insights OCTOBER/ NOVEMBER 2016
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W E LC O M E F RO M T H E G E N E R A L S E C R E TA RY
Goodbye, Farewell and Amen “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” was the title of the final episode of MASH - the TV show about the Korean War which ran longer than the war itself! And so I come to write a final column as General Secretary, having perhaps run longer than I should have (or not having run enough, depending on how you look at it!).
REV. DR ANDREW WILLIAMS GENERAL SECRETARY The General Secretary is appointed by the Synod to provide leadership to the Church by actively engaging in strategic thinking about the life, direction, vision and mission of the Church.
Let me say up front that I am incredibly honoured by the opportunity to have served the church in this role for six years. It also has been one of the most frustrating and challenging six years in my ministry. I have found it hard to get things done but, equally, I am sure that others have been frustrated by things I have done or left undone (a prayer of confession?). I have also learned things along the way (see my top 10 tips below).
And some advice to my successor and, perhaps, to other ministers: Make sure you have a regular day off, and an extra day off now and again. Take your full compliment of holidays. Have a retreat and regular quiet days. Use your study leave — attend a range of courses. Go to conferences and teaching days as required. Participate in the life of the wider church - attend Presbytery and Synod meetings, serve on committees as called. Read widely; stay up-to-date with theological thinking. Have a hobby. And in the few remaining days during the year, after answering all your emails, do the remainder of your work.
The reality is that in this role I am constantly reminded that the people of this Synod are made in God’s image. I just needed to look harder at some of them! It is true also that no other role in ministry has involved me in the highest and lowest points of people’s lives — sometimes in the same afternoon. As I leave, I am aware that I need a very secure vault for all the special things people have entrusted me with. May God continue to bless the Uniting Church in this Synod — people of God in the midst of all God’s people.
TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL MINISTRY 1. If you want something to thrive, threaten to abolish it. 2. The one time you answer the phone in an amusing way will be the one time you wish you hadn’t. 3. There will be conflict in the church and we all need a strategy to deal with it. The Body of Christ is made up of human beings, after all. And the Holy Spirit doesn’t make it easier. 4. The Church’s preferred communication style is osmosis and telepathy.
5. The contents of some cupboards and filing cabinets in the Synod are a mystery, one not to be explored without prayer and fasting. 6. Most Church problems are sorted out in the car park afterwards, by the people who know. Often the original meeting is not worth having, though we do enjoy the talking. 7. Lots of stuff in the job is the same as other people’s jobs. It is important to remember what is unique to your calling
and to make time to do it — praying for people is a good start. 8. The length of any Church discussion about finance will be in inverse proportion to the amount discussed. 9. Not everyone will think you are important. 10. Some people can only survive if they are complaining. Complaining back to see what happens, is not a fruitful strategy.
16 COVER STORY
Started by Rev. Peter Boughey with the support of Uniting, the Keeping Our Freedom Youth (KOFY) Indigenous Corporation aims to end the cycle of imprisonment. At a crucial early point in its existence, the project seeks public support.
REGULARS 3 WELCOME 6
37 DIGITAL MINISTRY 41 LECTIONARY REFLECTIONS
43 FELLOWSHIP NEWS 44
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 email@example.com WEB www.insights.uca.org.au Insights is published by the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of New South Wales and the ACT. Articles and advertising content do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editor or of the Uniting Church. SUBSCRIPTIONS: Australia $38.50 (incl. GST); overseas $50. © 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 ATO R ’S R E F L E C T I O N
We must invest in the future “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
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.
“If you want to get a result in a year, you plant crops. If you want to see the outcome in ten years, plant a tree. And if you want to get a good result in one hundred years, you educate a child,” said Kwan Jung, a Chinese Scholar of the 3rd Century BC. This suggests that educating a person is not a short-term investment or something that can be achieved through cheap labour. Nevertheless, it is worth a great effort! Recently, I went to an annual retreat of Uniting Church School Chaplains in our Synod. Knox Grammar school, MLC (Methodist Ladies College), Newington College, PLC (Pymble Ladies College), Ravenswood Girls School and Kinross Wolaroi School (in Orange) all have very dedicated ministers as their chaplains. On the way, I received a text from the retreat’s organiser saying that one of the chaplains would be unable to join us because something had happened to one of his students. We were asked to pray for the chaplain and his school community. I was more than impressed by the close network of our school chaplains and the supportive sharing they demonstrated throughout the retreat.
As a former school teacher, I can tell you that working in a school environment is not easy. It is doubly hard for our school chaplains despite having a captive audience of 18,000 people in their ministry context (that’s close to half of the entire average church attendance in our Synod). After two days with these chaplains, I was deeply convinced of the special calling of our school chaplains and their commitment to their schools, students and colleagues. The important understanding they all shared was that their efforts in planting a seed of good news into the heart of children may not bring an obvious outcome in their life time, but the harvest may come to fruition any time in the next 100 years! One of the dilemmas that we, the institutional churches, face is we are becoming too short-sighted in our response to our next generation. We don’t see many children, so we cut down our focus on children and youth ministry. Out of sight, out of mind! Because there aren’t many children and young people in our churches each week, we cut back on relevant resources or we don’t even train people for ministry with children and young people. If we value our life in relationship with God and have a pride in our discipleship — despite the cost of following Jesus — our priority should be pretty clear when we are considering where we might put our
energy, our commitment and our economic resources. Last month, I went to an exciting interfaith event called Youth PoWR (Parliament of World’s Religions). It was a gathering of young people from all walks of faith: Aboriginal spirituality, Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Judaism, Latter Day Saints. Eight young speakers shared their passion and concerns for a more compassionate and just society — and it was almost impossible to differentiate their various faith backgrounds. British poet William Wordsworth wrote, “The child is father to the man.” Surely the young people of all faiths have something great to teach us, perhaps even somewhere new and exciting to lead us. As a mother of two young adults and as a Uniting Church minister, I would have more confidence in the future if we were more open in our awareness of the value of education and more determined to listen to our young people — in churches and society — in their desire for a more compassionate, just world. I have registered myself as a volunteer for Yuróra 2017. The future church of our children and young people will be different to ours. But we have faith in Jesus who is the same yesterday, today and forever and who will surely draw our children and young people, just as he called us to himself.
Your say insights AUGUST/ SEPTEMBER 2016
A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT LITHGOW GROWS IN FRESH EXPRESSIONS YURORA: WHAT’S AHEAD FOR 2017 1
WELL DONE ON REACHING OUT
I write to thank you for the article on the lower Darling River System (Insights, August/September). It is excellent that the Uniting Church has the foresight to review problems which are normally out of reach of our mainly urban constituents. I congratulate the Moderator on having the vision to visit the area. Does the Uniting Church have a policy in relation to the Murray Darling River System? Brian Connor, Armidale
‘UNITING’ IDENTITY CRISIS
I was disturbed to read Peter Worland’s response in ‘Your Say’ (Insights, August/ September), in which he says that sometimes it is derogatory to be considered a faith-based organisation and that, on occasions, Uniting deliberately hides its association with Christ – none more deliberately than its use of ‘Uniting’ as its logo. His claim, that the ‘t’ represents Christ’s cross is esoteric (known only to the secret few). I can assure him that his organisation has succeeded in its intent. The Port Macquarie community, having read the new signage, assumes ‘Uniting’, Mingaletta and Burnside are now NOT part of the Uniting Church of Australia or, in fact, identified with Christ. That same community is happy to be involved with Catholic Care and send its children to Christian schools. Eliz Heywood, Port Macquarie
I AIN’T CONVINCED
I read with interest the ‘Your Say’ comments of Rev. Meredith Williams re: an ‘Uniting’ advertisement, and the response by Uniting CEO Peter Worland (Insights, August/September). I must say, Mr. Worland – I ain’t convinced. While I can understand that, as Mr. Worland points out, since the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, faith-
based organisations are perceived pejoratively as somewhat on the nose. But how could ‘Uniting Care’ — which also contains no direct reference to ‘church’ — be perceived as less good than ‘Uniting’? ‘Uniting Care’ indicates, to me at least, an organisation whose sole reason for existence is to care, in practical ways, for people — aged care, family care, etc. ‘Uniting’ tells me absolutely nothing. It’s like renaming Lifeline ‘Life’. Gwyn Austen, Red Rock
A GRAVE ERROR
The explanation given by Peter Worland of ‘Uniting’ (formerly Uniting Care) of its decision to cut mention of the Uniting Church from its publicity (‘Your Say’, Insights, August/September) illustrates a grave error. The work of Uniting Care is part of the evangelical mission of the Uniting Church, and should bring people to faith in God through Jesus Christ. Works of charity and care have saving power only by leading to faith. Uniting Care has a duty of conscience to stand up for Christian faith, not to allow itself to be bullied by the secular voices who seek to remove religion from Australian public life. Saint Paul gave a good answer to this problem in the first chapter of Romans, where he tells us he is not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to all who believe. Robert Tulip, Fraser
CHURCH NOT MENTIONED IN ‘UNITING’
Thank you Rev. Meredith Williams for your letter (‘Your Say’, Insights, August/ September). I too am dismayed that not only is the ‘church’ not mentioned, but the logo of the UCA has been replaced with just the word Uniting. So, as Peter Worland explained, “the symbol of the cross at its heart with the ‘t’ with a person either side of it (each ‘i’) to represent this connection and inclusivity”’ To me, it just reads the word ‘uniting’, no different from any other word we read in print every day. I only hope that everyone in the community feel the sense of inclusivity that Peter hopes for, but I just can’t see the sense in a ‘logo’ that isn’t really a logo. Anne Towner, Bateau Bay
UNITING? NEW FOOTBALL CLUB?
Peter Worland states in his letter (‘Your Say’, Insights, August/September), that ‘...to carry out Christ’s work, people must know who we are, and what we do.’ Yes, this is exactly what many have been confused and puzzled about since the introduction of the new advertising ‘brand’ word, ‘Uniting’. The single word does not claim the meaning of Uniting Care as a statement, and the symbolism of the letters ‘iti’ could be lost on most people. Bernice and Stan Munns, Forestville
Be rewarded for having your say. Every contributor to ‘Your Say’ in this issue receives an in-season double pass to see Hacksaw Ridge from Icon Films. ‘Your Say’ letters should be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org or posted to Insights, PO Box A2178, Sydney South NSW 1235. Letters may be edited for clarity and length.
WE NEED GOOD NEWS!
Gordon Uniting Church has a new focus – good news. You may say, ‘That’s not new news for many Christians.’ However, we are being challenged to notice how often, when two or three gather togethe,r the conversation often steers towards what’s wrong, what could be better, and what’s just plain bad news. Reading through recent letters in ‘Your Say’, I think it’s clear that this practice is alive and well in the Uniting Church. Let’s take the initiative to seek a new meaning for Jesus’ proclamation that ‘The kingdom of God has come near … believe in the good news’. Let’s take the challenge to see just how many conversations we can turn around in our everyday encounters to pursue good news. Will you join me in this challenge? Sue Conde AM, Pymble
A QUESTION OF BELIEF
I am amazed by the planet on which I live and the life in it and the universe in which the planet is found. I am filled with wonder and awe when I contemplate this amazing complexity and the development of this from the time of the so called “Big Bang”. When contemplating this I have no need to recognise a supernatural presence in that universe. I am a follower of the teachings of Jesus of
Nazareth. These teachings reach out to me and touch a deep chord in my being. I acknowledge that some of the record of his life and death and supposed resurrection are implausible to me. Forgiveness is sought from those who are wronged. There are things that I have done that I regret and people that I have hurt and contrition is an essential part of my being. I do not try to absolve myself from these acts however they are not carried as a burden. I use them as a reminder not to transgress again. My hope is to not repeat mistakes and to have goodwill to all. It seems to me that the God of this world has no need of miracles or the supernatural to engage me. Rather these manifestations detract from the power of the teaching of Jesus on care for others. I am deeply drawn by the world and universe in which I live. I have a deep respect for some of the teaching and record of the life of the Buddha and the Prophet Mohammed. I have respect for most of the great faiths including Hinduism, Shinto and others. In my time there have been men of greatness who I respect and admire, these include Nelson Mandela and Gandhi. Am I a Christian? I would accept that in the current doctrine of the Christian Church I would not be accepted into their communion.
I find worship in church to be restorative and am strengthened and encouraged by this and the inspiration and fellowship I experience there. This helps me to follow in the path of Jesus. I find that my spirit is uplifted by the music and liturgy. I am humbled and warmed by the fellowship of public worship and fellowship in the church family. I accept that when I die I may not have a continued life however I see that for all life there is some influence continuing in the world following death. My wish is to enhance all life. Human consciousness is one of the amazing and complex mysteries. It may not be restricted to humans. This appears to have developed over millennia and as it developed humans seemed to have had a deep need to explain the world in which they lived and attributed that which was inexplicable to the supernatural which was in the form of god or gods with a consciousness in the same way as humans. In fact rather than God making humans in its image humans have made God in their image. To me God is an impenetrable mystery within me and therefore not inanimate yet not supernatural” Can the inclusiveness of the Uniting Church welcome into full fellowship those who hold such beliefs and more reflect these in doctrine and worship? David Palmer, Canberra
WHO WILL SPEAK ON UNPOPULAR CAUSES?
Sydney Morning Herald comment writer, lawyer Tim Dick, wrote an article in response to the “handful of hateful fools” who invaded the service at the Gosford Anglican Church on August 14.
Dick quoted statistics suggesting that “by 2050, atheists will be part of the second largest religious group” and “Australia will be one of a handful of Western countries to lose an existing Christian majority”. He questions “when the churches are so weak, when Christians are no longer a majority, who will speak to our collective conscience on unpopular causes?” He makes a further telling statement, that churches facing this crisis ‘almost rush to make spectacularly dumb strategic decisions, hastening the demise of their influence’. Whilst this learned man of the law’s comments might not sit easy with some, Dick’s observations provide a telling signpost for the future of the Christian church. Dick’s article is worth a read, and it is perhaps his closing sentence that cannot be ignored: “The decline of Christianity leaves a gap on the public discourse, and that should worry all of us, including the faithless.” Allan Gibson OAM, Cherrybrook
News CONVERSATIONS FROM THE HEART A MESSAGE FROM THE UCA PRESIDENT ON THE MARRIAGE DEBATE I’m sure we have all been reflecting a lot about the proposal for a plebiscite and, more broadly, civil society’s discussion about marriage equality. As the people of God in the Uniting Church in Australia, how do we engage? Firstly, how do we do this with one another within the Christian community, recognising the range of theological diversity? Secondly, how do we engage with the wider Australian community? The internal discussion on the theology of marriage that began at the 13th Assembly in 2012, is continuing. Last year, the 14th Assembly committed to encourage the ‘space for grace’ — a time of listening to one another and respectful conversations about healthy relationships, marriage and other issues, particularly where cultural understandings differ. As we move into a time of greater public discussion about marriage equality, I would remind Church members of the importance of maintaining this space for
grace. It is easy to harm each other with careless words. So we should all choose our words carefully. We are committed to being an inclusive Church that embraces LGBTIQ people as full members and to culturally appropriate discussion about relationships and marriage across our diversity. Within the grace space, this is possible. But it will require conversations from the heart and being truly present for one another. Over the past year I have been encouraging different communities to hear afresh the word of Scripture from Romans 12: 5 — “We belong to one another”. This belonging is not a possessive, controlling belonging. Rather, it is about mutuality and respect, recognising the intrinsic worth of every human being, all bearing the image of the Creator. My friend, Rev. Andrew Norton, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand,
recently reported through Facebook on a conversation from the heart, in his Church. The forum for that conversation was a ‘hui’ — a special assembly at a Maori meeting place (called a ‘marae’), attached to the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand’s Maori Synod. Andrew said of the meeting: ‘Diversity is possible and doesn’t have to lead to division and marginalisation, if only we listen deeply to one another and to God.’ This seems like wisdom of the Spirit to me. Coincidentally, the venue was called ‘Te Maungarongo marae’, meaning ‘the meeting place of peace and reconciliation’. I know we have similar places of peace and reconciliation in our ancient land, and we too should make use of these places, for our own conversations from the heart. Our Church has many such conversations ahead of us. There are conversations with
First Peoples about covenant, sovereignty and treaty, and a whole range of issues across the cultural and linguistic diversity of our Church. So, as we come to a time of national discernment, let us encourage one another as members of the community of God within the Uniting Church in Australia, to conduct ourselves respectfully through conversations from the heart, listening deeply to one another and God. In this, we do as the Scripture urges us — by our love for each other, we show God’s love for the wider community. Mägayamirri rom, Stuart McMillan Mägayamirri rom means ‘the way of peace and tranquility, harmony with the whole of creation, be with and within you’ in the Yolŋu languages of North East Arnhem Land.
Resources on respectful conversations on marriage: assembly.uca.org.au/ cudw/news/item/2500conversations-from-the-heart
Many Churches have decided to respectfully sit in local senator’s offices and pray and sing to demonstrate that the government should be doing more to prevent the abuse happening in largely privatised offshore detention centres.
Around New South Wales, Churches and clergy have been involved in civil actions through Love Makes A Way. They have staged sit-ins at senator’s offices, in response to the “Nauru Files”, and the inhumane treatment of refugees.
Holding vigils and reading the “Nauru Files” were also organised last month, to highlight the individual plights of refugees. The “Nauru Files” are the largest set of leaked documents published from inside Australia’s immigration detention system. They are a set of more than 2,000 incident reports from the Nauru detention centre, written by guards, caseworkers and teachers on the remote Pacific island. They set out every reportable “incident” on the island. Such events include attempts at self-harm, sexual assaults, child abuse, hunger strikes, assaults and injuries. While some cases have been reported by The Guardian and other news organisations, the “Nauru Files” fully detail the harm caused by prolonged detention in Australia’s notorious offshore facilities.
To find out more about Love Makes A Way www.
INDEPENDENT INQUIRY OF OUT-OF-HOME CARE SERVICES
The Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW and the ACT, will conduct a full and independent review into the operations of the Church’s Out-of-Home Care services. Through the OOHC services, the Church cares for some of the most vulnerable children and young people in our community. The independent review has been commissioned to review current systems and processes in our OOHC services, to ensure that all children and young people are safe in our care. “It is clear that there are significant challenges with the current system of Out of Home Care in this State,” said Synod General Secretary, Rev. Dr Andrew Williams. “We are part of this system and must take action to protect the most vulnerable children and young people in our community.” Christine Nixon APM, the former Victorian Police Chief Commissioner, has been appointed to oversee and govern the review. It will assess the quality of OOHC services of the Uniting Church in NSW and ACT, including models, processes, governance and risk mitigation. The review will also make recommendations around viability, improvement and alternative options to the current model of OHCC services. Christine Nixon will be supported by Conjoint Associate Professor Martin Cohen, School of Medicine and Public Health (Newcastle University). He will examine how staff can be better equipped to work with vulnerable children and young people. Any recommendations relevant to addressing the existing systemic issues will be shared with the community — including Government and other OOHC service providers — to improve outcomes for all children in state care.
UNITING CHURCH HONOURED
On 2-4 September, Sydney played host to the Annual Australasian Religious Press Associations’ (ARPA) conference and awards night. The annual ARPA weekend conference dealt with a number of pertinent issues around the importance of storytelling. There was also a panel discussion about where the church might be in 2024, the agility of the church in the digital space, and whether we are adequately equipped in moving toward an everchanging digital future. Another topic that was addressed was how to effectively communicate and understand the needs of those with disabilities and mental illness. At the ARPA Awards ceremony, the prestigious Gutenberg Award went to Graeme Cole, the Public Affairs Manager for Wesley Mission. Each year, the Gutenberg is awarded to a Christian media organisation or individual, as the highest recognition by this national Christian media association. Last year, the recipient of the award was Melbourne Anglican Media. “In essence, Graeme exemplifies the best of Christian reporting,” noted Peter Bentley, President of ARPA. “[He is] grounded in a commitment to justice and truth, founded in personal integrity. At all times, and in difficult times, his personal faith points to the undergirding power and grace that is provided by God for all those who are called to serve. Graeme’s ministry is not a venture or service for himself; it is
PRESIDENT OF ARPA PETER BENTLEY AWARDS GRAEME COLE WITH THE GUTENBERG AWARD
a mission to point to the good works that are being done in the name of Jesus Christ.” In his acceptance speech, Mr Cole said: “Christian journalists must never lose their ability to be brave, to be storytellers and to be the bridge between the church and the world. We are communicators but we are also translators. Our job is one of translation, of building bridges across the cultural divide. Our job is to bring context, analysis, understanding and meaning. That is the essence of our trade and our profession. That is what we bring to the table.” Queensland’s Communications’ Ashley Thompson was the recipient of the ARPA Ramon Williams Scholarship. In her acceptance speech, she talked about social media and the church’s responsibility to be involved in this space. “Digital isn’t ‘new’ anymore; it’s a solidified reality of everyday life. I am excited about the future of the church and ARPA. It may not exist how we knew it or know it today but it will be better because God has promised that he works for the good of those who love Him and that His plans are to prosper, not to harm,” said Ms Thompson. Uniting Church Queensland Synod communications Journey magazine was awarded in three categories – Gold for Best Profile Story (“A Quantum Leap of Faith”); Bronze for Best Theological Article (“Marriage: We’re Talking About It”); and Silver for Best Design Magazine. The Uniting Church’s Victoria and Tasmania Synod’s Crosslight magazine was awarded Silver for Best Design Website, and Highly Commended in the Best New Writer category, for Tim Lam’s article “Ice – Beyond the Headlines.” The Uniting Church in South Australian’s Synod publication New Times was honoured with a Silver Award for Best Original Photography.
PACIFIC ISLANDERS IN ROME PRAY FOR OUR PACIFIC
FAITH COMMUNITIES #PRAYFOROURPACIFIC People from different religions across 22 countries heeded the call to Pray For Our Pacific in September. Gatherings were held from 2 September and culminated on Sunday, 11 September, with other people of faith joining in solidarity with Pacific Islanders on the frontline of climate change. The Pray For Our Pacific groups responded to a call from Pacific Islanders, to step up to the shared global responsibilities of protecting the environment.
STRENGTHENING OF RACE-HATE LEGISLATION URGED
Renewed calls have been made to strengthen and overhaul legislation around discrimination and race-hate legislation. The Keep NSW Safe coalition of communities urges people to send a letter to their state Member of Parliament, to ask the Government to overhaul NSW’s race-hate legislation.
“We cannot build a Pacific Climate Movement without engaging our faith communities. Faith is pivotal to our people, and like the ocean, it connects us. In the face of the climate crisis, we need prayer to carry our people and faith to build resilience,” said Koreti Tiumalu, Pacific Coordinator of 350.org (the organisation behind Pray For Our Pacific). Services were organised around Australia in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and northern NSW. These were joined by services in American Samoa, Cameroon, Canada, China, Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Germany, Niue, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, the United States of America and Vanuatu. Faith communities, mainly Christian, mobilised in a compassionate response to the impacts of record-breaking cyclones and to sea-level rise (which is already forcing the evacuation of thousands, from atolls north of Australia). “People across the Pacific and other low-lying lands are suffering from the results of the decisions and lifestyles of others in lands far away,” said Reverend Alimoni Taumoepeau, the Uniting Church Minister at Strathfield, which hosted a Pray For Our Pacific event. “This is an injustice... When the sea has swamped their land, there is no high ground to which they can flee. This is terrifying.” “People of faith have a long history of praying for, and standing in solidarity with, people on the receiving end of injustice. Pray For Our Pacific has struck a chord with us.”
KEEP NSW SAFE SPOKESPERSON VIC ALHADEFF (CENTRE) AND MEMBERS OF KEEP NSW SAFE ISSUE A STATEMENT CALLING ON THE STATE GOVERNMENT TO OVERHAUL THE RACE-HATE LEGISLATION.
About 35 ethnic community leaders gathered at State Parliament in August to issue a statement urging the government to honour its public commitment to introduce legislation (in the first half of 2016) to address issues with Section 20d of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act . No-one has been charged under the law since it was introduced over 25 years ago. The statement was signed by 20 organisations, from Armenian, Hellenic, Indian and Chinese to Hindu, Korean, Assyrian and Vietnamese communities. “The law is weak and ineffective, and it needs to be overhauled in order to protect the people of NSW,” said Keep NSW Safe spokesperson Vic Alhadeff. “The Government won’t change the law unless it hears from the people of NSW – which means every member of the community. Every letter can make a difference.” Visit www.keepnswsafe.com, type your name and post code and a letter will be sent to your MP and the Premier.
MORE THAN 3,500 UK CHURCHES HAVE SWITCHED THEIR ELECTRICITY FROM FOSSIL FUELS TO RENEWABLES OR REGISTERED TO DO SO
UK CHURCHES COMMIT TO RENEWABLE ENERGY More than 3,500 UK churches have switched their electricity from fossil fuels to renewables (or registered to do so), according to figures released by UK charities. The announcement coincided with the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, an annual event named by Pope Francis. Held on September 1, this World Day also marked the start of the Season of Creation, a global Christian ecumenical time of prayer and work for the protection of the environment. Around 2,000 of the UK churches came from 16 Catholic dioceses, which are running entirely on renewable energy. The number also includes the majority of the Salvation Army’s UK sites and a third of Britain’s Quaker Meeting Houses. In addition, nearly 700 churches from across denominations have so far individually signed up. Responding to the UK announcement, Professor Stephen Pickard, Anglican Bishop and Director of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture in Canberra, said: “The massive take-up of clean, renewable energy by churches in the UK is a great sign of hope. It would be inspiring if Australian churches could do the same. We have an abundance of sun and wind and we are well aware of the damage done by the burning of fossil fuels. What are we waiting for?” There are no similar large scale shifts to clean energy planned by churches in Australia, but churches have taken the lead on environmental action in other ways. The take-up of rooftop solar has accelerated during the last few years. Also, dozens of Christian organisations have passed resolutions to divest their holdings in fossil fuel extraction, and a sizable proportion of the tens of thousands at the People’s
Climate Marches in late 2015 were people from various faith communities. Bishop John Arnold of Salford, one of the 16 UK Catholic dioceses to have switched, said: “There are many ways in which we may respond to the threat and the reality of climate change, and adopting renewable energy for our church buildings must be a priority. Pope Francis challenges us all to ‘care for our common home’, and by adopting renewable energy, we will directly help people threatened, and already most severely affected, by climate change.”
We have an abundance of sun and wind and we are well aware of the damage done by the burning of fossil fuels. What are we waiting for? Some 340 congregations in the UK have also signed up to a broader scheme — ‘Eco-Church’ — that is committing to a range of environmental improvements. Similarly, 21 Catholic parishes have received a ‘Live Simply’ award, in recognition of commitments to sustainability and solidarity with people living in poverty. Dr Ruth Valerio, founder of the Eco-Church program, said: “I sense that a corner has been turned with churches engaging in caring for the earth. The Bible is so clear that God loves the whole creation, both human and non-human, and that we are to love similarly. So, it is really encouraging to see us getting to grips with what that means and taking practical action.”
A BLESSED LEGACY — 150 YEARS
PHISHING SCAM CIRCULATING CHURCHES Recently, some UCA members have been caught out by a current “phishing” scam requesting urgent monetary payments. The Uniting Church is not the only organisation being caught out by these emails and perpetrators are targeting benevolent and not-for-profit organisations. Scams like this come from criminals who target many innocent people in our society. They do not originate within the Church, nor are they the result of any fault or problem with the systems of Uniting Financial Services. Nevertheless, UFS is working with the rest of the Synod to assist our partners across the Church, to avoid being caught by this scam. They also want to prevent it from continuing to happen.
HOW TO RECOGNISE A ‘PHISHING’ EMAIL
The language in the email will appear “different” or in broken English. Also, it may ask for money in AUD, rather than using the dollar sign ($). (This is included so the scam can be repeated in other countries which use different currencies)
• If the name on the email is a name you recognise, like your Minister, please call them to verify the request is genuine. • These emails generally seem to arrive without an invoice and require “urgent” attention. Do not, in any instance, action a request without an authorised invoice. • Check the “reply to” email address is genuine and not generic. • Do not engage the sender of the email in a conversation or give any personal or bank account details to them. • If repeated emails appear and ask you to “action” the request urgently, ignore them and delete them.
WHAT TO DO NEXT
If you have received emails of this type, please report the matter immediately to the Police Assistance Hotline on 131 444. Please also report the crime on the ACORN website: www.acorn.gov.au If you have any questions about these emails or would like some advice, email email@example.com and we will be able to assist you. Alternatively, if you have any questions about the protocols around online transactions, contact the Uniting Financial Services Partnership Team on 1300 133 673.
When the Rye Park area was settled more than 150 years ago, God brought together many families from different areas, yet they all had shared a firm faith and common core values. This built a strong Christian community where faith and values were upheld, preached, practiced and handed down from generation to generation.
When the Uniting Church in Australia came into being in 1977, the Rye Park church was named Rye Park Uniting Church. This was a time of great affirmation for Rye Park, as the Congregation embraced all those who love the Lord and wish to love Him more. This continues to be a strong part of its worship today, as the Congregation consists of Christians from Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Anglican, and Catholic backgrounds. “Our faith and values are something not to be kept by us but to be treasured and taught to our children,” says Rev. David Stuart of the legacy of the Church. “Psalm 78:5-7 reminds us that we share our faith and values in order that ‘the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.’” “While we celebrate the past, we look to a future which holds many challenges. There is need for much prayerful consideration and discernment as we move forward in faith and hope. Our prayer is that the current generation, and generations to come, will be able to commend our works to the next — as they tell of the mighty acts of God here in this place (Psalm 145:4).” On 30 October, the Congregation will celebrate 150 years of faithful service to the community. Celebrations will commence at 10.30am. The service will be led by Rev. Stuart and the Moderator will be a guest at the event. For further information, contact Mrs Lorraine Veness on (02) 6227 2239 or firstname.lastname@example.org
MARKET AND CELEBRATION AT PARKESBOURNE
Parkesbourne Uniting Church celebrates its 150th Anniversary on the weekend of 29-30 October, with a market day on Saturday between 9am and 2pm. On Sunday at 10am, a celebration service will be conducted by the Rev. Julie Furner with morning tea and lunch to follow. For catering and seating purposes, or to book a stall, please RSVP for the market day, church service and lunch. Phone Kerrie Friend on 0407 412 349 or 02 4829 7161.
NORA GRIGORIAN (PICTURED LEFT), GRANDDAUGHTER OF AHARON MEGUERDITCHIAN (PATERNAL SIDE) AND MIHRAN TERZIAN (MATERNAL SIDE), CHILD SURVIVORS OF THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE WHO WERE CARED FOR AT THE AUSTRALASIAN ORPHANAGE, AND MARGARET WARDEN (PICTURED RIGHT), REV. JOHN FERGUSON’S GREAT GRANDDAUGHTER AND ST STEPHEN’S UNITING CHURCH COUNCIL MEMBER MARGARET WARDEN.
ARMENIA’S ANGELS IN THE UCA Members of the Australian Armenian community, civic and religious leaders all came together at St Stephen’s Uniting Church in Sydney this week, to pay tribute to the Australian humanitarians who provided vital support to survivors of the Armenian Genocide. The event was both a book launch and an emotional acknowledgement of the lifesaving work of the UCA’s predecessor church members. In a profoundly moving ceremony, descendants of the Australians who supported the Australian-run orphanage set up in Lebanon in 1923 were called up on stage and thanked by the descendants of the people their ancestors helped save. The ceremony, which included presentations of framed photos to the Australian descendants, was preceded by a slideshow by Vicken Babkenian, the co-author of Armenia, Australia and the Great War, explaining the Armenian Genocide and the personal stories of those involved.
The links between St. Stephen’s and humanitarian assistance to Armenians run deep. The Church’s Ferguson Hall is named after Rev. John Ferguson who established the Armenian Relief Fund in 1915. His great granddaughter and Church Council member Margaret Warden was one of those honoured. The event flowed out of last year’s resolution by the 14th Assembly to officially acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. Uniting Church President Stuart McMillan used the occasion to call again on the Federal Government to recognise the Armenian Genocide. “Both the New South Wales and South Australian Parliaments have recognised the Armenian Genocide, so it’s time for the Federal Government to do likewise,” said Mr McMillan. “I call on you to join many other Parliaments of the world in recognising, remembering and opposing
all inhumane treatment of sisters and brothers in Christ.” The General Secretary Rev. Dr Andrew Williams in his closing remarks suggested we rewrite the history in our textbooks to reflect the true story of the Armenian people. “The time is long overdue for people of goodwill to speak up and say that beyond any reasonable doubt, genocide as defined by international law describes the process which one million Armenians lost their lives from 1915,” he said. After the event, Rev. Dr Williams made an amazing discovery of his own. When he started to read about Rev. James Creswell’s journey through the Middle East, it dawned on him that Rev. Cresswell was in fact his great uncle.
TO FIND OUT MORE
The event was broadcast live and can now be watched in full at: vimeo. com/182950419. SBS World News is also preparing a program on the event that will be online at SBS On Demand.
Armenia, Australia and the Great War by Vicken Babkenian and Peter Stanley is available for purchase at $34.99 from good booksellers.
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. There are three areas for redress based on Royal Commission recommendations.
• Please Call: 1800 713 993 (Mon to Fri 8:30am - 5:00pm) • Email: email@example.com • Go to the website: www.nswact.uca.org.au
1. Counselling and support. 2. A verbal and/or written response. 3. Financial redress by way of an ex-gratia payment,
Enquiries and applications are confidential and are treated in a timely and sensitive way by our experienced social worker.
What is Redress?
where eligible, in recognition of the pain and suffering caused as a result of abuse.
zing Ministry a m A , in la p a h Future C ins
ov.au/chapla b: www.airforce.g
IN THE WORKSHOP, THE YOUTH DEVELOP A WORK ETHIC, PRACTICAL SKILLS AND START THEIR WORK HISTORY. KOFY HAS EARLY COMMITMENTS FROM A NUMBER OF LOCAL EMPLOYERS TO EMPLOY PARTICIPANTS IN VARIOUS ROLES. PARTICIPANTS WILL BE PLACED WITH EMPLOYERS APPROPRIATE TO THEIR SKILL SET AND EMPLOYMENT ASPIRATIONS.
REV. BOUGHEY IS PASSIONATE ABOUT HELPING YOUTH REACH THEIR POTENTIAL
F E AT U R E
Pathways to success Recent media reports about abuse in the Northern Territory's Don Dale Youth Detention Centre have brought the juvenile detention system in Australia into the nation's spotlight. Apart from the disturbing issues made public by these reports, there is little in the way of "aftercare" programs for juvenile offenders — to combat the huge rates of young people who re-offend.
On the far north coast of New South Wales, Reverend Peter Boughey of Casino is endeavouring to change that repetitive cycle of young people re-offending. Rev. Boughey is the chaplain at Grafton’s Acmena Juvenile Justice Centre and is founder of the Keeping Our Freedom Youth Indigenous Corporation (KOFY). He recently started the program to help young offenders gain life and work skills. By helping them with such skills, KOFY wants its participants to secure fulltime employment. Such a positive outcome can help to halt the cycle of recidivism that is prevalent among young people released from juvenile detention. The reports on ABC’s Four Corners program in July, about the NT's Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, left Rev. Boughey “heartbroken”. He is glad that the subsequent Royal Commission has been set in motion, to prevent from happening again the sort of abuse brought to public light on Four Corners. Rev. Boughey added that the “Acmena Juvenile Justice Centre has a lot more checks and balances in place”, to monitor the way prisoners are treated.
In April, Rev. Boughey began the KOFY program with the assistance of a grant from Uniting. He started the Pathways to Employment Project after seeing that “something was wrong” in the system. Beginning as chaplain at Acmena in 2005, Rev. Boughey has noticed the recidivism rate among prisoners has been “around 75 per cent.” “It is a national disgrace the way this recidivism of young offenders is not being addressed,” he said. “Governments seem to put money into programs they know do not work and into programs that just become a box-ticking exercise.”
WORKING FOR A BETTER FUTURE
Over years of working with young offenders, he began developing a program to help end this cycle of imprisonment, which he presented to Juvenile Justice Management. After “road testing” the project — using on his own money — Rev. Boughey was able to secure seed funding for the Keeping Our Freedom Youth Indigenous Corporation. The program deals with all facets of work employment, and is open to post-release 16 to 20 year olds who have been in a detention centre.
Rev. Boughey would also like to implement a second stage, to engage with other “at risk youth” in the community. KOFY has established a small workshop manufactures wooden craft toys, produce garden furniture, Aboriginal art pieces and souvenirs. KOFY intends to expand sales of products, as well as seek to develop income streams such as contract work from other industries. In the workshop, participants develop on-the-job discipline, practical skills and they start their work history. Rev. Boughey encourages those in the KOFY program to “dream big” and, then, to “make those dreams happen”. The program also teaches participants how to work to a timetable, understand directions, and stay employable. It also provides them with mentoring throughout the process. All young people entering the course are paid up to 20 hours per week (at industry award rates) and will be given the opportunity to undertake further courses. Indigenous young people in the Northern Rivers region have been the main target group of KOFY, but that group will not be its exclusive focus.
“IT’S MAINLY ABOUT THEM WANTING TO CHANGE AND COMMITTING TO IT." REV. BOUGHEY
The skills participants acquire through KOFY help them to set up a day-to-day routine; paying them a wage builds their confidence to pursue future work. All this is designed to give participants a healthy outlook and “work ethic”, which they take into the workforce. KOFY has early commitments from a number of local employers to employ participants in various roles. Participants will be placed with employers appropriate to their skill set and employment aspirations. He is convinced that what KOFY offers is a thoughtful pathway to making a better life for former inmates. As a chaplain, he sees his role as getting beside
young offenders and giving them the tools to function effectively on the outside.
COMMITMENT TO MAKING CHANGES
Rev. Boughey is passionate about identifying participants who could benefit from the program. This selection process begins inside Acmena, through relationship building and sharing faith stories of those people who have made positive changes in their lives. “I run a chapel program in Acmena where I talk to them about changing their lives. Occasionally I can get people in to give their testimonies,” says Rev. Boughey of the programs he runs in Acmena.
Also inside Acmena, Rev. Boughey gets some inmates to begin making toys (which are donated to underprivileged kids). He does this to give them experience with working and volunteering, and to possibly pave the way for joining KOFY when their sentence is done. “It’s mainly about them wanting to change and committing to it,” said Rev. Boughey. “I give them all the tools and you see the guys who want to make a change.” “There is a percentage of the boys that want to do something with their lives and this gives them something to do and helps them see a future.”
So many young offenders re-offend because they go back into family situations that are dysfunctional and don’t support them to make positive life choices. “I’m not looking at it through rose-coloured glasses because we are going to have failures, but just because they fail once, doesn’t mean I will give up on them.” “The boys have their whole lives ahead of them and there’s too many people that want to put them on the scrap heap.” Dr. Jonathan Foye is a freelance journalist and academic
HERE'S HOW YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE...
PROVIDES A VAN TO ASSIST IN DELIVERING TOYS AND OTHER SUPPLIES
THE COST OF A RENTAL SHOPFRONT FOR THE PROGRAM
FOR 20 HOURS PER WEEK WAGES FOR A PARTICIPANT IN THE PROGRAM
Lives changed for the better... WILLIAM GORDON
William has said the program helped him to get his life back on track.
Nyc has already been offered employment after participating in KOFY.
Aaron is ready to tackle full-time work with assistance from the program.
“I have only been out for six months and Pete [Boughey] got me together, caught up with me and I started doing the work. I kept relapsing and needing drugs all the time. KOFY helped me stay out of trouble; I've got something to do, I'm not out there being bored. I'm not going back there [to detention] ever."
KOFY needs financial support in order to operate. With limited seed funding - and the long process of applying for government grants - the project needs donations. One area that the project needs supported is to employ a part-time supervisor of the workshop. This will release Rev. Peter Boughey to pursue other income streams and contract work for participants. Participants are picked up in the morning to start work and they are taken home in the afternoon. This helps them adapt to the idea of working to a routine. “At the moment, I and others pick them up and take them home in private vehicles,” said Rev. Boughey.
"I was in Acmena three times, twice for a month and once for four months. Afterwards, it's hard to get a job and live properly. No one really wants to hire you. But when Pete [Boughey] rang me up and asked me about this, it was pretty good... a life saver, pretty much. Now people are noticing that I'm trying to better myself. Pete gave me a chance and a new start."
“We need a small minibus that volunteers can use for transport for the boys. It can also be used for transporting products to markets and other outlets.” The project will also need to rent a suitable location for its workshop. Rev. Boughey currently uses a shed behind his house to save money. “There are some ideal workshop sites in the commercial part of town that have big potential in size and marketing,” he said. The rent for a suitable site is $150 to $250 per week. Rev. Boughey told Insights that, if given the opportunity, the project can make a positive impact. “I have the Government data and have
“Last time when I got out of the detention centre, I had nothing to do and the first thing I did was automatically get back into trouble and started doing crime and that. Now that I am out and Peter [Boughey] has given me something to do, I don’t go and look for my friends to get in trouble. Working for Peter has given me a good mindset about work. I’m looking to get a job when I get out of the program, so this will give me the skills that I need to go into another workplace.”
identified through my road testing of the KOFY program that if we can keep just 10 young men out of detention centres for just one year, we can save the [state] government $5.8 million,” he estimates. “The positive impact of these young men’s changed behaviour on their families and communities is incalculable.” HOW TO DONATE If you would like to donate to the program Rev. Boughey has specific needs for it to progress (see panel on opposite page). To assist in this life-changing program please contact Rev. Boughey directly on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Building Community Connections ONE UNITING CHURCH IS BEING INNOVATIVE IN HOW THEY CONNECT TO THE COMMUNITY
Knowing your community make-up and assessing the needs of the community surrounding your Church is paramount to being able to meet their needs. Berowra Uniting Church has come up with an unique community engagement event that meets the needs of the largely young-family demographic in its area. Plus, this annual event is building intergenerational links. The Field of Dreams’ adage - “if you build it they will come” - aptly describes this successful community event.
BUILDING FROM THE GROUND UP
Eight years ago, Berowra Uniting Church’s Sunday School decided it wanted to support a Compassion child named Maria. Minister Ingrid Robertson and member Jacqueline Berry came up with novel ideas for fundraising, but one was very successful — Lego. “In that first year we did a heap of different things to try and raise money for Maria, like car washes and bake sales,” explains Rev. Robertson. “There was also a little Lego display. “Jacqueline was running JUMBUC’s (Berowra Uniting Church Sunday School) and is a big Lego fan. They decided to have a Lego display and encourage people to come and give a gold coin donation. “After a while, we decided we didn’t want to do car washes and bake sales — and [we wanted to] just concentrate on the Lego idea. “So, we have been doing the Lego Exhibition ever since. This also ties in with monthly markets that we run. What started small has morphed into the Exhibition and Competition for pre-school and primary-aged children. The Exhibition is open to school-aged children, all the way up to high schoolers and adults.”
Due to its popularity, the entire day of the Lego Exhibition fully funds Berowra’s support of Compassion child Maria. There are no religious requirements to the construction and exhibition. However, each year as Rev. Robertson herself has become a bit of a Lego builder, she has constructed religious scenes which are also on display. “We have the nativity, the birth narrative, the angels and shepherds,” explains rev. Robertson. “We have the Last Supper. Originally I was going to put in a new religious-themed construction every year, but it kind of fell by the wayside. “We don’t make a feature of this, necessarily. The [religious scenes] are part of the overall exhibition. We’re quite deliberate with this because the story of our faith is part of the world and not separated from it.” The event engages with community families, as well as people from outside the suburb. “Last year we had people from about 13 suburbs, which was a record. We advertise through the local schools around the area. We also advertise through the local paper and the rest of the advertising is done through Church networks. Social media also has been really helpful.” Rev. Robertson explains that some families have come to Church as a result of the exhibition, generally to Easter and Christmas services and play groups. But she stresses that “in many respects it is raising awareness and there is not necessarily a commitment to come to Church.
We also do Messy Church and advertise this at the event.” Berowra has plans to help other local Uniting Churches who are looking to replicate the event in their area. Excitingly though, Berowra is looking at going even further afield with the community engagement strategy. “We are looking at taking it on the road next year,” says Rev. Robertson. “We’ve looked at possibly doing one each year in a rural setting and making connections with Cowra Uniting Church. We haven’t confirmed dates with them yet. There’s enough people involved that we can bring a scaled-down version to a rural Church and help them engage with the kids in their community. Lets face it, most kids have and love Lego. “We have found a couple of other Uniting Church people who are big Lego people and who now work with us. Baulkham Hills Uniting Church and Quakers Hill Uniting Church have expressed interest in doing a Lego event in their area.”
CITY AND COUNTRY CONNECTIONS
So what started in Berowra has spread to Baulkham Hills, Quakers Hill and possibly Cowra next year. “There’s no community centre or town centre where people gather, where people come together and chat and enjoy each other’s company and have something that all ages can do. Part of the reason why we do the Lego event is to create a positive place where the community can meet. For us, Lego is one of our intergenerational activities,” explains Rev. Robertson. “Grandparents love Lego, and their kids used
DEAN MAHER AND HIS BOYS ENJOYING THE LEGO EXHIBITION “I think it’s very good. It’s obviously a good community event for children as well, you can see by how many people are here that it’s quite popular“
to play with Lego. Lego is still one point of connection where they spend time together and have fun. “Church is part of the community [in Berowra]; we’re not segregated. But this, for us, is one way of reconnecting, and also a way of providing something the community will support. That they will want to come and see and, in that way, share some of who we are — in a non-threatening atmosphere. “We’ve not been covert with our intentions. We raise money for [Compassion sponsored child] Maria; we showcase the creativity in our community and beyond. “Our intention is to provide a space where adults and kids can come and share a bit of joy and, by doing that, we show them who we are and what we have to offer.”
JAQUELINE BERRY AND HER SON DANIEL ARE THE BRAINS BEHIND THE LEGO EXHIBITION
INTERVIEW WITH JAQUELINE BERRY, ORGANISER OF THE LEGO EXHIBITION How did you come up with the idea for the exhibition? About 10 years ago, some people who were running the Sunday school decided the children should sponsor a child. They decided to raise the money mostly through car washes. After a while, I became responsible for the children’s activities at the Church, but I don’t particularly like car washes. So I thought ‘What’s another way that the children can get together, to raise money to sponsor the child?’ I’m an absolute Lego fanatic, so I figured that there are other families in the church who are interested in Lego too. So, let’s get all our Lego together, make an exhibition, ask for a donation for entry and raise the money that way – and it worked!
The biggest contribution we make to family life here is the number of dads who come. The dads come with their kids, and you see that they’re sharing the pleasure of what they’re seeing with their children, and it’s really, really nice. Each year we raise enough money to support our [Compassion] child for a whole year. All the families with young kids in the Church join together to make [the exhibition] work. They supervise it on the day and bring their models and things. It’s a much more fun way of [fundraising] than three or four car washes per year.
My son is nearly 16, and for us, it means we can continue our interest in Lego together. I really need him to help me build because he’s got different skills than me, and he needs me because I make the opportunity available to exhibit what we build. So every year when it comes time for the exhibit, we’re really keen, For me, as a mother of a 15-yearold boy, it’s something we can share together, which is great.
on Saturday, they can come and have a look and see if they’ve won a prize or not. Every child gets a certificate to say that they’ve competed.
How do you advertise the Lego exhibition? We advertise the competition through all the schools, pre-schools and local papers. We usually get about 60-70 entries from pre-school to Year Six.
And for last several years people have said, ‘Oh, we just know, it’s on every year, it’s part of Berowra.’ So it’s really seen as part of Berowra’s community.
How are the pieces judged? The children bring their models on the Friday afternoon. On Friday night, we look over them and we judge them based on how well they’re built, how hard they were to build, and how imaginatively they used the pieces (if it’s an original model). We have a category in each age group for set presentation - which means a child’s made something according to the instructions, but then they present it as their model. And we have a category for original models, so the child has developed their own design. We specifically do that, because, historically, I’ve mostly been good at building set models, not so much at inventing new things. I didn’t want children, who for whom that’s the way they play with Lego, to not have an opportunity to enter a competition — just because they’re using the instructions. The prize certificates are out there on the table so when the children come
And then I’ve got a group of adult enthusiasts, who bring their models. What has been the impact on the community? Each year, we ask people coming in the door, ‘How did you hear about this?’
People know it’s going to happen every year and they look forward to coming here, which is really nice. Already, we have markets each month but, on Lego Day, there’s a lot more families - and they come and they stay. The biggest contribution we make to family life here is the number of dads who come. The dads come with their kids, and you see that they’re sharing the pleasure of what they’re seeing with their children, and it’s really, really nice. What’s the unique thing about your exhibition? The number of working models. I’ve been to lots of other Lego exhibits and most of their models are static. But we have a lot of working models - a lot that the children can operate themselves and that makes a huge difference.
Sarah Sechley, a first-time visitor, says her sons Hamish and Owen [pictured left] love Lego. “Its great as a community event and for bringing everyone together. I think the great thing about Lego is the kids love it but the adults love it too — so it gets everyone in!”
HOW TO SET UP AN EVENT AT YOUR CHURCH 1. Churches need to
find something the Congregation is passionate about.
RICHIE DULIN IS A REGULAR EXHIBITOR AT THE EVENT AND IS A LAY PREACHER
My first Lego set was on my fourth birthday – a nice basic set which I built and rebuilt and unbuilt, time and time again. I exhibited a model railway at a local exhibition and I decided that a Lego lay-out would be the way to go, because its more entertaining for children and more engaging. Jaqueline Berry approached me and said they had a Lego exhibition on in a couple of weeks’ time and would I like to come along? And I did! I’ve [built] an amusement park, which is great and has buttons, so kids can drive the rides themselves, which gives their fingers something to do. I like to do a few display models as well. Christ the Redeemer, that’s my favourite. That’s three years old now and he probably needs to be retired. I think it was about 12 hours on the face – getting the face and head right and, then, the body sort of fell into place.
I find that everyone can relate to Lego in some way, either they had it as a child or their children or grandchildren have it. So there’s always something to talk about… its always surprising to see how many people can recognise particular parts from particular sets. I’m a lay preacher and I preach at various churches around Presbyteries. I enjoy that and I’ve done it for many years now, and intend to continue it. There are certainly families that arrive here on the first Saturday of September that don’t have any other exposure to church in Berowra. So I think it’s great. I always wear my badge, which tells that I’m affiliated with the church. I don’t like to keep that a secret and I like to share that with people and tell them about it and ask what their church involvement is.
2. Spread the word
once you have found passionate advocates. Try to find other Churches who may have similar passions, so you can collaborate and share resources.
3. Once you have
mounted an event, inspire others to do the same. Invite Churches to your event and let them see how the event works.
4. Use existing networks
to advertise, such as local Churches, Presbyteries, local papers and Facebook.
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.
ENROL NOW FOR SESSION 1 2017
For more information or to register, contact: Renee Kelly or Jenny Stockton 02 8838 8914 | email@example.com www.utc.edu.au/courses 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.
P O S I T I O N VAC A N T S E N I O R S PA ST O R - BAU L K H A M H I L LS St. Matthew’s Uniting Church Baulkham Hills Do you enjoy building caring communities and have a genuine love and compassion for the older generation? Enjoy being a part time (20 hours) member of our Ministry team at St. Matthew’s Uniting Church Baulkham Hills leading our pastoral ministry for people over 70. The Seniors ministry exists for the Seniors in the Church and wider community, to have a safe and welcoming place for fellowship, ministry and friendship.
Thanks to ICON Films we have 15 double in-season passes to give away to the film Hacksaw Ridge.
Experience in providing and developing networks of carers and of working with seniors and volunteers is essential.
Hacksaw Ridge is the true story of Pfc. Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor despite refusing to bear arms during WWII on religious grounds. Doss was drafted and ostracized by fellow soldiers for his pacifist stance but went on to earn respect and adoration for his bravery, selflessness and compassion after he risked his life — without firing a shot — to save 75 men in the Battle of Okinawa.
This position is open to suitably qualified candidates who are citizens or permanent residents of Australia. For further details, please visit our website www.stmatthewsuniting.net.au or call the Church Office on 9686 3003. APPLICATIONS SHOULD BE SENT TO: Please submit your application for this role and a copy of your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org APPLICATIONS CLOSE 21 October 2016
For your chance to win an in-season pass to see Hacksaw Ridge, simply go to the Insights website and enter the competition telling us in 25 words or less why you would like to see the film.
Relationships closing the gap
Want to help our remote friends, but donâ€™t know how? Uniting City and Country could be the answer ...
Do you live in the city? You do? Great. Do you know anyone that lives in the country? In particular, do you know a single soul in the remote region of New South Wales that’s out the back of Bourke? You probably don’t know anyone who lives there, given the gap between city and country only seems to be on the increase. But an emerging Uniting Church program aims to change that, by building long-lasting relationships between far-flung communities and urban Congregations and schools. Uniting City and Country (UCC) wants the body of Christ to act and interact across regional and social boundaries. The supportive bonds favoured by UCC seek ways to address issues such as schooling, health and other social justice concerns. As the project’s coordinator Julie Greig explains, UCC is an opportunity for city-based Congregations to be what they are: on a mission. “In the Uniting Church we are very definite that Church is about mission, in lots of ways,” says Julie, who used to be a Rural Chaplain and is a beloved figure across NSW. “So, projects like this provide an opportunity for the Church to be at mission, within themselves and in other places as well.” The UCC Project is starting to find its feet as a Synod-wide mechanism for mission. Launching a helpful website for your Congregation to explore and be inspired by, the UCC project is like a one-stop shop for relationships. “We initiate and resource the early stage of partnerships
between city schools, Congregations and remote schools,” explains Greig about what UCC does. “We can provide introductions, resources, checklists, ideas and more, and then step back to allow the relationship to grow where it needs to.
decade, Pymble’s “Making a Difference Out West” (MADOW) group has done many things to develop a meaningful bond with their rural friends. Along the way, other Congregations — and Uniting Church schools — have become involved, particularly Gordon.
“One of the wonderful things about the Uniting Church is we have a sense of social justice and we do more than just talk about it. These sorts of projects allow Congregations to do that. Many people have a heart to do things in rural areas but they don’t have a clue how to do it.”
With the backing of a Uniting grant last year, Gordon set up the Uniting Country and City steering committee. Representatives from Gordon and Pymble congregations, as well as Knox Grammar School, are part of the committee. But talk of committees and programs and planning and all that, runs the risk of overlooking what it is that MADOW — and any UCC projects like it — can achieve at the personal, heart-toheart level.
“This project’s not so much about the ‘doing’ but it’s about helping people to establish relationships, so that they get to go and ‘do’.”
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Greig says UCC is motivated by “some of the ‘social justice’ passages” in the Bible, including Matthew 25:31-46. “For me, that’s how I have essentially defined my work,” says Greig, who was instrumental in establishing a citycountry link that has become the model for UCC. Indeed, UCC has directly flowed out of a significant partnership between Pymble Uniting Church, Sydney, and the tiny town of Engonnia (90 minutes north of Bourke; 30 kilometres from the Queensland border). For almost a
Most of Enngonia’s small population are First Peoples and their involvement can be almost non-existent with the kinds of education, health and other services which those in urban areas can take for granted. Diane Willis is MADOW chairperson and is also part of UCC’s Steering Committee. She has seen first-hand the difference made by linking city Congregations and schools with tiny, isolated Enngonia. From providing books to organising dentists, constructing playgrounds to sending high-school students as mentors, MADOW has
Melissa Harrison has been principal at Enngonia Public School for four years. She reflects on the impact of the MADOW/Knox/PLC partnership with her school.
addressed needs of their distant friends. But Willis emphasises that this is not a one-way relationship, and the key is wanting to be part of such an intimate bond. For the long haul.
This project’s not so much about the ‘doing’ but it’s about helping people to establish relationships, so that they get to go and ‘do’ “We’ve kept going back to Enngonia,” summarises Willis about MADOW’s approach, which contrasts sharply with older models of missionary input. More than just donating money or signing a petition, MADOW (and UCC) are all about bringing skills, talent and passion to their partnership. The MADOW visits to Enngonia have taken different forms throughout the year, just as different reasons inspire the country contingent to visit the city. “Rather than be ‘one hit wonders’, it’s about building a trust and expectation that we’re more than just do-gooders or ‘God botherers’ or anything like that,” continues Willis. “We don’t just go [because we are forced] to; we enjoy it.”
“The biggest thing for is allowing our students the opportunity to go to high school. We’re a remote, isolated community and the only option for high school is a boarding school. Whatever school they’re going to, they’re moving away from home. But if all our high school kids go away, we have no teenaged role models in our community.” “One of the most important things about the Knox and Pymble partnership has been giving us those role models and those connections to teenage students in high school, who have aspirations to do something after high school. It’s really inspired our kids and really changed our community’s mindset, that high school is achievable and all students can have access to it. [Our students] are suddenly thinking jobs are possible. “The values behind [the partnership] has been that they’re not just coming in, doing something and leaving us alone. It’s that constant presence which says ‘No, no, we’re not just doing this for a bit; aren’t we amazing!’ and then leaving. We’re here for the long haul. We’re here to help you out. “Being given stuff – essentially hand-outs – has no value in this community. But actually having a partnership with someone … that’s huge. “A big thing [also] are the reciprocal visits. Knox, PLC and the Uniting Church come out to us and, in return, we go down to Knox, PLC and we make sure we go to the church and say hello to everyone.”
Knox Grammar student Dan MacJohn was one of the first group who went to Enngonia in 2012. He shared his experience at this year’s Synod in April.
“On the drive to Enngonia, we saw many kids not much younger than us, with limited opportunities to attend high school. We all realised that, at Knox, we had taken something as simple as our schooling for granted. My goal is to continue to help mentor these kids and help as many of them as possible get into a high school. We need to think about how we can support this community, to help the children develop a worldview of school beyond Enngonia, and to develop some ongoing support to ensure these children succeed in high school.”
Love, commitment and genuine desire to “learn from each other” (as Greig puts it) is what UCC encourages its partners to be all about. Willis is a big fan of what MADOW has been able to provide to Enngonia, as well as the extra dimension added by Knox and Pymble Ladies College students also being involved. For the past few years, students from these Uniting Church schools have worked with Pymble or Gordon Congregations, being crucial parts of Enngonia visits or exciting camps attended by children from many remote towns. Mini Camps and Super Camps are regularly held, allowing country kids to mix for days with their peers and older students from Sydney. These camps also represent the three UCC strands converging — the Knox and PLC students are on hand as mentors, bringing fun, learning and inspiration to a bunch of NSW children who have scarce access to such role models. Around these two strands of city and country students, city Congregation members provide behindthe-scenes help. “One of the boys at Enngonia said to one of the boys at Knox, ‘How come you are still at school when you are this big?’ Finishing secondary school is not something they are used to,” recounts Greig about a Super Camp exchange. This neatly sums up how remote schools such as Enngonia have been loving
All those involved with the UCC project want it to roll out across our Synod. And if your Congregation is keen to get involved, yet it somehow thinks UCC is too limited by its focus upon schools, Greig reveals that the schoolyard is only the start, not the end. “The schools are a handy place for it to be because they’re there, they’re stable, but it expands into community as well.” Congregations such as Pymble’s MADOW group have been able to expand their sights beyond the Enngonia school to look “at the broader issues and bringing their resources to it”. As a result, the witness of the Uniting Church at the back of Bourke has been a healthy by-product of what UCC is fostering. Enngonia Public School principal Melissa Harrison is a major advocate of the UCC model, and many more schools in her area of NSW want to get involved. With Super Camp’s being “wall-to-wall Uniting Church people”, Greig reports the “Uniting Church has a really good reputation” among schools — and their communities — who are in great need of loving, ongoing partnerships. Ben McEachen
HOW CAN CONGREGATIONS GET INVOLVED 1
Julie Greig, and others, can visit your Church Council and talk about UCC opportunities. “I’ve got a lot more little communities saying they’d like to be part of this, than I have Congregations and schools putting their hands up for it,” explains Greig.
The UCC Steering Committee can outline what UCC partnerships involve. Congregations and schools who enter UCC partnerships will be fully equipped with relevant information and support.
UCC Partnerships are about the long-term, so Congregations need to be committed. “I’m not interested in people that say. ‘Oh, we’ll send five people out to Wanaaring and paint the school hall, and you’ll never see us again,’” explains Greig. “This is about relationship building over the long term. The other way is the old charity model: we have, and we’ll give to you. What I’m trying to say is all the people in this relationship have so much to give each other.” www.
what UCC is on about. “Kids [at remote schools] have a very narrow social world because they live in tiny villages. So they get to meet other people. The schools love that role models come.”
Visit www.ucc.org.au for more information
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How provocative is the Basis of Union A BOOK REVIEW BY JOHN SQUIRES
Disturbing Much, Disturbing Many: Theology Provoked by the Basis of Union is a collection of recent articles by Dr Geoff Thompson, related to the Basis of Union - the foundation document of the Uniting Church in Australia. This book promises to disturb (according to its title) and to provoke (according to its subtitle). Belt yourself in and get ready for the ride!
Dr Thompson is coordinator of studies in Systematic Theology at Pilgrim Theological College in Victoria, and he also teaches at the University of Divinity in Melbourne. Dr Thompson is well-placed to lead us into a tempestuous, bumpy ride of provocation and disturbance. I have read his book during a period of my own life that promises disturbance (a new ministry placement means moving from the East Coast, over to the West). Navigating the turbulence and challenge of such disturbance requires equanimity, trust, and hope. I am confident that this book will foster such qualities in the theological imagination and ecclesial commitment of anyone who reads it.
DISTURBANCE AND THEOLOGY
Thompson’s title is taken from the 1959 report of the Joint Commission on Church Union, which predicted that “if we go forward into a union on the basis of a fresh confession of the faith of the church, we shall disturb much and disturb many”. The structure of the book relates, in large part, to a number of the primary topics addressed in the Basis of Union. An opening chapter addresses the thematic role of “disturbance” and its place
in theology. Subsequent chapters probe ways in which this has been provoked in the words of the Basis, as well as associated debate and discussion in the UCA. The second chapter addresses some of the rich themes found, in paragraph three, on Jesus Christ. Yes, I did find this chapter quite provocative, not the least because it drove me to turn to the back of the book — not to find “the right answer”, but to consult the text of the Basis of Union. I wanted to explore what was, and was not, being claimed for Jesus (and his followers) in this richly-worded paragraph. Surely, this is the best result from constructive provocation; a disturbed understanding of who Jesus is and along what pathway he calls his followers.
The Basis of Union paragraph on Scripture segues into the life of the Church, with the concluding claim that the sacraments are “effective signs of the gospel, set forth in the Scriptures”. Paragraphs six, seven and eight of the Basis thus flow seamlessly from paragraph five, in an exploration of the two sacraments (Baptism and Holy Communion). I was just gearing up to rejoice at a provocative theological argument which defused the special role of these two sacraments — in accordance with a solid reformed understanding of the Scriptural witness — when the argument took a sudden turn towards safety and familiarity. Sacraments, it seems, still occupy a setapart space. The disturbance I hoped for did not eventuate.
Debate about how we use the Bible has been at the root of many of the controversies that have taken place over the nearly six decades since the JCCU’s 1959 report. Chapter four explores issues raised in paragraph five, on the witnesses of Scripture. Interpretation from within the Church is accorded a primary, overarching role; a provocation hitting the core of contemporary critical biblical scholarship. Disturbing much, disturbing for many.
There is no specific discussion of contextual theology within the Basis of Union, but the issues of method associated with this way of going about the task of doing theology, are undoubtedly integral to the debates about what the Basis means, and how we use it. In chapter five, Dr Thompson pins his flag to the mast and declares that theological method can indeed be contingent — but grand
GEOFF THOMPSON AT THE LAUNCH OF HIS BOOK IN BRISBANE PHOTO COURTESY JOURNEY (MARDI LUMSDEN)
claims about contextual theology are perhaps overshooting the mark. More provocation, here, for those who want to think about how we articulate our theological commitments.
THE CREEDS AND REFORMATION
Personally, I was much provoked – and greatly disappointed – by chapter six’s discussion of the Creeds and Reformation Witnesses identified within the Basis (paragraphs nine and ten) as being worthy of our attention. Dr Thompson focuses almost exclusively on the claims made about the Creeds as being “authoritative statements of the Catholic Faith” which are used “to declare and to guard the right expression of the faith”. There is no acknowledgement that the Basis makes it clear the Creeds are “framed in the language of their day” and should be subjected to “careful study” and “the discipline of interpreting their teaching in a later age”. Provoked? Yes! Disturbed? Yes – for the implicit stance that regards the Creeds (and to a lesser degree, the confessions of Reformation Witnesses) as givens which stand, apart from and without
due scrutiny by contemporary interpreters. Paragraph 11 applies to the way we begin to undertake interpretation of the Creeds (and how we also listen to the various Reformation Witnesses), as much as it does to the witnesses of Scripture. But wait, there is more! Even more dangerous ground is traversed in the next two chapters, which range beyond the Basis of Union to grapple with critical issues in the Church’s contemporary life. In chapter seven, dealing with contributions of Indigenous life to the contemporary Church (exploring one section of the Revised Preamble to the Constitution), does Dr Thompson remain caught in the ethereal (Western) world of endlessly finetuning arcane philosophical assumptions, rather than sitting around the campfire and yarning with the longterm (40,000 plus years) custodians of this continent? I am afraid that has happened, despite firm words of assurance to the contrary. But you read the chapter for yourself — and then decide. What usefully can be said in this review about how
chapter eight responds to the hugely contentious area of human sexuality (and, in particular, homosexuality)? This is the longest chapter, the one that pushes again and again in seeking a “fresh confession of the Church”, and the one that most resists succinct summarising. It is a helpful, detailed, considered discussion. Buy the book, or borrow the book, and read and consider for yourself!
The final two chapters wrap the whole enterprise in a careful and faith-filled discussion of the Church’s “ministry of scholarship”. There is a useful discussion of a number of matters relating to how we see ourselves, and express ourselves, as the Church. There are more occasions for constructive disturbance in these final chapters. So, do you feel provoked? Are you one of the many who are disturbed? And have you been disturbed much by this short review? Dr Thompson has grappled with a wide range of topics, and has sought to show how the intention of the authors of the Basis of Union has been
worked out in the ongoing discussion among Uniting Church people (and, indeed, in the wider arena of the church). If you read this book, or selected chapters from it, you may feel disturbed much. For myself, as should be clear, I have been disturbed a little, and would like to be disturbed more… or, at least, would like to see many others sharing more fully in the process of being disturbed by the expression of “fresh words and deeds” as we make our journey as the pilgrim people. Thanks to Dr Thompson for a fine and provocative contribution to the ongoing disturbing discussion.
Disturbing Much, Disturbing Many: Theology Provoked by the Basis of Union by Geoff Thompson COST: RRP $27.95 PUBLISHED: Uniting Academic Press, 2016 Available from all bookstores.
A brave heart
HOW ONE WOMAN IS FIGHTING BULLYING WITH FAITH AND LOVE “Why didn’t her parents just abort her?” “What a monster” “Kill it with fire” The comments above are real. They were written in response to a YouTube video that Texan woman Lizzie Velasquez watched in 2006, when she was 17. The video was titled “World’s Ugliest Woman”. The video was about Lizzie.
Stunned, sickened and heartbroken, Velasquez’s response to that cruel video is probably not what most of us would expect. Having experienced bullying her entire life for the way she looks – Velasquez was born with an undiagnosed condition that meant she could not gain weight – the Texan teen began to fight back. In line with her Christian faith and upbringing, Velasquez didn’t preach more hate or seek revenge. Creating her own YouTube channel of personal videos, Velasquez has lobbied for forgiveness, understanding and more positive relationships and outlooks. Through such an extraordinary response to atrocious treatment, Velasquez has become an international superstar of anti-bullying. Having given a motivational talk that’s been viewed almost 11 million times and shared
the stage with Hillary Clinton, Velasquez also attracted celebrities such as Chris Hemsworth and Kristen Bell to endorse a major US antibullying campaign. A new documentary, A Brave Heart, has been released in Australia and it captures Velasquez’s story and message. In an age of cyberbullying — one in five Australian children have experienced it — the power in the way Velasquez has led her life should be a stirring support to those facing similar issues. Insights spoke with Velasquez about A Brave Heart, her personal battle with bullying, and why forgiveness is such a big part of breaking cycles of hate, violence and prejudice.
FIND OUT MORE A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story is available on DVD and through digital distributors such as iTunes, Telstra Bigpond Movies and Google Play. To get it, go to www.imwithlizzie.com.au
Lizzie Velasquez’s Youtube channel – www.youtube.com/ user/lizzitachickita www.facebook.com/ LizzieVelasquez
What impact did bullying have on you, especially from an early age? As a child, before school, I had pretty much a normal upbringing. I had no idea I was different. It wasn’t until my first day at kindergarten that I had the reality check of ‘Maybe I am different.’ That was due to other kids who were afraid of me; they were scared to play with me or sit next to me during lunch. I really couldn’t understand because I couldn’t recognise that I didn’t look like them. It didn’t make sense to me because I was being very nice to them. That’s when I had to go home and ask my parents, ‘What’s wrong with me? Did I do something? Why are they scared of me?’ That’s when they sat me down and they explained to me that I look different and I’m a bit smaller than the other kids, but I’m just like them. And I can do absolutely whatever I put my mind to. How did you feel going through that, as such a young girl and, then, as you got older? It was definitely a struggle. When you are about 13 years old, I think anyone of us … All we can want to do is fit in and have friends. That’s what I really wanted. When you combine that eagerness of wanting to be cool like the other kids, but you have no control over how you look so you can’t really make that goal happen, it’s really hard. There were times where I would really just wish and pray that when I would wake up in the morning, I would look in the mirror and look like everybody else. You were raised in a Christian home. You’re a woman of Christian faith. When you prayed to God that He would change your looks, were you angry at God? Did you blame God? What was your relationship like with Him? I think my faith journey has definitely had a lot of
ups and downs throughout my life. When I was going through middle school, I didn’t know who to blame for the struggles I was going through. And I definitely couldn’t blame my parents. So I thought, ‘Well, I can blame God.’ I look back now and see how absolutely wrong I was to do that because every struggle and thing I’ve gone through has been such a huge blessing. At the time, I just couldn’t see it but looking back now I realise that everything I experienced in my life has only made me stronger today. You’ve experienced a level of bullying and terrible treatment that many of us have not . But despite what you have been through, you genuinely believe they are a blessing from God? I absolutely do because those things at the time seem horrible and awful but, when I look back at it, I’ve learned so many different lessons. I’ve learned to be resilient, brave and courageous. If I had this perfect life with none of those things happening, I wouldn’t have learned all these things or have these qualities I have now. I think that’s true of everyone; it’s our perspective and the way we look at our own situation. One of the many moving moments in A Brave Heart comes when you explain how your Dad told you to forgive those who bullied you – even the person who posted that “World’s Ugliest Woman” video. Does your family’s approach to forgiveness come directly from your faith in Jesus? It’s a combination of my faith, family and friends. Those are the three things that have really pulled me through everything in my life. I remember specific times where we would be out with my family and I would catch someone staring at me or I could hear them saying something about me. My dad
THE TERRIBLE TOLL OF BULLYING -1-
would say you can’t be mad at them; all we can do is pray for them. Unfortunately, ‘hurt people’ hurt people. A Brave Heart and your Youtube channel demonstrate how you are trying to send a positive message into an online space that often is negative. How saddened are you that bullying still continues? It’s absolutely sad and I went into doing the things I do in the knowledge that, unfortunately, no matter what I say or do – or what you say or do – bullying is never going to end. Ever. But if we can continue to keep the conversation going... I hope that one day we will be able to continue this remedy that will lessen the amount of bullying that’s happening. If you had a face-to-face conversation with a bully, what would you say? I would first tell them that I forgive them for whatever they are going through, and I hope that forgiveness is something that can truly help them take the next step to move forward. I think they need to be reminded that they’re not alone in whatever it is they are going through. Why do you think forgiveness is so powerful? I think it’s different for the individual. There are so many different reasons why it can help someone but, for me, forgiveness is something that allows you to move forward. It doesn’t keep you chained to something traumatic that has happened to you.
Research shows that kids who are targets of bullies are three times more likely to have symptoms of depression, and almost nine times more likely to consider committing suicide (according to some of the studies).
In Australian schools, a study commissioned by the federal government (2013) found that one student in every four has been bullied either online or offline. According to a study by Murdock Children’s Research Institute, girls are more often victims of cyberbullying and traditional bullying than boys.
Surveys conducted by the US Cyberbullying Research Center also found 50 per cent of kids have been cyberbullied in some way. Between 10 and 20 per cent are cyberbulled on a regular basis. It also affects all races.
Mobile phones, Internet access and social networking have opened many doors for teenagers to stay connected to one another. However, it’s also brought the dangers of bullying to the forefront, as more and more teenagers are exposed to its verbal and visual violence.
In today’s interconnected world, bullying poses a serious problem for countless teens. Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyberbullying occurs. Read More:
Investing in the future with the wisdom of the past
“It is the culture of the whole church that is most influential in nurturing a vital Christian faith.” International speaker John Roberto was in Sydney recently for two key events, exploring what lifelong faith formation might look like in a multi-faith, culturally diverse, digital-enabled world. A leading educator from American organisation Lifelong Faith, Roberto spoke from US research about such timely topics as what makes Congregations effective in ministry with young people. A recent Effective Youth Ministry study revealed that churches who were strong in youth ministry were, in fact, healthy faith communities for all ages. Mr Roberto is a highly sought-after specialist in assisting churches to use their communities to grow thriving faith communities. He is president of Lifelong Faith Associates, editor of the journal Lifelong Faith, and works as a consultant to churches and global organisations. He teaches courses and conducts workshops in faith formation, and has authored books and program manuals on faith formation for all ages. From a range of churches in Australia and New Zealand, 60 people gathered for a three-day teaching intensive. This was followed by a national conference that included a range of speakers and workshops on formation and mission, in a digital age.
DISCUSSING INTERGENERATIONAL FAITH
During the conference, Insights sat with John Roberto to discuss faith – importantly, the intergenerational kind -- in a digital world, and how age is no barrier to faith formation. “People are looking for a way to grow their ministries, but also deal with the realities of their Church culture,” said Mr Roberto. “I think [Churches] see that intergenerational faith formation as the key character of community, so it’s not how much you do; it’s that you weave it through everything you do in community life. No matter how small you are, intergenerationality is really a strength. “If you are a smaller Congregation, you can build on that. It is actually an asset. “We live in a very fragmented society. It is about reflecting on who we are and becoming more intentional and looking for every opportunity to connect each other and generations.” This begs the questions: How do we bridge from what we would like to
accomplish — in terms of discipleship and faith formation — and make it real? And what’s the bridge to do this in terms of knowledge and skills?
DIFFERENT STRATEGIES TO CONNECT
During the conference, Mr Roberto invited participants to think about different audiences and settings for faith formation. Much of our faithforming activity is aimed at the faithful core attenders of the church. But we need different strategies to connect with occasional attenders, with those in the community who see themselves as “spiritual but not religious”, and with those who currently have no interest in either spirituality or religion. “We should absolutely take the digital world seriously,” said Roberto of formation in a digital world. “500 years ago, we took the printing press seriously. 500 years ago, it was a brand new innovation and so what the printing press did was bring literacy to Europe and the world. But it also brought the Bible into people’s homes. It was a revolution that democratised learning in the church as well as society. We used
the printing press to educate and to teach. So now we stand in 2016 and so, now, the printing press is the internet. It’s all the new digital tools and media that is available to us.” “So when churches say, ‘We’re not sure about that’, they said the same thing about the printing press. “We have this great opportunity presented to us. We have these great digital tools and technologies available for most of us, almost free. We have great, high-quality religious content, produced by individuals, publishing companies and religious denominations all available to us. “We have this gap where churches need to adopt these tools to communicate the gospel. Not because it’s a fad, not because it’s the thing we should do, but because this is the way the gospel is going to be communicated. So we now have this unprecedented opportunity to literally reach everyone in our community with digital media. “We have an opportunity to expand our church campus into people’s everyday life so that – during Lent, for example – every day during Lent we can be in relationship with people, whether they are active in our community or whether they have nothing to do with our community. Each day we can use tools like Facebook to interact with people around faith questions.”
HOW WISDOM INFORMS THE FAITH OF OTHERS
An opportunity that exists for faith formation that Mr Roberto often refers to is the “low hanging fruit” in Congregations – it is the vast wisdom of older generations and how they can mentor young people and bridge the “family and generation gap” as grandparents, to children and young people in their Congregations.
“Grandparents have lived and practiced their faith for decades,” continues Mr Roberto. “They are the best delegates back to the family. You have a lot of religious diversity among the parent generation and we don’t have that same diversity among the grandparent generation. So [some] churches have said, ‘We’ve got grandparents; let’s nurture and equip them to speak to the younger generation.’”
John Roberto invites churches to think differently about how faith formation might take place in their communities: intergenerationally; in family settings; through digital communication; through the caring relationships; by celebrating the liturgical seasons, rituals and milestones; reading the Bible together; and, as a family, learning the Christian tradition and applying it to life through prayer, devotions and spiritual formation.
While information tells us that church life is in decline, Roberto see this as something of a strength. Grandparents have a greater opportunity to reach grandchildren than church staff would, because they are in relationship already.
As Mr Roberto says, “It’s a team effort,” because if we all invest in the future of the church, that will have immeasurable Kingdom value. Adrian Drayton
“I think ministry leader’s role is emerging as a blend of physical programming with managing of resources — not just digital resources but people resources, on behalf of their community. They are going to have to adopt new roles. There is such an abundance of resources and such a diversity of people and needs, that if they don’t get other people working with them on this, it will be very difficult. You have to invest in your people to find and evaluate great content for programs, for both adult and children’s faith formation.” The faith formation process is informed by the vast amount of material at our fingertips everyday. Ministry agents also shouldn’t be shy about using their best assets – families – to find these helpful and varied resources. “Parents are gatekeeping resources all the time. What if we taught them how to look for great faith formation resources?” asks Roberto. “Churches need to move away from the days of just purchasing a curriculum, to actually curating and discovering great resources. We used to purchase our solutions; now, we have to curate our solutions.”
REIMAGINE FAITH FORMATION 2016 RESOURCES Presentations: Access John Roberto’s resources from the Conference: www.lifelongfaith. com/australia-2016---reimagining.html and http://www.lifelongfaith.com/ australia-2016---digital-world.html Videos: Formation in a Digital World video: vimeo.com/album/4116667/ video/180472248
ABOUT JOHN ROBERTO
John created the theory and practice of ‘Generations of Faith’ — an intergenerational, lifelong approach to faith formation. His publications include Seasons of Adult Faith Formation (editor and co-author, 2015) Reimagining Faith Formation for the 21st Century (2015), Generations Together: Caring, Celebrating, Learning Praying, and Serving Faithfully (co-authored, 2014), Faith Formation 2020: Designing the Future of Faith (2010), The Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry (co-authored, 2010), and Becoming a Church of Lifelong Learners (2006). For more information about John Roberto: Lifelong Faith Resources www.lifelongfaith.com
HEALTHY CHURCHES EXPO 5 November, Centre for Ministry, 16 Masons Drive, North Parramatta
The HEALTHY CHURCHES EXPO is a day designed to assist Churches, whether they are small or large, with a broad range of information, tools and resources to maintain and improve their health.
COST: $20 per person (includes lunch, morning and afternoon tea) TIME: 9am-5.30pm
Topics will include: • • • •
Healthy church governance to assist our Church’s growth and mission Fit for purpose: Steps for calling a new minister Raising and managing church finances Creating a culture of generosity
• • • • • •
Recruit, retain and motivate volunteers Revitalising community engagement in your Church Helping your Church become Work Health and Safety fit? Property workshop Is your Church a Safe Church? How to apply for scholarships and grants
HEALTHY CHURCHES EXPO will empower local congregations to grow in faith and action. “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly” JOHN 10:10
D I G I TA L M I N I ST RY
And we’re live in 3,2,1... of time and, like Facebook, social media companies are investing heavily in this As one ministry leader shared technology. They will continue with me: “Live video streaming to encourage people to use is big. We have a congregation and view live video. In short, that is live video streaming live video is here —and here on Facebook Live. They are to stay. Beginning with the ground getting tremendous response breaking apps Meerkat and Second, live video captures to the live video streaming of Periscope, which launched some of the spirit of today’s the Eucharist. I imagine that nearly simultaneously in social media, which is more that’s the kind of stuff that’s 2015, and popularised by going to be happening more. I and more about being in the Facebook in its Facebook moment and sharing the imagine that there is going to Live feature, anyone with a moment with others. A great be an explosion of Facebook smartphone and internet Live users in the near future.” example of this is Snapchat, connection can now broadcast which is exploding in In addition to sharing live video. In a world of fast popularity. Today, 22 per cent the sermon and worship and dramatic technological of Australians are on the app experience, some ministers breakthroughs, the ability to — that’s higher than Twitter or host live ‘question and broadcast live seems truly Pinterest, and nearly as many answer’ sessions on Facebook amazing, even magical. as LinkedIn. Live. For instance, prominent Facebook, which is home to Live video services and pastor and author Rob Bell 95% of Australia’s internet Snapchat are about sharing regularly hosts live halfusers (who, on average, spend hour long conversations on the moment in an unfiltered 12-and-a-half hours a week first-person viewpoint, rather Facebook, responding to on the site), has invested than the more edited and questions which people write heavily in this new technology. in the comments section. elegant pictures of Instagram It is such a priority that they or videos on YouTube. Many Others simply use live have placed it on the main people find being live together menu bar across the top of its video spontaneously, a more intimate, authentic, mobile app, along with photos offering glimpses into their and visceral experience for Congregational communities. and check-ins. both broadcaster and viewer. And when Congregations Many congregations and Often, in churches, we are around my home town ministry leaders already have (Boston, Massachusetts, USA) accustomed to presenting found live video to be a useful couldn’t hold Sunday services our viewers and listeners with tool in their outreach and because of a series of record- a finished product (whether community building. setting blizzards, some took to in sermons, worship, or education programming). the internet. They broadcast SUNDAY However, social media pushes services on YouTube Live. MORNING LIVE us to invite people into the There are countless ways to Many of my ministry process, into the moment, leverage live video to share colleagues from around with us (and we with them) — the gospel within and beyond the world broadcast their to experience and learn and our communities. Sunday morning sermons grow together. and worship services live on WHY GO LIVE? Facebook. Congregations But why bother with live video? often find this much easier There are a couple reasons. and more affordable than First, it has become incredibly more traditional livestreaming popular in a short period In the rapidly moving world of social media, one of the standout innovations and most popular features of the past 18 months is the ability to broadcast live video from your mobile device.
PASTOR KEITH ANDERSON AUTHOR, SPEAKER AND MINSITRY AGENT Pastor Keith Anderson employs a wide range of social media to minister online and offline. He is an author of two books, speaks regularly with local and national church groups, Synods, and other organisations, on the practice of digital ministry and the impact of digital culture on face-to-face ministry.
services, which require extra equipment and know-how.
Sharing our filtered self Social media has become the new location for the ‘car park miracle’. You know the ‘car park miracle’ — it’s what happens as you drive into the car park before church starts. The disagreement you are having with your spouse is hushed, or the stress of work is covered up. Maybe it’s a financial problem, your depression or an addiction. Whatever it is, it gets airbrushed and you pretend life is ‘perfect’ for the few hours of a church gathering.
Sound familiar? But the power of social media takes that ‘car park miracle’ to a new level. I’m sure you see examples of it online, all the time. A beautiful shot of friends and food. Smiling faces, great times... “Love these people!” #lovemyfriends #nofilter But is that ‘perfect’ snapshot always an accurate summary of what’s really going on? Like it or not, our ‘sharing’ online is a prolonged siege of propaganda. We bombard our friends with heavily filtered digital versions of our actual lives. We each stand on our own podium and broadcast hand-crafted versions of ourselves to the online masses. But as we do that, what are we saying about the value of the moments we are not sharing? We wield the freedom of social media to selectively crop and focus our lives. For the viewing of others, we only draw attention to some moments, not others. As we do, the power we have to present ourselves anew is staggering.
FRAGMENTED ONLINE LIVES
Our fragmented online lives are running rampant, and threaten to take over our REAL lives. Here’s a post of mine on Facebook recently: “Listening to chill hop, eating the most amazing croissants. These are no Le Tigre or Blue Steel. These are Magnum all the way, baby.” Please, allow me to translate: as I listened to some relaxed tunes, I enjoyed croissants so much that I began to refer to them in terms used in one of my favourite films, Zoolander. So, now that you’ve got that,
what do you actually know about me from this Facebook update? Yes, the croissants were amazing. But what I didn’t say was that I was lonely and wanted to connect with people I cared about. Had I lied in that post? Well, no. But I definitely had not gone anywhere near presenting the whole picture of where I was actually at. As this example indicates, the fact is that we do not share all of our ourselves. Indeed, we only share parts of us – fragments, like a single frame snatched from a movie. We create a brand for ourselves and market it, and inevitably can be ashamed that our embodied lives (our real lives) do not live up to what we have advertised. And then we wonder why our lives aren’t seemingly as good as everyone else’s.
SHARING OUR DIGITAL LIVES
Have we overlooked the harm we may cause each other by how we choose to share our lives online? Think about it: We are horrified at the damage pornography does to relationships in its twisted representation of intimacy, and we are angry that our children are subjected to a fashion industry that photoshops models into impossible forms. Yet, at the same time, we are actively engaged in similar distortions of our own lives, online. What we filter or crop might seem harmless, but is it? People have told me about how they feel when they are sad, lonely and depressed, and there is that constant barrage of beautiful moments from friends online. Instead of sharing in this joy, all they feel is distressed;
the darkness they are going through is only emphasised. So, the problem isn’t necessarily the intention behind whatever it is we post online. The problem can be more the effect of that post.
What? How can we be expected to look out for others and how they might react. It’s tempting to think that the problem lies with everyone else, but I’m not sure that’s the society we are called to in Christ. After all, are we not to be building each other up in love? (Romans 15:2) Likewise, the calls to unity — expressed in positive, selfless community in Ephesians 4 — must spur us on to take responsibility to consider, at least, the impact of our activities (online or not). For Christians, how we act among each other matters. It’s not about deception, but about love. And if that means adjustments to serve others, should we not do it? If you are anything like me, you want to rile against this, defending the right to self-expression. But we can easily be seduced by the cut-and-paste collage of our lives. As we stagger under the weight of being able to create ourselves in our own image, we may forget that we are not in our own image, but in God’s. (Genesis 1:27) If we are in the image of God, surely that’s the image we ought to be aiming to project, both in our physical and digital lives. How will your next post align with this? What will you share and what are you projecting? Mark Delbridge
, WHO ARE YOU.COM?
The world wandered quite blindly into the online realm. Back in the early ’90s, the right questions were asked by psychologists and sociologists (‘What is our digital persona?’ ‘Is this healthy for community?’). Like the famous Wizard of Oz, there’s always been a ‘behind the curtain’ aspect to being online; there’s enough anonymity to be (or, at least, pretend to be) whomever we want — as long as the curtain stays put. But strangely, even though the curtain seems to have been drawn back with services such as Facebook, we find ourselves behind a second curtain. Now, we feed a version of ourselves to those around us – we are our own marketing agent. What a trick! But who have we tricked? Everyone else, or ourselves? Ask these questions next time you are online: • Is the ‘me’ online the same as the real me? • Am I using social media to hide? • How might my next post show my identity in Christ?
Had I lied? Well, no. But it was not the whole picture.
Sometimes people use the hashtag #nofilter with a photo they are sharing, to indicate it wasn’t altered to look better. But, ironically, everything we do online is filtered!
2hrs ago via Facebook
My little angel
We are the ones who choose which photo/post/moment/comment to share. As we do that, we exclude others at the same time. Social media isn’t a flyscreen where almost everything behind it is seen. Rather, it is a piece of cardboard through which we poke a few select holes. We were made in the image of God, and we are being made into the image of Christ, whose Spirit dwells within us. So, if we kicked down that cardboard, perhaps we could reveal our true self? What would that look like online? The same as it does everywhere else! Walking in the Spirit ALWAYS looks like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Now, who’d want to filter those out?
M A K I N G M O N E Y M AT T E R
You are what owns you Dictionaries can be useless sometimes. Recently, I looked up the meaning of the word ‘ownership’. Several different dictionaries defined it as ‘to possess something’. OK, so I looked up the meaning of ‘possession’. The answer? It’s something you own. Talk about going round in circles!
WARREN BIRD EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNITING FINANCIAL SERVICES
The dictionaries at least highlight the fact that there are two sides to ownership. We don’t just ‘own’; we own something. I own my car. I own my shoes and socks. You own your mobile phone. The Church owns worship centres and manses; and so on. That’s a start, but it wasn’t really what I was looking for. I wanted to understand the essence of the concept of ownership. What is the difference in my relationship with my car and all the other vehicles in the car park at the local shopping centre, that means I can say I own one, but not the rest? For one thing, it’s about rights and power. Owning my car gives me the right to decide who drives it, who the passengers are and where it goes. Having the keys to the car also gives me the power to back my decisions. And even if I lose my keys, the law of the land acknowledges my rights and power over my car, decreeing that others can’t just jump in and drive off without my permission.
not steal’ and the book of Exodus is full of case-law to expand on the meaning and consequences of stealing in ancient Israel. For example, if someone doesn’t keep their cow under control and it eats the crop in another man’s field, then the owner of the cow has to make restitution (Exodus 22:5). As quaint as such examples can seem to many of us who live in cities in the 21st century, the principles behind them resonate loudly, don’t they?
nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world. If we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. Those who desire to be rich [who let possessions own them] fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money [letting it own you] is the root of all kinds of evil. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith..” (1 Timothy 6:6-10)
Thinking about ownership like this, it’s a one-directional dynamic. I own; something else is owned. However, while the Bible endorses laws of property rights that flow from this, God’s word also takes a broader view and speaks to us of the spiritual reality of our relationship with things. The danger, we are warned, is that ownership can too easily become a two-way dynamic. The things that in a legal sense we own can, they can own us — in a spiritual sense. And that is not healthy.
This is not the way of someone who is owned by God, whose treasure is being stored up in heaven. Instead, that person will “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness.” (1 Timothy 6:11)
We hear this in Jesus words: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on For another, it’s about earth... but store up for responsibility. As its owner, yourselves treasures in I’m responsible for how my car heaven… For where your is driven: keeping to the left, treasure is, there your heart not going too fast, stopping will be also.” (Matthew 6:19at red lights. The same laws 21) We also hear it when protecting my rights also He says: “... life does not decree legal consequences if consist in an abundance of I do not exercise responsibility possessions.” (Luke 12:15b) and my car causes damage to other people, or their cars. And the apostle Paul has very strong things to say: It’s been this way for a “Godliness with contentment long time. One of the Ten is great gain, for we brought Commandments is ‘you shall
These words speak to those who have many things and those who don’t. Those who are not rich are in danger if they set the course of their lives towards becoming wealthy. But those who are rich are also in the quicksand, if they trust in their wealth as if it’s strong and trustworthy. In both cases, God warns of the spiritual damage if we let things own us. We are in the service of whatever owns us and, as Jesus also said, we cannot serve God and another master. (Matthew 6:24) As individuals and as a Church, let us take heed of these warnings and, instead, seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Then, as Jesus promised, all things necessary for life will be added to us.
L E C T I O NA RY R E F L E C T I O N S
October: How can we keep the faith?
LAMENTATIONS 1:1-6, 3:19-26; 2 TIMOTHY 1:1-14; LUKE 17:5-10; OR PSALM 137
By the waters of postChristendom, where we are seated now, and some may weep and remember when Christianity ruled Australian culture… Are we not called by Christ to have faith? Yet, might not we also be as culpable as Israel for the state of decline in our denomination? We have a humbling from Christ in the reading from Luke. Before we cover over our sin with grace and start to talk up our faith, it might be good to sit in our brokenness — not wallowing or indulging in self-pity — but to find the grit that faith requires from us, on the way of the Cross.
JEREMIAH 29:1, 4-7; PSALM 66:1-12; 2 TIMOTHY 2:8-15; LUKE 17:11-19
How many times does Jesus find faith outside the nation of Israel and the so-called ‘People of God’? Perhaps this is something worth flicking through the gospel and taking a count of. Faith is for the faithful, but the faithful
are not always the religious or those presumptive of their own righteousness with God. What might this mean for us as we come towards the end of another liturgical year? How might we keep the faith, as opposed to being ‘keepers’ of the faith?
JEREMIAH 31:27-34; PSALM 119:97-104; 2 TIMOTHY 3:14-4:5; LUKE 18:1-8
Faith plays a key part in the readings this week. ‘When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’ In these times of denominational decline, we might seek to blame others, for ‘people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires’. (2 Timothy 4:3) We might blame people in the Church for their failure to grow the faith. However, are we not called to look to ourselves and live well as individuals and communities? Surely, we are reminded of the potential for log-in-eye syndrome. Maybe we should
focus on Paul’s reminder to Timothy, ‘As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully’ (2 Tim 4:5) — for we all have gifts by the Spirit and there is no gift without a corresponding ministry (Par 13, Basis of Union).
JOEL 2:23-32; PSALM 65; 2 TIMOTHY 4:6-8, 16-18; LUKE 18:9-14
Again, the theme of humility in faith continues, as Jesus tells a parable ‘to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt’. (Luke 18:9) This is such a difficult passage — not to understand, but to accept and comprehend. Isn’t it hard not to say to ourselves, ‘I’m glad I’m not like that Pharisee?’ So what is it we think justifies us before God? May God help us to continue to find our repentance.
HABAKKUK 1:1-4, 2:1-4; PSALM 119:137-144; 2 THESSALONIANS 1:1-4, 11-12; LUKE 19:1-10
It doesn’t take much for people of compassion to identify with the writer of Habakkuk and his lament to God at the ill in the world. What is our response to injustice and wrongdoing? Perhaps, we forget sometimes that injustice is the work of people — even individuals. The story of Zacchaeus (in Luke 19:1-10) reminds us that the salvation and redemption of Christ is less about judgement and condemnation, but a grace lived and experienced. Salvation is transformational and redemption is relational, and Christ calls us into transformational and redemptive relationships of compassion and grace. This is a key way that justice and the communion of God in Jesus is established.
L E C T I O NA RY R E F L E C T I O N S
November: Do not be weary in doing what is right 6 NOVEMBER
HAGGAI 1:15B-2:9; PSALM 145:1-5; 2 THESSALONIANS 2:1-5, 13-17; LUKE 20:27-38
‘Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word’ (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). These are words of hope and comfort and we should take strength from them. However, these are not words of ease or self-indulgence. They are there for ‘every good work and word,’ and we follow the Word of God, who is in Christ, and leads us on the way of the cross — the way of selfgiving love that gives of one’s best to bring out the best in others and the world. We have strength and comfort from God because we are called to a tough and costly love of God, lived in loving service of others.
ISAIAH 65:17-25; PSALM 12; 2 THESSALONIANS 3:6-13; LUKE 21:5-19
Not a cheery set of readings this week. If you want to think about the return of Christ with some sense of triumphalism, Jesus reminds us of the suffering that comes with it – betrayal, death, hate and the like (Luke 21:5-19). The key message is to just put our heads down and get on with the job of being disciples, for ‘by your endurance, you will gain your souls.’ (Luke 21:19) Similarly, Paul exhorts us not to be idle
but “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.” (2 Thessalonians 3:13) As we come to the end of the liturgical year, we have the encouragement to keep going and to keep working hard.
JEREMIAH 23:1-6; LUKE 1:68-79; COLOSSIANS 1:11-20; LUKE 23:33-43
We end the liturgical year with the celebration of Christ the King. But ‘kingdom’ is a fraught word. We rightly talk about the ‘Kingdom of God,’ but we also need to be highly careful to avoid the ideology of theological and ecclesial hierarchies which come with ‘kingdom.’ It is the Christ who was crucified and who we follow on the way of the Cross, and whom we name ‘King.’ It is Christ of the stories we have celebrated for the past 12 months, those about God’s ‘anti-kingdom’ (one opposed to, and a reversal of, the kingdoms of this world). It is the place of the communion of God, where the servant is king, and where the last in the eyes of this world shall be first and the first are last. So, may we look to the renewal of our understanding of God’s radical communion with us and for us, as we prepare to celebrate again the incarnation in Christ.
ISAIAH 2:1-5; PSALM 122; ROMANS 13:11-14; MATTHEW 24:36-44
A new season. A new liturgical year. The readings this week set us up well for Advent, the season where we prepare to remember the coming of the Christ. The readings from the early Scriptures (Old Testament) portray a triumphalistic dream. A hope of a glorious future with God, that puts God’s people at the centre. However, the New Testament readings provide a stark contrast. Paul writes to the Church in Roman, exhorting them to wake up and, “live honourably... not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy”. As we prepare for Christmas, which is a season of excess, what might it really mean
to prepare for the coming of Jesus and his way of the Cross? The One who will return to bring the end of days, rather than the consumer dream of a baby God whose patron saint has become the icon of the magic of spending. This Advent, what will be your preparation for remembering the coming of Christ? How will you seek to better embody the discipleship of the way of the Cross, as we celebrate the incarnation of God in Jesus? The October and November Lectionary Reflections this month have been written by Rev. Jon Humphries, Chaplain at Ravenswood School for Girls
N E W S F RO M U N I T I N G C H U R C H A D U LT F E L LOW S H I P ( U CA F )
Many Presbytery’s have now had their last Rallies and Gatherings this year and are planning for 2017. We are now looking for centres willing or able to hold these events as everyone enjoys the fellowship and sharing.
Parramatta/Nepean held their Gathering at Quakers Hill and it was a varied and successful day. Rev. Grant Aitken gave the address in the morning and, in the afternoon, those who attended enjoyed the Filipino Congregation members singing and dancing. The offering of $550 went to the Clean Water/Outback Links Project.
Fellowship news THE WATER PROJECT
The “Water Project” continues to have great support and so far this year, $10,200 has been raised. Thank you to all who have contributed. Money can still be donated via UCAF Synod Treasurer Geoff Hicks (176 Lawes Street, East Maitland, 2323). Cheques should be made out to NSW/ACT UCAF Synod Committee. Money will be acknowledged individually by Frontier Services.
Hunter Presbytery Rally was held at Salamander UC and hosted by Salamander and Soldiers Point UC. Mrs Lyn Vatner was the special guest speaker in the morning
and she spoke about the Yacaaba Centre, an initiative of the local Nelson Bay and Tomaree Community. Active for more than 25 years, the Yacaaba Centre provides counselling services, accommodation assistance and information for victims of domestic violence. The trained counsellors assist with necessary help. Offering on the day was shared between the “Water Project” and Yacaaba Centre.
FELLOWSHIP AND FUN
New England North West Presbytery held a “Fellowship and Fun” day at Tamworth Uniting Church, in place of a Rally this year. The focus was on their “Op Shop” and, so, a fashion parade was held
using some of the clothing on the shelves. Manilla UC will hold another “Fellowship and Fun” day on 27 October.
STAMP COMMITTEE NEWS
The Stamp Committee has collected $17,344 for 2016. The Committee has already met, to allocate more than $18,000 to a diverse range of community outreach programs.
Mid North Coast Presbytery Annual Luncheon was held at Chatham Uniting Church for 2016. Guest Speaker was Mrs Shirley Manning from Coolongolook. Donations on the day have been put towards 50 “Operation Christmas Child” Boxes.
If you would like to share your fellowship news or have any questions, please contact Judy Hicks on email@example.com
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B E L I E F M AT T E R S
Caring about caring
Ever get tired of having to care? I do. I know that’s uncool and totally un-Christian but, some times, it’s an effort to care. Demands energy. Requires diligence. Looking out for myself and my family can be draining enough. Come on, I’ve got bills and commitments and relationship dynamics and any number of other things which require me to care. Having to also genuinely care about all the other things I could possibly care about is, frankly, overwhelming. Makes me tired just thinking about it. There’s poverty all over the globe, or my friend’s sick child; civil wars or people out of work; church politics or the cost of milk. Whatever it might be, one thing is for certain: the list of stuff to deeply care about doesn’t get shorter. So, why don’t I just stop caring? We all know there are too many things to care about. Might as well cut my losses, admit defeat, and feel okay about my inability to keep on caring. But I can’t do that. Why not? Why do I care so much about caring?
THE START OF CARING
I care about caring because God cares about caring. And I care about God. I care about caring because Jesus cares about caring. And I care about Jesus. And they call me — and you — to care about caring.
You might not have thought about this but as far back as the beginning of everything, God cared. Long before Jesus showed up and perfected the art of caring, God created caring with acts such as solving the loneliness of the first human being (Genesis 1:18). When Jesus made jaws drop by calling people to “love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:39), He didn’t just make that up on the spot. Jesus was quoting from the original laws of God’s people. True story. As recorded in Leviticus 19, the caring concept of “love your neighbour as yourself” has been part of God’s guidelines for humanity since the kick-off. What’s with all this caring? Simple: Caring should honour and glorify the author of caring, God. God loves loving relationships. Loving relationships need care. Without care, relationships are transactions. Or formalities. Or dead. Whenever we care, it’s not about us. It’s about being a reflection of, and a signpost back to, the source of care. Helping others to know where our care always comes from, so they also will seek after God’s incredible care.
But maybe you are still not convinced that caring is in God’s DNA? (if God had DNA, I guess). How about this: caring is such a high priority for the creator of everything that he even offers a way for us to stay in relationship with him — despite how frequently we don’t care about caring about that. While I find it hard to keep on caring and just want to quit, God doesn’t. He doesn’t quit on the care, despite what it continues to cost Him and his equally caring Son Jesus. So, while there’s no possible way I can care as much as God and Jesus — give me a break; I’m only human — I do have the antidote to my care fatigue. Whenever I suffer from my regular bouts of that illness, I should return to the caring DNA of God. And I should seriously consider how to care well, in order to always point back to God’s care for me. Ben McEachen
C U LT U R E WATC H
Soldier of peace Fighting war with peace isn’t a groundbreaking suggestion. Plenty of people have suggested that. But how about going to the frontlines of war and wielding peace as your weapon? Have you ever thought to charge into battle, without violence or intense combat techniques?
Hacksaw Ridge comes to cinemas in November, directed by Mel Gibson. Like his phenomenal Passion of the Christ, Gibson’s latest feature is based on a true story of godly conduct in the face of vicious opposition. Filmed across New South Wales and starring Andrew Garfield (The Social Network), Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers) and stacks of homegrown talent, Hacksaw Ridge spotlights a Christian who fought in World War II – without a gun. Desmond Doss became the first conscientious objector in the US Army to receive the Medal of Honor. Serving as a paramedic, Doss refused to bear arms, even though he provided medical assistance under fire. “I’m a conscientious collaborator,” Doss describes himself in Hacksaw Ridge. Gibson’s heartfelt, potent drama builds to a brutal battle in an intense location where Doss (Garfield) drags out injured solider,
after injured soldier. You’ll think director Gibson has exaggerated Doss into a movie hero of ludicrous proportions… until you find out Doss did rescue between 50 and 100 men, in one night. What? Such bravery is almost unbelievable. Since he was a child, Doss was strongly convicted about what God commanded about not killing others. From working class stock, Doss grew up in a home with an abusive father - and a framed poster of the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments. “And when I looked at that picture, I came to the Sixth Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’” Doss explained to an interviewer. “It put a horror in my heart of just killing and, as a result, I took it personally: ‘Desmond, if you love me, you won’t kill.’” And he didn’t. The collision in his home, between human violence and God’s teachings against it, lodged in the heart and mind of Doss. Yet his desire to honour, obey and
serve God didn’t stop him enlisting and heading into the firing line. As Doss puts it in Hacksaw Ridge: “The world is trying to tear itself apart. I want to help to put it back together a little bit.” I’m gobsmacked at Doss’s response to God’s commands and his lifelong willingness to obey. Without arguing for or against being part of any military campaign as a Christian, Hacksaw Ridge presents a searing picture of sticking to the “guns” God provides – His mercy, love, peace, compassion, strength and selflessness. The moral certainty and personal campaign for pacifism which Doss waged as a one-man war, had a powerful impact upon those around him. Without telling anyone else how to live their life, he showed how God had called him to live his — and he kept telling people who his commanding officer is. Salute. Ben McEachen
Entertain me REA D THIS REIMAGINING FAITH FORMATION FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
Participants at the recent Reimagine Faith Conference (see page 34) were privy to some of author John Roberto’s wisdom on intergenerational faith formation. Those who didn’t get to the conference will benefit from this book. Roberto’s new thinking about learning and faith formation – and the abundance of new resources and digital media and technologies – can transform the way we do faith formation for all ages and generations in our faith communities. Chapter one explores four significant, adaptive challenges facing churches when it comes to identifying the need for a new faith-forming ecosystem. Chapter two presents an intergenerational faith-formation ecosystem incorporating these interconnected components: faith formation in congregations; physical places and online spaces; at home; for the unaffiliated; and, social media. Roberto presents a model of faith formation that is a network of relationships, content, experiences and resources — any time, everywhere learning that uses a network of existing mentors, teachers, family members and peers.
PRESS PL AY ELVIS & NIXON (M) Aren’t you instantly intrigued by a movie that has a tantalising storyline and powerhouse actors, yet you’ve never heard of it before it shows up on DVD? Elvis & Nixon is one of those movies and the lack of fanfare seems to be because it’s a meandering concoction that never quite hits the brilliance it flirts with. This offbeat and shaggy imagining grew out of one of the 20th Century’s most famous photographs – music legend Elvis Presley meeting US President Richard Nixon. No record exists of what The King and Tricky Dicky discussed, so the enjoyable yet wonky Elvis & Nixon doesn’t pretend to be the truest true story you’ve watched. Before the Oval Office meeting, this odd snapshot focuses more on Elvis (Man of Steel’s Michael Shannon) than Nixon (House of Card’s Kevin Spacey, playing another questionable president). With Elvis presented like a crazed prophet who yearns to serve his country, Shannon plays him as if he’s a version of what people think Elvis was like. This doesn’t quite gel with Spacey embodying Nixon, and the collision between fantasy and reality can’t decide if it’s funny, revealing or bewildering.
Most importantly, curating and accessing resources — to assist in forming faith — should be a priority as we move into the 21st Century, and as the very nature of “doing” and “being” church changes.
Shannon and Spacey are terrific together, and the White House sit-down stirs poignant thoughts about who should have power over nations (and why and how they should use it). But this odd history “lesson” is more of a kooky B-side than one-hit wonder.
BIG SCREEN THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS (M)
Australian author M.L. Stedman’s acclaimed novel comes to life onscreen as a harrowing portrayal of life through the lens of a lighthouse and the attendant who cares for it.
Watching The Light Between Oceans is like seeing a romance unfold through a prism, which makes it hard to categorise. Director Derek Cianfrance has taken Stedman’s novel and provides a masterful and measured approach to this unsettling but captivating lesson in the human condition (set on the coast of Western Australia). Stars Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander have an uneasy chemistry that plays out perfectly against the grey hues of the ocean and island landscape. They both have experienced the pains of war and for them to love, they have to move past the pain and the circumstances they find themselves in. If this couple is not compelling enough, Cianfrance manages to surround them with an amazingly understated cast of Academy Award winners, as well as some of the best acting talent to come out of Australia (Bryan Brown and Jack Thompson). Rachel Weisz’s performance as a grieving mother and widow shows her consummate ability to encapsulate a heartbreaking role. The Light Between Oceans offers a strong dose of reality, but that should not deter audiences from experiencing this beautiful but heartbreaking drama. Russell Matthews
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