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insights DECEMBER/ JANUARY 2017


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A fellowship of reconciliation for today and tomorrow?

REV. JANE FRY ACTING 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.

AS I WRITE MY FIRST column as Acting General Secretary, it’s the morning after the results of the US Presidential election were announced. The office is a bit subdued and I’ve heard snatches of conversations all wondering together what this might mean. In the community more broadly, there are mixed reactions — some are horrified, others are celebrating — and one thing is clear: we’ve all woken up in a different world this morning.

so using a quote from an episode of The West Wing. The context is that a member of Cabinet is required to stay behind in the White House during the State of the Union address, in the event of anything happening to the President:

The (appalling) rhetoric of the election campaign has highlighted the continued erosion of commonly held values and the crumbling of old certainties. There’s no clarity about what might emerge in their place. None of us know what consequences might ensue if any of the threats or promises of the newly elected President are made real, and many people have good reason to be anxious — most particularly, all those who have been clearly labelled as ‘them’ during the campaign.

President Josiah Bartlet: ‘First thing always is national security. Get your commanders together. Appoint Joint Chiefs, appoint a Chairman. Take us to Defcon 4. Have the Governors send emergency delegates to Washington. The assistant Attorney General is going to be the Acting A.G. If he tells you he wants to bring out the National Guard, do what he tells you…’

I confess today to a strong feeling of ‘stop the world I want to get off’ — however, I know that this too will pass and that there is work — important work — to be done in the here and now by the church in the name of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the world. When Andrew handed the role of Synod General Secretary into my care for the next 12 months, he did

President Josiah Bartlet: ‘Oh, Roger. If anything happened, you know what to do, right?’ Secretary of Agriculture Roger Tribbey: ‘I honestly hadn’t thought about it, sir.’

I’ve since discovered that ‘defcon’ means ‘defence readiness conditions’ and level four means ‘an increased intelligence watch and strengthened security measures’ (thanks very much, Wikipedia). Since then, I’ve been pondering the notion of ‘readiness’. What might it mean for the church to be in a state of readiness to meet the challenges of the present time? What is our core business right now? (Hint: it’s not national security). It lands squarely for me in the founding vision of the

Uniting Church as eloquently expressed in the Basis of Union (paragraph 3) ‘…the Church’s call… is to be a fellowship of reconciliation, a body within which the diverse gifts of its members are used for the building up of the whole, an instrument through which Christ may work and bear witness to himself.’ ‘An increased intelligence watch’ surely requires us to know our communities well, to be alert to the human need present in those communities and to be intentional, inclusive and generous in relating with those labelled ‘them’ and responding to those needs. In the history of the church, this always has been risky business and it’s not likely to become less risky any time soon. This is simply the context in which the church seeks to tell and live a different story. To do that well, we probably do need ‘strengthened security measures’ which means we need to get our act together. We do spend an unnecessary and tedious amount of time arguing about yesterday. What do we actually need to respond to the challenges of this world? What does it take for us to really be a fellowship of reconciliation for today and tomorrow? These are Advent questions to orient us towards the mystery of the incarnation and the revelation of God in Christ, for the sake of the world. i

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At the end of 2016, we celebrate love, not fear and look forward to 2017 being a year of togetherness and unity.


Cover photography courtesy Cath Muscat Photography. With thanks to The Upper Room Café, Wesley Mission.














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.

MANAGING EDITOR Adrian Drayton EDITOR Ben McEachen PRODUCTION/DESIGN Rana Moawad EDITORIAL/ADVERTISING/ DISTRIBUTION INQUIRIES PHONE 02 8267 4304 FAX 02 9264 4487 ADDRESS Insights, PO Box A2178, Sydney South, NSW, 1235 EMAIL WEB 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. © 2016. Contents copyright. No material from this publication may be copied, photocopied or transmitted by any means without the permission of the Managing Editor. CIRCULATION: 16,000. ISSN: 1036-7322 Commonwealth of Australia 2016



M O D E R AT O R ’ S R E F L E C T I O N

Christ’s birth brings us joy

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.


OVER FOUR CONSECUTIVE weeks, I went to the 25th, 145th, 150th and 170th anniversary services of four churches in four presbyteries in our Synod. Between those churches, that’s a total of 490 years of God’s blessings! It was an incredible opportunity for me to witness God’s amazing grace and also to be a part of the history of those faithful people in those amazing places. While sitting in those churches, I heard people recollecting “the good old days” of church pews filled with people, Sunday School halls crowded with children, many gatherings for fellowship and fundraising events. But it is different now! Over the years, the neighbourhood around the church has changed and so has the culture of our society. The market-driven world has made churches alien places in their own neighbourhood. Also, new ways of communication have escalated individualism and pushed people further away from the practice of faith.

In a divided world, anniversary services come like a gift from God, reminding us of those good old days and thanking God for them. Anniversaries also provide us with a special momentum to renew our discipleship, so we can witness Christ’s ministry of healing and reconciliation and continue to add more years to those 25, 145, 150 and 170 years of church history. Along with Easter, the most significant anniversary we celebrate is the joyous season of Christmas. The anniversary of Christ’s coming into the world once again reminds of God’s faithfulness! It also — like the anniversary services of a church — should renew our discipleship. Christmas and anniversary services encourage us to be confident rather than apologetic or shy about the good news. We can be bold and courageous about our faith in God through Jesus. Knowing that what matters the most to our soul also matters to others, we need to speak about the basic truths which have enriched our lives with others around us. Another form of remembering and inspiring I have been involved with is Utalk events, with ministers in our Synod. I also had separate UTalks with lay pastors, the members of UAICC (Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress ) and with young adults. When Jesus asked Simon Peter “Who do you say I am?” he answered from his

heart, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16). In a similar way, many at UTalk shared the moments of enlightenment which made them confess Jesus is the Lord, a guiding light for their lives. I have been involved with sixteen UTalks and I am confident to say that we all have a moment (or moments) of enlightenment which sustain us — and also enlighten others when we share it, so that the world becomes a better place. Recently, I went to a conference of Overseas Korean Churches held in Toronto. The theme of the conference was “A Diaspora Church”. At the conference, I shared my reflection on the Uniting Church as “a diaspora church of multicultural communities in Australia”. The Basis of Union states that “the Uniting Church affirms that it belongs to the people of God on the way to the Promised Land” (paragraph 18). As a national church which was formed almost 40 years ago, we are constantly reminded to be on a journey to the Promised Land. We are a diaspora community in our own backyard, here to be the light for everyone so others will not walk in darkness but will share in the light of Jesus, the light of the world. My sincere greetings to you and prayerful wishes that every one of you be the recipient of the wonderful message of the angel, “Do not be afraid, for see I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.” i

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Just wanted to say what a brilliant edition of Insights (October/ November) arrived at Morisset last week. Great stories, which I’ll be using alongside our conversations about mission. Plenty to discuss with various folks in the Congregation here! Loved the story about Berowra Uniting Church and Peter Boughey’s initiative. Both allowed us to work out what things we can do, based on our Congregation and our listening and dwelling in the community we live in! I just think it was an outstanding edition for sharing the stories as missional illustrations and engaging in conversations about ‘how’ and ‘why’ those places got into what they’re doing — not just ‘what’ they’re doing! Just wanted to pass on positive feedback! Rob Hanks, Morisset


As a resident in a (now) Uniting (without Care) Aged Care Facility, I have at the moment a glint in my eye. Today, I read the latest copy of Insights (October/November), and was overjoyed to find “Your Say” letters expressing firm views on Uniting’s recent name change. Thank you to every one of the writers. I am in the best position to know that very few of us insiders would be aware of the supposed significance of the change. It is indeed ‘esoteric’. (Thank you, Elizabeth Heyward). Could it be suggested that something like this happened in the early years of the Church, with the Gnostics? May I go further and firmly endorse what Robert Tulip had to say. Thank you, Robert, for your reference to Paul’s statement in the first chapter of Romans. It has become clear to me that Uniting is not just ashamed of the Gospel, it is not interested in the Gospel. One could, incidentally, dare to go further and, diverging, suggest that a further reading of that chapter would answer another question currently being asked. May I however continue on a different and even more vital subject. A question in another letter in the same edition of Insights causes me deep concern. Where in Insights is there ever a simple statement of the Gospel? The good news, as we are given it, biblically, in the third chapter of John, and by Paul in 1 Timothy 3:16? It needs to be there in Insights, giving those who do not know the opportunity to know and to understand, if they will, why the Son of God came, what the Church is all about, and whether they are ready to ask the Good Shepherd, the Saviour, for entry to His fold. Gwenda R.Waddington, Peakhurst





In his letter (‘A question of belief’, Insights, October/ November), David Palmer speaks for me and, I believe, for many in our diminishing Congregations. I am convinced that the matters of belief that trouble him lie at the root of the flight from the church of so many. A study in 2011 by the Christian Research Association showed that Uniting Church attendance had declined by 30% over the previous 10 years. Studies and surveys reported on the internet show that, for most people today, religion is irrelevant. David has frankly and courageously described the issues of belief that are of concern. He does not need a supernatural presence to explain the amazing complexity of the universe. He finds some of the record of the life and death of Jesus implausible. David says God does not need to perform miracles or supernatural acts to engage him. He respects most of the great faiths. He accepts that there may not be an afterlife. To David, God is an impenetrable mystery within him – not inanimate yet not supernatural. He suggests that rather than humans having been made in the image of God, we have made God in our image. It is these and other issues which many of us find difficult in the 21st century, in the light of the vast advances in knowledge and from the understanding that a literal reading of the Bible is, in historical terms, a relatively new thing. In discussing these matters, I have constantly asserted that we must treat with respect the views of those who (like me, over the last 84 years) have grown up and lived in an atmosphere of unquestioning acceptance of the traditional teachings of the church. But I can no longer continue to let pass without question things which I believe are driving people away from faith. I congratulate David Palmer, a follower of the teachings of Jesus, on saying some things that needed to be said — with the utmost respect to those of a different view. I hope that any discussion his letter generates will be carried on in a similar respectful manner. Barrie Virtue, Queanbeyan


David Palmer’s lengthy letter (Insights, October/November) is an honest and courageous expression of faith as it stands for him right now, and it needs to be respected. He raises many issues, which cannot be resolved within the limited space of a magazine letter. Most of the beliefs referred to in the letter actually seem to me to be quite compatible with common

secular views. Indeed, even many atheists are also touched by the teachings of Jesus, and, if they ever find themselves in a church, have similar experiences of worship as described in the letter. I hope David can find a group or person to engage in honest discussion of his beliefs and doubts, so that he will find his faith and understanding growing. However, David asks two specific questions which can be answered briefly. First: ‘Am I a Christian?’ On the information given in the letter, I would say the answer is ‘no’, technically. However, his conclusion that he would not be ‘accepted into their communion’ is, in my opinion, incorrect. In the Uniting Church, all are welcome at the Lord’s table, including those who are not baptised or confirmed members of whatever denomination. The invitation to the sacrament is usually addressed to ‘those who love the Lord and would like to love him more’. The second question asked was about whether the inclusiveness of the UCA can ‘welcome into full fellowship those who hold such beliefs and, more, reflect these in doctrine and worship’. I’m not sure what David means by ‘full fellowship’. If it is baptised or confirmed membership, that status requires an affirmation of faith expressed publicly in the traditional form of the Christian church, of which the Uniting Church is a part. I am wondering why any adult who is not willing to be baptised would want to become a ‘full’ member. They can still be an adherent, taking part in the life of the church, and be included in the roll of the relevant Congregation. Being an adherent just means you are not entitled to vote at meetings; it does not mean you cannot participate in discussion at Congregation meetings. Bob Hinchcliffe, Wahroonga


I was heartened when I read David Palmer’s letter (‘Your Say’ Insights, October/November). What a beautifully written letter expressing deep appreciation of our universe which does not depend on a particular view of a supernatural presence. I am a member of a Uniting Church Congregation where the holding of a variety of beliefs is tolerated. It is one where I am able to work towards common goals as an integral part of the community life. Seek and ye shall find. Jennie Quayle, Holt

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Be rewarded for having your say. Every contributor to ‘Your Say’ in this issue receives a DVD copy of Ben Hur (thanks to Universal Sony Home Entertainment). ‘Your Say’ letters should be sent to: or posted to Insights, PO Box A2178, Sydney South NSW 1235. Letters may be edited for clarity and length.


In answer to the questions with which David Palmer ends his very thoughtful letter (Insights, October/Novemer), I would have to answer: ‘No.’ While the Church should welcome into fellowship one who holds the beliefs he outlines and rejoice in the strength and encouragement he receives from its services, that fellowship cannot be a full one and the Church should not reflect such beliefs in doctrine and worship. The bottom line for Christian belief is outlined in Saint John’s first letter where he writes: “Every Spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess [this] is not.” (1 John 4:2-3) Christianity is a supernatural religion which demands, at least, a belief that there is a God who has revealed Himself in Jesus, whose death is a means of our being forgiven and reconciled to Him. I hope he finds a welcoming Church and continues to fellowship with and discuss his position with its members. Gary Ireland, Elderslie


No doubt others will, like me, be pleased that David Palmer (‘Your Say’, Insights, October/November) finds ‘worship in church to be restorative’, and is strengthened and encouraged by it. We should be pleased that David seeks to follow the path of Jesus, and is ‘humbled and warmed’ by the fellowship of the church. We would hope that for all who share in the community of faith. However, I draw back from the overall philosophy he expresses in his letter. I find it hard to think that the wonder of creation does not point to its creator or that miracles ‘detract from the power of the teaching of Jesus on care for others’. However, David’s statement that ‘rather than God making humans in its [sic] image, humans have made God in their image’ is where I must part company from him. David’s position would appear to be what we once would have called ‘humanism’, but perhaps now prefer to call ‘New Age’. He would appear through his letter to be someone who feels “spiritual” and has a deep conscience and sense of social responsibility – all fine things – but who could not be described as genuinely religious, and certainly not Christian. David poses the question, ‘Am I a Christian?’ He concludes that he ‘would not be accepted into their [Christians’] communion.’ I think that is the wrong conclusion. I hope David would always be welcome in any Uniting Church. The correct conclusion is, rather, that he has defined himself out of being a Christian.



Unless we recognise the sovereignty of God, revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ, and affirm that this same Jesus Christ was crucified, but rose to new life, then we can only be at the fringe of Christian faith, a kind of interested onlooker. No Christian would want to denigrate ‘some of the teachings … of the Buddha and the Prophet Mohammed’; equally, however, no Christian would want to limit Jesus Christ to being the author of some fine teachings. The gatherings which David finds uplifting are gatherings of the faithful, worshiping the creator God, and sharing in the meal Jesus gave us to commemorate his death and resurrection. I’m not sure why David finds these things uplifting, but I am glad he does. But please don’t ask of us, as he does in his concluding paragraph “Can the inclusiveness of the Uniting Church welcome into full fellowship those who hold such beliefs [as his] and more reflect these in doctrine and worship?”. For the Uniting Church to accede to such a request would be to betray our faith entirely, and surrender our raison d’être. It would say that Christ is not the living head of the Church. Paul said that the crucified Christ was ‘a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles’, but that to those who are called, Christ is both the power and wisdom of God (I Corinthians 1:23-24). May the Church always remain true to its calling to proclaim the risen Christ, and may those, like David, who feel the power of the Spirit that unites the body of Christ, eventually come to believe in the Christ in whom, and only in whom, is true life to be found. Alan Harper OAM, Eastwood


I certainly hope, David Palmer, (‘Your Say’, Insights, October/ November) that the Uniting Church can be sufficiently inclusive as to welcome into fellowship those of us who espouse views such as you’ve expressed and, more importantly, reflect them in doctrine and worship. In my experience, the welcome into fellowship is present as long as I give lip service during worship but maintaining the hypocrisy is often difficult. However, I don’t see any signs of a change in doctrine and worship. In spite of the freedom to express ‘progressive Christian views’ in, for example, study/ discussion groups, I don’t hear them from the pulpit or see them incorporated into worship. Congratulations on your letter and might I say well done Insights for publishing it. That, at least, is very positive. Bronwyn Mannell, Mittagong


HELP FAMILIES SURVIVE IN ZIMBABWE BEAUTY IS NO STRANGER to drought but this season has been one of the worst in almost a decade. She and her husband work all day under the boiling Zimbabwean sun, but their backbreaking efforts just aren’t enough to stop their family from going hungry. The ground is dry and dusty. It hasn’t rained in months. Beauty and her husband are hardworking farmers living in the Masvingo region. They rely on the land to grow food and to earn a living. Some nights, Beauty can’t sleep for thinking about how she’s going to feed her children. “Living becomes very difficult, because when there is no food, life becomes tough,” says Beauty. Climate change has wreaked havoc on the weather, making it harder for farmers like Beauty and her husband to plant crops at the right time and to have enough water for them to grow properly. Lower rainfall and rising temperatures mean traditional farming techniques are not working, and for many farmers, crops have failed for the third year in a row. Devastating food shortages and extreme hunger are what follow most failed crop harvests. Without enough food to get them to the next harvest, life becomes an uphill battle for many families. As a mother, the aching hunger and desire to send her children to school has even driven Beauty to beg for money.

“During drought, even school fees are very difficult to source, I have to work casual jobs to be able to buy soap or beg for supplies,” she says. As well as drought, Zimbabwe is experiencing a deep economic crisis and widespread unemployment, which means there is never any guarantee Beauty can find enough work to buy food. Sadly, Beauty’s children, like so many others in Zimbabwe, are already malnourished. Jessina, another farmer in the district, once felt despair just like Beauty’s. “Before… life was very difficult for us,” says Jessina. “We used to practice traditional farming and we did not get much out of it. I felt very bad because I could only feed my family once a day. It pained me so much.” Just when she was about to give up hope, Jessina was visited by a field coordinator linked with Christian charity organisation Act for Peace. Christian Care partners with Act for Peace, and the field coordinator was able to offer to teach Jessina a new way of farming – conservation farming - better suited to Zimbabwe’s conditions. These simple but revolutionary techniques changed everything for Jessina. “In the first year of practicing conservation farming, I was so thrilled and happy with the yield on my small plot. I could see a very brighter future

for me and my family,” she says beaming. After one year, Jessina had enough maize to feed her family, and was able to sell the excess and purchase a goat, which she then bred. She has turned her plot from a barely fertile wasteland to a thriving farm. Jessina can now send her children to school. “In the second year I worked hard and my harvest was very good. I managed to pay school fees for all my children and I also bought them new clothes for Christmas,” she says. “I feel very proud and happy,” says Jessina about how self-sufficient she has become. “I now have my own food and means to survive. I hope my children will learn from me what I have learnt so that they have an improved life.” It is thanks to the generous gifts of supporters of Act for Peace’s Christmas Bowl appeal, from across Australia, that farmers like Jessina have been trained in conservation farming. “I want to thank Australians for bringing this program to us. May the Lord bless them,” Jessina says with a huge smile. But there are still so many farmers like Beauty using the old techniques and struggling to grow enough food to feed their children. And as the drought continues, the situation is only getting worse. Without being able to learn conservation farming, the future for Beauty’s family looks grim.

Act for Peace hopes a combined effort between churches and compassionate people like you, all around Australia, will make a huge difference to the lives of Zimbabwean famers facing severe hunger (as well as other people around the world facing dreadful hardship and suffering). For more information about the work that your generous gifts are helping to make possible, please visit the Christmas Bowl website at: christmasbowl

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NEW SIGNING OF DISASTER RECOVERY STRATEGY MODERATOR REV. DR MYUNG HWA and former General Secretary Rev. Dr Andrew Williams, signed a new Memorandum of Understanding in October that ensures an ongoing commitment to coordinating evacuation and recovery centres, along with pastoral support in times of disaster. They were joined by Synod Disaster Recovery Coordinator, Rev. Dr. Stephen Robinson at the NSW Department of Justice. The NSW Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network is a multifaith collaboration that provides a wide range of assistance to vulnerable and needy people who have been dislocated and/or traumatised by recent disasters.

Other relief agencies which assist in disaster recovery were also present at the signing, including the Salvation Army, Anglicare, ADRA and Red Cross. Floods continue to cause hardship across NSW and Victoria. Also, in the NSW areas of Forbes and Condobolin, farmers are still grappling with the cost of lost crops after years of drought. “The Congregations in affected areas need to know that they will be upheld by the Synod, in personal and practical ways — as well as financially and through prayer — as they minister in these difficult circumstances,” said Rev. Dr. Stephen Robinson.

Donations can be made to the Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network through the Assembly website: and the Moderator’s Appeal:

FAREWELL TO THE GENERAL SECRETARY IN LATE OCTOBER, the Uniting Church celebrated the ministry of Rev. Dr Andrew Williams at a Closure of Ministry at the Centre for Ministry in North Parramatta. Marking the end of his role as General Secretary, that special service was followed by Synod staff farewelling Andrew at an afternoon tea. At the afternoon tea held at Wesley Mission, Executive Directors John Kitchener (Uniting Resources), Warren Bird (Uniting Financial Services) and Peter Worland (Uniting) all reflected on the different aspects of his role and that he was a unifying presence for those in the Synod.


The Closure of Ministry Service was attended by UCA President Stuart McMillan, the General Secretary Colleen Geyer and General Secretary of the NSW Ecumenical Council, Fr. Shenouda Mansour. Andrew reflected on his ministry and term as General Secretary and often choked back tears as he acknowledged those who had supported his ministry, and those that had served before him. The Rev. Chris Budden gave the message and noted that it is not the business and administration of the Church that will make a mark in the community. “It is Christ who gives us his Spirit so we do not lose the way,” said Rev. Budden. “We are called to be a radically different community. We are meant to live inside the promise and grace of God.” He also noted the work that the General Secretary holds in tension — the theology of the Church and its administration — noting that Andrew has served at a very important time in the life of the Church.



FUNDING BOOST TO HELP MUMS AND KIDS IN NEED NSW Government announces it will fund, for a further three years, the innovative Wesley Mission program that helps mothers with severe and complex health needs to remain with their young children. MINISTER FOR MENTAL HEALTH Pru Goward announced the NSW Government had committed $9 million to ensure the “Mums and Kids Matter” program would continue to provide residential-based care at Sadleir in south-west Sydney. Since it began in 2014, the program has cared for and supported 73 mothers and their children. “Mums and Kids Matter is a one-of-a kind program directly helping women with severe and complex mental illness and their families. There is no program like it operating in Australia,” Ms Goward said during a visit to the program.

“The program is unique in that it provides an integrated approach to treatment and care that includes medical/ biological, psychological, social and values based approaches. “It also draws from the many support services of Wesley Mission, such as accommodation support when leaving the program, financial counselling, life skills, and mental health support and counsel.


“A key aspect of Mums and Kids Matter is the focus it has on addressing not only the health and parenting needs of participants but also the social, economic and accommodation issues facing mothers with severe mental illness “Mums and Kids Matter is not just a parenting and their families. In fact, our early data shows program, although improving mother-child just how fantastic this program is. When relationships and the ability to parent are key THIS IS A they entered Mums and Kids Matter, 12 elements. This is a program that addresses P R O G R A M T H AT per cent of the mothers were homeless the complex needs of mothers with a ADDRESSES THE and a further 28 per cent were at risk of severe mental illness, in order to improve COMPLEX NEEDS homelessness. On exit from the program, their quality of life, care giving and family OF MOTHERS all mothers were housed.” relationships. WITH A SEVERE Mums and Kids Matter delivers M E N TA L I L L N E S S “The program is preventing individually tailored, family-focused IN ORDER hospitalisation, reducing the risk care and support. From mental and TO IMPROVE of homelessness, while also providing physical health to parenting support and THEIR QUALIT Y assistance to improve their social accommodation, the program addresses OF LIFE and economic outcomes of mothers the holistic needs of mothers and their and their children.” young children. Last year, Wesley Mission provided more The CEO of Wesley Mission, Rev. Dr Keith Garner, said than 107,000 nights of accommodation to people who Wesley Mission was delighted that funding for the program are homeless. had been continued. “Mums and Kids Matter has been a wonderful example of collaboration between government and Wesley Mission provides a suite of mental health, suicide non-government specialist providers so that mothers with intervention and prevention services (such as Lifeline and mental health issues have the opportunity to recover while Wesley LifeForce), as well as counselling services across being with their children,” Dr Garner said. Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong. It also has two hospitals which provide a range of mental health services.

WALKING ON BUNDJALUNG COUNTRY 2017 TOUR BUNDJALUNG MEMBERS OF UAICC NSW/ACT invite you to visit them on country in the beautiful northern rivers region of NSW. Next year, a special tour for Uniting Church members will take place, from Saturday 25 March to Saturday 1 April. Learn first-hand from Congress members about their culture, heritage, spirituality and challenges. The tour group will visit former mission sites and show what life was like, as well as share in fellowship with Congress ministry centres across the region. The tour group also will meet with the local Land Council, as well as visit the Kinchela Boys Home at Kempsey and learn about its traumatic past. The cost is $600 per person for twin/double registrations received by December 31. Registrations can be made online at: www. Email inquiries:

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Art of


HAVE YOU EVER been moved to share your faith through the creative arts? Our own creativity can bring us closer to the God who created us (Genesis 1:26-31; 2:5, 15-18). As part of Insights Easter issue we encourage you to share your creativity and express how it strengthens your faith. We want to flood social media with creative, Godinspired images and ask you to share them with us, using @insightsmag #ArtOfFaith. Your images will appear online at and we will feature some of the images in the Easter issue of the magazine.

UNITING CHURCH IN AUSTRALIA President Stuart McMillan joined 270-plus faith leaders to sign the COP 22 Interfaith Climate Statement, which urges the reduction of emissions and increased investment of renewable energy. Mr McMillan said the statement highlighted the need for faith leaders to speak up for God’s creation and for governments to commit to a sustainable future. Tuvalu is just one of the Pacific Islands facing drought and diminishing fish stocks, due to global warming. The goal is to reduce greenhouse emissions so that the global temperature rise can be limited to just 1.5°C. The Interfaith Climate statement extends that urgency as it calls on people of faith to take action in this shared “moral obligation”. “This means ensuring that action on climate change respects the dignity of all people, particularly the rights of Indigenous Peoples and those communities and nations most affected by climate change,” said Mr. McMillan. Climate change has a direct correlation to hunger and poverty. A recent UN report presented a stark picture of the future. With the loss of agriculture, global poverty could increase to 122 million by 2030. Uniting Earth’s Rev. Dr Jason John points out how Genesis 2 has a focus on protecting and serving God’s garden planet. He adds that there is a need for government leaders, as well as the community, to view the effects of climate change on a personal level.

HEALTHY CHURCHES NOURISHED AT EXPO A COLLABORATION BETWEEN Uniting Mission and Education, Uniting Resources and Uniting, the Healthy Churches Expo attracted more than 135 people on 5 November at the Centre For Ministry in North Parramatta. The day began with Duncan McLeod from Uniting Mission and Education explaining that spiritually healthy churches will grow according to their gifts and skills. The Parable of the Sower was dramatically presented to demonstrate how the church needs to be nourished and replenished in the work it has ahead of it. Through the range of workshops offered on the day, the expo was an excellent opportunity for members of the Church to develop skills and interests which will positively impact their entire communites. Aspects of Church and Congregational life were covered from community engagement and social media usage, to governance training and how to run an effective Church Council. Feedback from the event was overwhelmingly positive. Participants noted that Congregations had a sense of being reconnected with the Synod, and feeling supported and nourished. Practical tips about running Church councils were particularly helpful. Feedback was so positive that there will be follow-up events in the future. Presentations and resources distributed on the day are available now at



“To ‘do for others what we would want them to do for us’ is the urgent call upon all Christians, for the sake of God’s desired reconciliation and renewal of the whole creation,” he said.

Photo courtesy: UNHCR

You can also help get climate change on to the agenda and create action by signing the COP22 statement here: Climate Change Resources UnitingEarth Web: take-action.html UnitingWorld: Read more about how UnitingWorld is actively helping communities in the Pacific with the effects of climate change.



Lugarno-Peakhurst Uniting Church

Emmanuel Uniting Church (Enoggera)

The aim of this position is to work with the congregation to build on existing family and children’s ministries at LugarnoPeakhurst Uniting Church, as well as develop innovative ways to connect with families in the community.

Emmanuel is a contemporary, mission focused church in the inner north-western suburbs of Brisbane. We are a congregation of 350 members, with a significant small group ministry and extensive community outreach. After a period of intentional growth in Christian discipleship we see the next phase of our journey as mission oriented. Our recently adopted vision statement, “real people, relevant faith, our community” expresses this call.

An ability to demonstrate God’s love and convey this to families, children and youth is essential. Relevant theological training and post-secondary qualifications of two or more full- time years (or equivalent) or other work experience, expertise and training related to working with families is preferred. APPLICATIONS CLOSE: 15 January 2017 For further details please contact the Church Council Chairman Rob Kell at or on 0401 843 422

We are seeking a Lead Minister, who will lead this exciting new phase. They will assume leadership and overall responsibility for the ongoing missional and practical operations of the church. This includes leadership of a staff ministry team comprising a minister, two pastors and an administration assistant. The gifts, skills and passions we are looking for include: strong leadership, passion for discipling others, prayer and scripture. They will be Spirit led, and have a heart for mission and evangelism in contemporary society. They will also have a passion for contemporary worship and music. This is a full time placement, with stipend and allowances according to UCA Queensland. A full position description and congregation profile is available on request from the JNC Chair,

APPLICATIONS CLOSE: 30 December 2016 Please address your application to: Emmanuel Uniting Church – Enoggera c/- Secretary, Synod Placements Committee Uniting Church in Australia (Qld Synod) GPO Box 674, BRISBANE QLD 4001 Or email to

insights 13

Perfect love

drives out fear

God wants us to be in relationship with Him and with one another. Only by understanding the needs of others, of walking with them on life's journey, can we understand our neighbour. This requires empathy in relationships and bridges built, encouraged and nurtured. What better time than Christmas to reflect on the love explained to us in 1 John 4:18? A love that breaks through to transform, renew and reconcile our relationships and, indeed, our humanity.




F E AT U R E : P E R F E C T L O V E D R I V E S O U T F E A R

Building bridges of understanding Over the last couple of months there has been a lot of talk about “us” and “them”, about the disempowerment of the masses, about being “swamped by Muslims” and about stopping people seeking asylum from entering this country. If we can learn anything from our faith traditions, it’s that people of faith are people of hospitality, people of love, people of compassion and above all and most important — we are all God’s people.

INSIGHTS HAD A LOT to talk about when we sat down with with Fr. Shenouda Mansour, General Secretary of the NSW Ecumnenical Council, Rev Margaret Mayman, minister at Pitt Street Uniting Church, Stewart Mills, member of the NSW Relations With Other Faiths Committee and Lina Jebeile, a former teacher and food blogger who is currently running a campaign #SpreadHummusNotHate. Donald Trump had just been elected President, and there was robust discussion ranging from how the media is amplifying a culture of fear of “the other”, to how hospitality — really honest hospitality — has the power to start healing, build relationships through valuable conversations, and also begin to heal wounds that really shouldn’t exist in Australia’s multicultural and diverse society. Above all, though, we dared to suggest the perfect love and understanding, God’s perfect love — the love mentioned in 1 John 4:18 — can drive out fear. This Christmas we want to reflect on how our relationships and stories — made and told over whatever and however you celebrate the holiday season — can give us hope for a better way to live with each other, inside the promise of the unconditional love and grace God has for us.



What do you recommend the Australian community does to combat the current climate of fear? Lina Jebeile: So many things that we are not currently doing. I think first and foremost, open conversation. There are so many assumptions that are made about [my background] being Muslim. I get why people don’t understand, which is why it’s so important to have open conversation and to ask questions, because if you don’t ask questions you will never learn. It is really important not to ask questions in an offensive and derogatory way. Even though the talk is about unity, it is really still about “us” and “them”. Muslims are spoken about, rather than spoken to. Margaret Mayman: And spoken ‘with’ would be really nice… LJ: I get that people are afraid. I get that. How can you not be afraid, there’s so much stuff going on in the world that makes you afraid. I think people are forgetting that we [Muslims] are afraid too. Terrorists are killing more Muslims than they are anybody else in the world. Fr. Shenouda Mansour: There wouldn’t be a migration of Muslims from the East if they weren’t fearful.

LJ: We’re afraid of the rightwing extremists. I fear for my family and, on the other hand, am I going to be a target of someone who has no idea of who I am and what I believe in, simply because of the way I am dressed? I have a young family and I am afraid for their safety and wellbeing. I was born and brought up in Australia and I feel a disconnect being Lebanese. So imagine them. They are further being disconnected from their Lebanese-ness. The whole reason I began the food blog was to hang on to that last bit of Lebanese-ness that I have, which is the food. My parents still speak in Arabic, but everywhere else is English and I’m an English teacher. I speak in English and I dream in English. My husband and I speak English to one another. My kids don’t speak very much Arabic. They are third generation and it’s unfair to think that they are going to grow up in a society where they are made to feel like they don’t belong. They love their country and they know nowhere else. MM: And if it wasn’t for extremism, the third generation usually experiences a sense of belonging, But without that, what’s happened globally has destabilised that natural progression of people beginning to feel at home

and people accepting the new migrants. Apart from Australian Indigenous people, we are all migrants who come here with stories to tell. Stewart Mills: In terms of engaging with the ‘other’, there’s been projects like Affinity. Since September 2001 [but] before September 11, there was a Turkish Afghan group out at the Auburn mosque. They started this idea of opening homes, and people from Christian backgrounds would come and meet and have a meal with a family from a Muslim background. So for many years Affinity, with the Uniting Church and other Christian communities, were actively involved in trying to get families from different faith backgrounds together. Every year Christians, Muslims and Jews come together and the whole idea is to find commonality and to demystify other faiths.


MM: I think in terms of combating the climate of fear is to tell those stories, to help people have those experiences but also to be aware of the fact that, yes, there is a climate of fear — but also there are an amazing amount of people getting on with their lives and living in community together. FS: People always talk about the Australian context. We are all Australians. We come from different lands, but now we have a new context. Australia is one of the most globalised countries in the world. MM: How do we help celebrate that diversity rather than saying that has been lost to what was Australian? LJ: There’s this group of people who are desperately clinging on to this ‘white Australia’ and they don’t realise we have gone way beyond that. ‘White Australia’ doesn’t exist and it’s not going to.

FS: People have migrated across the globe and there is not one country in the world that you could say is of one nationality. You can see from our faces, the wonderful colour and diversity and the inner beauty of humanity in each one of us. What difference would it make in society if those of different faiths worked more closely together? SM: We have this common faith tradition and at its fundamental level is about peace, justice, love, passion and protection of the less fortunate. From a Christian point of view, we talk about the fact that we are all children of God and we see each other as one. From an Islamic tradition there is ‘umma’ [which means ‘all people’], so there is that idea that we are all one in the image of God. So I guess we need to keep reminding ourselves of that.

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MM: I think we also need to model hospitality which is common to all of our traditions. We need to ‘let it be known’ – it is an important thing that we take the risk to be public about how important the relationships are with people with other faiths and how not threatened we are. It is easy to characterise people as ‘the other’ but as part of our faith we are delighted to encounter Muslim and Jewish people who we will work together with on issues of justice and ecology. And there might be things we feel differently about but what matters is what we have in common and what we can do together. And we all care about the common good and the wellbeing of God’s creation and God’s people. LJ: The whole ‘spread hummus not hate’ campaign is just a really casual way you



can get together, sit down and have a chat about our day-today lives and, through that, automatically you will see how much you have in common.

thing that we often take for granted, that we all have in common. You can’t hate someone who is willing to share their food with you.

As people of different faiths, is hospitality something that we have in common?

SM: Something that helped me in my first interfaith journey was a program called Pathways to Peace. We used to meet at Strathfield Uniting Church. We got people from Abrahamic and Eastern traditions and we met every couple of months. Food connected us as people of faith and also to sort out how we could work together in Sydney.

MM: We’ve had theologians, priests, ministers and imams having conversations at such high levels. We need to let ordinary people have conversations. It doesn’t need to be about theology. LJ: Exactly, and the idea behind this campaign is not for it to be religious or political. It’s just everyday ordinary Australians. So we can say it’s OK that we’re different; we can all still live in a peaceful world together. I’m not trying to convert you and you are not trying to convert me. We’re just people getting along over food. Food is such a simple

How does social media and traditional media amplify fear of the ‘other’ and how can we speak into this space – which should be about community – more effectively? FS: We have to be positive. Life is about being positive,

life is being gracious, life is about loving our neighbour. It’s about sharing and being merciful. It’s not about hate speech. How can another person hate another person and even kill another person? I find that very difficult. I can’t comprehend what is happening in the Middle East and around the world. At the end of the day, we are all God’s children. Love and respect goes beyond the word ‘tolerance’. LJ: That’s right, I really don’t like that word – tolerance. If someone says ‘I’ll tolerate you,’ it’s like they have to. Like they are [being] forced to. MM: It’s not adequate. I think we should expect more of each another and our faith requires us to expect more of each other. SM: On the question of social media, there is also a


challenge as well. We have gone through different periods of acceptance. When I was at school there was a lot of antiAsian sentiment in Australia. My mother is Chinese and I was in a country university at the time and once you personalise it, it stops people, because often it’s not rational. We need to challenge racist ideas and one way is to personalise it. MM: I also think that social media can be useful. At the moment [this round table was held two days after Trump was elected President], ‘the morning after’ in the US, there are a lot of people who are sharing the anxiety of Muslim people in particular and women about what’s happening. It’s a way of letting people know that this decision is affecting real people’s lives. I think also with One Nation in Australia, it is affecting real people’s lives. The fear is real and in saying love drives out fear, we shouldn’t rush to an easy unity. We need to acknowledge that there is real pain and there is danger. FS: Remember the program “Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes”? It would be interesting to do this now and the participants experience would be the same as in the program. This was a pilot program [by school teacher Jane Elliott in the US] and we’ve forgotten what it is like to be marginalised. In Australia there are lots of

people who are marginalised. We need to educate young people. Education is the most powerful tool that we have available to us, in order to bring the wonderful diversity we have into action. We should be able to live together peacefully with kindness and love and be generous to one another. LJ: I love Jane Elliott’s theory [“Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes” experiment]. We often talk about multiculturalism being this “melting pot” and Ms Elliott says no, this is a completely wrong way of looking at society; let’s be a salad bowl, where you put all these different ingredients into this one bowl and all the elements keep their texture and their flavour and together you have this fantastic mix of flavours. I love the salad bowl analogy. That’s really confronting, that experiment. When Pauline Hanson gave her speech in parliament after the election, I remembered Jane Elliott’s experiment and I thought, ‘Should I show this to my children?’ I wasn’t sure if they were too young to watch it or if they wouldn’t understand it. I am so glad I let them watch it because it really opened a conversation, and they started speaking about the fact that this sort of racism is happening to us — but it’s not OK to do it to someone else.

Going back to social media, I think about what I teach my own children and I think about what I taught my students constantly about the importance of being careful about what you say on social media, and whatever is posted is there forever. I say, ‘Think of it like this: if you are in the real world, and if you wouldn’t say these things to someone’s face, do not put it on social media.’ FS: But we are in the real world and because we are in the real world, we need to be positive to each other. LJ: There’s the good and bad and social media and you can’t ignore it. MM: It’s a reality of our lives. LJ: There’s this really ugly, hateful side of social media… SM: Because it’s anonymous… LJ: But do you know what’s scarier, it’s not really faceless anymore. I actually deleted my Facebook app off my phone because recently there was an article on the Sydney Morning Herald and another which was more recent on the Australian Women’s Weekly website and you can’t help but click on the comments. When I read them sometimes I wonder: are they just [written by an] anonymous troll? And then I click on them and there is a real name and place of employment. They

have photos of themselves and photos of their children. I think that what’s scariest of all is not what you’re saying, but what are you teaching your children? MM: I think the problem with One Nation and now the election of Donald Trump is the permission given and amplifying those voices and people thinking this is acceptable behaviour. We need to teach people about solidarity – and how to respond to people who are like this in public. And we have to take responsibility. [But] there have been some good situations on Sydney public transport, and I wear this safety pin [now] because I read that after Brexit there was a lot of hostility on public transport — and people started wearing the safety pin, to display that they were somebody who people could look to for support. FS: [But] All women should feel safe. For Trump to say what he did, sends us back to the dark ages. This is not the message we should be expressing. We need to start educating from kindergarten that this type of thing is unacceptable. We need to be teaching the aspects of love and respect and that we are all human beings. Regardless of what colour you are, we are all human beings.

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MM: We should be sickened about what is happening to asylum seekers. We look back at the past and say, ‘How could this have happened?’ And yet we have this going on, currently. SM: You hear talk about the last person in shutting the door, so there’s this notion that once you’re in and safe in Australia, we don’t want anyone else. I guess this is the challenge — how do we open our hearts? How can people of faith be more effective in society? MM: I do think that the challenge for people like us, who are committed to a different kind of world, is how do we engage with the people who are supporting [those who would be divisive]. I think these people are enemies of humanity, but I am still called to love my enemies. What does it mean to understand what drives their fear? I think that some of the commentary over the last couple of days from the US, is that we need to recognise there is a group of white people — and evangelical Christians among them — who feel very disempowered and dispossessed and haven’t had the opportunity to have the kind of conversations and interactions that we have had. And it doesn’t help if we just write them off as people that we can’t tolerate, but we have to try and understand what’s the pain and the fear that drives them to hate. LJ: It’s interesting because wearing a hijab is like I am wearing a sign. I’m Muslim and there is really nothing anyone can do about that. SM: The irony is in 1960s Australia, Catholic nuns wore head coverings. We are forgetting that head covering is a very common part of religious tradition. LJ: There was recently the issue in France, with women in burkini’s kicked off the beach and then social media shared



the group of nuns splashing around in the water. There is no difference. FS: We should be respectful of different traditions. It’s an expression of our diversity and it’s an expression of our own journey of faith. Each one of us have our own journey of faith. SM: The Islamic community has many people who do speak out and often that message is not picked up by the media. There are genuine threats in the world with people dying and being killed in the name of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. With the Trump election, he was elected because of people who felt disenfranchised. So, for me, it’s about how we acknowledge the threats and fears and speak up. MM: It’s to not diminish the real fears, but work out what does it mean to respond with love and it’s not just about feeling or thinking, it’s got to be about action and turning up. What does ‘perfect love drives out fear’ mean to you? MM: As a Christian, it’s a quote from 1 John 4:18. In that context, it is talking about God’s love and the chapter starts off and talks about God being love. It’s something we share across our religious traditions. But for me, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be afraid because there are some real things to be afraid of. As a lesbian and connected to the LGBTQI community, there is real fear for my friends in the US about what will happen to them and their rights and kids who are waking up in the morning saying ‘Will you still be married?’ after this. I don’t think that ‘perfect love drives out fear’ means there is no fear, but I think it means that in the presence of God, we have nothing to be afraid of — God is a God of love, not a God of violence or exclusion. God embraces us all.


Lina Jebeile loves food. And that's why Insights wanted to talk to her about her #SpreadHummusNotHate campaign. What better way to celebrate during the festive season than over a meal? And Lina believes that sharing food starts conversations and helps us to begin to understand each other, because in sharing stories we can't ignore each other; we come together. Lina has built an Instagram following of 26,000 (and counting) with her mouth-wateringly good dishes and is now using her influence to fight fear-mongering. Her website is and she is sharing the hummus-love in the community. From police and fire stations, coffee shops and local churches, she intends to share her hospitality because she believes that "we have so much more in common than we do differences." In one of her recent Instagram posts she simply wrote: If anyone needs me today, you'll find me 'swamping' my neighbourhood with hummus #spreadhummusnothate. SM: The idea of unconditional love. So, as a parent, we love our children unconditionally. They may rebel, but at the end of the day your parents are always there. No matter all the terrible things you have done. For me, that empitomises perfect love. FS Perfect love for me is about approaching people in love not fear. Approaching people with a smile. We have the aspect of the divine love of God, this perfect relationship between us and God. When there is love between people, there is no fear because we can express our differences and express ourselves in such a way that you don’t get

offended. When there is no love, anything small is magnified. LJ: I think it’s really important to speak and connect with people with an open mind. Don’t have pre-judgment. Going back to social media – I have a love/hate relationship with social media. Facts don’t seem to be important any more, in the social media world people’s opinions mean everything. Although social media is meant to connect people, it has this power to disconnect people in that sense. From fear comes hate and often violence. MM: That’s what we’re called to do differently – is not to

respond to hate with hate, but with love. And that’s not a wimpy love. It’s a kind of love that involves justice. I think that’s something we haven’t talked about – how justice and love go together. If you really love your neighbour and your enemy, you seek genuine justice for them. FS: Jesus was a left-wing radical who loved the marginalised. Perfect love drives out fear – because there is no fear when you love a person. However we celebrate the festive season this year, how can coming together increase our understanding of those who are different to us? FS: There is Christmas Day for Christians and in the Islamic tradition there is the wonderful Day of Giving. All of us should be respectful about the day that we give to others. It is important to respect the different ways that we celebrate. Human beings are

about relationships and about building those relationships. LJ: We don’t celebrate Christmas like Christians, but we believe wholeheartedly in Jesus and in the Islamic calendar his birth is on a completely different day. We give Christmas gifts and we always wish our Christian friends a happy Christmas. I think it’s important that we acknowledge that this is one of the biggest celebrations of the year. It’s a wonderful day to get together with family and friends. I like to have our nonMuslims and Christian friends understand that because [the day] is important to them - and Jesus is an important figure in our religion - it’s important to us. SM: It’s also about remembering that Jesus was a refugee and the fact that his parents left their own country. So Christmas is a time of hope, a time of giving. It’s also empathising with the ‘other’.

TO FIND OUT MORE We had an hour-long round table conversation and we weren’t able to fit all of it in the magazine. If you would like to listen to the full conversation, you can do so here: Visit Lina Jebeile’s food blog The Lebanese Plate ( and find out more about the #SpreadHummusNotHate campaign. Jane Elliott’s program referenced during the conversation, “Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes” was a documented 40-year experiment calling out racism. You can view it online on YouTube: bit. ly/BlueEyesBrownEyes. We warn that the program has confronting content. Wearing a safety pin in public began in the UK – read more about this campaign here: To find out more about Together for Humanity Project ,go to: www.

To find out more about Affinity Intercultural Foundation, go to:

MM: I also think that Christmas isn’t so much about us and our tradition; it helps us understand about how God came to earth. Our understanding of incarnation, is that the whole of creation is blessed by God’s presence and God’s spirit is revealed through all sorts of different people, including people who are marginalised. So, for me, the season of Advent — which starts on the last Sunday of November and the four weeks leading up to Christmas — that’s a time of reconnecting with hope for us. In the midst of some of the terrible things happening in the world, our Congregations choose to focus on what will remind us of the vision of how things can be different. So it’s not just about the baby in the manger – it’s about what he spoke about as an adult and how he lived and taught and crossed boundaries and who are the people that we should be reaching out to during Advent. i


WHEN MICHAEL MET MINA A STORY ABOUT UNLEARNING RACISM Three years ago, Australian-Muslim author Randa Abdel-Fattah decided to leave her law career to do a PhD on the rise of Islamophobia. While doing this, she has also managed to publish her eighth book, When Michael Met Mina, in which she explores issues of multiculturalism, refugees and racism. Abdel Fattah recently discussed her inspiration behind her latest book with The Point magazine: “As I interviewed people about their ‘fears of being swamped by boats’, about the ‘Islamisation of Australia’, and about the socalled ‘clash of civilisations’, I wondered what it would mean to be a teenager growing up in a family peddling such racism and paranoia. That’s when I decided to write a story [about] these two characters, Michael and Mina.” “I want my readers to think about racism, refugees and asylum seekers as more than just complicated issues. I want them to think about how Australia is a privileged country, that is involved in wars that create refugees and how we have a responsibility to these refugees. I want them to understand some basic truths such as, who do we count as human? What is privilege or justice? Whom do we show empathy for and whom do we shun? What is it about our fears, insecurities, identity that needs an enemy, an ‘Other’? I hope my readers are able to confront these questions head-on.” Check Insights online soon, we will review the book When Michael Met Mina at:

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F E AT U R E : P E R F E C T L O V E D R I V E S O U T F E A R

Christmas greetings WE ASKED CHURCH LEADERS AND CONGREGATIONS ACROSS THE SYNOD TO REFLECT ON THE PAST YEAR AND SHARE WHAT PERFECT LOVE MEANS TO THEM. exploit our dread of death. We do business in an economy of fear, driven by consumer worries about keeping up with the neighbours. And we practice a politics of fear in which candidates are elected by playing on voter’s anxieties about race and class.’ Parker Palmer’s comment about religion is especially concerning. Some who condemned Gordon Uniting were REV. MICHAEL BARNES IN FRONT OF GORDON Christians. One came to the service UNITING CHURCH WITH THE GRAND MUFTI, and accused us of misleading people. DR IBRAHIM ABU MOHAMED (In her view, we should have converted Dr. Ibrahim to Christianity.)


RECENTLY, GORDON UNITING celebrated Interfaith September. Like last year, we invited Dr. Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, the Grand Mufti, to speak to us about Islam. Last year, the event was well received; this year, less so. We received a torrent of hate mail.

Over the past 12 months, Australia has changed. Fear has taken hold of people’s minds and hearts. There has been an upsurge in support for political parties advocating discriminatory policies against Muslims. Pauline Hanson, in her second maiden speech in Federal Parliament, said Australia was in danger of being ‘swamped by Muslims.’ But Muslims comprise 2.2 per cent of the Australian population. What Australia risks being swamped by is not Muslims — but fear. Fear is a powerful emotion. It does not respond readily to rational argument; it does not comprehend the language of careful thought. It lies hidden and inaccessible. It takes hold of us. The American Quaker educator, Parker Palmer, notes: ‘Fear is the air we breathe. We subscribe to religions that



Her critique was advanced with great sincerity and piety. Such piety is disturbing because it purports to be religious and well-meaning but it was, in fact, fear masquerading as concern. Palmer’s comment about religion alerts us to the troubling fact that while religious language evokes love, it also evokes fear. Using religious language is no guarantee of truth. When Dr. Ibrahim visited on 25th September, Gordon Uniting faced the possibility of a church invasion, as had happened at Gosford Anglican. The church community was informed beforehand of this threat and of the precautions that had been taken. Some might have chosen to stay away, but they didn’t. They came in great numbers. It was very moving. It reminded me of 1 John 4:18, ‘Perfect love casts out fear.’ That day in worship, we caught a glimpse of love casting out fear. We felt what I had previously experienced in my contact with Dr. Ibrahim: there was no reason for fear. That day, we were enriched by the visit of someone designated by many as ‘other’. Whenever communities take steps in love, they put fear in its place.


I DO NOT WANT any Christmas presents — because I don’t want any more ‘stuff’ to pack when we shift house. The removalist came recently to estimate how much we have. He estimated we have 20 cubic metres more than allowance — and that did not include everything! We will have to cull our ‘stuff’. Yet everything has a value, and the decluttering process will not be easy. We will have to strip down. If we could strip down other areas of life to their absolute essentials, what would be left? What if we had to sum up our faith in a sentence or two, or a tweet? The apostle Paul boiled it down to ‘these three remain, faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love’. James went for ‘religion that is pure and undefiled before God is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world’. John went for love, love and more love. Jesus strips it down to love when he gives us just one new commandment: love one another. That’s the theory — the practice is spelled out in what we call the golden rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you. One thing I discovered during the packing-up process in my office was a poster. It outlines the golden rule and how it is expressed in every religion. For example: ‘Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful” (Buddhism); or, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary’ (Hillel, Talmud [Judaism]). Perhaps that should be our Christmas decluttering. Love as fundamental theory and love as guiding operating principle. O, to reach that purity of love that ‘casts out all fear’. Perhaps that’s what is meant by the Christmas hymn Love Came Down at Christmas: ‘Love shall be our token, love be yours and love be mine, love to God and neighbours…’ May you find that love this Christmas!




IN OUR CHILDHOOD, I and all my people were conditioned by society to ‘know your place’. It was as if two worlds occupied the same space but never connected; never made eye contact. Then, one day, I sensed God saying to me: ‘Diane, why not go and worship in a white fellas’ church.’ I was scared that first time, fearful, and the second, third and tenth times as well, slipping into the back seat, conscious of the eyes following me — even some with enmity. Yet I kept going. Each Sunday I would slip out during the last hymn until one morning the minister beat me to the door and introduced himself. Then, gradually, others greeted me as well, even coming up to me when shopping in the street. I was reminded of this difficult time in my life by our Christmas theme this year: ‘Perfect love drives out fear’ (1 John 4:18). I realised when we come to understand ourselves as loved and valued by God, then we are freed from the fears that undermine us. We can step out in faith and share our love with others. In Congress, our hope is that we all may put aside the fears that hold us back. As God’s children, may we work together for the well-being of all, trusting in the love of God revealed in Jesus who came and lived among us, so that all may have life. I pray that as we face new challenges in the coming year, we will all be strengthened even more as Jesus’s disciples, with a strong sense of hope and courageous hearts. Jesus is the reason for this season. Merry Christmas and a blessed 2017 from Congress!

2016 HAS BEEN a very hard year for the miners, farmers, graziers, the business people and their families living in our district. The fear of the unknown plays on the minds of all. When will the drought break? Where will I get the money to feed our stock and family, or pay the outstanding accounts? How long will my job last? When will they take people back on? Will I have a crop to harvest? Fear of failure, letting down family, friends and employees. Fear of not knowing how to go forward, how to face loved ones, ask for help, or handle rejection. Christmas heralds a time of celebration. Families and friends in our district will come together, spend time with one another, give and share love and support. Fear can be overcome through love — love in Jesus Christ our Saviour; loving yourself for who you are; accepting love from those close to you. Through love, we gain the strength to face the next day, to take on all the challenges that life throws our way. Christ comes to us all with the promise of peace, joy, hope and love. Merry Christmas! Rev. Jo and Lou Smalbil


PERFECT LOVE came down at Christmas – and the world was never the same. That love will be celebrated again this December by our church — which is part of the Macquarie Darling Presbytery in NSW’s Central West. We have more to celebrate this year because of the love shown to rural and remote churches by the recent Synod. We will be giving great thanks to you all for the endorsement of The Saltbush Project, which certainly demonstrates to us that we, in the bush, matter in the life of the Uniting Church. The project is designed to re-generate rural and remote ministry, in Western NSW, and that has a beautiful sound to it. According to my dictionary, ‘regenerate’ can mean ‘renewed or reborn, restored or refreshed’ — and that is what we need. The ‘refresh’ button needs to be clicked ‘on’ so that our faithful and committed yet ageing Congregations, can genuinely feel that they are not alone and that reinvigoration may be possible. If you read this and think you could be part of ‘The Re-generation Team’, please come and visit us and see how much your participation would be embraced — and then you will truly experience ‘the love’ and the needs of rural ministry. Gaynor Gibson



IN OCTOBER, HOPE Uniting Church joined with the local Junction Neighbourhood Centre to host a Feel Good Fete for Mental Health Month. The grounds were filled with the smell of free coffee and BBQ. There were stalls from mental health providers, face-painting for young and young-at-heart, and workshops including in the Hope Community Garden. The day was full of joy and was the culmination of a relationship that the Congregation and Junction Neighbourhood Centre have been growing over the past three years. It reminded us that amazing things can happen, when we focus on genuine relationship with our local community. The Feel Good Fete was a great way for us to offer loving hospitality to our local community. We are excited to see the ways God’s Spirit moves in the next year as we continue in this partnership. Rev. Bec Lindsay


THIS MONTH, OUR CHURCH celebrates its 30th birthday. Our church was born out of two Congregations, Saratoga and Avoca Beach, and began in the old School of Arts at Kincumber. A few years ago when the previous minister left, the community was not in a position to call a full-time replacement. I began ‘Supply’ in June, encouraged and supported by this greatly energetic, mature Congregation. Through sharing, listening and loving, we are developing a new vision for the community as we engage widely beyond our doors. We also have a retreat and planning day every November, to spend time with God, each other and share our hopes. Our Congregation has a deep faith and it is as if fear of the future has vanished. As we come to Advent, the hope for new beginnings is strong, the peace that Jesus’ heralds is with us, and the joy and love are paramount in our journey. We pray the church universal celebrates, imagines and creates a hopeful future. Rev. Sue Scott

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Interfaith Dialogue

United Theological College (UTC) is part of Charles Sturt University’s School of Theology. Interfaith Dialogue (THL334) is being offered as an intensive subject for Session 1 from 30 January - 3 February 2017 With increasing religious diversity in Australia, what is the place of Christian faith and witness in our growing multicultural and multi-religious context? How might we witness faithfully in such a context? Interfaith Dialogue will help you develop key competencies in both the theory and practice of interfaith dialogue. This course is open to anyone who has a keen interest or who would like to deepen their knowledge in the theology of interfaith dialogue and practice, or for those who are just begining this journey of witness and faith.

Now is the time to develop your understanding and experience of interfaith ministry.


For more information or to register, contact: Renee Kelly or Jenny Stockton 02 8838 8914 | This subject may be studied as an individually assessed subject, for interest or credited towards further study.

UTC is constituted within the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW and the ACT, and CSU’s School of Theology.


ABOUT RED DOG TRUE BLUE When eleven year old Mick (LEVI MILLER) is shipped off to his grandfather’s (BRYAN BROWN) cattle station in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia, he prepares himself for a life of dull hardship, but instead finds myth, adventure and a friendship with a scrappy, one-of-a-kind dog that will change his life forever.

YOUR CHANCE TO WIN IN-SEASON PASSES With thanks to Village Roadshow, readers of Insights have a chance to win an in-season, double pass to see RED DOG TRUE BLUE in cinemas nationally on Boxing Day, 26 December. For your chance to win simply go to to enter and tell us in 25 words or less, why you would like to see RED DOG TRUE BLUE.



F E AT U R E : P E R F E C T L O V E D R I V E S O U T F E A R

What’s got to do with it? Christmas is a time to re-boot our faith and discipleship. We can rekindle our courage to live in the world – by focussing again on how the very love of God came to earth as Jesus Christ. AROUND TWO THOUSAND AND TWENTY years ago, a Jewish, Arabic baby was born into poverty, just as babies in many cultures and nations are born into poverty every day. Soon after his birth, in a climate of violent persecution and oppression, where children were dying, his family fled his homeland to a foreign country where he had no language, religion or culture, of familiarity. This is part of the story of love because this is part of the story of our God, who is part of our story which we celebrate in the season that we call Christmas.

all who needed the refuge of the Commonwealth of God. Jesus not only came to heal those who were physically unwell, but came to heal our society, culture and religion which were unwell and which eroded instead of enhanced wellness for people. Joy brings change and healing, just as healing and change bring joy. Love opens the way into joy and drives out fear because it brings the hope for change, and it is all the work of God in Jesus.

Joy was brought to bear in the world in Christ through change for good, in the lives of those who needed it. The poor, refugee baby who was Immanuel — God with us — grew to be the Christ who lived with the poor, the outcast, the marginalised, the ‘sinners’ and

Perfect love drives out fear and brings hope, joy and peace. We are called to live love in such a way that we are hope-bringers, joy-fillers and peace-makers. i

Peace was lived into the world in Christ, with Jesus’s way of bridging the division in human relationships and breaking the Jesus came to bring hope, joy and peace but, most of boundaries of our religious and social conventions. He invited all, Christ came to be love. These are not just nice people into the communion of the Commonwealth of words. This is the power that Christ lived, taught, God, where our souls can rest in God. Christ brought exemplified, died and rose again for — because peace into the world through radical, inclusive love love is a power which transforms lives. It not which changed and healed people, relationships THE POOR only opens the way into hope, joy and peace, and religion. Christ’s resistance to using power REFUGEE BABY WHO WAS but it also activates them — as powers of to force or coerce people to live God’s way IMMANUEL GREW love. Love drives out fear and creates the paves the way for peace. Peace was taught TO BE THE CHRIST potential for us and the world to become for, not fought for, in Jesus. In peace, enemies WHO LIVED WITH as we should be. were to be loved, as were sinners or outcasts. THE POOR, THE Love brings peace and peace is an act of love, OUTCAST AND THE Hope was brought to bear in Christ, into and it is all the work of God in Jesus. M A R G I N A L I S E D adversity and injustice. It is the hope of the communion of the Kingdom of God, with the So, with the coming of Christ, love was embodied King crowned in thorns and enthroned on a into the world. Not love as an emotion, or even an cross. Why? Because of people’s resistance to action, but love as God, for God is love. Christ was the the work of Christ in addressing the issues of inequity embodiment, the incarnation, of God’s love. Jesus was of wealth, the emptiness and exclusiveness of religion, and our Immanuel – God with us – and we remember and celebrate God failure to live God’s way in this world. However, love lives the hope who is love with us at Christmas. However, this celebration should that we will change and does not fear the possibility that we will not be a transitory moment of hope, joy, and peace. It should lead reject the way of God. Love is an expression of hope and hope is us to take up Christ’s call to embody God’s love in the world, in an expression of love and it is all the work of God in Jesus. every instance and relationship that we can.

Rev. John Humphries, Chaplain at Ravenswood School for Girls

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DESPITE HAVING ONLY DAYS left in the role of General Secretary, requests to solve problems still arrive on Andrew Williams’ desk. But a sense of finality has also showed up. After six years, Andrew is leaving — to join his family in Switzerland, and serve within the World Council of Churches’ ecumenical family. The role of General Secretary is, in one word, challenging. It includes the difficult task of holding the theology of the Church along with its administration; often, these are in tension. As we farewelled Andrew, we asked him to reflect on his time as General Secretary. He spoke candidly about his surprise at being called to the role, and also shared how his own faith has been affected. From the importance of finding new ways of engaging communities in the language of faith, to our Church’s wrestle with leadership, Andrew’s last Synod interview is eye-opening and vital. Has the responsibility of leading the Synod personally informed your faith? I never anticipated having the role of Synod General Secretary. It wasn’t a job that I coveted or that I looked for. When I came back from the UK [after eight years] and I had some global experience and some wider experience, I worked in the local church where I thought I would finish my ministry and stay there to my retirement. Then I thought maybe I do have some experience to offer the wider Church. The role came up so I put my hat in the ring. Then I got to the second interview and I got the job. I had overnight to think about it. Was I serious? What would it mean? So it definitely felt like this was God leading me to this point. I didn’t think I would get it or that it was going to me. What do you think God was saying at that point? I think God has a sense of humour! With my experience, perhaps this is a time for someone who can give leadership in a missional sense rather than a super— duper administrator — I have never suggested or claimed that I have any ability as a bureaucrat administrator! But I do have a passion for the mission of the Church and want the Church to thrive. So that’s what I thought the selection committee was saying, by choosing me rather than someone who might have been a better administrator.

What do you mean by ‘God has a sense of humour’? God must have a sense of humour [to say], ‘I have chosen you for a job here.’ And to get to the situation now, ‘I have chosen you for the job in Sydney and your wife for the job in Geneva.’ The earlier question asked about my faith. The role can be incredibly frustrating. At times it tests your faith in people and the Church. I have been known to say jokingly at times, ‘Ministers are causing me to lose my faith.’ One of the hardest things for me has been dealing with people who choose not to hear the voice of the Church. This is not to say, ‘I am the voice of the Church,’ but to say ‘I am entrusted to enact the voice of the Church through its Councils.’ Our Church believes that we act through our Councils and we are sometimes nervous about an individual having too much authority or power. But even then, it requires an individual to enact or follow through on the will of the Council and that’s what sometimes leads to tension and a reaction against the person or, in a sense, making it seem like it is personal. This is what tests my faith and what makes it difficult. How has your faith gone, as you have faced such difficult situations? I hope that my faith has stayed strong through all of that. I have said it has been tested at a few points. I hope that, in the end, I still leave with a love for the Church and a confidence and a hope for what God’s doing with the Church. The fact is that you have all these issues to address and you can’t keep everyone happy. Someone is going to be left unhappy at some point. Our system is so porous that it allows for constant appealing and constant pushing back. It is very hard to get a final decision. People can still chip away and undo a decision made. In terms of the Mission Plan for the Synod, where do you think the Church is at right now? There is one side of me that says we don’t need a Mission Plan. We have the Basis of Union; We have the Scriptures; We know what our task is as a Church. The Mission Plan was only ever meant to give us some focus. Where we have struggled with the Mission Plan is that it seems not everyone will buy into a

collective project. This leaves us as very fractured as a community. We talk about unity and diversity and so on; in fact it seems to me we still have a lot of people protecting their own bit of the cabbage patch. In that sense, it becomes difficult to talk about a mission plan that we all subscribe to. The only common starting points that we have like that are the Basis of Union and the Scriptures; that’s our mission plan. The Synod Mission Plan was only ever meant to give us some focus, to pull us together and to guide and direct us. Has it done that? In some ways it has done that but, as I’ve said, it doesn’t pull everyone together within the bounds of the Synod, in a common direction. Maybe that’s a pipedream that you can’t achieve anyway. The propensity to fracture and split at the moment is high. Everyone is looking after their own patch. Early on in my time there was a sense of everyone coming together. Then there was a financial crisis and everyone retreated into the mood of, ‘I have to protect my resources’; ‘I want security,’ amounting to a situation of less trust. My other observation is that we are very fatigued as a Church. When I look around, I find people who are weary. We have said the Congregations are at the heart of what we do. The local Congregations are busy trying to keep themselves afloat and the doors open on a Sunday. If we say to them, ‘Can you be on a committee,’ they respond with, ‘We just can’t do it; it’s one thing too much.’ In that sense, the Synod becomes a burden rather than a help. We need to be helping local churches, primarily. We have gone from a time when the Synod was also helping resource the local things with mission grants, to a time when the Synod is under pressure to provide for Presbyteries and Congregations. There’s no doubt these are challenging times. What would you like to see the Uniting Church doing more of? We have to find a way to share our faith. Not in a Billy Graham way but by finding a way to engage with the community which includes sharing our faith and saying why this story about Jesus is important to us. We need to be able to say why we want to talk in terms of faith, not just about

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being involved in community service. We have to be less shy about sharing the good news. We now have to tell people what the Christian message is about. We can’t take anything for granted or just assume knowledge any more. We have to get back to thinking about how we are going to engage the community. We have lived too long on ‘they will come to us when they are ready’ approach. But we have to work out ways. If we don’t have the people who are authentic about why we are trying to engage the community, we will fall over. The broad headline for me is — we have to find new ways to engage our community which no longer has the language of faith and shares our common story. We have to retell the story for each generation. What have been some of the highlights you have witnessed during your time? I think our relationship with Uniting is better than it has been for a long time. I think that Uniting is in a good place in relation to the Church and, probably, the same can could be said of the relationship with our schools. A lot of the change in recent years has been about structure, which not everyone will have witnessed. It is a more subtle change over time. I haven’t ended child poverty. Yet! [Chuckles] What are your most memorable moments as General Secretary? I have worked with three different Moderators with different leadership styles. All have offered something in their own unique style. Initially, there was a period of consolidation. At the end of this



period, we got some consolidation and movement forward on some of those structural things. But, in my view we didn’t do enough. From my first Synod in Newcastle in 2011, there was a sense of optimism and hope that things were going to change — but we still haven’t implemented enough of the things we were proposing. It was from there we got a Governance Nominations and Remuneration Committee (GNMC) and Synod Risk Oversight Committee (SROC). They have both been good changes. Again, it’s not ‘feeding the hungry’ sort-of stuff [but] it is helpful to the structure of the Church. UME came into existence; the Board of Education and board of Mission merged. So we were moving things forward. We reinvigorated some things. But it comes at a cost and others feel a sense of loss. When the financial crisis finally kicked in, it meant the Synod didn’t have as much money to support mission and initiatives. That resulted in people retreating into their shells and, possibly, some of the mistrust of Synod crept in, dominating the horizon for the last few years. Ideally, if you could devote all your attention to one thing, you probably would get it fixed and some change happening. The reality is you constantly try to wrangle a number of issues coming across your desk. I also look back and [think about] what did I say to the interviewing committee at the time about where do you want to be in 2020? What have we done and what haven’t we done? [Back then] I did say we would resolve the Presbytery issue and we haven’t done that. I did also say we would resolve the issue of a home for the Synod offices. Are we staying in 222 Pitt St? We have looked at

these things but, in time, they go into the too-hard basket and that’s why we keep bouncing around. There are so many issues where you think you have made a little progress, but it spins around and comes back to where you were. In [author of Good to Great] Jim Collins’ terms, you never quite get the flywheel really spinning. You give it a bit of a push but then you move to get something else going and it is just about there...and we are starting again. This is what it feels like. Creating a sense of urgency is hard. There is a sense of fatigue, people are tired and asking, “Who is going to do all these things?” If you had more time, what more would you have liked to have achieved? In terms of mission, I wish we had got further along the track with our hubs project/regional Congregations and how we could build a network of those flourishing. Good work was done but we stopped and started. We had picked specific sites for a good place to be a hub but, with personnel changes, a sense of what was really being supported again didn’t get across the line. The Uniting Church has a nonhierarchical structure but do you think, during recent years, there has been an increasing appetite for leadership — rather than non-hierarchical and interconciliar decision making? Yes. We want leadership yet we resist it at the same time. We are crying out for it but yet we want to rail against it. I have often encountered the misconception that the Church works like any other hierarchy, with a perfectly efficient cascading instrument by which to embed culture, strategy, values and vision. But we don’t! There are many competing

interests and loyalties and people work hard to defend their patch. The reality is that even with our extensive wealth of people and resources, we will always feel ill-equipped to face the most critical challenges of our mission.

something to offer, or we may as well say the fight has gone out of us — we are not protesting anything and we have nothing we need to rail against. Or, we are going to say ‘we still have something to offer’ and we are going to get on with it.

When you’re in the leadership role, you realise how difficult it is. You realise how the system is both crying out for leadership yet it is preventing it from really being able to achieve something good.

I think for me, however, I’d agree with theologian Jurgen Moltmann who said: ‘My past was Methodist, my future is ecumenical.’ That is how it feels personally, for me, moving to the World Council of Churches environment. It also feels like that for our Church. Our past was ‘X’— but our future has to be even more ecumenical.

What would you say about your leadership style? Have you had to adapt and evolve it? I think my leadership style is partly constrained by the Uniting Church principles and Uniting Church ethos. If I have felt constrained, it is by the principles of consensus and trying to bring everyone along all the time. Is this the minister bringing all of the flock along and not abandoning them? That is the danger of the DNA of minister, wanting everyone to come along. The problem with consensus is, when we find the solution everyone can agree to, it basically turns out to be what nobody wanted exactly. You’ve made everyone equally unhappy! [Chuckles] PM Malcolm Turnbull said, ‘There has never been a more exciting time to be alive than today and there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian.’ How does the Church fit with the PM’s statement? As a Church, we are at a pivotal point. So, is it an exciting time to be alive? Is it an exciting time to be an Australian? Yes to all those things, but only if we are willing to embrace a radically different future than we have had. This is the danger about our experiment called the Uniting Church. We can never see it as we have finished; that we have arrived. The very word ‘uniting’ is to say the task is unfinished; there is still something more to do. For me, this means our structures are up for grabs; the way we have entrenched things in our thinking is up for grabs. It is exciting if we can let go of the things that hold us back and genuinely keep moving forward. If we can’t, we will just become a footnote in history because we will go out of existence because we will cling to it and say ‘this is the way we do it’ and we won’t move.

IN A CHURCH THAT’S MOVING FORWARD (TUNE: ABBOT’S LEIGH) In a church that’s moving forward, This is where we long to be. In a church with gifts abounding, And the grace to set them free. In a church of many cultures, In a church both old and young, In a church of many accents, When the song of Christ is sung, With a Lord who leads the mission Of a people on the way, With a Lord who’s healing blindness, Let’s the voiceless have their say. With a Lord of every nation, With a Lord of every place, With a Lord who shines compassion On to every tribe and race. On a road that leads to wholeness. When we’re broken or unsure, On a road to understanding, Where division finds a cure. On a road where all may travel, On a road where many roam, On a road we walk together As we make our journey home. Hymn written by Rev. Dr Andrew William, sung at Closure of Ministry service on 22 October, 2016

We can either say this whole time is a crisis — the declining, aging membership — or it’s an opportunity. I would say it is an opportunity moment for the Church to rethink who it is and who we engage, and how we engage the community. We are either going to seize the opportunity or we are goings to say this is a crises and go back into our shell. And that is true throughout the world. It is 500 years [in 2017] since the Protestant Reformation, where we take our roots. We can either say we still have

It has not been a good year for religious vilification. How do you see the Church as being perceived? I think the Royal Commission has damaged us. I think it shattered the myth that the Church is all things good and holy and that changes our relationship with society. We are back to my theme: you have to find new ways of engaging the community and winning their trust again. In things where the Church is involved and something has gone horribly wrong, people have a right to challenge the Church. When we are on the wrong side of some debates, I think that the Church loses credibility. Our Church, in particular, with its aging declining membership, is obviously not engaging people’s hearts and minds. We have lost the right to speak into some of the spaces we had forty years ago. As Pilgrim People on the way to the promised end, what wisdom do you have for your Synod? We are in the hope business when all is said and done. And we should be giving hope. ‘Pilgrims’ is such a wonderful rich theme; we are always moving forward. We are going to sing a hymn at my Closure of Ministry which I wrote, In a Church That’s Moving Forward (see left). ‘In a Church that is moving forward, this is where I long to be.’ The job is not done and we are not out of hope yet. i Lisa Sampson is Media and Fundraising Consultant with the UCA Synod of NSW and the ACT. Lisa’s role involves telling the story of the Uniting Church in Australia, including writing about the many and varied gifts of the people that make up our Synod.

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The ‘spiritual hub’ of our schools are the men and women who, every day, minister to children, youth and their teachers. BEN McEACHEN talks to several chaplains about what it’s like to be at the “missional edge” of our Church. “I BELIEVE THE CHILDREN are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” Whitney Houston memorably sang those lines in The Greatest Love of All, a power ballad from the 1980s. As far as I know, Houston’s pop hit wasn’t written as a tribute to school chaplains. But if you stop to consider what it is our school chaplains do in Uniting Church schools across our Synod, Whitney Houston might well have been singing about them. On a full-time basis, these front-line ministers of God’s word seek to invest in teaching students well and prayerfully hoping they lead the way. Our Moderator Rev. Mwung Hwa Park recently visited our UCA chaplains at their annual retreat. She was struck by their “special calling” and commitment to their schools, students and colleagues. If we’re honest, though, perhaps we hadn’t pictured school chaplaincy as a special calling. You might not even have thought of Christian service among students and faculty as, well, an actual, legitimate, proper ministry job. “A few of the school chaplains have told me that other ministers have made comments to them like ‘When are you going to be a real minister?’” reveals Anne Empson. Appointed earlier this year as Uniting Mission and Education’s Schools Relationship and Governance Manager, Anne is, effectively, our Church’s link with UCA schools. Part of her role is oversight of our chaplains and how they are getting on. She frankly states that the variety, complexity and demands of school chaplaincy verges on being harder than working in a parish setting. “One of the new chaplains who came from

Congregational ministry said, ‘I never had a clue it was like this. It’s so intense. This is the coalface. This is real ministry.’” “I don’t think a lot of people understand the magnitude of school chaplaincy.” What Anne is referring to is how our school chaplains do everything from preach to hundreds of children, to pastorally caring for their families and doing “cradle to grave” ministries of baptisms, weddings and funerals. They also witness to staff members, teach religious education, prepare services or deal with schoolyard crisis. school. They are like a one-stop ministry shop. “I work at the missional edge of the Church,” summarises Jon Humphries about his chaplaincy role at Ravenswood School for Girls in Sydney’s upper North Shore suburb of Gordon. After graduation in 2001, Jon took the unusual road of going straight to school chaplaincy. He started at Pymble Ladies’ College but has been at Ravenswood for eight years. “Schools are a mission of the church, in that we are one of the frontier faces, if you like. Only about 20 per cent of the kids would come from a practicing, ‘Christian-y’ family. Uniting Church schools represent more than 9000 kids per day; that means they’re engaged by the Uniting Church in New South Wales and the ACT. That’s pretty amazing.” Pause. Think about that. Where else in Australian society can you sprinkle the good news of Jesus directly upon the lives of young people, on such a scale? Jon sees this as a key difference between school chaplaincy and a churchbased role; he and his peers get to reach

out into the broader community, more than preach to the faithful. “Half of my role is to not put them off religion,” explains Jon, without joking. “And, then, half of my role is to engage them. I’ve got to work here with 1,100 dynamic young people, for most of whom faith is a curiosity — if not anathema to what they normally grow up with in their family culture. “I try to engage them not just in religion, but in faith and spirituality — respecting [the student’s] differences. My congregation isn’t a Congregation [but] we do all the stuff of a Congregation. We do pastoral care; we form them in faith; we do worship – but half of them have to be there, rather than want to be there.” A long way from Gordon, Phil Worrad at Kinross Wolaroi School in rural centre Orange also describes his working environment as a Congregation. “It’s this moving, changing Congregation of adolescents,” says Phil of the unusual flock he strives to guide. “I see my job as continually trying to introduce this Congregation of about 1000 kids, to Christ.” Having trained for the priesthood (including spending five years in a monastery), Phil left to marry and pursue a different path. Separate study in theology and teaching maths landed him school jobs, yet most turned out to be teaching religious education. When he was finally employed as a maths teacher at Kinross Wolaroi, he gradually moved into the school’s key chaplaincy position. As much as Phil wants to introduce kids to Christ, he has had to learn a big lesson of school chaplaincy: How you say




I NEVER HAD A CLUE IT WAS LIKE THIS. IT’S SO INTENSE. THIS IS THE COALFACE. THIS IS REAL MINISTRY VANESSA WILLIAMS-HENKE started as a school chaplain at MLC School, Burwood, on June 6. INSIGHTS: What were you doing before school chaplaincy at MLC? VANESSA: I was only ordained on June 4. I graduated from United Theological College on May 31. So, for me, things rolled really quickly. I: How’s your first ministry job going? V: “It’s been a stretch because I’ve been an ordaioned person for about 35 seconds. I’m in a job and looking like a competent minister, because I’m 49, but I have felt like a deer in the headlights. For me, though, it wasn’t just a new job; it was a new vocation. But I have coped well.” I: Part of your role is introducing Christianity to students. What has that been like? V: I have a girl who has just given her life to Christ, in Year 7. We have girls who are ‘unchurched’ who are interested in knowing what this Jesus fuss is all about... I love that part of my job, and the preaching in the school services. Any interaction with kids brings me so much joy. I fully see my purpose in the world. I share a lot about myself and my own journey, in a hope that I will be able to show them that a relationship with Christ is really real... I’m hoping that this approach warms girls to the fact God isn’t so far away. God is in easy reach; all you’ve got to do is ask. I: How important do you think that school chaplaincy is? V: I think it is the greatest gift and blessing to a school community. It can change people’s lives — and I’m talking from an eternal perspective. Most of my community is ‘unchurched’ and without any word of apology, I get to talk about Jesus. Every day.



what you say is critical. “With the ‘Jesus’ language, there’s this sense of implied religiousness. With the ‘God’ language, there’s a sense of relationship and it’s about faith — without the religion. If you speak more about Jesus, people have in mind that you are trying to convert them to a religion. What I am interested in trying to do is introducing them to God but through Scriptures – and the lived examples of the teachings of Jesus.” “You’ve got to find ways that make connections with their experiences of life. We talk about brokenness and hurt. We talk about refugees, or people with ‘difference’. We talk about Islam. We talk about stuff that’s pertinent and real. We talk about bullying and stealing and the harshness of words.” Having only been at Pymble Ladies’ College since the start of the year, Punam Bent also went through huge changes to her approach and thinking when she first became a school chaplain 13 years ago. “I had to unlearn everything I used to practice as a minister,” says Punam, who worked for more than 12 years at MLC School in multicultural Burwood, Sydney. “I had to un-learn every kind of jargon and really think what it means to be on a journey with children and young people.” Working with Lorenzo Rodrigues-Torres, Punam loves what she does, while admitting it’s a tough gig that can push people to burn out. Fair enough because, as Anne puts it, “chaplains really are the spiritual hub of the school. They’re the ones who really provide the spiritual oversight.” Phil notes how hard it can be to speak up “like the prophets” when issues or behaviours don’t align with

core beliefs — but Punam and Lorenzo point out how UCA school chaplains tend not to push a barrow. “We don’t have an agenda; we just go with the flow of ‘being’ this presence of Christ in the community,” says Punam. Lorenzo agrees. Describing he and Punam as “unapologetic” about being UCA ministers and Christians, they are mindful of the diverse students they are ministering to. “Our intention is that if a girl is Christian, to encourage them in their Christian faith. But we also want to support girls who belong to different traditions, whether they are Muslim or Buddhist or Jew. We try to think about their faith in the context of our chapel services at our school.” Jon Humphries doesn’t see his strength as evangelism and believes that suits the long-term approach which many UCA school chaplains share. “It’s a seed ministry more than a reaping ministry, a lot of the time,” he explains, referencing one of Jesus’s most famous parables. “To sow those seeds you’ve got to break open the ground sometimes, because a lot of the ground is hard and rocky. Anne Empson knows full well the impact school chaplaincy can have — in the long term. She attended MLC and was exposed to plenty of Christian teaching. But it wasn’t until after she left that Anne became a Christian as a young adult. “I had all of this knowledge from my MLC years which really supported my young Christian life.” “When I look at the kids wandering around our schools and I look at our chaplains, I think: ‘It will be interesting to see where these kids end up.” i


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Flowing with community care The Murrumbidgee River Tour was organised by the Synod’s Murray Darling Basin Group. It has taken forward the Synod’s vision for our Church to be a transforming presence for the common good in that area. Group members share their experiences and reflections from the tour.


Our journey took us through valleys and slopes of the Great Divide, undulating croplands, and the mesmerisingly flat riverine plains around Hay. In all places, the Murrumbidgee was centre stage. We appreciated the river’s differing importance: in some places, it was a town’s water supply or irrigation; in other places, it was its impact upon power generation for homes and industry, or its importance for Indigenous Australians. We travelled through and stopped at large population centres (including Wagga Wagga, New South Wales’ largest inland city at 65,000 people) and small ones (like Merriwagga, population less than 200). While the river changed in many ways, it always remains significant for residents along its course. Our stops at Uniting Church Congregations were a particular highlight. We appreciated each Congregation’s welcome, as well as their country hospitality. We also admired parishioners’ hard work and devotion in their Congregations and local areas. This trip traversed similar territory to a trip I took in 2007. Back then, the roads were dusty, the river levels low, the floodplains seemingly dry with little



surface water, and fields, crops and livestock showed the effect of periods of low rainfall. This year, the rivers are high, the floodplains inundated, and farmland shows the impact of recent heavy rains Geoffrey Paterson, Melbourne


Acknowledging country took on new meaning for tour group members. On arriving at Narrandera Uniting Church, we were extended a ‘welcome to country’ by church member Michael Lyons (both a Wiradjuri elder and Uniting Church elder). After Michael’s welcome, we learned from Rev. Keun-il Ko that, last year, the church celebrated the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli. The church has honour rolls for both World Wars on the wall. On that occasion, Michael had quietly stood and said: ‘My grandfather was at Gallipoli but his name is not on your honour board. My father and uncle were both ‘Rats of Tobruk’ but their names are not on your board. When they came home they were ignored, despite their contribution.’ The Congregation, moved by his words, added the names of the three Lyons/ Wiradjuri men to the boards. Also on each side of the cross in the sanctuary are paintings by Michael, drawing

together his cultural tradition with the Christian tradition. Acknowledging country reminds us that the heritage of this country is much, much older than 230 years. Such recognition adds a deeper dimension to our spiritual lives and identity as members of the family of humanity. Acknowledging country honours all of time, including the shared history of the First Peoples and later comers. Ivan Roberts, Sydney


Lake Eucumbene in the Snowy Mountains provides the Murrumbidgee River farmers with water during drier times. Since 2000, the lake has been less than 60 per cent full. As a result, it has reduced the annual amount of water that Snowy Hydro can release down the Tumut River into Blowering Reservoir. Water released on a daily basis from Blowering and Burrinjuck Reservoirs is allocated to townships, permanent plantings, the environment and to general use (in that order of priority). Irrigation crop farmers are currently allocated less than two-thirds of their general water entitlements each year. They can confidently plan their


operations based on the reliability of their allocations but are frustrated that they cannot reap the benefit of their full water entitlements. Water trading in a stable market has given farmers and industry the confidence to develop operations along the Murrumbidgee River. Coleambally Irrigation is attracting international attention to its smart control of channel flows. New industries are growing the community, such as a paper mill at Tumut, cotton farming and ginning at Hay, and chicken farming at Griffith. Jim Vickery, Sydney


We were met with true country hospitality by Uniting Church Congregations. It made our trip more like a pilgrimage than a tourist visit, to meet people where they worshipped and fellowshipped together. Thanks to all those people who prepared meals and spoke to us about life in the Riverina. I will never forget your hospitality, your welcome, and your tenacity in the face of many hardships. The Congregations of Tumut, Coleambally, Hay, Gunbar, Hillston and Coolamon are led by lay people. Like many country Congregations which cannot afford a full-time minister, these Congregations still gather faithfully each Sunday. They were delighted to meet and share with the Rev. Myung Hwa Park, our touring Moderator.

For some Congregations, it’s a relief to not have to fund full-time ministry; for others, it can be a bit of a burden. In such a scattered Presbytery, and with few resources, fulfilling Presbytery obligations also becomes an issue. Nerida Drake, Newcastle


I came on the tour with preconceptions and questions, including: What effect has the allocation of water had on agricultural production and on the environment? What is happening about salinity in the area? Has tourism lived up to its promise of providing jobs? The reinstatement of medium-sized floods along the river has started to bring back some of the native flora along the riverbank. The rise of salt has been minimised by keeping the water table below the depth to which roots of crops could reach. We visited many tourist attractions, such as the Lockhart Museum, Yanga National Park and the Bishop’s Lodge at Hay. None of these places employ large numbers of people, but all contribute to the local economy. There didn’t seem to be many empty shops in the towns, indicating adjustments to the new water strategy, though painful, are being made. Lorraine Pepper, Newcastle


This trip was brave and stepped outside the church building and into the world’s domain: the bowling club, the backyard and the workplace. My role was to drive and listen to the many voices of the trip, both inside the bus and along the way. Wow! The voices of pain, voices of pride, voices of other cultures, the voice of God… We heard about the pain of loss of community, tradition, family and yes, income, but this is also recognised as part of the cycle of the land. Farmers lament the impacts of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, such as not knowing what water allocations they are to get, but still having to pay the full cost. How allocations effect crop choice and planning also flows on to the workforce. Those we met at Griffith Uniting Church said God is keeping them going. They still put on a feast for us. I heard them say: ‘We are doing the best we can; We need to be informed early; Multi-use churches can work; We are still here!’. So, what can we do? Visit, challenge your local shop to stock Australian grown fruit and vegetables. Pray for them. Phill Matthews, Narrabri


Visit www.unitingearthweb. for information about the tour group and future MDB tours.

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A REDRESS SCHEME FOR SURVIVORS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE IN UNITING CHURCH SYNOD OF NSW AND THE ACT INSTITUTIONS IS APPROACHING THE END OF ITS SECOND YEAR OF OPERATIONS. A VERY IMPORTANT PART OF REDRESS IS TO PROVIDE A SAFE SPACE FOR SURVIVORS TO SHARE THEIR EXPERIENCES WITH THE UNITING CHURCH. The following article is written by a survivor of child sexual abuse in the now redundant Methodist Order of Knights, who wishes to share his experiences with the broader church community. The publication of this article represents a significant step in his personal redress journey. WARNING: Please be aware that the article includes references to child sexual abuse that may be upsetting for some readers. Free confidential support can be obtained by ringing a qualified counsellor at the Blue Knot Foundation helpline on: 1300 657 380. WHEN I TURNED 12 in the mid 1970s, I started attending the Order of Knights in a church hall near where we lived in Sydney. The OKs, as everyone called it, was an organisation in the Methodist Church that provided a program of activities for Christian boys and young men.

this your first time? You’re going to like it I’m sure.’ I remember feeling confused by this interaction. I’m sure at one level I appreciated this man’s friendly welcome to me as a new kid in the group, but I also felt uncomfortable with such an intimate display of affection from someone I hardly knew.

I remember the first night I went along to the church hall with my older brother. Later in the evening we played a game of hide and seek in the hall. I chose to hide under a table in the dimly lit kitchen. One of the leaders came into the kitchen and I crawled out from my hiding place when he spied me. He sat on a chair and pulled me onto his lap, put his arms around my stomach and said ‘I’m so glad you’re coming here. I hope you enjoy the OKs. Is

This man was not one of our regular group leaders but he held a senior leadership role in the OKs. He would visit our group from time to time and join in the evening’s activities.



A few months after the incident in the kitchen, this same leader established a pattern of behaviour where he would ask me to stay back at the end of the evening to help him with an unspecified chore. After everyone had left for the night he would take me to a carpeted area

which was a kind of storage room. He would often tell me that I had been ‘naughty’ earlier in the evening and would suggest that I needed to be punished in some way. I sometimes would say, ‘I haven’t been naughty, have I?’ I was never sure how serious he was because he said it in a playful way. ‘You’re gonna pay for your sins, boy,’ he would sometimes say as he started to unbutton my shirt and loosen the button on my trousers. I grew up in a family that was intimately involved in church life, firstly in the Methodist and then later in the Uniting Church. I therefore had very limited exposure to what some might call ‘the sins of the world.’ I think this may partly explain why I did not understand the true nature of what was done to me in that musty storeroom in a Methodist church hall with this man who was a very senior youth leader in the OKs. I didn’t tell anyone about it afterwards, because I didn’t really know what it was or how to explain it and because I was worried that I was in trouble for something and I didn’t want to get into any more trouble. I really think I just stored the memory away somewhere and didn’t think about it until recently. As I remember it now, with my adult mind, I know that what was done to me, on several

occasions, by that leader, was clearly a serious act of sexual assault, but carried out in a manner that left me feeling that it was some sort of game. I feel that the time has come to acknowledge the painful and unsavoury truth that one of the key youth organisations in the NSW Methodist Church did not provide a sufficiently safe and wholesome place for young boys to attend. I regret to say that the particular leader mentioned above was not the only man in the OKs to sexually assault me when I was 12. On one other occasion, another OKs leader, a veteran and senior official within the organisation at that time, also sexually assaulted me after creating a situation where I was alone with him. Many years later I learnt that this particular leader was known by others to be a paedophile, though I have no knowledge of whether there were ever any reports made to the police. Sometimes it seems incredible to me that I did not understand the sexual nature of these assaults. I honestly don’t think I even thought of them as assaults at all, yet I know that at a deeper level I was greatly traumatised by them. I remember coming home after each occasion and having a strong wish to hide somewhere. I would

typically lock myself in the toilet or bathroom for a few minutes. I would always feel extremely tired in my head, and very fatigued in my body. I found I needed to tune out for a while. I also remember on these occasions experiencing a shivering in my body that felt like a release of stress. Later, I would go to the kitchen and seek out a favourite food, usually a bowl of ice cream. I had a great need for comfort and reassurance and would usually have a bath and go straight to bed. The legacy of these experiences upon my life has been significant but not always obvious. By the time I reached adulthood, I seemed quite unable to ‘grasp the nettle’ in any area of my life. Throughout my 20s, I struggled to complete an education program, develop relationships and find employment. I felt I carried an injury from my childhood, but despite seeking professional help, could not clearly recall the origin of this injury. I know that during this period I was often a source of considerable worry for both family and friends. Shortly after I turned 31, I developed a number of debilitating physical symptoms that persisted for many years. These symptoms

T H E PAT H TO HEALING... BEGINS WITH A PAINFUL A N D R AT H E R AGONISING ENCOUNTER WITH THE TRUTH appeared to have no underlying medical cause, although one medical specialist suggested I suffered from ‘adrenal fatigue,’ a condition typically associated with chronic stress. I remember going through periods where I felt so bad I had to take time off work, on one occasion for more than a year. The path to healing, both for myself and for the wider family of the church that I grew up in, is not entirely clear to me. I know that it begins with a painful and rather agonising encounter with the truth of what occurred. For me, this ‘encounter with the truth’ began about two years ago, when quite spontaneously, the memories from childhood returned to my mind as if I had put them away in a drawer many years ago and forgotten I had put them there. At first they were very upsetting and perplexing. I found I really needed to use my adult mind to try to make sense of all the things I had not properly understood as a child. It has been encouraging

to notice a considerable improvement in my physical wellbeing since I started working on these memories. As I reflect upon my experiences, I am reminded of the reasons why we acknowledge and seek to protect the innocence of children. I am painfully aware that, even as an older child, I was unable to understand many aspects of the adult world and could not therefore properly identify and protect myself from a sexual predator, especially one who

held a position of trust and authority in my community. I recall the line from that well known hymn — Trust and obey, for there is no other way… and know that I did, like most children, trust and obey, but in doing so I fear that I co-operated, in some sense, with a terrible crime against my body and my soul. Perhaps the time has come for us to learn a better understanding of what it means, within a community of faith, to trust and obey those who guide us in that faith, especially our elders but also each other. i

HOW TO ACCESS REDRESS A range of options are available to survivors choosing to take up redress. Some survivors have described their experiences in a private meeting with a senior representative from the church or institution while others have submitted a written account. The church has then officially acknowledged these experiences and offered an expression of remorse. It is hoped that these gestures will contribute towards the survivor’s healing and facilitate reconciliation with the church. The Uniting Church employs a Social Worker to assist survivors who wish to engage in its redress scheme. The Social Worker can provide support to survivors who would like to report their experiences to the police. To learn more about the Uniting Church Redress scheme, please contact: 1800 713 993 (Monday-Friday 8.30am-5pm) www.

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Richard & Deborah Spiteri, proprietors



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Valuable hymns of praise


MY AUNTY PASSED AWAY recently. Aged 90, she was a faithful old Methodist who was overjoyed when I told her a couple of years ago that I was going to start working for her beloved Uniting Church. As her health failed in the last days of her life, I’m told that the staff at Uniting Wontama put her in a room by herself, filled it with flowers and had her favourite hymns playing constantly. She died peacefully with songs of her Saviour surrounding her. Hymns have a special place in the Christian life. They can bring peace; they can bring rebuke; they can teach us; they can encourage and uplift us. Among the hymns I would want playing as I lay on my death bed would be the Isaac Watts classic, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross and the hymn from my wedding, Be Thou My Vision. A traditional Irish hymn, Be Thou My Vision’s most common English translation dates to the early 20th Century and includes: ‘Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise; Thou mine inheritance, now and always.’ ‘Thou and thou only, first in my heart; High king of heaven, my treasure thou art.’ That’s a very challenging verse (and I don’t just mean musically)! It doesn’t just have us singing that we don’t pay much attention to wealth or to what others think of us. No, it has us declaring that we give those things not a second thought because God alone is our inheritance. Our superannuation or our reputation don’t matter because God is first in our

heart; God is our treasure. If that was playing for my aunty in those final hours, she probably would have been at peace about it. For many of us, though, I’m sure there’s at least an element of rebuke about where our priorities are actually placed. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross is part of a corpus of hymns written about 200 years ago. They kick-started the modern tradition of singing gospel-oriented songs rather than just setting the Psalms to music. Charles Wesley reportedly said that he would give up all the hymns he wrote if only he’d written When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. It’s a masterpiece of poetry and theology that repays close study and thought, as well as heartfelt singing. But approach it with fear because right from the get-go, it challenges us as well. In the opening line, what do we say that we do when we survey the cross of Christ? We immediately value our most valuable possessions — or our most amazing achievements — as less than zero. That’s right, ‘My richest gain, I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.’ In this hymn, the cross of Jesus turns everything upside down and makes everything opposite to what it seems to be. Gains become losses, sources of pride become things of contempt. Of course this is hyperbole, intended to convey the supreme value of Jesus and the salvation the cross wins for us. But it remains a challenging idea, doesn’t it?

In what is usually sung as the final verse, the value of the cross is extolled: ‘Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.’ The question this Insights column asks is, ‘How can we make money matter?’ The answer is quite simple, according to these wonderful hymns. We make money matter by giving it the value it deserves to have in the spiritual realm... which is less than zero. And we’re called to go further, putting it into the perspective that even if we had all the wealth imaginable – and we could offer it to God — it would not be enough. Yet be not discouraged. What we can offer is what we have – our soul, our life, our all. The point of these hymns is that Jesus deserves no less, but they also point to the reality that Jesus demands no more. His love and His sorrow met on the cross, where He wore a crown of infinite value to show how much God values us. Knowing this invaluable truth was my aunty’s secret weapon through a difficult life. Hymns like these helped her never to forget the heart of her own heart and to keep the Lord as her vision always. May we, too, keep on surveying that wondrous cross and make our boast only in the cross of Christ our God (Galatians 6:14). i

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December: Preparing the way of the Lord 4 DECEMBER


John the Baptist is out in the desert, challenging us to ‘Prepare the way of the Lord...’ But what does that mean? It was a call by John to repent and get things in order with God. I wonder if part of that call was to shake people out of habits and rituals, to make them ask if those things were helping them to live closer to God’s way? What would John the Baptist look like in our current age? Who are the prophets in the desert calling out to us to change our ways? The first that came to me was in Australia’s literal desert, and the Aboriginal communities there, challenging us to be more generous in how we treat those seeking asylum. The message of John was not always liked, and sometimes our response to modern day prophets can be the same. We also know things are not as they could be yet we believe God has answers, a vision and a way forward. We need to prepare ourselves to be ready to hear Him. What are your prophets saying to you about what you need to get ready?



We are back with John the Baptist, but now he is in jail and things are not going so well. His faithfulness in speaking the truth and calling people to account has landed him in a bit of hot water. Sometimes when we are being faithful, we can end up



in difficult places or things don’t work out. Sometimes, a bit of encouragement is all we need to sit well in our difficulty; we just need a word that we are not alone and not forgotten to God. ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see’ is the word Jesus sent to John. Remind John about what this is all about. Jesus encouraged those who were weary and starting to doubt. However, he also rebuked those who were going out to check out the latest things. People at the time of Jesus were looking for something more. What do you go to the ‘wilderness’ to see? A prophet? Jesus is much more than a prophet but is he enough for you?



In this Bible passage, I am hearing lots about doubt. One example is Joseph discovering his fiancé is pregnant. When I talked with my confirmation class about this, we were imagining what it would have been like for him. Such an awful feeling of betrayal and so many hopes dashed. For us, the story Mary tells of the Holy Spirit would have felt like salt in the wound. Must have been a big leap for Joseph to go from this place of betrayal to understanding this child’s importance; that it was God’s way of being with humanity. I have only once had a dream that I knew was really important. Contained in its bizarre story was the name

of my son. I was pregnant and my husband and I had not agreed on a name. Sometimes, we just get a sense of something being important. God can step in and bring clarity. Getting ready for the coming of God can mean being open to letting go of what we thought, so we can see things in a new way. This may have taken Joseph some time to be convinced of but, when we take some of the steps of faith, the new vision of God becomes clearer. Is there anything God wants you to have a new perspective on?


There are so many images of Christmas where Mary and Joseph are seen to be thrown out the back shed with the animals, alone. In recent years, I have heard what would have more likely been the case for them. Animals were often brought into the lower part of the house, the people slept just above, and there was sometimes a spare room. I wonder if the manger was because it was all so unexpected. For me, the image of Jesus’s birth this year is different. A little one passed with joy from loving relative to the next. But this child doesn’t just bring joy to those around him; he brings a message: God hears you, God sees you and you are not forgotten! What will you do this year to hear anew the message of Christmas?



January: Epiphany of the Lord this happen; it hasn’t just happened overnight. Matthew is usually really keen to show us that, in fact, God has been working on this plan — so that Jesus would make sense for generations. Have you seen God do some instant ‘miracles’, or has His work taken longer? Why do you think he works like that?






At Christmas, it is so easy to be people of faith. But in the cold light of a new year, we are faced with a hard cold reality: people don’t always see things how we do. To make faith a part of our new year requires commitment and preparation. A bit like the wise men — they prepared, packed and, after meeting Herod, were even ready to go a different way, when things didn’t work out. We can learn a lot from them; we need to be open to the possibility there needs to be a change of plan to complete your journey. What will your New Year faith resolution look like? How will you prepare for it? Who can support you?



This week we are looking at the baptism of Jesus. I love how John knows who Jesus is

and protests about baptising him. But Jesus chooses to go ahead with making a public choice — as a human being — that he will commit his life to God. As we all are when our kids decide to take the faith on for themselves, Dad is proud as punch and can’t help but comment: ‘Check this out, this is my Son and I am so pleased.’ I find it quite comforting for me, a mere mortal, to delve into the humanness of this story. Do you think when we make choices each day to live out our faith, God beams down and says ‘This is my child, in whom I am well pleased’?



We are back with John the Baptist again this week. This time, it is when Jesus is beginning to gather disciples. For John, there was no doubt in his mind who Jesus was and he made it clear to anyone who would listen.

So much so that two of his disciples decided to listen to Jesus and followed him. I wonder how that must have felt for John, as he was doing all he could to be faithful to God — to the point of limiting his wardrobe and living on a less-than-desirable menu. How do you think John should have felt about his disciples following Jesus?



Matthew has a really interesting take on the call of the disciples. Jesus walks up and says ‘I’ll make you fishers of men,’ and they drop everything and go... Wow. Really? I wonder how often we see things happen that God has been a part of and as we look on in awe, we think, ‘That is so amazing, there is no way that would ever happen to me!’. The reality for us often is God’s people have been working for years to make

One of my favourite commentators on The Beatitudes is Dave Andrews; he calls them Be-attitudes. He challenges us as Christians to live out these attitudes in our everyday life. In today’s passage, there are nine types of blessed and they are all so counter-cultural. The poor of Spirit, not those bubbling with joy, that have the kingdom of heaven? The meek shall inherit the earth? I don’t think Donald Trump would agree with that and I feel like I want to say, ‘Are you sure Jesus? Have you not seen our world and how hard this can be?’ But it seems Jesus wanted to keep it simple. Humility, justice, mercy, peace — be these people, because this is where God is at. It will not be easy and you will face hard times but it is worth it. Do you believe Jesus’ words in The Beatitudes? Will you live your life by them? The Lectionary Reflections for December and January were prepared by Rev. Karen Mitchell-Lambert of Wesley Castle Hill Uniting Church. Her blog — lectionarydoodles. — encourages the reflective practice of adult colouring with the weekly Lectionary.

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N E W S F R O M U N I T I N G C H U R C H A D U LT F E L L O W S H I P ( U C A F )


Throughout 2016, UCAF NSW/ACT supported “Living Water Come Drink” which focussed on Frontier Services “Outback Links” project. The response to this fundraiser was overwhelming. By November, 2016, more than $11,000 had been collected — with donations more to come. Many already have seen the related video clips of volunteer teams visiting Lightning Ridge — assisted by NRMA volunteers — and Longreach, with Qantas volunteers sharing what they achieved. Thank you for your support of this project.


Mid North Coast Presbytery (Southern Zone) held its

rally in September at Forster Uniting Church. Although wet, the day was an enjoyable time of fellowship with many centres represented. Mr John Archer, a former principal and now a Pastoral Partner at Forster Tuncurry Uniting Church, was the special guest speaker. His theme was “Bright Eyes and Minds Sharing” and he gave his listeners a wonderful insight into the challenging, rewarding work and programs of Indigenous education in the Northern Territory.


Macquarie Darling Presbytery rally was held at Lithgow Uniting. Rev Matt Trounce led a service with the theme “Creation and the Environment”. This was

followed by guest speakers Jodie Stewart from Uniting Lithgow, who spoke on their work in the area, and Debbie and Craig Rayner. They spoke about their work as missionaries in Kazakhstan. After lunch, those who wished were given a guided tour of the beautiful Hoskins Memorial gardens which surround the church and hall. Laraine Jones represented the UCAF Synod Committee.


Centres around Australia supported World Community Day, focusing on the theme “Empowered by the Spirit”. Led by Australian Church Women, this service received and dedicated donations made to “Fellowship of the Least Coin”. The offering

was divided between ACWC (Asian Church Women’s Conference) and “Seeds of Affinity” (supporting women in transition from prison).


The NSW/ACT UCAF Synod Committee will hold its Annual Dedication Service on 8 February at 1pm on Level 2, 222 Pitt Street. A light lunch will precede the service at 12pm. Please RSVP to Laraine Jones. A visit by the National UCAF Chairperson is being planned for 2017, and the possibility of combining it with an Encouragement Tour.


Parramatta-Nepean: Saturday, 22 July

If you would like to share your fellowship news or have any questions, please contact Judy Hicks on

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Reaching out beyond our digital echo chambers LIFE IN DIGITAL SPACES has become an increasingly customized experience. Online shopping sites customize their offerings based on our previous purchases. Video streaming services display personalised suggestions based on our viewing history. Google search results are tailored to each of us, based on our search histories and personal profiles. While millions of people inhabit these massive, global digital platforms, we each interact with them in a very individualised way. This is accomplished through a sophisticated set of algorithms that seek to maximize spending, viewing, and engagement. Social media platforms use similar technologies to boost engagement. Facebook, for instance, curates what content we see from our friends, and the companies and organisations we follow. This is a remarkable achievement — delivering a unique experience to each user, but in the days since the US presidential election, Americans are coming to terms with the down side, some might even say the dark side, of this kind of customisation. By giving us more of what we want (and hiding what we don’t) these algorithms have had the effect of reinforcing our pre-existing perspectives and insulating us from differing opinions. It is one of the reasons that the results of the election were such a shock. Some of us were simply not hearing and seeing what others were — and we were frequently consuming radically different content. And so, even though these global digital social networks connect millions and millions of people across continents, countries, and creeds, our social digital networks still tend to be remarkably and dangerously homogeneous. As media theorist Marshall McLuhan wrote, prior to the dawn of digital technologies, “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”


To borrow a metaphor from St. Paul from 1 Corinthians 12, it isn’t that the foot and the hand, the ear and the eye are debating which is the most important part of the body. It’s that they don’t even know the other one exists! This is incredibly problematic not just in the body politic, but also in our personal relationships, our digital and local communities, and the body of Christ, the church. We must work to re-connect with the other parts of the body and reach out beyond our digital echo chambers.


1. Remember the words of the prophet Micah, “what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Our neighbours, our communities, our world, and our digital networks need more understanding, more empathy, more kindness, greater humility — and we all need to do a better job of listening, especially to those that think and believe differently. We must also stand for justice and stand up against hate in all its forms. 2. Take an honest look at your social networks and at the people with whom you interact most. Does your network and your inner digital circle have a diversity of voices, experiences, and perspectives? I was challenged on this by a colleague and when I looked at my network, I realised that most of my network looked, sounded, and believed just like me. Reaching out and connecting

beyond my existing network has been truly transformative. So that those voices don’t get algorithmically washed out on my Facebook newsfeed or Twitter-stream, I have given some of those friends and sources priority so that they show up first in my feed, or I receive notifications when they tweet. 3. Reclaim face-to-face connections. In some ways, social media has made us lazy and complacent when it comes to nurturing our relationships and the exchange of ideas. We have assumed that because we belong to these digital networks we are already doing the work of reaching out. Not so. Additionally, we have assumed that the relatively passive engagement fostered by social media is sufficient for the demands of our common political, social, and religious viewpoints. We Americans have learned in spectacular fashion that we must do better if we are to meet the challenges that lie ahead. 4. “Do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:16). Social media with all their short comings continue to give each of us a platform to share God’s love and grace, to work for justice, and to amplify the voices of those on the margins. May we renew our commitment to act mindfully, intentionally, and faithfully in digital and local networks, in order that God’s kingdom come, God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. i Pastor Keith Anderson

insights 43


God does not rule the world Donald Trump is going to be the boss of the USA. How does that make you feel about who is in control?

IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD as we know it — and I feel fine. The next US president has been picked and there is, at least, one thing that’s certain: the world will change. The top job in the USA remains one of the world’s most powerful positions. Whoever is in that driver’s seat gets to influence our entire planet. Actually, it’s almost like they rule the world. Now, you might be someone who says that God rules the world. Yet when you look around, or chew over who won the US election, it can seem more like God isn’t in charge down here.


Just grab your Bible and check Psalms 90 to 100, and you’ll see what I mean. While those Psalms ooze with beautiful descriptions of God being king of the earth, there are plenty of references to his Creation and his command of everything else in the entire universe.

Psalm 103 puts it this way: “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom WHOEVER rules over all.” (Psalm I S I N T H AT 103:19) So, you know, DRIVER’S it’s like this: God rules S E AT G E T S TO everything. He doesn’t INFLUENCE OUR just rule the world and E N T I R E P L A N E T. what’s on it. God rules A C T U A L LY I T ’ S everything. EVERYTHING.


THEY RULE The world as we know it has The idea of Donald T H E W O R L D . ended – thanks, people in Trump being in charge — America who voted for Trump and the extraordinary level – but that cannot change who is of impact he will have upon, really in charge on the cosmic level. well, everyone — might have you The master of the universe, God assures terrified or enraged about the future. us he will shepherd us all the way to “a new Like you, I have been hugely interested in the heaven and a new earth.” (Revelation 21) US election result. My mind has spent a bit When things on the ground seem to be out of time dwelling upon how the Trump win has of control, though, will that impact upon who instantly caused the world, as we know it, to we put our trust in? If you are like me and you end. But I feel fine about that… because I already know that God doesn’t rule the world. trust in God, will we still be saying that — even when Donald Trump is sworn in? i He rules way more than that.




Built strong on the past A new big-screen adventure can point us back to what we’re about. BREAKING WITH TRADITION, Disney’s newest animated movie for families is not set in the pale-skinned world of Frozen or Cinderella. At cinemas from Boxing Day, Moana is Disney’s first shot at a fairytale located in the Pacific Islands. Samoan descendent The Rock and other Islanders provide voices to the story of a young woman, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), trying to save her people with the help of a demigod, Maui (The Rock). While Moana’s setting and ethnicity are something new for the Mickey Mouse House, there are two major things about it which cling tightly to the past. One is that the main character, Moana, is another Disney princess on the quest for self-belief and empowerment. She might have darker skin and go on adventures far, far away from where Snow White lives, but Moana is the latest Disney action woman for all ages. The other thing clinging to the past is Moana, the movie. One of the foundations of this Pacific Islands yarn is what the creative team calls “know your mountain.” Head of Moana’s department, Dave Pimentel, said in an

interview that “know your mountain” is a phrase picked up during initial research into Islander culture. “[Co-directors] Ron Clement and John Musker kept using that as their guidance for their theme when they were originally starting - and it’s [about] knowing your ancestors,” Pimentel explained on the Den of Geek website. “Like you are the tip of the island and everything beneath you on that island is those who have come before you. “That just stuck with me... It’s such a resonating special feeling to either know your family or know where you’ve come from or, at least, try to go back where you’ve come from or try to find out who you are.” Knowing where you have come from, so you know what you are about, is an undercurrent of Moana. The Disney team claims to have worked hard to accurately represent Pacific Islanders but some viewers are likely to be offended or disappointed by what is up on screen. No matter how you feel about Moana being creative with Islander culture or traditions, though, the appeal of “know your mountain” is something we can agree on. Perhaps you are part of the recent trend in searching online for

leaves and branches of your family tree. Or maybe you and your family have always been into heritage and its impact upon how you live. There is something about knowing our past that helps us feel more assured about our future. Like we know where we are going and how to get there, if we build well upon what came before us. “Know your mountain” easily relates to the building site Jesus talks about in Matthew 7:24-27. Almost funny, isn’t it, how even Disney cartoons can get us back to Jesus? At the end of his superfamous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus simply lays out how basing your life upon the foundations of Jesus Himself is the best way to build for the future. “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 8:24) Where Moana points back to ancestors and the example they set, Jesus points us back to Jesus — as THE example of what to base our lives upon. His words, actions and purpose are so rock-solid and eternal that there’s no better mountan to know (even as we celebrate and honour those who have gone before us). i Ben McEachen

insights 45


Entertain me REA D THIS FOR A WORLD RECONCILED Since its inception, the Uniting Church in Australia has had a deep and abiding concern for justice. It is one of the ways we have developed our theological perspectives and intersected with the broader community. Now, in this single volume edited by UnitingJustice director Elenie Poulos, there is a comprehensive collection of the papers, decisions and record of what the UCA believes on an extensive range of issues — to do with matters of citizenship and justice. This is an important document, as we move toward the 40th anniversary of the Uniting Church in 2017. It documents the many issues that have formed and shaped how the Church has interacted with society. From the Uniting Church in Australia’s first press release calling for a moratorium on uranium mining, to current calls for more humane refugee policy, For a World Reconciled covers an incredible range of social justice issues of concern to the Uniting Church since union in 1977. Adrian Drayton


Is Jesus worth it? Nik and Ruth Ripken are US missionaries who have spent decades working in some tough places. Their son died from malaria in Africa, as they served God’s kingdom. The Ripkens are the kinds of Christians I would ask about whether Jesus is worth it. But Nik spent years travelling the world, to record the stories of how persecuted Christians stayed true to Jesus. Based on Nik Ripken’s book of the same title, The Insanity of God is part documentary, part testimony, and part cheesy Christian movie about whether Jesus is worth it. Most of IOG’s material is Nik telling the stories of impressive Christians that he met in anti-gospel countries such as Russia and China. The Ripkens’ personal passion project, IOG is so Christian that it makes no attempt to be accessible for people who don’t already follow Jesus. Its production style and packaging also tests audience attention. Much of the on-screen ‘action’ is Nik narrating other people’s stories – a technique that is distancing and a bit tiresome, despite the incredible true tales he tells. What makes IOG worth it is the undeniable power of hearing about real lives being changed by Jesus, in such hostile and dangerous places. Plus, the challenges to being a ‘comfortable Christian’ aren’t delivered with venom or heaps of guilt. Instead, IOG longs to encourage us to know Jesus IS worth it. Ben McEachen




After the worldwide success of The Force Awakens at the end of last year, the end of 2016 gets the first “anthology” film which delves into the hidden stories within the complex Star Wars universe. This means Rogue One doesn’t involve key franchise characters — with the exception of one Darth Vader. The film is set between Episodes III and IV and is based on the information given to the Tie Fighter pilots, as they prepared to take down the Death Star in A New Hope (Episode IV). As diehard fans already know, Bothan spies sacrificed their lives to obtain the plans to the Death Star. At this stage, what’s been announced about Rogue One’s is that it is about Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a rebel whose father was integral in the building of the Death Star. Jyn is sought by the Rebels to infiltrate the ranks of the Empire with a band of soldiers to steal the plans. The fate of the band of freedom fighters could be sealed — if, as a guide, we take the brief description of their sacrifice in Episode IV. But subsequent trailers for Rogue One have revealed some other interesting details and plot points about the characters and this unusual Star Wars story. One major plot point is that Jyn may be in possession of a force stone that is integral to the building of a Jedi lightsaber. No doubt all these details — and so much more — will be revealed on 15 December, when Rogue One opens at cinemas. Adrian Drayton


Compassion & care

Redress offered for survivors of sexual abuse within the Uniting Church


Applying for Redress

To find out more about UnitingRedress:

The Synod of NSW and ACT provides an UnitingRedress interim policy to anyone who has experienced sexual abuse as a child in Uniting Church institutions such as schools.

• Please Call: 1800 713 993 (Mon to Fri 8:30am - 5:00pm) • Email: • Go to the website:

What is Redress?

There are three areas for redress based on Royal Commission recommendations. 1. Counselling and support. 2. A verbal and/or written response. 3. Financial redress by way of an ex-gratia payment, where eligible, in recognition of the pain and suffering caused as a result of abuse.

Enquiries and applications are confidential and are treated in a timely and sensitive way by our experienced social worker.

y mazing Ministr A , in la p a h C Future /chaplains

web: ww


email: raaf.chap


insights 47

Manage your money, your way.

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Insights Dec2016/Jan2017  

Perfect love drives out fear, School Chaplains teaching life lessons, A survivor's story.

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