest of life. As we celebrate, we also reflect on the journey to this point, and wonder about and plan for the way forward. As a church we too must remember not only to look back, but to look forward towards our shared vision and mission — on this occasion asking, “What can we do to better reflect our identity and values we share as the 12 Insights August/September 2015
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Uniting Church in Australia?”
Sometimes we can forget why we are doing something. We can get stuck in a rut, focusing too closely on the known and the easy. We can forget to hold up and pursue that broader vision and mission God has put on our hearts. In my ministry role, I spend time with people across the Church talking about how we embody Church today – remembering the good and not-so-good things from our past and looking at how we do ministry in the world today and into the future. There can be grumbles such as “Why do we need to do things differently?” or “Why can’t we just keep doing what we’ve always done?” The reality is we live and serve in radically different spheres compared with decades ago. Collectively, we need to learn from the past – the wins and the stumbles – and authentically be God’s church in the world today. God often calls us to tasks, which may seem difficult or even impossible. One thing we have learned from the journey, so far, is that with God’s help we grow together toward the vision of the coming realm of God. We remember and hold up the champions of Church union and the thousands upon thousands of members who embraced the uniting spirit.
We remember and hold up the courageous discernment of Indigenous sisters and brothers, as well as our Church forebears who held out the initial hand of friendship and, later, the covenant relationship. We remember and hold up the vision of leaders in a young Church to affirm multicultural identity as a core value in the ongoing life of this Church. Looking back gives us eyes to see a bigger picture; what we are all contributing in God’s plan for the reconciliation of all things. When we see that our local faith community is part of that bigger picture, we can move into the future informed by our learning from the journey thus far.
We have a role as community to continue to remind one another about our shared vision and mission. Just as every few years the whole Synod of NSW and ACT claims afresh its vision and mission plan. This then encourages each and every one of our Congregations and members to be inspired about what they are all called by God to be and do — in their local community and their own lives.
How do you and your community live out covenant relationship? How do you and your community live out the identity of being a multicultural Church? These are a big part of our shared story. We must hold these in front. Not just at milestone celebration times, but whenever we are being who we are as the Church. Emma Parr
Hundreds enjoyed second Uniting Multicultural Festival • A key aim of the annual festival is to foster a greater understanding of different cultures by providing an opportunity for them to be promoted to the wider public. • UnitingCare’s Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Working Group ran a stall to provide information about services for people from CALD backgrounds. Staff also surveyed patrons, to better understand the care and support needs of diverse communities. Results highlighted the importance CALD people place on being linked with their own communities and also being able to speak in their native tongue. • For more information on the UAICC covenant with the Uniting Church in Australia, go to uaicc. org.au/what-we-do/covenanting. Resources and information also are at the Assembly website: bit.ly/assemblystatement insights.uca.org.au
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From Outback unity to united leadership
tuart McMillan is the new president of the Uniting Church. He’s only the third lay person to hold the position. So we can get to know Stuart, let’s go back to his early days in Northern Territory ministry. Because Stuart’s past, experience and passion, helps us to know just why he’s the right man for a top job.
Call of the North Stuart had a really good first week working for the Uniting Church in the NT. But the way that week started wasn’t promising. Six weeks after being interviewed in Sydney for an accountant position at the Uniting Church Northern Synod, Stuart found himself standing alone with his swag on the edge of a dirt airstrip at Ramingining. No-one got the message that he was coming. So he hitched a ride into the community with some locals. The year was 1982. Stuart was 27 years old. He and his wife Ros decided to leave their comfortable community in Sydney’s suburban northwest to move to Darwin with their young family. “Things went well,” says Stuart, despite the initial logistic challenges. “My job was to work with Aboriginal bookkeepers so that we had a summary of monthly information for various businesses and operations. I learnt a lot that first week about the capacity of Aboriginal people to do things. Everything was in great shape. These people really knew what they were doing, and I’d been led to believe anecdotally that wasn’t the case. They were as good as any bookkeeper that ever worked for me in Sydney.”
Learning from the best In the 33 years since, Stuart has had many roles: accountant, operations manager, general manager, pastor, cultural awareness trainer, resource worker, community developer and moderator of the Northern Synod. From 12 July, he has added president of the Uniting Church in Australia to that list. 14 Insights August/September 2015
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He is only the third lay person to serve as Uniting Church president; Sir Ronald Wilson and Dr Jill Tabart were the others. His path to the presidency has been uniquely informed by the lives of Australia’s First Peoples, particularly the Aboriginal people of northern Australia and members of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress. “My life has been so deeply enriched by Aboriginal people sharing their spirituality with me. I have been shaped by Aboriginal mentors. They have strengthened and shaped my faith,” says Stuart. His mentors include Rev. Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM, the first Aboriginal moderator of the Northern Synod (1985– 87); Vince Ross, chair of Congress Elders Council and past Congress chairperson, Rev Rronang Garrawurra.
Communication is key Stuart’s education about Aboriginal Australia has been a long journey. Ten years into his life in the Territory he was general manager of the Arnhem Land Progress Association (ALPA). But he realised his inability to communicate with Aboriginal people in their own language was holding him back from deeper relationships. So he stood down as general manager and began an intensive course of study in the Yolŋu language. The relationships that opened up from his language study led to a new level of spiritual connection. Older men of Elcho Island schooled Stuart in their law. A man he knew adopted him as his brother in the Gupapuyngu clan of the Yolŋu nation with the skin name “bulany” (meaning “red kangaroo”). To complete the induction, the man’s wife adopted Ros as her sister to make sure Stuart and Ros’ relationship was proper in Yolŋu kinship terms. Stuart worked for Djiniyini Gondarra for 12 years through the heady days after the High Court’s Mabo decision established native title. This meant a lot of research for Stuart and trips to Canberra to resource Djiniyini and others as they advised on the drafting of the Native Title
Act under Prime Minister Paul Keating. While the McMillans were drawn ever deeper into Aboriginal Australia, the Uniting Church has remained a constant in their lives. After settling down at Humpty Doo on Darwin’s rural fringe, the McMillans joined with five other couples to set up a new congregation, the Humpty Doo Uniting Church, now the Living Water Uniting Church. After two ordained ministers in placement, Stuart was recognised as pastor. Stuart and Ros both went on to hold senior leadership roles in the Northern Synod with Ros serving as moderator from 1996–99 and Stuart finishing an extended five-year term as moderator last month.
Reconciliation and renewal As a lay president Stuart’s role in worship will be slightly restricted. Under Uniting Church regulations, he won’t be able to perform baptisms or preside over communion outside his synod without the authorisation of the host presbytery. So what kind of leader will Stuart McMillan be for the whole Uniting Church? One who will work for a more inclusive, inter-cultural church across generations to bring about reconciliation and renewal for the whole creation. “We are challenged to be a community of Christ,” says Stuart. “To bring that unity of Christ into play across the many different cultures in God’s church. With our Indigenous brothers and sisters, the challenge remains for us to really listen to them and to the Spirit and to find ways to grow our relationship so that it becomes a truly interdependent one. “I am energised by the way our next generation is embracing our diversity and applying their gifts and talents in leadership right across the Uniting Church in Australia.” Whatever other challenges may lie ahead, Stuart McMillan is set to face them with patience, perseverance and a profound spirituality. Matt Pulford insights.uca.org.au
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he 14th Triennial Assembly was held between 12-18 July in Perth. The national gathering of representatives discussed priorities and future directions of our Church. But there also were plenty of celebrations, international guests, and times of Scriptural teaching and reflection. The aim of this major event is to guide the life of the Uniting Church in Australia — and its advocacy — over the following three years. Members of Assembly are elected by Synods and Presbyteries across the country. These elected members join with office holders, UAICC members, and youthful members. The UAICC’s involvement was to the fore at the week-long Assembly, supported warmly by new president Stuart McMillan. Along with UAICC concerns and action points, other major talking points included the ongoing debate about the definition of marriage, and the address by the Chair of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Along with such weighty matters that need to be addressed, the Assembly gave plenty of time and consideration to subjects as diverse as a partnership with Anglicans, book launches, humanitarian responses, and “Minutes of Appreciation” for certain servants of our Church. All of this was done under the theme for the 14th Assembly:“Hearts on Fire”. A rich symbol used throughout Scripture, “fire” also speaks of our hearts and passion as Christians. The kind of fire that “fans into flames” (2 Timothy 1:6) our spiritual gifts given by God. The kind of fire that a church which is no longer at the “centre” of Australian society needs to have on the margins, at the edges. So it can act and speak to the dominant culture, as God’s servants. “Our church does amazing things to help those most disadvantaged and often marginalised,” said President McMillan during his opening address. “And friends, in adversity, when we come together as the body of Christ, for the sake of the least, God does amazing things!” Highlights of the Assembly include:
Addressing injustice The 14th Assembly passed a series of proposals to address historic and current injustices against Australia’s First Peoples. Proposals were brought by the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), and some of the prominent were: insights.uca.org.au
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• Living out the Covenant between the Uniting Church and the UAICC This includes support for the Northern Regional Council of Congress in its opposition to fracking on Aboriginal land. Additional requests were added for the President and other heads of churches to meet with the Prime Minister and the premiers of Western Australia and South Australia to make known their opposition to forced closure of the communities. • Annual Week of Prayer and Fasting The Assembly strongly supported the UCA annually participating in a week of Prayer and Fasting, in solidarity with First Peoples on their journey towards justice and reconciliation. •First Peoples are sovereign Peoples The Assembly accepted Proposal 25 to explore with Congress what it would mean for the Church to recognise and affirm that First Peoples are sovereign. •Indigenous Recognition in the Constitution The Assembly has agreed to continue to support the recognition of Indigenous people in the Australian Constitution, as long as the recognition offered is a step towards (and not a blockage to) larger issues of sovereignty and treaty. It was noted that there is a diverse set of views within Congress regarding recognition in the Constitution. The Uniting Church also committed to work with Congress to educate members of the Church about the need for a treaty.
Giving thanks for God’s calling on the church
In his moving retiring address which was met by a standing ovation at Assembly, ex-President Reverend Professor Andrew Dutney spoke joyfully of the direction of the Uniting Church in Australia. While he acknowledged the decline in mainstream, largely monocultural congregations, Rev. Prof. Dutney reminded the Assembly that this is only part of the story. “It really concerns me that the traditional mainstream of the church is so mesmerised by its own decline that it can’t lift its eyes to see the wonderful thing that the Spirit is doing in gathering the church afresh – from the edges,” said Dutney, whose three-year term as President concluded at Assembly. Dutney believes God is calling the Uniting Church to a vibrant and diverse ministry. The covenant between the Uniting Church and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress is a vital part of this, which he said is continuing to shape our Church. Rev. Prof. Dutney shared his thanks and gratitude to many people who have supported him through his three-year presidency. He thanked his friends, his varied resource staff within the Uniting Church, and his wife, Heather.
Standing united against community closures The UCA’s 14th Assembly stood as one to oppose the forced closure of remote Aboriginal communities. The symbolic action was the result of a heartfelt plea by a contingent of younger members, who pleaded powerfully with the entire Assembly to respond to the potential closures. The action took place outside the University of Western Australia’s Winthrop Hall on Day Six of the Assembly meeting. The entire Assembly — including President Stuart McMillan, Nyungar elder Rev. Sealin Garlett and UAICC Chairperson Rev. Dennis Corowa — moved outside the hall. As one group, this signified their solidarity with Indigenous people threatened with forced off their land by Federal and State Governments. The statement drafted by youthful members can be read on the Assembly site: www.assembly2015.uca.org.au
Respectful conversation on marriage The Assembly committed to continue to engage in a culturally-appropriate conversation about marriage and samegender relationships. In addition to this, the Assembly resolved to issue a pastoral letter to the Church affirming the Uniting Church as an inclusive church embracing those members who identify as LGBTIQ. If a change to the Marriage Act is made between now and the next Assembly in 2018, the General Secretary will issue a letter to all UCA authorised celebrants advising them of their freedoms and constraints under that legislation. Another proposal outlining procedures for respectful conversation with the UCA’s multicultural bodies was referred to Assembly Standing Committee. Finally, a proposal to reaffirm the Uniting Church’s existing stance Insights August/ September 2015 17
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on marriage and reject any public celebration of a same-gender union was rejected by the Assembly. Address on child sex abuse The Chair of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Justice Peter McClellan AM, addressed Assembly. Among many points, he said allegations of abuse against UCA institutions account for about three per cent of total allegations received so far by the Royal Commission. (For more on this address, turn to page 8)
Adoption of a new refugee and asylum seeker policy The Assembly adopted a new refugee and asylum seeker policy, calling on the Australian Government to establish policies which genuinely seek to support, rather than demonise. UnitingJustice argued that Christians – called to love our neighbours, welcome strangers, challenge unjust systems, and offer refuge and care to those who are marginalised and in exile – have a particular responsibility in Australian society when it comes to issues related to asylum seekers and refugees. It also said policies relating to asylum seekers should be driven by bi-partisan commitments, both to a humanitarian response focused on protection needs, and to upholding our obligations under international law. Future shape of Frontier Services Grahame Ryan, National Director of Frontier Services, advised the Assembly that there will be a national consultation held in August 2015 to further consider the future of the UCA’s ministry in remote Australia. The Assembly had sought to understand the reasons behind the changing circumstances of the valued remote-area ministry, Frontier Services. Frontier Services is re-directing its work to community support activities and resourcing patrol ministry. In 2012 and less than a year after the 13th Assembly reaffirmed its commitment to remote Australia, the 100-year-old ministry found itself under severe financial threat. This was due to the high costs of delivering aged-care services to remote areas. As a growing number of smaller aged-care service operators proved unable to fulfil demanding accreditation standards, Frontier Services increased the number of services it operated by about threefold.
governance needs. A proposal from the Presbytery of Illawarra sought to establish a process for a wide-ranging analysis of the “fundamental governance needs of the Uniting Church in the 21st century”. Concerns were raised that strategic reviews were already underway in many synods and that the Assembly Standing Committee was not adequately resourced to carry out such a review. The Assembly was unable to achieve consensus on a proposal to amend regulations regarding eldership and church councils. There was concern among working groups that small congregations, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and congregations without a minister would not be served well by the proposal. The need for education around the nature of spiritual leadership was also identified. Assembly Standing Committee has been charged with exploring “the nature, role and function of leadership within the life of a congregation [as well as] the place of eldership.” Installation of General Secretary Colleen Geyer was appointed as Assembly’s incoming General Secretary. Ms Geyer is currently the Director of Mission at UnitingCare Queensland and has held a range of significant positions including Director of Mission at BlueCare, Associate Director at UnitingCare Australia, Registrar of Coolamon College, and National Consultant for the Assembly Gospel and Gender Unit. Retiring president Rev. Prof. Andrew Dutney said Ms Geyer emerged as the clearly preferred candidate who had a deep understanding of the vision, values and processes of the UCA. “She came with particular gifts for this time in the life of the Church – strong skills in the development and practice of governance… [and] strengths in areas of risk management and financial management and human resources.” President-Elect announced South Australian Moderator Dr Deidre Palmer will be the next President of the Uniting Church in Australia. She was elected to the position, during Assembly. Dr Palmer is the second woman to be appointed to the role, following Dr Jill Tabart (1994-1997).
Strategic review of governance
She will begin her term at the 15th Triennial Assembly in 2018.
The Assembly opted not to undertake a major strategic review into the UCA’s
Dr Palmer has spent much of her career studying, teaching and working
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Reflection on Assembly: Strength in relationships During the UME ‘Living Our Values’ training course that she presents, Rev. Bron Murphy explains that ‘the Uniting Church will always prioritise relationships over doctrine’. Nowhere is this more evident that on the floor of Assembly meetings. When confronted with issues which might otherwise divide us, the church holds firm to our relationships, our core identity as a multicultural church, and our covenant with Australia’s First Peoples. One body, many members. I hope it was the strength of our relationships which allowed us to make bold decisions, including standing alongside the Yolngu Nation, reaffirming our commitment to Palestine, and even electing Dr Deidre Palmer as President-Elect (who will be only our second female president). Our sense of identity also helps balance our respect for our tradition (hence rigorous discussions around membership and elders) and our hope for new possibilities (considering how we continue to reform our multicultural church and our understanding of marriage). As someone who is too-old-to-bea-young-person, yet not-old-enoughto-remember-Union, I remain hopeful that we stand well positioned as the Uniting Church in Australia to emerge from our 40 years of wilderness. Our Assembly meeting is another marker on our journey as the people of God on the way. Bradon French, Uniting Mission and Education in Christian education, and youth and children’s ministry. “It gives me great pleasure to be serving you as President-Elect,” she said. “I promise to listen to the Holy Spirit, and allow myself to be shaped and empowered by the Spirit.”Dr Palmer also paid tribute to Dr Tabart. “It is an honour for me to walk in her footsteps,” she said. Read more online This is an edited sample of news from the 14th Triennial Assembly Meeting. For the complete collection of proposals, stories and day-to-day events, visit the Assembly Meeting 2015 website: www.assembly2015.uca.org.au insights.uca.org.au
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he issue of declining church membership is not confined to Australia. Its reach is far broader – spanning continents, and generations. Does this indicate that ways of ‘doing’ Church are not meeting the needs of those who now turn to the internet for everything, including 'what's the meaning of life?' Perhaps answers to such challenges lie within the digital realm itself. Insights went to the eFormation Conference in Washington DC this year — to find out how and what Christianity can be online, for you, me and those who are constantly searching.
21st CENTURY FAITH FORMATION Christianity on the digital frontier
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>MAINFRAME Logging into the challenge of new frontiers Digital faith formation: How vital is it for the future of the Church? “Yet, O Lord, you are our God; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 Faith formation is at the heart of what the Christian life is all about. In many ways, we engage in the practices of our daily lives and the rituals of our faith communities — through worship, mission, working for justice and peace, evangelism, and education — so that our faith may be nurtured, enlivened, sustained, and formed. One of the important ways many of us engage in faith formation is through our Church communities. But does our view of the way we ‘do’ Church meet the needs of a generation who, characteristically, are turning to the internet for answers to the meaning of life? Seeking answers online before they would darken the doors of a local church or clergy member? Every day, millions of internet users ask Google some of life’s most difficult questions, big and small. So are we – the Church – set up to understand how we can be responding to these questions? While this issue should give us pause to consider what we're already doing, more importantly it should spur on our thinking and testing in the area of digital faith formation. How we might engage people where they already are — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and so on. And so on. The list of social and professional networking sites — like the possibility of reaching out in these spaces — seems endless, daunting and hard to navigate. But challenges for the future of the Church are being posed by these dominant forms of communication. So, here's the big question: Are we as a Church up for the challenge?
Is the Church in decline? It would be easy to assume that the issue of declining Church membership is unique to the Uniting Church in Australia. But look 22 Insights August/September 2015
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a little deeper and you realise its reach is far broader. Over the past few years, the issue has drawn thought leadership from across the globe to an annual conference at the Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) in Alexandria, Washington DC, USA. Here you’ll find people from all walks of religious life sharing practical ways churches can engage in faith formation for the 21st century. The eFormation conference is an interactive laboratory and ecumenical resource of ideas and innovation. This year's sessions were led by authors and practitioners who are trying to make sense of how Christians can operate effectively in an exponentially increasing digital landscape. They even dared to suggest we can bring faith formation into the digital space, and that existing communities of faith can be enhanced and grown. Also, new communities of faith may be grown in the process. “In a time when fewer people are finding their way into the church, it is essential that we intentionally seek out and connect with them rather than wait for them to show up at our doors”, said Keith Anderson, author of The Digital Cathedral and a speaker on congregational growth and development. While declining church membership poses many challenges, technology offers us new ways of reaching out to and engaging with those for whom searching for questions of meaning at the local church is a foreign concept. John Roberto, a thought leader in the area of 21st century intergenerational faith formation, captured the sentiment perfectly in his session: “Most parents are ill-equipped to pass on their own faith to their children. Second generations are not religiously affiliated households.” Statistics both overseas and in Australia suggest an entire generation is looking for meaning in life but are not turning to a church for the answers. As a conference-goer noted: “We need to work on helping people see there isn't a 'digital' world and 'real' world anymore — they are one and the same, and we need to be there to help people meet God."
The Pew Research Centre in the United States refers to this generation as the "nones" — a diverse age group who are spiritual but with no denominational affiliation. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, 35 per cent of American millennials (people born 1981– 1996), are "nones". That’s more than twice the number of Baby Boomers who are "nones", and more than three times the "Silent Generation" (born 1928-45). In Australia, "nones" are identified by McCrindle research as "spiritual but not religious". The number of this group has risen 269 per cent during the past few years. Combine this with the fact that church attendance is down by 48 per cent and Christianity down 22 per cent, and you can really start to understand the drive for changing approaches. “Research tells us that it’s no longer your grandchild’s internet anymore," explained Randall Curtis, the Ministry Developer for Young Adults and Youth in the Episcopal Church in Arkansas.
Want to learn more about e-Formation?
Key Resources website at Virginia Theological Seminary From the faith formation curators in the Center for the Ministry of Teaching, this is an excellent website full of resources, reviews, tutorials and even links to apps. A service of the team at Virginia Theological Seminary this is an excellent website http://www.keyhallonline.org/ Discover e-Formation presentations If you aren’t on Pintrest, you should be if you want to access every presentation from e-Formation. Head to https://www.pinterest.com/ vtscmt/eform15/ Be part of e-Formation yourself For the low cost of $79US, you can experience e-Formation for yourself via online webinars. Some of the main speaker sessions mentioned in this article are accessible online at https://give.vts.edu/eformation2015 insights.uca.org.au
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Photos this page courtesy: Kristen Pitts/CMT
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Photo courtesy: Kristen Pitts/CMT
"It is really an imperative for churches to at least be involved in areas such as social media, regardless of whether they have young people in their congregations. If we are serious about living out God’s words, we must reach out in this way.”
Missioner and Learning Lab Coordinator, organised the eFormation conference. They carefully assembled the breadth of speakers and authors for sessions and "boot camps" over three intensive and informative days.
Shamika Goddard, a student at Union Theological Seminary in New York, added: “As people of faith there is a lot of ways that we need to engage with technology. One thing I am really interested in though, is the ethics around using the technology. What happens when social justice issues get digitised? Theological education is not preparing us for what people are doing and saying online.”
Both are incredibly literate in the digital space. They do a fortnightly blog called Easter People (available on iTunes) and in the lead up to the conference Ms Kimball elaborated on its nature and purpose.
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer weight of facts about global shrinking of "mainline" church. But eFormation challenges participants to think about actively reaching out to people who aren’t at church, and what is involved in the engagement process. The conference brings together professionals in the fields of intergenerational faith development, congregational growth and development, basic marketing ideas for congregations, and experts in the fields of social justice and social media.
A laboratory of ideas Many interactive sessions dealt with actual case studies and the various tools available. This included sessions that explained how to use the marketing tools Google provides. “This generation has all the same questions that previous generations did. The difference is they are not conditioned to go and ask these questions of a person wearing a clerical outfit to get those questions answered,” explained Rev. Jake Dell, Manager of Digital Marketing for the Episcopal Church (New York diocese). “They are not conditioned to walk into a local church and hear a sermon that might help them. They are not conditioned to browse the religious section of a bookstore and read a book on the topic. What they are conditioned to do is go to Google for answers.” Lisa Kimball, Professor of Christian Formation and Congregational Leadership and Director of the Center for Ministry of Teaching at VTS, explained: “Fundamentally we are following Jesus into a world of God’s making and we are all joining a mission that is God’s.” Ms Kimball and Kyle Oliver, Digital insights.uca.org.au
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Digital media skills can help us rise to the occasion and meet these 21st century challenges and opportunities “We talk a lot about the fact that church leadership generally — clergy in particular, we would say — need a form of digital literacy today that is probably as sturdy as their knowledge of Biblical languages,” said Ms Kimball. “We need to be committed to help people become more digitally literate. But we want people to come [to eFormation] who are willing to learn, and together we ask questions. Digital literacy is ever-forming. It’s not static. It’s not an historic language; it’s a language of everyday practice.” “In most contexts, I would say online engagement is at least important, if not urgent,” reiterated Mr Oliver on the need for the conference and digital literacy. “We know most people who arrive in churches have checked out their websites first. We know most adults are online and connect with their friends and family via social networks. We know old models of being church aren't well set up to meet people where they are.”
Remapping our future “While we wouldn’t go as far as to say effective engagement will save a rapidly declining church on its own, we are confident that much of the hope for revitalising our churches and sustaining their good work in the world is related to the ability of leaders in ministry to engage people exactly where they are,” wrote Elizabeth Drescher and Keith Anderson in their book Click 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bible. “Where they are increasingly includes social media spaces like Facebook, Twitter [and] YouTube.”
No matter how we like to be engaged in the digital realm, increasingly there are tools to assist congregations to market themselves to people online and to design church services that include intergenerational worship. But the important work remains: we need to rise to the opportunities that this new digital ecology offers us. The narrative of decline and death is a passive one that precludes growth and development from the equation. It is also an admission that faith formation is passive. But learning and growing in ones’ faith is active. By simply and passively dying, we are ignoring one of the imperatives of the Gospel. “Digital media skills can help us rise to the occasion and meet these 21st century challenges and opportunities,” said Mr Oliver. “These skills develop best when we are not afraid to experiment. The motto of eFormation is, in many ways, ‘learn by doing.’ Let's be action researchers and share our learning with each other. “I've seen the very young and the very old have a huge impact online, many of them with very modest digital skills and experience. These environments are the mainline Church's opportunity to shine. We can be thoughtful, present, and engaged in ways that resonate deeply in our communities and serve as part of a foundation for a renewed sense of calling and partnership with neighbours and new friends.”
• The Social Media Gospel, Meredith Gould • Click 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bible, Elizabeth Drescher and Keith Anderson • The Digital Cathedral: Networked Ministry in a Wireless World, Keith Anderson • Faith Formation 4.0: Introducing an Ecology of Faith in a Digital Age, Julie Anne Lytle • Reimagining Faith Formation for the 21st Century, John Roberto • Generations Together: Caring, Celebrating, Learning Praying, and Serving Faithfully (co-authored, 2014), John Roberto • Faith Formation 2020: Designing the Future of Faith, John Roberto Insights August/September 2015 25
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>SHARE Intergenerational faith formation
ohn Roberto of Lifelong Faith Associates is editor of the journal Lifelong Faith, as well as other books and journals about intergenerational faith formation. On that importance of that subject, he ran a number of eFormation workshops. Roberto is a sought-after thought leader for his work in the area of faith formation, particularly intergenerational. His workshops focused upon how to create a new faith-forming ecosystem for making disciples and promoting lifelong faith growth. An ecosystem responsive to the challenges, and religious and spiritual needs, of 21st century people. At the heart of this new format of faith formation is the rediscovery of the power of intergenerational relationships, and the events and experiences of the whole faith community. Roberto has had vast experience in developing and sustaining intergenerational relationships, faith sharing, and storytelling, incorporating all generations in worship, developing service projects that involve all ages and engaging all generations in learning together. This has informed several books he has written, and he's also started a website that equips churches with resources. He explained the need to think differently about faith formation in our churches. The way people spend their time on a given weekend has changed dramatically over the years and parents
don’t necessarily have an active faith that can speak into the lives of their children. So, faith formation really begins by digitally reaching families within their homes. “Online and digital is an enabler of this new ecosystem," Roberto said. "Online is a place to gather people in one place; but it doesn’t create faith, it enables it. We have to remember that being online is a gathered connectivity – a small slice of peoples’ time. “Digital strategy enables the connections between church and home. Our life together is formative, our events form our faith. Supporting families by surrounding them with a community of faith is an important first step. “Parents spend a lot of time watching what their kids are doing, rather than engaging in activities with them. Faith formation starts at the family level, empowering parents with faith tools. Increasingly parents don’t necessarily go to church. Often they drop children off and pick them up from church-based activities. With the increasing demands on families, often Sunday’s are also full of sporting activities. With this in mind there is a little education required for parents as well. “Most parents won’t have grown up in church. Intentionally drawing in parents through relationship development is the key with faith formation.”
As a Church we need to recognise that society is out of step with Christian faith and many of our assumptions are wrong about where people are at with faith. But rather than throw hands up and admit defeat, this is a perfect example of where Baby Boomers can speak into the lives of their children. They can mentor them in their faith and, in turn, others as well. Roberto would agree: “Our assumptions about faith formation are wrong. We need to start with parents, modelling what you want parents to do with their kids.” Thinking differently about how intergenerational activity can work in your Church community is key. This can take the form of specially designed services that cater to all ages, or caring chats with parents as they wait for children to finish at youth group. Even developing coffee groups after-school to nurture parents can be an intentional intergenerational activity. Others include specifically designed services and curriculums such as Godly Play or Messy Church. While this form of education and teaching about Christ and the community of faith may seem daunting, the tools online that make this type of faith formation possible are available for every congregation that has access to the internet. Get clicking...
Faith formation resources
Photo courtesy: Kristen Pitts/CMT
• Children’s Ministry – Uniting Mission and Education: childrensministry.org.au/ • Lifelong Faith Associates — Committed to helping congregations develop lifelong Christian faith formation for all ages and generations: www.lifelongfaith. com •Intergenerational Faith Formation: www.Intergenerationalfaith.com • GenOn Ministries: www. Genonministries.org
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• 21st Century Faith Formation: www.21stcenturyfaithformation. com/ insights.uca.org.au
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>EXPLORE Congregational growth and development in a digital world
ev. Keith Anderson is a pastor at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church near Philadelphia, and is co-author with Elizabeth Drescher of Click2Save: The Digital Ministry Bible. A leader in digital ministry and a prominent speaker and author in his field, Anderson's work on religion, new media, and popular culture has appeared on websites such as The Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches, Day 1, and The New Media Project.
Rev. Keith Anderson
Anderson’s plenary described how we can build our own "digital cathedrals" across local and digital gathering spaces, sharing stories of faith communities and ministry leaders from across the country who are engaging and shifting the field of ministry practice and helping to point the way forward. “There is a danger if we keep doing what we’re doing, and ‘be’ and ‘do’ church the way we always have,” explained Rev. Anderson. “When our instinct is to turn 'in', we need to see our churches as much more expansive, networked entities. Some of the thinking around adaptive leadership is really helpful when thinking about how church can grow and expand.”
Digital revolutions Lee Rainie is director of internet, science and technology research at the Pew Research Center in the US. He is a co-author of Networked: The New Social Operating System and five books about the future of the internet that are drawn from Pew Research findings. “A big social change is under way," explained Rainie. "There are three revolutions that have unfolded. "The first is the Internet broadband evolution. In the very first research done by Pew Research, surveys revealed that half of Americans were online insights.uca.org.au
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Photo courtesy: Kristen Pitts/CMT
“Social media has reshaped the way we live our lives," summarised Rev. Anderson at eFormation. "We live faith not just in a church building. Fewer people are joining churches and attending services. We can lament that — or go to where the people are.”
(46 per cent). Now, it's 80 per cent. It has changed the way they use their networks to learn and share things. “The second revolution is the Mobile Connectivity Revolution. Right now 88 per cent of adults have mobile phones — 46 per cent have smart phones — which means they can connect with people, media and data anywhere, any time, if they carry around a device. “The third revolution is the Social Networking Revolution that is taking place inside technology. More than half of Americans use social networking sites to tell their stories, to build their networks and to share in the social media revolution that is taking place. “People are using these technologies to do something that is profoundly human. They are connecting with other people and sharing their stories. They are not hooked on their gadgets, they are hooked on each other. “People get information in new ways now," continued Rainie about the ramifications of the three revolutions. "They share information and use social networks in new ways. It is a completely different media ecology from the one that existed a generation ago.
Some research on our digital habits
For more information about Australia’s love for all things digital, head to McCrindle Research at www.mccrindle.com.au We recommend the following two articles. Just type these titles into the search field. • Australia: The Digital Media Nation • A Demographic snapshot of Christianity and Church attenders in Australia “Each person has become a communication and information switchboard connecting persons, networks, and institutions. "At the same time, each person has become a portal to the rest of the world, providing bridges for their friends to other social circles. This is in contrast to the long-standing operating system formed around large hierarchical bureaucracies and small, densely knit groups such as households, communities, and workgroups." Insights August/September 2015 27
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Photo courtesy: Kristen Pitts/CMT
Australia: the digital nation
Technology is changing faster than ever and how we consume media, equally so. While the growth of new technologies has had a fragmentation effect on media consumption, it’s also had a cumulative effect. Today, the average Australian spends around 10 hours per day on electronic media (although total hours spent on technology are not the same as total time chronologically, due to the way we consume media across devices). McCrindle surveyed Australians on the number of hours they spend each day viewing, browsing, interacting, engaging, 28 Insights August/September 2015
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playing, and listening to electronic media channels. The results are not only astounding, but markedly similar across the generations. Young Australians are not the only ones spending an extended period of their day on electronic media. In fact, Australia’s "Builder" generation (those aged 68 and older) are spending more time on electronic media than the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers — almost as much as Gen Y! Since the first iPad hit the market in 2010, Australians have grown to love tablets and use them, on average, for almost half an hour every day. Tablets
are not just being used by younger generations, either – the Baby Boomers and Builders have also taken a strong liking to the user-friendly interfaces and the multi-function capacities of such technologies. Australians also love digital media and devote more than half of their waking hours to interacting with digital media channels. While different generations engage with different mediums — such as Gen Ys preferring the use of smartphones and tablet usage, over TV consumption — one thing is clearly evident: Australia is a digital media nation. insights.uca.org.au
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>SEARCH Google or God?
Photo courtesy: Kristen Pitts/CMT
and purpose? Have they stopped feeling pain and suffering? Have they stopped feeling loneliness? This generation has all the same questions that previous generations did. "The difference is they are not conditioned to go [to] a person wearing a clerical outfit to get those questions answered. They are not conditioned to walk into a local church and hear a sermon that might help them. They are not conditioned to browse the religious section of a book store and read a book on the topic. What they are conditioned to do is go to Google.”
Rev. Jake Dell
sk Google a question about God, the church, or Jesus Christ and chances are that you’ll get some startling answers. The Rev. Jake Dell has been investigating and analysing the results of such Google searches. He is the Manager of Digital Marketing for the Episcopal Church (New York diocese), and has a wealth of industry experience in information technology, database marketing, fundraising, marketing and digital media.
generations who are not religiously affiliated. So, where do we start?
Rev. Dell’s session during the eFormation conference, “Google or God”, revealed some fascinating information about the shear breadth of information that Google collects on a daily basis. And this begs the question, “If Google is collecting detailed information about our habits, why aren’t we as a Church capitalising on this information?”
Did you know Google has a name for our habitual use of it as a search tool? It’s called a "micro-moment". And Google has identified four kinds of micro-moments. The "I-want-to-know" moments — the kind you use to settle a debate. Then there is the "I-want-to-go" moments, such as when you want to know where a new movie is showing?” There also are "I-want-to-do" and "I-want-to-buy" moments.
In an age where the current generation of millenials and the recently coined "nones" — those who are characterised as being spiritual but having no Church affiliation — are searching for answers to life’s questions online, the Church isn’t using the tools available to effectively respond to them. “The numbers from the recent Pew Research indicate we have hit the iceberg and we are taking on water,” explained Dell. “The number of people not going to church has really spiked. “There are now perhaps even four insights.uca.org.au
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"I saw these figures a few years ago while at a conference and I got frustrated as much by the numbers as by the reaction of people in the room. People were like ‘Oh that’s interesting; I’ll go back to my job’ [But] I wanted to do something about it."
Google’s micro moments
“These micro moments allow us, for the first time, to capitalise on what people are looking for," explained Dell. "It is amazing and scary how much Google knows about us through these micro-moments. "Interestingly when people Google 'God' or 'Jesus' on a Sunday morning, they rarely find a church. "[But] just because people aren’t going to church necessarily, does that mean they have stopped asking the big questions of life? Have they stopped asking about their meaning
This is where marketing comes into play and where effective marketing can become a form of evangelism. By meeting the needs of the primary age group that is asking pertinent questions, mainline churches will be more equipped to operate effectively in the online environment. You can have a great looking website, but if Google isn’t searching for it, chances are people won’t find it.
Research and where to find it
• Pew Research Centre: A nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the USA and the world. They conduct public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis and other datadriven social science research. www.pewforum.org • McCrindle Research: As Australia’s social researchers, they take the pulse of the nation. They research communities, survey society and analyse trends. www.mccrindle.com.au • National Church Life Survey: NCLS Research is a world leader in research that specialises in connecting churches and their communities. Their thoughtful research focuses on well-being, spirituality and church health. www.ncls.org.au Insights August/September 2015 29
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>SOCIAL MEDIA It’s not only what we say but how we say it that matters
magine you and your spouse suddenly becoming the most hated couple in Australia. Recently, a Christian couple from Canberra discovered just what this is like when they were subjected to a firestorm of criticism following their appearance in a local magazine. This is the headline from CityNews that catapulted them into both the national and international cauldron: “Gay marriage may force us to divorce.” Canberra couple Nick and Sarah Jensen had announced their intention to divorce, if homosexual people were allowed to get married too. "Hate" isn’t a word I use lightly. But after reading the comments made online about the Jensens, even 'hate' seems inadequate to describe them. Many of the comments about Nick and Sarah were so vile and degrading they are difficult to read, let alone repeat. In fact, even the seasoned editor of CityNews was so affected by the avalanche of responses that he "could only read a dozen comments at a time without becoming morose. Many had to be moderated, such was the disturbing content." Sadly, this tone of commentary is becoming more common. Particularly against anyone who fails to speak in support of same-sex marriage. Shortly after the US Supreme Court’s ruling allowing same-sex marriage, Matt Walsh wrote in The Blaze about the #lovewins meme he created. Walsh recongnised the bitter irony of how that meme generated feedback such as: “Hi, kill yourself. Thanks” “Oh Matt, you are a perfect as***le… Take your worthless version of the Bible, and set yourself on fire. That would make my Sunday:)” “The world would be so much better off without you.” So much for #lovewins, right? Personally, I’m no longer surprised by the verbal "violence"that is so common on social media (such as what Walsh received). But what did unsettle
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me about the explosive case of the Christian couple from Canberra, was the tone of the commentary by other Christians about their fellow brother and sister in Christ. Here’s just a few examples: “People like this make Christians look like hypocrites.” "This makes me embarrassed to be a wife, a woman, a Canberran, and a person.”
We’ve forgotten how to speak with one another “I for one am thankful that Australia takes your marriage (and also my marriage) more seriously than you do.” "Congratulations on inspiring and projecting more intolerance, selfishness, division and fear into society. I can just imagine Jesus being super proud of your representation of everything he stood for" You may well have seen similar comments in your Facebook feed. Clearly (and thankfully), these comments don’t come close to matching the tone or language adopted by many online who are not Christians But sadly, neither do they express the graciousness and gentleness that is surely appropriate for Christians communication. Especially when it is about one another. There is no doubt that the proposal by Nick and Sarah Jensen to divorce in the event of a change in the Marriage Act was a highly controversial one. I can understand that Christians might disagree with what they said or how they went about broadcasting it. What concerns me is that Christian disagreement online too often resembles nothing more than a profanity-free version of what is said by everybody else. Earlier this year, I heard former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson speak at a men’s event about our changing world. And one
comment he made particularly stood out. He said: “We’ve forgotten how to speak with one another.” The more I read online, the more I tend to agree. As Christians, how should we speak with one another, and about one another? Ephesians 4:1-6 puts forward some counter-cultural instructions: "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." Humble. Gentle. Forbearing. Patient. Promoting unity. These words aren’t simply to describe our interactions at church or in Bible study. They are just as relevant to the way we express ourselves online. Imagine that before you type another word online, you run through this Ephesians 4 check-list: •“Am I being completely humble or are my words proud and arrogant?” •“Am I being completely gentle or am I being harsh and unkind?” •“Am I being patient or am I speaking too soon?” •“Am I bearing with my brothers and sisters or am I intolerant and ungracious?” •“Will this promote unity or am I stirring up division and disharmony?” The internet will always introduce us to fellow believers we disagree with. One day you might even find yourself to be the subject of vigorous disagreement. When these situations arise, Christians have the opportunity to engage in a way that not only commends and upholds the gospel of Jesus Christ, but also promotes a better way to disagree online. Steve Kryger insights.uca.org.au
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Shocking news: Older people use social media
Ten years ago, social media was all about engaging young people. Today, the fastest demographic using social media is the over-60s crowd. McCrindle Research in Australia identifies the "Builder Generation" (people who are 68 and older) as the largest growing group of people using social media and the internet. Now, if we are to believe church exists for those outside our buildings, one way to share our gospel message is be involved in social media — simply due to the sheer number of people who use it. “Many grandparents are involved in social media to keep in touch with their children and grandchildren,” explained Randall Curtis at eFormation. Curtis is Ministry Developer for Young Adults and Youth in the Episcopal Church in Arkansas. He also is the President of Forma, a network of more than 400 Christian formation leaders in the Episcopal Church. "We need to see this as a valid form of intergenerational dialogue and also to understand what role this can have in faith formation. If this age group isn’t connected through social media, they will become more isolated. It is invaluable for a variety of age groups to connect via social media. "A lot of resistance to social media in congregations comes from fear around worse-case scenarios, but codes of conduct and boundaries need to be set from the outset.
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“We also need to be holding up really good examples of what works well, so the extremes are not the only stories to tell. We need to acknowledge that by-and-large it is rare for things to get out of control. If [a] nurturing and inclusive environment exists online, it will translate to conversations that are uplifting and helpful.” Insights August/September 2015 31
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>INTERNET 101 Your handy guide to digital media
ow you’ve read some of the thinking, wisdom and advice about Christian witness in our ditial age, here are some quick DIY tips for applying what you’ve learned in your local Congregation and faith community context. Have a go because, as Kyle Oliver from eFormation 2015 says – “You can’t break the internet!”
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HAVE FUN! YOU CAN’T BREAK THE INTERNET Yes, technology can be intimidating. The good news is that digital media companies know this and have invested in making social media and website development easy to create and engage with. Start by giving yourself small tasks to complete and practice on your personal accounts to get your message and tone right. Don’t engage in negative conversations and remember that digital ministry IS ministry, and you are using a digital tool to reach real people.
WHAT’S YOUR STORY? What’s your Congregation’s story? Perhaps it’s being an important part of your area’s community for decades, or maybe you offer a service nobody else is offering. Or perhaps your Congregation is dedicated to advocating for refugees, and runs information events for the general public to attend. Whatever makes you special, make sure everything you post can be linked back to this message.
IS YOUR WEBSITE ENGAGING? How does your Church's website compare with other sites that you use and search for everyday? Is it easy to navigate? Are your photos engaging? Does it look a little like a church newsletter from the 1990s? There are plenty of no cost and low-cost solutions to help your create a more engaging and welcoming online presence.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE HYPERLINKS One of the important ways you can keep your website up to date (and, in turn, increase the likelihood of Google finding your site) is to regularly hyperlink to items of interest outside your webpage, even if it is just to your Facebook page. If you have a news section, consider adding linking to items or other blogs that you think people who search your site may be interested in.
GET BLOGGING! REFLECTION IS GOOD FOR THE SOUL Stats have shown that the majority of people enjoy reading content about a product or event they’re interested in. For you, this content should come from your Congregation’s members. You can make a blog using a platform such as Wordpress.
MAKE SURE YOUR WEBSITE IS OPTIMISED FOR MOBILE DEVICES People are more mobile, and so are their devices. Google also favours websites tailored to mobile devices. If your Congregational website is not optimised insights.uca.org.au
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for a mobile device, it will not be as highly ranked in searches. This means people may never be able to discover your website, — no matter how much you update the information on it!
CHOOSE THE PLATFORM(S) THAT WORK FOR YOU There are a lot of social media and digital platforms, but your Church doesn’t need to be on all of them. Determine what you like using, what seems to connect well with your audience, and go with that. Before creating a Church account, spend time on multiple media platforms and search out other faith communities. You can model your media behaviour on others that you admire!
REALISE THAT YOU CAN’T REACH ALL THE PEOPLE, ALL THE TIME Social media won’t magically make all of your parishioners actively involved in all of your programs. But don't let that stop you updating them via social media. Households that you do reach might share your posts with others. And that's a great thing because social media's ability to spread information is fantastic.
SOCIAL MEDIA FOR COMMUNITY Do you have a Facebook page? If not, why not? Millions of people share photos and items of interest on Facebook. Once you have a Facebook page, you can then encourage Church members to share their photos of events, or other information. All you need is an email address and you have the ability to set up a community!
WANT TO REACH THE YOUTH? Think of photo-sharing app Instagram as the stained-glass windows of your online cathedral. If any members are creative and into photography, then you should make use of this app to continue telling your story visually. You may also like to include infographics, promotions or Bible verses that illustrate your Church’s story.
DEVELOP A SOCIAL MEDIA CODE OF ETHICS Anyone who is on social media understands that conversations online can quickly plummet into unhelpful dialogue (see story on page 30). Coming up with a social media code of conduct — particularly if you are running an active social media feed like Facebook — is imperative. As Christians, we do need to understand what constitutes helpful and unhelpful dialogue. The call for authenticity online as Christians is paramount.
Facebook: tips and hints
• You can use a Facebook page to reach a wider audience. You can make announcements through the page, share links from sources outside Facebook, and upload photos and videos. • Everyone loves hearing and seeing what goes on "behind the scenes". Shoot a short video on your phone of your Congregation’s band having a warm-up session before the service and post it — to build excitement. • Tag people in your photos so they turn up in their news feeds. When someone is tagged in a photo on Facebook, not only will they see it, but their friends will too. This is one of the ways that your page will reach the broader community. • Give your page a name that is simple and obvious. This way, people who have attended a community event at your Church, or are just looking for a Congregation in their area, can easily find you. • Note that a post on your page won’t necessarily be seen by all the people who have liked your page. If you’d like your post to spread further and reach more people, encourage people to “share” it.
HOW DO WE NAVIGATE THE QUESTIONS OF INTERNET ACCESS AT CHURCH? With people’s phones travelling with them at all times, there are ways internet access at church can enhance or hinder community. A lot of people have the Bible on their phone, so should we restrict them from using it in Church? Surely not, because such a ban on phones might destroy their value as an evangelism tool. Plus, if you allow people to "check in" on Facebook when they arrive at Church, all their friends will know where they are spending Sunday morning. This simple act is one of leading by example. Grace Liley, Kyle Oliver and Adrian Drayton
Looking for more information?
If you would you like help with any or all of these suggestions, simply email Synod of NSW and the ACT Communications and Marketing at firstname.lastname@example.org. org.au and we’ll be happy to assist. Insights August/September 2015 33
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Growing in God’s Word through fresh planting Queanbeyan Congregation gardens wit h a communal purpose
n November 2010, Insights reported that around ten community gardens — from Sydney to Broken Hill, from Moree to Cooma — had been established. By July 2012, that number had doubled. The trend for Churches to grow food is on the up as they respond to needs and interest in the broader community.
garden beds, erected and filled compost bins and planned the next round of planting and landscaping.
One such Church is Queanbeyan Uniting Church. Its members are now pulling on their gardening gloves and walking their own community garden path. But what made them decide this was the time to do it?
Against this backdrop, the QUC group proposed that the garden will:
“In a sense, we are responding to the interest and need, which emerged some time ago,” said Natalie Maras from QUC’s Garden Ministry. “People in Queanbeyan are rediscovering the value of growing their own food or, at least, supporting local growers of food. Organic food is becoming more fashionable as people become increasingly conscious of detrimental hormones, antibiotics and chemicals in the food chain. “Unlike a decade ago, domestic green waste recycling is a norm for us. Campaigns to reduce landfill waste; to buy local; engage in sustainable food production; reduce consumption and our dependency on plastic; to plant trees and get involved with Clean Up Australia — they’re all part of our daily lives. “What’s more, there is a significant and increasing number of needy people living on our doorstep” A brief discernment process in 2014 led congregation members to find each other on the beginnings of a garden path. Among the Garden Ministry group are avid gardeners with a combined total of a century of hands-on experience. They also are artists, cooks, a landscape architect, retired nursery owners, and teachers. Under their own steam and finances, the group raised the first wicking vegetable bed, secured a grant for subsequent 34 Insights August/September 2015
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“We are lucky to have the capacity we need to get going — physical space with six hours of sunlight; clean air, rain and soil; gardening tools; expertise; and an abundance of local plants to propagate,” said Natalie.
• Be open to Church members and the wider community, just as the Church is • Produce food for the needy, Church members and affiliated groups • Be a place for rest and meditation, including seating and a prayer/ meditation/sensory walk in the garden • Provide a space for gathering, holding events, or building community in groups • Provide a place for learning about gardening, food production and food preservation • Provide a place for volunteering skills It would be easy to get lost in the soil and seasonal sweat of the brow, which has accompanied every garden on earth. But some in the group are determined to keep the Bible in focus. For a start, the group wishes to use plants and plant imagery used in the Bible. However, identifying plants in the Bible has not been as straightforward as it sounds. This has led the group on its own investigation into the history of the formation of Biblical literature. Both the Old and New Testaments are composed of oral depositions, fragmentary written records and books from thousands of years ago in a variety of languages and translations. The group came to the conclusion that it cannot be sure the plants they read about in the modern version of the Bible, are original references. They speculate
that plants and plant references may have been lost along the way, or possibly replaced with plants deemed theologically suitable at a point in history. For example, the apple (Pyrus malus) could not have grown, let alone fruited, in the hot climate of the Holy Land. It emerged from cool European climates. But because it became widely known around the world, the apple also transformed into an enduring symbol of temptation — linked to the anonymous “fruit” mentioned in Genesis 3 Planting an apple on church grounds is done with the knowledge that it was definitely not the “fruit” Adam and Eve ate in the Garden of Eden. But it is productive and attractive in the Queanbeyan climate. There are also numerous botanical allegories in the Bible with which to come to terms. We read “all flesh is grass” from Isaiah 40: 6, and that section of the Old Testament is repeated in I Peter 1:24: “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall…” Psalm 103:15-18 adds that when the wind blows over the grass, “its place remembers it no more”. When we plant grasses on church grounds, we do so knowing the grass, our actions and our lives are transient, fragile even. But there is also eternality in the Word, which we share and enact. “Focussing on the biblical symbols that are important to us in our time, we encounter choices,” reflect Natalie. “Do we choose traditional symbols of peace (olive), truth (bay), purity (lily), fertility (pomegranate/ fig), and prosperous harvest (corn/date palm), to plant on church grounds? Or do we choose citrus like lemons and oranges, or nut trees with which our large Mediterranean community has close affinity and respect? “This leads to interesting discussion as we meet monthly over seasonal bounty.” Mark Filmer insights.uca.org.au
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To follow and like our progress, find Garden Ministryâ€” Queanbeyan Uniting Church on Facebook. To get in touch with the Garden Ministry, contact Natalie Maras at email@example.com insights.uca.org.au
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Grants for community service projects Norman and Florence Price Memorial Trust The Norman and Florence Price Trust provides small, one-off grants for projects that, in some way help relieve poverty. It is administered by the Board of UnitingCare NSW.ACT. Applications are being sought for 2015-16. To be eligible, an organisation must be accountable to a congregation, presbytery or mission within the Synod of NSW and the ACT. Assessment criteria include: the level of analysis and planning evident in the project plan; the capacity of the organisation to manage the project; the commitment of the organisation’s members/volunteers (financial or in-kind) to the project; and the level of collaboration with the service’s clients and/or other services. For more details or to apply, visit: www.unitingcare.org.au/resources/grant_programs /price_trust. Deadline for submissions is 9 am, 24 August 2015.
NATIONAL CONFERENCE 2015 Sept
September 25, 26, 27 Manly Village Church, Sydney NSW Join us, with our international speakers, to feast on stories, ideas, materials and, of course, food! For more information and to register visit:
www.godlyplay.org.au Supported by:
MINISTRY MATTERS P lacement Vacancies as at 1 August 2015. At the time of print the following placements have submitted profiles to the Placements Committee and are either in, or soon to be in, the process of seeking to fill a ministry vacancy. Placements are available to specified ministers of the UCA. These placements are listed as being suitable for a Pastor under Regulation 2.3.3(a)(ii). A non-ordained minister may offer to serve in an approved placement through a written application to the Synod. Expressions of interest may be made in writing to the Associate Secretary, Rev. Jane Fry, firstname.lastname@example.org or to the Presbytery’s Placement Committee representative.
CANBERRA REGION Canberra City/ Toe Talatalanoa/ St Columba’s IIM Eurobodalla 70% South Woden Weston Creek (up to 80%)
ILLAWARRA PRESBYTERY Nowra
FAR NORTH COAST PRESBYTERY Lismore Regional Mission
PARRAMATTA-NEPEAN Castle Hill Northmead
GEORGES RIVER PRESBYTERY Bardwell Park Caringbah
SYDNEY PRESBYTERY St Stephens Tonga Parish Wesley Mission – 10.30am and 3.00pm Congregations
KU-RING-GAI PRESBYTERY St Ives Normanhurst
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SYDNEY NORTH Pittwater Wesley Mission 10.30am & 3pm Congregations THE HUNTER PRESBYTERY New Lambton Upper Hunter
OTHER Uniting College - Alan Walker Lectureship in Mission, Evangelism and Leadership (ADV) Pymble Ladies College Chaplain UnitingCare Ageing Chaplaincy - Central Coast West Emu Plains
31/07/2015 1:41:08 PM
Making Money Matter Ten Commandments still light the way
ne of the great moments in history is when Moses was given the Ten Commandments (more correctly “Ten Words” or “Ten Matters”). The drama of the escape from slavery in Egypt was behind the Israelites and an unknown, adventurous journey to the Promised Land was ahead. At this pivotal moment, God gave Moses and His people ten spiritual lamp posts to define who they were and provide guidance for how to live.
Warrren Bird Executive Director Uniting Financial Services
Those lamp posts still shine brightly today. If you want to get to the heart of Christian spirituality and principles for living as one of God’s people, these verses (see Exodus 20:1-17 or Deuteronomy 5:1-21) address matters of great significance. And so they also speak to the topic of this column – money and wealth. It’s there indirectly, but clearly, in the first commandment. “You shall have no other gods before me”. That immediately speaks of money and wealth coming under our relationship with God, not ahead of it. It’s there more obviously in the tenth: “Do not covet anything that belongs to your neighbour.” That is, do not greedily crave more and more. Why not? Because to do so is to desire things, money and wealth first and foremost, instead of desiring God first and foremost. One that’s on topic is the eighth commandment: “Do not steal”. Such behaviour, rooted in covetousness and desire for money and possessions ahead of God, is widely rejected even in the secular world. However, another commandment that is helpful to understand is the fourth, which literally says “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” This might seem a little anachronistic in our frantic, 24/7 world but, through it, God speaks about money, work and worship like this: Your work is important and will rightly take up a lot of your time and energy.
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That’s how I provide for your needs. But don’t let it consume you; don’t idolise the work itself nor the rewards it can bring; and don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s all that matters. What matters most is your relationship with Me. So take time to cultivate it! And allow those over whom you have influence (your family and your staff) to take time to do this too.
We are to have no other gods before our Lord To help you with that I give you permission to take a break from work. I don’t intend the Sabbath as a burden. You don’t have to legalistically work out what you can and can’t do on the ‘day of rest’. Far from it! Instead, use it as a strategy to help you to abide in Christ and enjoy my loving presence. The Sabbath is there to help you to remember to put me first in everything. In fact, don’t just see it as a ‘day’, but as a habit of enjoying the fact that I am always with you by my Spirit. It is my gift to you – enjoy it! When you think about it like that, from God’s perspective, you can also understand one of the many principles Jesus expressed. A principle wrapped up in what he was getting at when he said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (as recorded in Mark 2:27). Similar to God’s teaching through the fourth commandment, what’s being said is work was made for man, not man for work. Working, and making money from it, is not wrong — we’re commanded to do that! However, putting it ahead of God is the root cause of all kinds of problems (1 Timothy 6:9-10). Does our attitude to money and what we do with it really matter? The Ten Commandments say that it does. We’re to have no other gods before our Lord. Insights August/September 2015 37
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Centre for Ministry, North Parramatta Monday - Friday, August 24 - 28 Five one-day seminars to shape your work and community. Leadership that transforms - August 24 with Peter Kaldor & Rhonda White Transforming communities - August 25 with Richard Harwood Restoring damaged communities August 26 with Francis Sullivan Creative learning spaces August 27 with Steve Collis Multicultural communities August 28 a consultation with Katalina Tahaafe-Williams
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Register Today www.ume.nsw.uca.org.au email@example.com Phone 02 8838 8912
31/07/2015 1:41:31 PM
Lectionary Reflections August: The consequences of sin
2 August 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a
16 August 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
30 August Song of Solomon 2:8-13
The story of Israel’s Bathsheba and David is a complex narrative that presents us directly with the consequences of sin. King David, the kingdom's most powerful man, had used his power to take the wife of his general Uriah. He then has Uriah killed in battle when a pregnancy results from David's affair with Bathsheba.
This passage is an often cited, well-loved piece of Scripture from which a multitude of earnest sermons on wisdom have been generated due to the fact that Solomon chooses wisdom over the more individual gifts of long life, riches and power.
The Song of Solomon reminds us of the beauty and sacredness of human love, and how such love reflects the sacred love that God holds for the human creature.
The prophet Nathan, acting as God’s voice and the conscience of the king, uses a clever parable to accuse David, who believes himself to be above conventional morality. David discovers there is a high cost to ignoring the way of the Lord, and that everyone, even the king, is accountable. David’s punishment is the death of his innocent child, the product of his illicit union. How is it fair that David sins and lives, but the child without sin dies? As unfair as it seems, the story reminds us that the consequences of sin are rarely confined to the individual, and have a habit of spilling out to all who are close to us.
9 August 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 This passage and its surrounding context are surely chronicles of one of history’s most dysfunctional families. Incest, rape, favouritism, murder, civil war, planned patricide and regicide – this story of David’s family has it all. The prophecy uttered by Nathan that the Lord will “raise up trouble for you in your own house” has surely come to pass. The story of David’s dysfunctional family is almost a mirror of society. When we engage in such conflict, and seek the opportunity to destroy one another (both figuratively and literally), the consequence is a domino effect and the bringing down of others all around us. The passage lays this bare for all to ponder, and prods us to remember the God who suffers with us, and who calls us to offer love instead of hate. insights.uca.org.au
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It is worth asking, however, what the lectionary leaves out of the story. Omitted are King David’s deathbed instructions about what family scores need settling. This is a disturbing story that mixes up worldly power with divine expectations. It questions the nature of public piety and private motivation. We all need wisdom. But we need wisdom that questions, that looks beneath the surface, and that is genuinely honest and discerning, in order to progress what is truly the common good.
The Song is unusual in that the woman does most of the speaking. In verses that celebrate the return of spring, and the emergence of flowers, fruit and creatures, the rupture between the man and woman is repaired, and relationship and the garden are restored. So we should rejoice in the Song of Songs, which gives us a glimpse of a world where men and women are in harmony with one another, and where the brokenness of the relationships between human beings — and with the natural world — are indeed reconciled, and the earth is healed.
23 August 1 Kings 8:(1,6,10-11), 22-30, 41-43 The theme of covenant permeates this passage. As well as reminding us of the Exodus, the cloud of God's presence is there to also remind us of the covenant made at Mount Sinai. The message is clear – God is as surely present with the Israelites of Solomon’s kingdom as He was with their ancestors, many centuries before. Yet Solomon's prayer does not seek to confine God solely to the Temple. Though it is central to Israel’s worship for many years, the Temple ultimately is not essential. When it is later destroyed, God can still be found nearby and is present to God's people, and even to Gentiles who seek to know God’s name. This text encourages us to remember the ancient people of faith, and to rejoice that through the grace of God in Jesus Christ, we are also included into a covenant where wild olive shoots have been grafted onto the cultivated olive tree of Israel. Insights August/September 2015 39
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Lectionary Reflections September: At work among all people
6 September Mark 7:24-37
20 September Proverbs 31:10-31
27 September Psalm 19
The story begins with Jesus venturing into Gentile territory, where he meets a Syrophoenician woman who accosts him, in a bid to persuade him to heal her daughter.
The famous text about “a capable wife” has infamously been used to categorise women’s roles as confined to the household. This actually does no justice to the text, which presents the wisdom of women as having an essential role in the social and historical context of the early post-Exile existence of God's people.
This psalm is a hymn that celebrates not only God’s role in creation, but how the universal creation lovingly bears witness to God. In breath-taking poetry it describes how the whole universe sings of God’s glory, a wordless yet all-encompassing song that penetrates across the farthest reaches of creation.
Families faced with the critical task of re-establishing themselves economically and religiously, depend far more on women than in more stable periods. The passage describes the wife as a manager of an extended and productive family household, and a counsellor to husband and children.
The psalmist also understands the destructive power of a life lacking in self-reflection, where mindless engagement with a broken world runs the risk of a life governed by errors of the heart and resultant sin. Having begun with the heavens singing God's glory, the psalm ends with a personal prayer, where heart, mouth and action unite to keep the author in right relationship with God.
Her request is rejected on the basis of her ethnicity: “it is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs”. She responds to Jesus by pointing out that even dogs can catch crumbs that fall from the table. As a result of her clever interpretation of Jesus’ remarks, he grants her petition to heal her daughter. Through Jesus, the God of Israel is shown to be at work among all people. This is further emphasised in the following story, where Jesus heals another Gentile.
13 September Proverbs 1:20-33 This passage introduces us to Wisdom, a persona who offers wise counsel, as well as an authentic feminine experience and interpretation of the divine. Wisdom here is calling out to those who would heed her counsel and follow her ways, ways that are characterised by justice, hospitality and love of God.
Just as the husband of this capable wife “will have no lack of gain” so also Wisdom will exalt and honour the man who prizes and embraces her. It is worth asking the question: who is the biblical Wisdom and how might her story affect us and the church today?
This Lectionary Reflection was prepared by Rev. Elizabeth Raine of Wauchope Uniting Church and the Southern Zone Minister for Mid North Coast Presbytery
Heeding Wisdom’s advice is to embrace a spirituality of roads and journeys, of public places and open borders, of nourishment and celebration – rather than a spirituality of categories, doctrines, systems and boxes. This is a spirituality that offers connection and integration, rather than the separation and differentiation that has characterised Christianity for centuries. As such, Wisdom offers us the potential to be both transformative and restorative within our communities.
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DO YOU KNOW ANYONE YOU THINK WOULD MAKE A GOOD MODERATOR? The Moderator Nominating Committee is seeking nominations for the position of Moderator within the Synod of New South Wales and the AC T for the period 2017-2020. A full position description will be available on the synod website (http:// nswact.uca.org.au/resourcecentre/jobs/) or by contacting Sue Willgoss on 8267 4382 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Committee is tasked to bring three nominations to the 2016 Synod Meeting, April 16-19, where an election for the position will take place.
If you would like to nominate someone please send details of the person’s name and contact details as well as your own name and contact details together with a rationale for making the nomination. This rationale should include 500 words indicating the nominee’s current role/position and listing the gifts/vision this person will bring to the church. As a matter of courtesy when you prepare your nomination, please advise the nominee of your action.
Submissions should be marked “Confidential” and sent to Ms Penny Archer and Rev. Will Pearson, Co-Chairpersons, Moderator Nominating Committee, c/o Secretariat, Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW & ACT, PO Box A2178, Sydney South, 1235 NSW Australia before 15 November 2015.
How then shall we lead?
May Macleod Lecture
How then shall we lead?
How do boards and councils of the church guide our communities of faith, dealing with difficult pasts and preparing for a future of hope?
Wednesday August 26 7.30 - 9 pm Centre for Ministry 16 Masons Drive North Parramatta
Francis Sullivan is the Chief Executive Officer of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, based in Canberra.
May Macleod Lecture He will be talking about learning for the church in relation to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Register: of ume.nsw.uca.org.au How do boards and councils the Church guide our communities of faith, dealing with the difficult pasts and preparing for a future of hope?
Wednesday August 26 7.30-9pm Center for Ministry 16 Mason Drive North Parramatta insights.uca.org.au
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Phone 03 8838 8912
Francis Sullivan is the Chief Executive Officer of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, based in Canberra. He will be talking about learning for the Church in relation to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Insights August/September 2015 41
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Fellowship news News from Uniting Church Adult Fellowship
Edith Ridge steps down as editor The NSW/ACT UCAF Synod Committee accepted with regret the resignation of committee member Edith Ridge at its last meeting. She had served with husband Rev. Barry Ridge for many years and had been a long time editor of our newsletter.
The future of UCAF Five members of the NSW/ACT UCAF Synod Committee, accompanied by Rev. Alistair Christie (a past National Chairperson) attended the UCAF Triennial Consultation in Perth. The theme for the event was “Future of UCAF”, which saw a number of Indigenous Australian, Tongan and Indonesian ladies speak on how their culture and background could be incorporated into Adult Fellowship. During the final church service, Victoria/ Tasmania was commissioned for 20152018 as National Committee. The National Celebration will be held in Geelong, between 13 and 17 April, 2016.
The Illawarra Presbytery Rally reminds us to think local The Illawarra Presbytery Rally was held at Nowra Uniting Church and was a great day
of fellowship. Morning speaker was the Moderator Rev. Myung Hwa Park, on the theme of “The Liberating Spirit of God”. She reminded those present of the freedom we have in Christ and of the blessings he gives, before sharing part of her story. This was followed by communion. In the afternoon, Lyn Miles from All Saints Community Care told of the opportunities the Church has to help those in need, such as giving food parcels, counselling and vouchers.
The Mid North Coast Rally shines a light The Mid North Coast (Northern Region) Rally was held at Dorrigo with many enjoying the amazing scenic route to get there. Morning speaker was Mandy Hansen who gave a wonderful presentation on “Mercy Ships” — in operation for more than 30 year, working mainly in socio-economically deprived countries. Mandy’s husband had served as a volunteer doctor with the organisation. Rev. Lindsay Cullen then led with a presentation on “Future Directions of the Uniting Church”. Di MacDonald followed, sharing stories of the active Interchurch Council in Dorrigo and the booklet Faith
Stories From The Dorrigo Plateau, which the Council produced. After a delightful lunch, the afternoon finished with speaker Barbara Turvey who told of her sons’ “Family and Mission” overseas. More than 55 people attended the day, representing eight churches. Special donations of $500 each were given to Shine a Light and Mercy Ships. Donations to the Shine a Light project, which is a Uniting World initiative, are still being received ($3,331 was collected at the last Committee meeting). Shine a Light is the UCAF State project for 2015. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the treasurer Geoff Hicks on 02 4933 3703 or email: email@example.com
Rallies and gatherings • Ku-ring-gai: 27 August at Ourimba • Mid North Coast: 9 September at Taree • Far North Coast: 1 September at Lismore acquarie-Darling: 21 October at •M Broken Hill If you would like to share your fellowship news or have any questions, please contact Judy Hicks: firstname.lastname@example.org
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31/07/2015 4:58:53 PM
Second Generation Tongans let their lights shine Despite the challenges, Charissa said there was much to celebrate about the young Tongan members of the UCA. “There is so much more life, there is so much more joy, and so many good news stories about the lives of Second and Third generation Tongan Australian young people,” explained Charissa. “The wider Church needs to continue to give space for these young people to tell their stories, which encourages them to grow in faith, grow in leadership and grow their identity in Christ.
very June, more than 1,000 Tongan members of the UCA gather at the foothills of the Blue Mountains in Sydney for three days of fellowship and sharing. A standout feature of the weekend is the contribution made by the young people — the ‘Second Gen’ — to every aspect of the Conference. The annual gathering is a muchanticipated highlight for Tongan youth. This year, more than 400 Tongan young people attended, travelling from 20 congregations all over Australia. Youth groups spend many months rehearsing choir and cultural performances for the different parts of the TNC program, including a video countdown. Rev. Charissa Suli heads up the Second Gen leadership team, which includes representatives from every state and the ACT. Her role is to mentor and grow emerging leaders. “TNC is a fun, spirit-filled weekend that inspires young Tongan people to keep finding Christ in their lives,” said Charissa. “It’s s an opportunity for the youth and young adults to bring the humour, faith stories and colour of Tongan culture to life through their singing, dancing, community building and testimony.” The focus for the young adult leaders at this year’s TNC was to learn more about worship in the Uniting Church. One activity involved looking at the meaning
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of popular Tongan hymns and the specific metaphors that relate to Tongan culture.
“It is when they find their true identity in Christ that their lives, the way they relate to others and the way they see themselves changes — for the better.
“We found many of us didn’t actually understand the meaning of the words, even though we’d sung these hymns many times,” said Second Gen member Semisi Kailahi. “It’s inspired me to think about learning the Tongan language.”
“Their faith in Christ no longer becomes something they are part of in our Tongan culture, but actually permeates deep into their soul and becomes a transforming experience where their lives are changed forever.”
Second and Third Gen leaders planned and ran the full youth program, which included worship, Bible study, community groups, team-building exercises and group discussions aligned with the Conference theme: God’s love is deeper than the ocean, Glory to God forever.
Virginia Lavaki, a Queensland member of the Second Gen leadership team, thinks the TNC is amazing. “For me it is a time of fellowship with our Tongan brothers and sisters. It helps us to grow spiritually and connects us [so we can] continue the Tongan culture and legacy.”
“The TNC is an important event for encouraging and training emerging leaders in the Uniting Church,” said Rev. Suli. “They gain insights into effective leadership and new ideas for ministry to take back to their own congregation. “One of the things we explore through the TNC is how we build the bridge between First generation and Second generation Tongans. We’ve done this by giving young people a platform to have a voice in the conference. In society, we see this gap between generations widening because of the changing context, lifestyle, structure and culture. “It is important that both parents and young people are able to stand within and across their culture of heritage and their Australian culture to be able to appreciate and operate within both cultures.”
Kesaia Palelei from Beth Shalom Tongan Uniting Church in Western Australia said the TNC gave her the opportunity to spend time with other young Tongans. “The first time I came to the TNC it was the most Tongans I’d ever seen in one place. It is great to spend time together with people in our own age group who are all going through the same struggles.” Hearing these kind of sentiments, you realise how truly blessed the UCA is by the space TNC provides for young Tongans to come to know and grow their faith. A deep ocean certainly separates Australia and Tonga, literally and culturally. But the love of God at TNC is bridging the divide. Rebecca Beisler insights.uca.org.au
31/07/2015 5:06:18 PM
Culture watch Thinking and doing are not different
inally, Abe Lucas has found a reason to live. He merrily believes it to be the one thing he must do. Before this revelation, philosophy professor Abe had been so down on living he even felt empty while helping poor people in Darfur and Bangladesh. Woody Allen might be 80 years old, but he keeps writing and directing one movie per year. Starring Joaquin Phoenix (Walk The Line) as Abe Lucas, Irrational Man is Allen’s 46th feature film — and his latest annual release. Irrational Man detonates a bomb at the intersection between ethical concepts and what we actually do in real life. That critical point where we no longer talk about abstract ideas or attitudes, but we have to act. We must do something. If I reveal what Abe decides to do, it will rob Irrational Man of its biggest wallop. But here’s a hint: it’s extreme. Anyway, what Abe does is not as memorable as how he views what he does. Having waffled on with theories about how people should treat each other, Abe comes to believe that real life is another ball-game entirely. He concludes that if something feels right and it can be justified, then you probably should do it. Some people falsely believe Christianity is like what Abe is on about. While the
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teachings and principles anchored in Jesus Christ sound fine in theory, when it comes to living them out, they just don’t fit with reality. Abe becomes content with saying one thing yet acting in another way, depending on the situation. In the same sort of way as someone can say they love certain things about Jesus, yet they do the opposite to those things, when the chips of real-life are down. Like how Abe changes his own code of morality to suit himself, you or I might choose to ditch the way of life Jesus leads. We can tell ourselves that the circumstances justify it, as Abe tries to convince his devoted student, Jill (Emma Stone, The Amazing Spider-Man). They argue about what he’s done and Jill admits she cannot intellectually compete with Abe’s arguments. Even though he claims to be led by feelings, not intelligence, his smarty-pants arguments support what he feels is right. Christianity differs to the ways of living on show in Irrational Man. While there is incredible everyday freedom offered to those who believe in and follow Jesus, Christians are not to “use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another in love.” The early Christian figurehead Paul wrote this guidance in Galatians 5:13, to help Christians
understand how to live as “free” yet loving and responsible people. The “flesh” refers to desires all of us can have to pursue things despised by God and Jesus. Paul lists such “works of the flesh” in 5:19-21, including sexual immorality, jealousy, selfish ambitions, outbursts of anger, and “anything similar”. Unlike Abe justifying whatever he decides to do, Paul reveals God and Jesus call His followers to not use their Christian freedom in the same way. Instead, giving your life to Jesus and living for Him involves living out the teachings of Jesus. In real, actual, day-to-day life. Jesus describes the relationship between what He says and how His followers should live it out as “If you love Me, you will keep my commands” (John 14:15). Jesus summarises his commands as “Love God and love your neighbour” (Mark 12:28-31). This seemingly simple yet all-consuming moral code for living must be lived out by those who love Jesus as He should be loved. Just because the situation is difficult, different or hard to work out, that’s not a reason for Christians to follow Abe Lucas. Instead, we should keep freely following Jesus, loving Him and His purposes. Ben McEachen Insights June/July 2015 45
31/07/2015 5:32:35 PM
Entertain me PRESS PLAY BIG SCREEN
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (M) Packaged as a quirky coming-of-age story, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl surprisingly becomes a magnificent drama with an unexpected depth. In among the story of a self-centred teenage boy emerges a memorable portrait of loss, love and life. The central character from Jesse Andrews’ source novel is Greg (Thomas Mann), who lives a shallow high school existence devoid of meaningful relationships. His only friend Earl (RJ Cyler), partners with Greg in avoiding most of high school’s trappings and, together, they make film parodies. When Greg is asked by his mother to visit Rachel (Olivia Cooke), a classmate who has been diagnosed with leukaemia, lives change. Greg and Rachel try to make the best of an initially awkward situation and their relationship transforms as they come to rely on each other’s support — and friendship — through this traumatic time. It’s a rare film that engages so well with themes of loss and death, and offers discussion starters about life. One of the key queries that comes out here is: what do we choose to do with this gift of life? The storyline about friendship is woven together with a confronting evaluation of life, even life after death. It is entertaining, but also provokes excellent talking points for teens about the complexity of life. Russell Matthews 46 Insights August/September 2015
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Testing Tradition and Liberating Theology, Dr Val Webb Testing Tradition and Liberating Theology is a little Aussie gem from our own pre-eminent lay theologian Dr Val Webb. Webb’s goal in this book is to unlock theological process from the rarefied academic world of the seminary and encourage everyone to do their own theological thinking; making theology accessible for the average reader. It provides a comprehensive overview of the history of theology through the past 2,000 years, presenting an intelligible overview of key theologians and their contribution to the development of theological thought. Her précis provides plenty of revision to what we may already know, as well as moments of revelation and discovery. What could have been a dry read is flavoured by an autobiographical thread, which covers Webb’s own theological journey from the early certainties of evangelical faith to more complex current contextual understanding. This perspective won’t sit comfortably with many who favour the neo-Barthian (look this up in her book) fondness that dominates much Uniting Church thinking. Testing Tradition and Liberating Theology submits that there are many ways to think theologically, and Webb leaves the reader to make their own decision. Bruce Mullan
Insurgent (M) For centuries, the walled city of Chicago has enjoyed peace. Harmony established by dividing society into five factions: the Abnegation, who value selflessness; Erudite, who cherish knowledge; Dauntless, bravery; Amity, friendship; and Candor, truthfulness. Everyone knows where they belong. Apart from those who show aptitude for more than one faction: the Divergent. Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her boyfriend, Four (Theo James) are two such people. This sequel to Divergent has Tris on-the-run from ruthless Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet). She and her posse seek refuge in Amity’s friendly community. But, determined to maintain “peace”, Jeanine won’t stop until she takes out Tris, the city’s greatest threat. What gradually emerges is a reason behind Jeanine’s relentless persecution of Divergents — as well as why Tris is so important for society’s future. While being pursued, Tris tries to reveal the truth about Jeanine to Candor and the surprisingly wellorganised group of Factionless. Insurgent is an interesting film for teens as it navigates further through the themes of forgiveness, justice, truth and sacrifice developed in it’s predecessor. As the second in what will ultimately be four films, this is a worthy chapter of young-adult fantasy. Adrian Drayton insights.uca.org.au
31/07/2015 5:39:54 PM
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Financial services services are Limited ACN 000 022 480, ABN 89 89 725725 654654 978,978, AFSL 292186 and and by The Church in Australia Property Trust Financial are provided providedby byThe TheUniting UnitingChurch Church(NSW) (NSW)Trust TrustAssociation Association Limited ACN 000 022 480, ABN AFSL 292186 by Uniting The Uniting Church in Australia Property (NSW) ABN 77 00577 284 605 pursuant to a s.911A Act 2001 (Cth.) authorisation and APRA Banking Exemption 4 of 2014 (“Uniting Financial Services”), for The Uniting Church Australia, Trust (NSW) ABN 005 284 605 pursuant to aCorporations s.911A Corporations Act 2001 (Cth.) authorisation and APRA BankingNo. Exemption No. 1 of 2011 (“Uniting Financial Services”), for TheinUniting Synod of NSW and the ACT pursuant to ASIC Regulatory Guide 87 exemptions. Uniting Financial Services® is a registered trademark of The Uniting Church (NSW) Trust Association Limited and is used Church in Australia, Synod of NSW and the ACT pursuant to ASIC Regulatory Guide 87 exemptions. Uniting Financial Services® is a registered trademark of The Uniting Church (NSW) Trust with permission by The Church in Australiaby Property Trust (NSW). Association Limited andUniting is used with permission The Uniting Church in Australia Property Trust (NSW). Neither The Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW and the ACT, The Uniting Church in Australia Property Trust (NSW) nor Uniting Financial Services is prudentially supervised by APRA.An Neither The with Uniting Church in Australia, Synod from of NSW the ACT nor Uniting Financial Services is Act prudentially by APRA. investment with or contributions will not benefit from investment or contributions will not benefit the and depositor protection provisions of the Banking 1959. Allsupervised financial services and An products are designed for investors who wish to promote the depositor protectionpurposes provisionsand of the Banking Actconsiderations 1959. All financial services and products areindesigned for investors religious and charitable for whom profit are not of primary importance their decision to invest.who wish to promote religious and charitable purposes and for whom are not of primary importance in their Information decision to invest. Pleaseprofit refer considerations to the Product Disclosure Statement and the Product Brochure for Terms and Conditions.
Please refer to the Product Disclosure Statement and the Product Information Brochure for Terms and Conditions.
31/07/2015 4:18:36 PM
Hearts on Fire: The 14th Triennial Assembly 21st Century Faith Formation on the Digital Frontier UCA Anniverary and Multicultural Festival
Published on Aug 1, 2015
Hearts on Fire: The 14th Triennial Assembly 21st Century Faith Formation on the Digital Frontier UCA Anniverary and Multicultural Festival