Insights Winter 2020

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Winter 2020

Gathered Apart How to be an

invitational church

How the Uniting Church adapted to COVID-19

Chaplaincy

without walls


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W E LCO M E F R O M T H E G E N E R A L S E C R E TA RY

Courage to look forward REV. JANE FRY 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.

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here’s no shortage of cataclysmic, world-shattering disasters in scripture – particularly in the Old Testament (the New Testament just is cataclysmic and worldshattering).

Instead of looking backwards, what would it mean to look forwards instead and ask ourselves, as Isaiah must have done, what is God doing here? What has been exposed as a result of COVID-19?

Floods, famine, pestilence, invasion, exile as well as the smaller but equally disruptive and traumatising personal disasters to which all humans are subject – childlessness, betrayal, violence – all feature in the story of God’s people. And the ‘why’ question is a natural and very common response as people look for ways to make some sense of whatever it is that they’re experiencing.

For the last three months, I’ve had more meetings than I’ve ever had in my life (and that was a lot!), all of them online. I’ve heard from church members, ministers, Presbytery leaders, Parish Mission leaders, Uniting leaders, school principals, Synod staff, as well as General Secretaries from the other Synods.

I’ve always been struck by Isaiah’s unexpected perspective on the activities of the Persian king, Cyrus (it’s quite long – you’ll have to look it up. Start with chapter 44).

Aside from a new and very welcome enthusiasm for working together, I’ve been really impressed by the missional attention and imagination that’s been brought to all our conversations. As the vulnerabilities in the global economic system are laid bare and the cracks in the Australian social landscape become wider and wider, there’s a sense of urgency about organising and equipping ourselves to respond in word and deed to the evident and growing human need. Back to ‘normal’ is not possible, there’s simply too much for the Church to do and whatever the new ‘normal’ is will be made by the work we do together in response to what we see God up to in the world around us.

THE CHURCH WON’T BE CHANGED BY A VIRUS BUT IT A B S O L U T E LY W I L L BE CHANGED BY T H E H O LY S P I R I T

The surprising thing is that the prophet is imagining Cyrus as God’s chief change agent who will ultimately defeat Babylon and restore Israel. I can’t really imagine that the exiles in Babylon would have viewed the emerging Persian superpower and the inevitable context between the two powers with much hopefulness. Cyrus was not one of the children of Israel – he was an outsider, a foreigner, a most unlikely liberator.

Similarly, I’m not hearing any great sense of hopefulness attached to the disruption brought by COVID-19. After the initial excitement of having to respond quickly and reorganise pretty much everything, the reality and consequence of COVID-19 have now started to sink in. Uncertainty, fear and loss started to colour the world. Both in the church and in the community generally there’s lots of looking backwards – wanting to return to ‘normal’, to the known and familiar, to a world in which we could (usually) call all the shots in our own lives – gather freely, shop whenever, work and worship predictably.

Will COVID-19 change the church? No, it won’t – the church won’t be changed by a virus but it absolutely will be changed by the Holy Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit that is blowing through our locked doors and shuttered windows to open eyes and hearts to where God is calling the church. My prayer is that we will muster the hope and find the courage to keep looking forward and working together – reorganising and equipping the Church to bear witness to the living God among us. Come, Holy Spirit, come!

Familiar and comfortable routines have all been changed and no one is really sure how it will unfold from here or even what ‘normal’ is anymore.

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Gathered Apart

While COVID-19 has proven itself to be a challenging time, Uniting Church congregations and faith communities have adapted quickly to the new "normal" for gathering and taken their services online. But what does the influx of new people to services online mean for the Church post COVID-19?

REGULARS 3 WELCOME 6

YOUR SAY ONLINE

7 NEWS 30

CHURCH AT HOME

34 MAKING MONEY MATTER 36

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DIGITAL MINISTRY

41 LECTIONARY REFLECTIONS 45

CULTURE WATCH

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ENTERTAIN ME

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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 Jonathan Foye 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 insights@nsw.uca.org.au 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. Contents copyright. No material from this publication may be copied, photocopied or transmitted by any means without the permission of the Managing Editor. CIRCULATION: 15,000. ISSN: 1036-7322 Commonwealth of Australia 2020.

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

All of us, together

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. Acts 2.44-47

T REV. SIMON HANSFORD MODERATOR THE MODERATOR IS ELECTED TO GIVE PROPHETIC AND PASTORAL LEADERSHIP TO THE SYNOD, ASSISTING AND ENCOURAGING EXPRESSION AND FULFILMENT OF FAITH, AND THE WITNESS OF THE CHURCH.

his is how we understand ourselves, at our best. The gospel proclaimed, the needs of our community addressed, meals shared, people coming to faith in Christ – worship, witness, and service.

All of us, together. However, here we are, in our homes, on our screens and phones, venturing tentatively into the world around us. Wary of any kind of physical contact, washing our hands at every turn. There is great pleasure in sharing a meal with friends, and worshipping together, in silence and in song. I love incidental meetings, bumping into someone in the shops, or the street, and that almost never happens now. Now, every meeting is planned; we sit, scheduled and sequestered, behind the screen.

are we making contact, sharing a meal, or inviting them into our new community? The Uniting Church acknowledges that the Church is able to live and endure through the changes of history only because its Lord comes, addresses, and deals with people in and through the news of his completed work. Christ who is present when he is preached among people is the Word of God who acquits the guilty, who gives life to the dead and who brings into being what otherwise could not exist. Basis of Union, Para.4 What an opportunity we are offered! We offer the gospel, and worship and gather, and serve in different ways, not despite our circumstances, but because of them. We gather, and pray and worship across the internet - across the world - and people are sharing in that for the first time.

Some of us are inclined to see this time solely as imposition; the strictures of THE GOSPEL governments and Synod add to this INHERENT IN feeling. We can’t do things the way we JESUS CHRIST IS want to, the way we always have. It N O T S TAT I C , I T is easy to feel disgruntled, especially when a lot of what we knew seems D O E S N ’ T T O L E R AT E uncertain in these times. I S O L AT I O N

People who would never walk through a church door are signing in through Zoom. People from small congregations are gathering with new friends each week. People for whom the journey to worship, or small groups is too onerous, emotionally, or physically, are able to share with others about their faith, and even their fears.

It’s easy to think that the patterns of our church life are the best (the only?) way to be the church. If we can’t gather to worship, are we church? If we can’t have bible studies or visit friends, are we failing as disciples? Our heads know this isn’t true, but perhaps a bit deeper, inside ourselves, we wonder.

We are becoming more aware of how to meet and serve our neighbours – not the theoretical ones, but the people who live next door.

Keep up with the Moderator by following these hashtags on Facebook and Instagram. #moderatorinsession #AllOfThisIsUs

And there are certainly deeper concerns. People are at risk in their homes, which should be the safest place to be. Some face violence, some find being continually alone almost intolerable, some are physically ill or disabled, and need the care, the tangible presence of others. How are we caring for those who are most in need of hope, and help? How are we offering the gospel, with our hands and voices? How

The gospel inherent in Jesus Christ is not static. It doesn’t tolerate isolation. The Spirit of the risen Christ is not constrained; it finds its way, to acquit, give life and create anew. What are the gifts from this time, that we will carry with us, into the next season of our faith? What have we learnt about hospitality, silence, and community which we will need to remember as we emerge from this sheltered time? What is the Spirit saying – has this time better taught us to listen?

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CO M M E N TS

your say

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ONLINE

WE’VE ROUNDED UP THE BEST COMMENTS THAT YOU’VE LEFT ONLINE. If you would like to leave a comment on an article or have a viewpoint to share - just go online insights.uca.org.au and leave your comments.

BUILDING THE NEW NORMAL There are those moments in life when, after hearing it all before, a life-changing insight lights up and so much suddenly makes sense. I had one of those moments in 2014, while reading a newspaper article about the long-term effects of climate change. By 2050, according to this article, for people over 70, heatstroke would be the most common cause of death. Then my rational brain did the math—I would be one of those old people! The emotions that followed rolled deep within me. Climate change was about me! Until then, the climate crisis’ effects on animals, shorelines and island nations in the Pacific had been painfully obvious, but now the reality that climate change could hurt me sank in for the first time. As those of us lucky enough to have houses settle in for months of lockdown, that same kind of realisation is starting to hit home. This is no longer about people in Wuhan or the Lombardy region. This is us, as a family or share house, or alone, being locked in for a large part of this year. With each passing day, the reality of what this feels like becomes much different to the news stories we were watching in January.

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After this pandemic passes, governments and businesses may well pressure us to return to the competitive, self-interested economy of the past. There’s a clear risk that nowAs a community, coming enhanced police powers out of this pandemic, we will be used to stop face some very protests against the challenging call to return to times. We the old normal. A NEW will need to A normal that NORMAL regain the was driving our COULD BE power that climate over B U I LT O N governments the edge. LOVING OUR have taken NEIGHBOUR A new normal to control the could be built spread of this instead, one disease, and which is based on which has led to loving our neighbour and a the questionable use of commitment to promoting police powers. the long-term flourishing of The sense that the climate life on earth. It will mean crisis would affect me, along resisting powerful forces and with a spiritual growth that working in solidarity with all led me to see that I am who are hungry for a better connected to what was world. happening to vulnerable GREG ROLLES people everywhere, has ultimately led me into participate in non-violent direct action. For most of us, there’s more time to pause and reflect. There’s a new solidarity with other everyday Australians who are also in this crisis.

I’ve since been arrested in the cause of climate justice. As we saw in the 2019 bushfires, and as we will see again in coming food shortages, the climate crisis is not, in fact, a faraway news story. It is about you and your family too.

CELEBRATING AND APPRECIATING NURSES Nurses and midwiferies touch all of our lives at some point. They are highly skilled and multi-faceted professionals. These patients’ caregivers help to manage physical needs, prevent illness and treat health conditions. They observe and monitor the patients, recording any relevant information to aid in treatment decision-making. Twenty twenty is time to reflect on these skills, the commitment and expert clinical care they bring, and the impact they make on the lives of so many people. Nurses and other health workers are at the forefront of COVID-19 response - providing high quality, respectful treatment and care, leading community dialogue to address fears and questions. We should appreciate, recognise and celebrate nurses. We thank them for discharging their duties effectively such as responsibilities and accountabilities for safe, compassionate, personcentred, evidence-based nursing that respects and maintains dignity and human rights. HANDSEN CHIKOWORE


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Building a better

future

On Friday, 15 May students and other young people came together to envisage a better vision for Australia’s climate future. The event didn’t necessitate any time off from school, but saw an interactive live stream #BuildABetterFuture. The young organisers of the event declared their intention to “collectively create a vision for the future we need, one that leaves no one behind.” The four hour live stream featured music, expert speakers on climate science, discussion and insight into issues such as climate anxiety. The event kicked off with a rendition of John Farnam’s “You’re the Voice”. Reflecting this theme, Climate scientist Professor Tim Flannery told young people at the event to “never underestimate your potential for leadership.” “When you speak as a young teen in your family home, Mum and Dad take notice,” Professor Flannery said.

“They may not appear to take notice, but they really do. You can exert leadership at every level, at home, to your school, to the community.” Professor Flannery added that he thought that some trends from 2020 had given him hope for the world beyond the pandemic.

“We have another crisis that we need to face together. The crisis that the whole creation is groaning under the impacts of climate change, pollution, and the devastation of our ecosystems.”

W H AT D O W E WANT OUR COMMON LIFE TO BE?

In the lead up to the official event, people recorded short messages of support. Uniting Church President Dr Deirdre Palmer said that actions taken to address the spread of COVID-19 demonstrated, “what can be achieved in a short space of time to address a crisis that threatens us all.”

“This is a time of us as the Uniting Church to be asking, ‘What do we want our common life to be?’”

“Our young people…are urging us to take action, to prioritise what is important now and into the future. They are calling now for a world where our common life includes care for the earth.” JONATHAN FOYE

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OUTSTANDING THEOLOGIAN JOINS UTC Dr Robinson is the author of Jude on the Attack: A Comparative Analysis of the Epistle of Jude, Jewish Judgement Oracles, and Greco-Roman Invective. She told Insights that she was “thrilled to have the opportunity to teach New Testament at UTC, particularly alongside such an incredible faculty and team.” “Studying the Bible at seminary was one of the highlights of my life and I look forward to helping students capture the wonder and joy of studying the Scriptures,” Dr Robinson said. “I just hope I can inspire them to enjoy exegesis as much as I do. The other thing that excites me about this role is that the students who come through the college will either go on to do higher degree research, move into ministry or go back into the workplace/community better equipped to share the gospel and serve at their local church. What they learn at college matters and will impact their lives whether it be formal ministry or discipling their own kids, community or church family.” “There are not a great number of New Testament positions going each year, and even fewer that are made available to women and so I feel honoured to be selected to take up this role.” Dr Robinson is currently working on two research projects. The first of these is a modification of her research on Jude, which will be made into a short book targeted towards laypeople. “The premise of this project is to equip people in the pews to engage with this somewhat unfamiliar and complex book”, she said. The other project focuses on 2 Peter, using redaction criticism to better understand the polemical setting into which the writer is speaking. UTC Principal Peter Walker praised Dr Robinson’s appointment. “Dr Robinson’s love for the Bible is infectious, her scholarship is outstanding, and I have no doubt her classroom will bring the scriptures alive for students,” he said.

Drive thru

generosity

The Uniting Church in Canowindra has made modifications to their Foodbasket service turning it into a “Drive through Food Service”. Community members are able to drive through and pick up a food bundle which complies with contact restrictions, but still enables them to support the vulnerable in their community. In Canowindra, the Uniting Church Congregations of Canowindra, Cranbury and Cudal , began a cooperative arrangement with the Anglican Parish in November 2003. One of the strategies to assist members of both denominations to get to know one another was the establishment of Home Groups. Marion Wilson is the Co-Chair of the churches’ joint council. She told Insights that the Foodbasket service began ten years ago out of the churches’ “strong desire to meet the identified challenges for some people in our community to access food items at a reasonable price.”

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static since the project began, and we still have remained financially secure.” The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for the service, however, with the virus’ effects on seniors being a concern for the volunteers and clients. “Many of our volunteers are over 70, as are many clients,” Ms Wilson said. “The hall was also becoming difficult in relation to social distancing requirements.”

Following the example set by a food pantry in Narromine, Canowindra began the Foodbasket operating from the Uniting Church hall in Canowindra. Over 500 people from the local community have accessed the project, with support from 45 volunteers from all walks of life. The project is one that has fostered relationships between local groups. This has enabled partnerships with the local St Vincent de Paul with food vouchers, and clothing through the local Masonic Lodge. The Orange Salvation Army has also provided toys for families at Christmas.

To combat these twin problems, one volunteer suggested a “drive thru” service. Now in place, the drive thru offers hampers of essential groceries for $10 including bread, eggs, pasta, rice, tins of food, milk, cereal, biscuits and toilet paper. For an extra $5, clients can buy a smaller hamper of hair shampoo, soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, and personal hygiene items. The Coordinator and younger members of the congregation prepare the hampers on Thursday, for Friday morning. A few younger people serve clients in their vehicles. Ms Wilson told Insights that demand for the service is increasing in recent times. “Our criteria for access includes those on any pension card, health card, unemployment benefits (or waiting for same), or those referred by an agency,” she said.

The church accesses food from local sources and from Foodbank NSW. They are members of Food Waste Central “This week our numbers doubled as West, which now owns a refrigerated van, the need has become more urgent. To managed by the Hope Pantry, Bathurst, provide choice for our clients, we are and members have greater access to introducing an online list which people Sydney food outlets. The service shares access through our Facebook page.” produce with several other towns in the Central West.

Dr Robinson’s book, Jude on the Attack, is available to purchase. It is also available at “This enterprise has been very helpful as Camden Theological Library. are the intercollegiate connections,” Ms Wilson said. “Our prices have remained JONATHAN FOYE

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VOLUNTEERS PREPARE PACKAGES FOR THE DRIVE THROUGH SERVICE


Inclusive Playgroup A new project out of Springwood Uniting Church ensures that play groups include sensory resources, so that children with special needs can participate. For children with special needs, participating in a playgroup can prove to be an overwhelming experience. For this reason, Springwood Uniting Church are participating in a project to provide Uniting Kids Care with the necessary equipment to set up an inclusive playgroup when they can re-open. Rev. Leigh Gardiner is one of Springwood Uniting Church’s ministers.

“During a BMCLG (Blue Mountains Collaborative Leadership Group) meeting…Kerry Lambert mentioned the sensory tents that they were hoping would be able to be shared by different services and congregations. Rachel and Toni from Ability Links followed up and worked with Mary-Ellen on a grant application which was successful. They then purchased toys and other sensory equipment and kindly delivered

A MemoryLink to the Past MemoryLink was a project of Pennant Hills Uniting Church, led by the late Dr Fenton Sharpe. The solar-powered device that came out of the project is a collection of popular church hymns, children’s songs and meditations. The device aims to help senior Christians with their memories, particularly regarding their earlier lives.

“We are aware that it is often difficult for parents and carers of children with special needs to find a playgroup in which they feel welcomed, understood and supported,” Rev. Gardiner said.

WE HOPE TO PROVIDE A SAFE AND SUPPORTIVE SPACE

“Those parents/carers then miss out on time with other adults, and the children miss out on interactive play. We hope to provide a safe and supportive space for both parents/ carers and children.” With help from Ability Links NSW, the church has been able to make the idea of inclusive equipment come to fruition. This is the realisation of an idea first raised some time ago. “Our Family and Children's worker, Mary-Ellen Jamieson has had a heart to start a supported/inclusive playgroup for some time,” Rev. Gardiner said.

them to us recently, ready for when we can re-open.”

“We will also be working with and have the support of Uniting Early Learning, Springwood (locally known as UKC) with whom we share our building. This also gives the opportunity of cross-referrals.” Rev. Gardiner told Insights that the resources themselves include “a mixture of fairly typical playgroup equipment with additional tailored items.”

“We are so grateful to Kerry Lambert for the initial conversation about this and then the follow-up work of Toni, Rachel and Pani. We are deeply saddened that the work of Uniting Ability Links NSW comes to an end next month and offer our prayers that all the team members find places in which they can continue to offer their skills and passion.”

It is a small audio device that collects 30 hymns, 30 children’s songs and 40 short meditations. It plays for eight hours. The hymns were recorded in the St Mark’s Anglican Church at Pennant Hills by a local community choir under the musical direction of Dr Paul Whiting. The children’s songs were performed by children from the Uniting Church Scripture class at Pennant Hills Public School. Production was designed to make the songs sound similar to congregational and Sunday School singing that seniors experienced during childhood. Barry Baird was the convenor of a small task force responsible for MemoryLink. He told Insights that the team had received much positive feedback in the form of phone calls and letters. One piece of correspondence was a detailed threepage letter. “The unit had brought so much comfort and so many smiles to the writer’s mother as they shared the content of the old familiar songs,” Barry said. “The mother was in a care home and MemoryLink had eased the writers burden of care.” For more information, visit memorylink.org.au or contact Annette on 02 8411 2168 or email memorylink@bphuniting.org

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THE MYTH OF

S C A R C I T Y Earlier this year, stores ran short on essential items as people responded to the threat of an imminent lockdown. This “panic buying” garnered public attention, and condemnation from the Prime Minister. Dr Katherine Grocott reflects on the economics and ethics of this situation.

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hat happens when those supermarkets and bakeries are stripped bare of all their food by people panic buying? There is little left for those who need it most, at a time when demand will increase. Meanwhile, fearful and scared shoppers are upset that supermarkets are putting limits on items. Ironically, the poor have long experienced food limitations. In one Queensland community pantry, all visitors are interviewed to determine eligibility. It only opens twice a week for two hours each time. Approved clients put their name on a list with the number of people in their household and these are randomly selected in order. Names are called out and a volunteer takes them through the items, determining the quantity they can have that day. Sometimes there will be refrigerated food like yogurt or meat, but this is very limited. There is usually a good variety of fruit and vegetables, but this will diminish toward the end of the session, so those lower on the list will get less variety. There is also bread. Twice a year, clients are eligible for 10 pantry items. All of this is free.

can go by with no fruit. Personal hygiene items like shampoo and soap are rare and may only be seen a few times a year. Sanitary items are strictly limited to one item per card. Months can go by without toilet paper, and when it is available, there is a strict four roll or less limit. This system relies on the poor only being able to eat the leftovers of the ‘wealthy’. God had very different standards when it came to caring for the poor. In Leviticus 19:9-10 and later in Leviticus 23:22 God gives very clear instructions to Moses and the Israelites that they are not to harvest the entire field nor take every grape from the vineyards. Something was always to be left for the poor and the sojourner. In Ruth 2, we read the practical outworking of this. Ruth, a Moabite, is able to gather grain from Boaz’s field and feed herself and her mother-in-law. Of interest is the fact that there is no restriction on the size or quantity to be left. The underlying concept was generosity. It also meant that the poor and alien were engaged in dignified, useful and fulfilling work. They ate the same food as the field’s owner and workers, not something discarded as unsuitable. They also experienced the practical reality of being able to eat and feed their families.

GOD HAD VERY DIFFERENT STANDARDS WHEN IT CAME TO CARING FOR THE POOR

In a South Australian Food Bank, people must also be interviewed. They are given a white card which gives them four visits to the Food Bank and shows how much money they are allowed to spend. A single person on the Job Seeker Payment is eligible for $25, a family of four can purchase more. They need to prove their identity every time they visit and can only come a maximum of once a week. Once the four visits have been used up, they have to be interviewed again to continue to prove eligibility and receive another white card. They are allowed up to 15kg of fruit and vegetables for free each visit as well as bread. Everything else though has a cost. Most items are a flat $2 per kilo because most of the food is out of date pantry and fridge items. There is usually very little variety of vegetables, often only potatoes, carrots and onions. Weeks

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Theologian Walter Brueggemann, in his article The Liturgy of Abundance, The Myth of Scarcity, explores the nature of God’s generous provision for all in creation, versus the narrative of scarcity, first seen Biblically with Pharaoh monopolising storage and distribution of food due to a coming drought. He challenges Christians to resist the message of consumerism and fear that says there is not enough, but you must have more. Rather, Christians are to stand in the assurance of a generous and loving God, practicing acts that promote Jesus’ ‘kingdom of God and what he means by that is a public life reorganised toward neighbourliness.’ DR KATHERINE GROCOTT


season 3 DURING LOCKDOWN

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EPISODES COMING SOON! FIND HOLD THAT THOUGHT ON:

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WE WANT TO TELL

stories

We want to tell your stories so God’s mission in the world is visible to all. Simply email us photos, a brief description, contact details, dates, or anything you think might be relevant for others to know about what you’re doing. We’ll make contact and interview the relevant people involved in your congregation. Share your news and events with us by emailing: insights@nswact.uca.org.au insights

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Church with no Chaplaincy in the pandemic UNITING CHAPLAINS AND PASTORAL PRACTITIONERS HAVE REINVENTED SPIRITUAL SUPPORT IN UNITING SERVICES OVER THE LAST TWO MONTHS. THIS EXERCISE HAS HAD MANY POSITIVE EXPERIENCES AND CALLS US TO QUESTION SOME BASIC ASSUMPTIONS.

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ike the whole church, challenged with hanging onto old ways and forced to rethink everything - the pandemic has unleashed a creative storm and compelled us to embrace new and different technologies. Many of these avenues have been available for a long time but the impetus/incentive or even in some cases, permission, just wasn’t there.

It was not long ago that I was begging congregations to broadcast their services into Uniting residential services. These are, after all, Uniting Church owned facilities but sadly… many saw their congregation as those there within their walls on Sunday. This was not the view of all Ministers. Two months later, Chaplains can arrange for residents to tune into their local churches as a normal part of weekly routines. As a result, some practitioners are making sure residents get copies of the church bulletins and newsletters. It makes us question how churches defined ‘community’ before the virus? After social distancing became a big thing – but before residential services were banned altogether, chaplains found alternative ways to ‘be’ church. One chaplain had ‘hallway church’ where he put the CD player on the floor in the hall, residents came to the doors of their rooms, and there they joined in a service without ever leaving the safety of their rooms. It calls us to question, ‘what is sacred space?’

HOW THE CRISIS HAS SHIFTED THINKING

Aside from using iPads and computers to tune into church services, many chaplains and pastoral practitioners have gained access to internal broadcasting channels in Uniting facilities. Some of these are web TV and some are simply PA systems. In some places, internal church services are broadcast into resident’s rooms and in others, a daily reading, prayer or reflections are offered just for a moment of stillness. There’s an obvious question here, ‘why not before?’ it’s amazing how a crisis can shift our thinking A blessing from this experience is that the public are definitely aware of anxiety and isolation in the community. Yesterday, my colleague said, ‘it’s amazing that most conversations start with ‘how are you going?’ and people seem to mean it. They wait for an answer!’. Chaplains are spending many more hours in 1:1 with staff working in highly anxious circumstances. Every carer is committed to keeping their people safe and each time the PM makes a statement or families put more pressure on them, they worry. Spiritual Support staff are there to listen. The virus has forged good feedback loops from the frontline to the top and communications directly from the top to the frontline. Some residences have prayer boxes where residents can leave prayers and blessings for frontline staff. This has been another opportunity to be part of a bigger church – one reaching out. Encouraged by the support team, some residents have been writing pastoral letters to staff by email.

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H o w ar

e you

going?

Spiritual support teams have a frontline role in liaising with families and reducing their concerns. For some, just knowing the chaplain is with their love one helps relieve fear. The teams are facilitating video calls and other more creative contact including window visits, signs, singing and more contact with distant family than ever before. They are bringing in photographs of children and grandchildren and taking photos to send to families outside. They are also spending more 1:1 time with residents and creating church-in-the-home. These are shorter services for one-three people or a household repeated throughout the day. Teams find themselves being more intentional about spending 1:1 time listening, reading the Bible together and discussing issues, especially, ‘Where is God in this?’ ‘What are the blessings?’ ‘Who needs our love?’. I can’t help but think this is a more intimate and personal way to pray – not a replacement for corporal church but a closer engagement. It makes me wonder ‘why can’t we have both?’ Spiritual support teams have been downloading video messages, producing discussion videos, liturgy, hymns and activity sheets throughout the week. Now ‘church’ or ‘pastoral care’ is an everyday thing. It has the potential to develop spiritual practice and better routines than church once a week. Why are we not encouraging spiritual development equally to feeding the habit of church-going?

OLD FASHIONED, BUT UNBELIEVABLY IMPORTANT

There are pastoral staff and volunteers devoting themselves to picking up the phone and making pastoral calls. Practitioners and volunteers are teaming up with Independent Living Managers and making sure everyone is connected. This is so old fashioned and yet, unbelievably important. How I wish our ‘busy’ lives hadn’t obliterated the comfortable, regular contact of someone who will listen. I want to know how we will ‘budget’ in our post virus world for something so simple and meaningful? On the old-fashioned theme, Spiritual Support Teams and volunteers are reverting to postcards, letters and greeting cards. I have to ask myself when was the last time I got something in the mail that wasn’t a bill? How delightful.

THIS IS A MORE INTIMATE AND PERSONAL WAY TO PRAY – NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR CORPORAL CHURCH BUT A CLOSER ENGAGEMENT

Last but not least, Convenors and their teams and frontline staff have never been closer. Surprisingly, being separated has made them more intentional about communicating more often. One team leader has invented a weekly 30-minute “Tears. Tantrums and Talking” video conference for practitioners to let it out. I’m wondering why all our working teams don’t have a no-agenda, let-it out-mechanism to clear out the brush that is slowing us down? The virus has highlighted to wider general staff that the Uniting Church is the backbone of our Uniting residences and it has brought the residences into a more connected community. It has broken the walls of our churches. It has slowed things down – given us time for pause. It has made us more mindful of each other and most of all, it is teaching us what is important and what we can let go. It has highlighted the important role everyone plays in spiritual support in our communities. REV. JEAN SHANNON

UNITING HE AD OF CHAPL AINCY AND PASTOR AL PR ACTICE, MISSION, COMMUNIT Y AND SOCIAL IMPACT

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Gathered Apart

In March, with the COVID-19 pandemic underway, and governments enforcing orders for people to stay home, churches found themselves scrambling. For the faith communities preparing to celebrate Easter, this came at a challenging time. As many prepared to move services online, a number of congregations worked overtime to ensure their members with reduced technology access would not fall through the gaps. 14

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Leading the church in this time has been extra work for Uniting Church ministers, who deployed unique self-care strategies in order to cope with the extra work, including new ways of networking. While COVID-19 has proven itself to be a challenging time, Uniting Church congregations and faith communities have adapted quickly to the new "normal" for gathering and taken their services online. But what does the influx of new people to services online mean for the Church post COVID-19?


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Will COVID-19 Change the Church?

Self Care for Ministry Agents

Gathered Apart

My Heart in your Hands

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Will COVID-19 change the church? The COVID-19 disruption to church-as-usual provides an opportunity for change and innovation, perhaps like no other opportunity presented to the church in decades. To call this medical and economic crisis an opportunity is not to ignore heartlessly the pain around us. Rather, it is to take full account of that pain and ask how this moment in history impacts on how we understand the nature of the church and its role in God’s mission. If our leadership is pastoral and strategic, and offered with love, this opportunity might become the catalyst for changes we believed impossible for the church, or had thought were years away. THE RIGHT FORM OF QUESTION

Many conversations are cur0rently focused on the question: How can we keep things going? Perhaps we should live-stream the 10:00am Sunday service? Can we hold Church Council meetings by Zoom? Those questions are understandable yet must not be allowed to suffocate others. For example, some conversations are currently focused on a different question: What is this crisis teaching us about the future of the church? How will the people of God bear witness to Jesus Christ in this time of isolation and financial insecurity? What might these strange days be teaching us about how the church needs to change?

ONLINE WORSHIP FROM SHELLHARBOUR CITY UNITING CHURCH

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Those who are asking, ‘How can we keep things going?’, are not off the grid. Some things must be kept going. Furthermore, it is not the responsibility of every disciple to pay attention to the big picture. Yet it is the responsibility of some. The ordained and lay leaders of the church are called (and some are paid) to give their attention to the big picture. Most of us can see the waves. Our leaders are those we ask to read and understand the tides.

GLENBROOK UNITING CHURCH SHARE A VIRTUAL CUPPA AFTER THEIR ONLINE SERVICE

BI-FOCAL DISCERNMENT

The Covid-19 pandemic has church communities seeking leadership – seeking people who will look beyond the breaking waves and open our eyes to the tide. To switch analogies, this is a time for leaders to be bi-focal. That is, a time for leaders who are focused both on what is in front of our eyes now, the near lens, as well as what’s in the distance, the far perspective. We certainly need to act on what we see close to our nose. How can we provide connected worship experiences during the period of spatial distancing? But leaders will also need to bring the far country into view. How will we embrace and begin to implement what is approaching the church through the top lens, on the horizon, during this time of disruption? The future church will have diverse forms and so those in mission agencies, synod offices, and colleges can only paint broad brushstrokes. The specifics will take shape in each context. However, the sort of questions that may help us all to identify where God is leading the church are: What are we seeing during this disruption that gives fresh expression to the love of God? What do the scriptures teach about where the disciples of Jesus Christ should be and what they should do in this time of emotional and financial distress on our streets, in our homes (for those who have one), towns, and cities? What do we see emerging now that looks like the future church and how can we support those initiatives to ensure they flourish in the future?


The church will be changed by the Covid-19 pandemic, of that there is no doubt. Can we listen and look for the work of the Holy Spirit now so that the coming change is the change God is seeking?

OF WHAT DO WE NEED LESS? OF WHAT DO WE NEED MORE?

Good mission leaders are also good pastoral leaders. A shepherd truly loves the sheep before even considering taking them onto a rocky path. Any leader who tries to lead in mission without loving her or his people will soon turn around and find no one is following. Yet it is a time to lead, pastorally and strategically, with love. And so for the sake of our witness to the love of God revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, of what does the church need less in the future, and of what does it need more? Put another way, and pushing ourselves to an honest self-assessment: What must be moved backstage, and what must be placed centre stage?

VIRTUAL COMMUNION AT HOME WHILE WATCHING TURRAMURRA UNITING CHURCH'S ONLINE SERVICE

CAN WE LISTEN AND LOOK FOR THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT NOW SO THAT THE COMING CHANGE IS THE CHANGE GOD IS SEEKING?

Again, broad brushstrokes are all that should be offered here. I personally hope the impact of the Covid-19 on our communities and congregations will teach the church that we must

talk less about buildings and more about relationships

talk less about the institution and more about our communities

talk less about us and more about the love of God made known to us in Christ

And by talking less and more, respectively, we will show that we care less and more, respectively. In order words, if our conversations and meetings and decisions show that we care about relationships over buildings, communities over institutions, and Christ over the church, the church will strengthen its witness to the love of God for the world. In a movement, most people believe in the cause. In an institution, most people believe in the institution. We are a movement and our cause is to be a people who reveal the love of God in all we do and say. That is the church’s calling – now and always. Relationships, communities, and Christ are the lifeblood of that calling. ONE HEART MEETS FOR HOME GROUPS (ABOVE) AND RECORDING THEIR ONLINE SERVICE

REV. DR PETER WALKER PRINCIPAL OF UNITED THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE

RECORDING ONLINE WORSHIP AT NEW BEGINNINGS UNITING

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Self Care

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WITH COVID-19 RESPONSES PUTTING YET MORE PRESSURE ON OUR MINISTRY AGENTS, THE NEED TO PRACTICE SELF-CARE IS PERHAPS GREATER THAN EVER. INSIGHTS SPOKE TO UNITING CHURCH MINISTERS AND DEACONS ABOUT HOW THEY’RE TAKING CARE OF THEMSELVES DURING THE PANDEMIC.

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elf-care is not a luxury or simply taking it easy. As Uniting Church minister Neil Ericksson explained, it is essential in order to stave off burnout and sustain ministry.

“Ministry agents need to understand that self-care is not selfish or a waste of time but necessary to keep yourself going,” Rev. Ericksson said. Rev. Tau’alofa Anga’aelangi is a Uniting Church deacon. She echoed these sentiments. “Looking after oneself is essential as a responsibility to ourselves and to the community we serve,” Rev. Anga’aelangi said.

“Self- care may appear to be individualistic and it may give the impression of being wrapped up in one own self. In this time of physical isolation, we need to be more attentive to our physical and spiritual practices and how it may benefit the communities we belong to.” Rev. Liam Miller is the Northern Hub New Growth Minister for Sydney Central Coast Presbytery. He told Insights that there was a danger that self-care may become viewed as a luxury in a work-centred society like Australia’s. “There is sometimes a danger in the framing of self-care, that it can seem luxuriant, a thing one does with a surplus of time. This is false,” he said. “You need to care for yourself, and you need to do it every day, every week. We should be careful to glamourise in ourselves or others overwork (either in working massive hours, forgoing holidays, or taking on extra tasks), all this does is provide witness to one of the (false) gospels of our age—that your worth is tied to what value you can add, what you can produce, what you can point to as having accomplished. You should make yourself jump through a lot of hoops to justify working longer than eight hours in a day, or 40 in a week.” “Yes, there are occasions where it is demanded... but I think they are far fewer than we tend to believe.”

“So that means binge watching, making things, we have an old boat we have just started back into restoring. I am going for a walk any time I need it and trying to start the day with a time of thankfulness and exercise.”

“In our house when people are getting too caught up in something, we have the Frozen song, we sing “Let it go”. I am finding I sing it to myself too, a lot at the moment.”

IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT IT IS THE WORK OF THE CHURCH AS A WHOLE, AND NOT MY TASK TO DO IT ALL

PROFESSIONAL SUPERVISION AND SELF-CARE

Self-care for ministry agents, then, is similar to that of everyone else, but there are a few key things that are unique to their line of work.

Rev. Andrew Johnson is Ministry Team Leader at Hope Uniting Church in Maroubra. He explained that, while he had a number of fairly standard self-care practices, there were a few that were unique. Professional supervision is one of these; something that Uniting Church ministry agents need to undertake as one of the requirements of their role. Rev. Johnson described professional supervision as “a safe, separate space to be able to re-tell my story and have it reflected back in fresh angles. “It’s an invitation to scrutiny and accountability mixed with grace,” he said.

“Perhaps the biggest practice for my self-care in ministry is to remember to walk away. There’s a great privilege in being with people in moments of vulnerability and faith, whether that’s around births and deaths, or soul searching moments “As a minister, who wants to help people, and a bit creative it is of wonder. The community of faith is such an important place really easy for me to just be consumed with work and not think of connection, but for me, it is important to remember that it is about anything else. I am trying to make time to intentionally be the work of the church as a whole, and not my task to do it all.” with my family and take proper time off,” Rev. Mitchell Lambert “So at times, I need to walk away, and find myself with a said. coffee on the north end of Maroubra beach and get some Rev. Karen Mitchell Lambert is the Pulse team leader. She described self-care in terms of carving out time for her family and herself.

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perspective; or to listen to my son’s excitement for the school swimming carnival. I need to walk away, not because I don’t care or that the work of the church isn't important, but to remember that my job is to resource the congregation in its faith, not to do it for them.” Rev. Anga’aelangi said that, for her, it was important to schedule her day according to her needs. “One of the practices that’s been helpful for me is splitting up my week,” she said. “I write down the activities and tasks that pre-occupy physical time and internal. I prioritise how I can end or start with practices that will complement each other rather giving more weight to only one.” “I have a list of the groups and communities that I’m involved with. I make sure that I have some type of communication with either one of the group members at least once a week.” “In these short conversations, we need to make ourselves be fully present in the two or five minutes. I feel this will make a difference for those who are directly affected with self-isolation. It doesn’t require a lot of your time, what we do with those conversations is to honour them as part of our shared stories. We bring those stories of struggle, joy and uncertainty to our prayer. I see this as a spiritual practice that has been fruitful, because the honesty and vulnerability of others is a part of my prayer life.” Rev. Anga’aelangi said she also prioritises regular exercise and cooking in how she plans her schedule. Amongst the tension of COVID-19, there is a new situation, where ministry agents need to adapt to new technologies and ways of enacting their ministries. These range from getting to grips with Zoom to ensuring that they can keep in contact with congregation members who have less access to technology. This technology-saturated environment means that ministry agents may need to be mindful of when they ‘switch off.’

Rev. Aaron told Insights that, with his partner and him working on opposite sides of the house, they have designated the kitchen and living room as ‘device free zones’, “So that we switch off between those spaces.” “All of these things would be useless without prayer, and integration,” he said. “What new things am I learning about the face of God? The Word of God? What new things are being born? What am I learning about my relationships, my congregation, myself that is building on, or going deeper in God, and how am I going to remember them later?” On the other hand, Rev. Anga’aelangi said that using technology to keep in touch with people she went through formation with, had proven helpful. “We have a chat group on Zoom, where we catch up every two weeks called “Together on Zoom,” she said. “It’s a space that allows us to see each other, you can eat your dinner, have a glass of wine or whatever you prefer. I find it’s a wonderful platform, for us to discuss ministry, sermons, etc.”

BE KIND TO YOURSELF

Rev. Mitchell Lambert recommends that ministry agents be kind to themselves during the pandemic. “This is new to everyone,” she said. “Trust that God is doing stuff that you don’t know and may never." “Doing what you can is enough. Listen to the gentle whispers of the Spirit and follow it!” Choosing exactly the right self-care option can be a challenge. Sally Yabsley-Bell is a Deacon Candidate. “I once read an article that said ministers have two unhelpful habits to deal with stress: drinking and shopping,” she said. “When I speak to other people in ministry and bring this up I have been greeted with guiltily smiles more often than not. So I try to keep this in mind when I notice I really want to shop. Be kind to yourself.” JONATHAN FOYE

A SAFE SEPARATE SPACE TO BE ABLE TO RE-TELL MY STORY AND HAVE IT REFLECTED BACK IN FRESH ANGLES

Rev. James Aaron is Minister of the Word at North Ryde Community Church. He mentioned that the stationary nature of online ministry and ever-pervasive technology could present challenges to self-care. “Everyone knows that moving, vigorously moving, intentionally moving is really important for mind and body, but now that we are online, we have to add intentional stretching and moving in a more frequent way,” he said. “Do we get up and walk around (not to the fridge), but generally? Do we have a routine, to start the day and finish the day, leaving work on the laptop, clearing the coffee table/ desk/ workspace, new for the next day? How are we switching off when we are done?”

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LEFT: ONLINE WORSHIP AT NORTH RYDE UC | TOP MIDDLE: ZOOM COMMUNION AT GLENBROOK UC BOTTOM MIDDLE: TURRAMURRA UC STREAM AN ONLINE SERVICE TOP RIGHT: ONLINE COMMUNION

Gathered Apart unday 22 March saw Churches closed and prompted Ministers to quickly find online alternatives for their congregations to connect in meaningful ways.

Canberra Region Presbytery minister Rev. Dr John Squires said that churches were finding “creative” ways to address the gap, and were “gathering apart”. Several churches across the Synod streamed their Sunday sermons online. At Leichhardt Uniting Church, Rev. Radhika and Rev. Adrian Sukumar-White streamed worship and a sermon from the church building. They believe it’s not an ideal situation. Rev. Sukumar-White told the ABC that the church was dealing with a “sense of grief in our community and unknowingness about the future.” “We have no idea how long we’ll be doing this.” Leichhardt Uniting Church member Christina Mikhael told the ABC that the

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“One by one they did, each with a look of proud achievement on their faces.”

“For so many, these virtual spaces are foreign countries with culture and language to confound and frighten the newcomer. My advice to you Saltbush’s Rev. Mark congregation had been if you know how to navigate Faulkner told Insights that the these virtual places is to deliberate about checking in gatherings were proving to with its older members. be the person in the Chair be successful, even for those [providing support]. “There’s a few of us who are that don’t have experience checking in, providing support with the technology. “If this is all new to you and and allowing people to feel you need help don’t be afraid “The conversation and like they’re still connected to to ask for someone you know engagement have been great the community, even though to be in the chair as you face and even those who have we can’t share a physical this new challenge.” never used Zoom before space every week,” she said. It is unknown exactly how (or didn’t even have a cam) Other congregations have long church buildings will have come on board,” Rev. opted to share resources remain closed, but Uniting Faulkner said. online, including sermon and Church congregations will “So, of course at each Café worship notes. continue to gather, online, we connect and discuss faith and via other means. For small regional and rural and life with people who are communities, an option literally from all corners of our for gathering online has Synod.” been underway since Lent With technological solutions began. Saltbush has been come other challenges. In conducting online ‘Café’ See a list of congregations his blog, Never Odd or Even, meetings. with live streaming services: Geelong-based Uniting The online Café has seen tinyurl.com/ucalivestream Church minister Rev. Will around 25 people gathering Nicholas writes about the on Zoom. Gatherings will experience of coordinating For Saltbush’s Zoom Cafés continue through to Easter online worship. He likened contact the Saltbush team with a plan to continue this to being a character Saltbush@nswact.uca.org.au  throughout the year. who supports superheroes   remotely: the person in the Saltbush Zoom Cafés meet For more information about chair. every Wednesday morning the Uniting Church’s plans at 10:30 am and every during the Coronavirus “I sent out an email to every Thursday evening at 7:30 pm. pandemic, visit the Synod’s member of the Church I Participants use the Zoom COVID-19 hub am Minister to and let each app to take part in Bible study person know that they could tinyurl.com/ucacovid19info and discussion.

Uniting Churches pivoted quickly to online service offerings at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. Insights interviewed ministry agents as lockdown was announced.

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click on a link and the Zoom meeting would be open from 10-11 am in the morning,” Rev. Nicholas writes.


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IS BETTER THAN

PERFECT

WHILE COVID-19 HAS PROVEN TO BE A CHALLENGE FOR CHURCHES UNABLE TO MEET, BATHURST UNITING CHURCH HAS RAPIDLY RESPONDED, ROLLING OUT PASTORAL CARE AND WORSHIP RESOURCES.

BATHURST UNITING CHURCH’S COVID RESPONSE TEAM ( L TO R): DAVID MCLEOD, SHARYNNE MCLEOD, REV. CLAIRE WRIGHT AND JULIE GREIG

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ev. Claire Wright said in a recent Presbytery newsletter that Bathurst Uniting Church was adapting to the challenge of how to continue connecting members of their community.

“Our mission statement is: ‘Sharing the love of God by connecting people to God; connecting people to people; and connecting people to community.’ That’s been a challenge, lately,” she wrote. “But arguably, it’s more important than ever – and we’re gradually finding technical, creative and personal resources to try and do it in new ways. The WHO, speaking of its response to COVID-19, said: ‘Fast is better than perfect.’ Good advice.”

The Kids and Families team delivered Activity and care packs to 26 families. The Aged Care team delivered Outreach Cards (a ‘we are still here for you’ message, with contact details) and took Easter worship services (filmed on phones, delivered on USB sticks) to local Aged Care facilites.

WE’RE FINDING TECHNICAL, C RE AT I V E A N D PERSONAL RESOURCES TO DO IT IN NEW WAY S

The church has also prepared weekly worship resources (including full Sunday services on video) and posted these online each week. They have also delivered USB sticks, DVDs, and print copies to those who need them. “We’ve had ‘views’ of our services from all over the world – including Iceland! – which means that our Sunday ‘attendance’ is actually up a little,” Rev. Wright wrote.

Bathurst Uniting Church’s first response to COVID-19 was to form a small Coronavirus Response Team, so as to act and communicate in response to swiftly-changing guidance and circumstances.

“While we recognise that the most difficult period may be yet to come, as self-isolation begins more seriously to impact people’s mental and physical health, we are – for now – in good heart. After all, Christ is risen: He is risen indeed.”

The church also has a Pastoral Care Group to co-ordinate regular phone contacts, and a Welfare Group to do IT set-up, tuition and support, deliveries, and general helps – including cooking a freezer-full of meals for at-need households and the homeless.

JONATHAN FOYE

For more information, and to access Bathurst Uniting Church’s worship resources, visit: bathurstunitingchurch.com.au

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Myinheart your

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Uniting Creative is a collaboration of passionate “This was the first step in gauging what interest was out musicians, dancers, artists and film makers there, and the response has who are searching for ways to serve the church been amazing,” Ms Holmes through their gifts and talents.

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ash Holmes is Church Engagement Leader at Uniting.

“For those of us who feel called to ministry through our creativity, we have noticed there isn’t much of a path for us,” Ms Holmes explained. “We know that music and the arts are vital for church life and growth but it’s rare we see these positions made available. Often creative roles are made available when everything else has been taken care of and everything is in place. Sometimes this works, but more often we find the very thing we desperately need for church growth, is the very thing that’s left last on the list.” “As Bono clearly expressed to Eugene Peterson in 2016, Why do we need art? Why do we need the lyric poetry of the psalms? Because the only way we can approach God is if we’re honest – through metaphor, through symbol… so art becomes essential – not decorative.” In trying financial times, when some churches struggle to remain viable, let alone hiring new staff or launching new programs, this may seem like a big call to make, and Ms Holmes said that she was aware of the struggle. “However, what then becomes of our worship leaders, poets and musicians?” “And how do we ensure that churches are able to fully express the heart of spirituality whilst perhaps reaching younger, creative pockets in our community? This is the very thing that we are excited about exploring,” Ms Holmes said.

said.

How can we develop creative formation so we can continue to grow this vital group and not lose them to opportunities outside of our churches?” “Our vision is to create a supportive network for creatives in the hope that as we give them room to thrive, this will overflow into our churches and new life will emerge,” she explained.

PUTTING THE CALL OUT

Uniting Creative are putting the call out for anyone involved in the creative arts across our churches to connect.

According to Ms Holmes, the project is still at its early “conversation” stage and Uniting Creative want to hear from as many artists as possible. Over Easter, members came together in lockdown and filmed a new song.

The result is a new song, My Heart in Your Hands. “Within this emerging community, there are big dreams to write, record and produce worship music,” Ms Holmes said. “The team are also excited to host worship nights to highlight as many creative elements as possible.”

HOW CAN CREATIVE PEOPLE GET INVOLVED?

“Over this time of isolation, we have seen the significance of the creative arts to connect people, bring comfort, healing and joy in the midst of despair,” Ms Holmes said. “We want to create opportunities to collaborate and work together in the creative arts space with the hope of launching something later in the year.” JONATHAN FOYE

For more information, contact naholmes@uniting.org.au.

WE HAVE SEEN THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CREATIVE ARTS TO CONNECT PEOPLE, BRING COMFORT, HEALING AND JOY IN THE MIDST OF DESPAIR

“How do we create community, training and opportunities for our creatives?

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Another member, from Malvern Hill, is 97 and has been supported by her family in sharing in online worship.

Rev. Stephen Matthews is the Ministry Team Leader at Burwood-Croydon Related Congregations. He told Insights that the church continues its diverse and busy ministry during COVID-19.

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Magic of this Gathering

“In one of our worship services, one of our members was able to share in worship from her home with her partner and son, along with her other son and his partner who Zoomed in from New York,” Rev. Matthews said.

THE JOY OF SHARING IN ‘VIRTUAL TEA TIME’ WAS JUST THE CONNECTING NEEDED

PHOTO (ABOVE): BURWOOD-CROYDON RELATED CONGREGATIONS CONTINUE TO MEET ONLINE, INCLUDING NOLA HARRIS, AGED 102.

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“Different members have contributed, both in ensuring worship flows well (through supporting use of the technology) as well as sharing in singing and prayers.”

“For some members, the joy of sharing in ‘virtual tea time’ after worship was just the connecting needed.” Burwood-Croydon has three Zoom Services weekly: Malvern Hill Burwood Morning and Burwood Evening.

“Though some members have not been able to join in worship, they are provided Weekly Devotional as well as checkin by our Elders and Clergy. Worship across the three services have been well received and the style of worship is evolving.” Co-ordinators, Diana Combe and Andrew Buchan continue to organise English Conversation gatherings Tuesdays and Thursdays that may be considered as an additional online presence. Burwood Evening Congregational members also ensure connectivity through Netflix nights organised by Claire Wallace and Craig Corby. Other ministries of Burwood – Croydon continues on including the Preschool and also the Emergency Relief Program which, sadly, has seen a greater number of people seeking financial and emotional support. “There are many reasons for gathering and seeing the joy of people making connections across the internet makes us flesh again and reminds us of who we are and the value of relationships,” Rev. Matthews said.

Nola Harris, 102, is a member of “Nola, in sharing about this worship, Burwood Morning. As well as writing remarked about ‘the magic of this cards to those who are ill or not able gathering’ – I could not say a better to attend worship, she has been on comment than that.” the Synod Stamp Committee for many years. She, along with her son and family, JO NATHAN FOYE have been sharing in online worship for three weeks.


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Connecting students

For Margaret Jurd College, these times have been more challenging than anyone can imagine. This high school caters for all students of years 9 to 12, providing them with a supportive alternative education. The school embraces young people who want to complete secondary schooling living with mental health conditions that can be seen as challenging behaviours.

TOP: ONE OF THE PLC STUDENTS DONATING HER GUITAR TO THE MJC MUSIC PROGRAM. INSET: KATE HADWEN, PLC PRINCIPAL RUNNING ONE OF THE INITIATIVES OF PYMBLE GIVES BACK.

MJC students often live with a high level of anxiety and depression, and need to find their way to communicate about their feelings. This can be heightened by all the information running about the pandemic, social distancing, and staying at home, as it might be hazardous for them. The school’s counselling team is working very hard — as challenging as it can be — over the phone, or via Zoom, not only looking after the students but their families as well. And while facing a new reality, struggling with the pressure of being at home and the challenges many families are facing today, they also need to keep up with their education.

Insights talked to Darren Twist, Principal at Margaret Jurd. College, who explained how they had faced this challenge.

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hen they realised that everyone was going to stay home, teaching staff needed to make sure students would have resources such as iPads, computers, and internet connectivity, among other things. As the government’s measures began to take place, they moved as fast as they could to shift towards supporting students via distance.

They had full support from their strategic partner Pymble Ladies College, and Kate Hadwen, their Principal. She told Insights that through Meredith Scott, the Deputy Chair of the PLC Council, they moved to help Margaret Jurd financially and practically. As Mr Twist suggested, at MJC they “work to create positive futures together”, and that they “will never allow any financial strain to get in the way of a student’s education.”

At the beginning of 2020, when the virus was spreading, and as travel bans took hold, more than 300 of the 2280 PLC students were absent. As Principal Hadwen said, they “went to online learning early and were really well geared up to move towards online education and had a good insight on how to support students working from home.” Staff are working online fulltime to support students academically and psychologically, making sure they are coping with their new e-learning while missing their school environment.

At the same time, the school is working on building social empathy in their students. That’s why they also have the Pymble Gives Back program, a program led by the school but open to everyone who wants to support them. According to Hadwen, the program “has a number of Their first point of assistance different initiatives such as food was lending their tech/ collections to take to women’s IT team. Students and shelters and girls creating staff could ask for little videos dancing, STA FF A RE assistance at any time singing and reading WORKING ONLINE through live chat, a stories sent to retirement F U L LT I M E phone number and homes, among others.” TO SUPPORT an email address. S T U D E N T S Margaret Jurd has They also gave out always been part of the their bank of 49 iPads, Uniting Church community. which Pymble Ladies Throughout the years they have occasionally provide to their received full support from Pymble students. For more than half of the Ladies College and the Shortland Margaret Jurd students who received Congregation who gave them their them, it opened a therapeutic support church ground to build the school window, where children, while playing campus. They also work very closely online, receive counselling from their with the Gordon Pymble Congregation caseworkers. and other community members who To help start a new music program, provide direct assistance (recently, three students and a teacher from one of them even funded a new library Pymble Ladies donated their guitars, for all the students). Another key to begin with, and they are calling for support person is Anne Empson, the others to support this program as well. School Relationship and Governance Manager of the NSW and the ACT The aid and support didn’t stop there; Synod, and part of the school’s Board more than six families are providing of Directors. financial support to bring food to students and their families for at least Darren Twist, Principal at Margaret six months. Staff and other students Jurd College, has asked Insights to with their families who are also share their gratitude with every single engaged with community services, in person from the educational and alliance with Harris Farm, are putting the congregational community of together food packs for more than 50 the Uniting Church for their constant families that have called out for help. support. Pymble Ladies students have also faced several challenges during this pandemic.

ANGEL A CADENA

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All in this Together? E

xcept when there aren’t. On a WhatsApp line that can’t make up its mind about reception, I speak to Junior in Zimbabwe. She’s the National Director of the Methodist Church’s Development Agency, MeDRA, scrambling to respond to COVID-19 in a country where even before the pandemic, 70% of rural children were hungry.

Together. It’s the word of the pandemic, the catch cry of 2020. From Mexico to Manhattan to Melbourne, we’re united in our anxiety and determination, and we have the social media to prove it: quarantine pics from celebrities, that famous TikTok guy, a thousand Zoom screenshots shared on Facebook. It may not be ideal, but at least there are solidarity feel- goods along the way.

Yet again, it’s the global poor who will be hit hardest and longest by the world’s most recent tragedy: more than half a billion people are likely to be pushed back over the precipice of poverty. The economic impact of the pandemic will set back decades of their steady, determined struggle toward lives of dignity and hope.

Here in Australia, Lifeline is reportedly taking distressed calls at the rate of one every thirty seconds. It’s not fair to suggest that more developed communities like ours aren’t suffering – “It’s been five days here without water, and like everyone else we are. The pain of job losses and economic upheaval is real. I’m now using a communal water source,” she tells me. “I It’s just that as usual, whatever we’re experiencing is multiplied stay in an area where there is no municipal water - l have to a thousand times for those who had so little to begin with. hire a contractor to fill my 5000 litre tank. At the And our compassion is being stretched in all directions at big markets exempt from the lockdown, where once. food is cheaper, it’s crowded, and l don’t go I PICTURE Times like these, the sheer grit and fortitude of our there for fear of contracting the disease. The GOD HERE partners leaves me wordless. Their faith is another smaller shops owned by individuals are very ON EARTH level again. expensive.” RISKING E V E R Y T H I N G “We are living by God’s grace,” Junior says, and her As we speak, I’m holed up in my home office FOR LOVE OF determination rings clear down the line. “We pray with a sandwich and a cup of tea at my elbow, OTHERS every day to God: for our government and for you, our wondering when the borders might open so I funding partners. With winter fast approaching, we fear can get some winter sun up north. The internet that there will be many COVID-19 cases. But there is a God works. I’ve casually ordered a few things online in heaven. He will see us through.” and they’ll be delivered within a day or two by our friendly post guy. We’ll stand at a distance and exchange jokes about ‘But there is a God in heaven.’ quarantinis, and then I’ll pop back inside to wash my hands not because I touched anything, but simply because I can. Maybe it’s just me, but I more readily picture God here on earth, alive in people like Junior and her team, risking “We are being encouraged to wash with water and soap, but everything for love of others. Maybe that’s where ‘together’ people have no soap,” Junior says, when I ask about how really shows its hand – the risen Christ animating project people are staying safe. “Soap is expensive and both rural and workers, nurses, volunteers. urban communities use communal owned boreholes where they meet in large numbers. Everyone holds the pump handle But if ‘together’ is truly to be more than just a convenient as they pump water. The clinics have no beds and space for marketing phrase, we need to lean into the deepest, widest COVID-19 patients. They have no gloves, masks and hand roots of faith and humanity. All of us are called to look beyond sanitizers or liquid soap. The only laboratory for testing is in our own horizons, summoning enough courage to believe and Harare, the capital.” act on the knowledge that even in the gravest, most enraging situations, we are the bearers of hope and new life. That’s Her words make me want to cry and rage at the same time. where togetherness is found. And suddenly ‘together’ feels like just about the emptiest word on the planet.

CATH TAYLOR

Right now, UnitingWorld is asking people to pray and give to the COVID-19 response of our partners. Combined with Australian Government funding, your gift can go up to six times further saving lives in the field. Read more and please join the power of people uniting at unitingworld.org.au/actnow 26

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YI JU N IO R VI TO


WE WERE MADE FOR TIMES LIKE THESE “We are hungry, I used to work as a maid in a house but now they won't have me anymore.” Anika, supported by the Church of North India

“I am afraid for the economic situation here - most people have lost their jobs and their income has gone, so there is not enough food. ” Wayan, supported by the Protestant Church of Bali

“Zimbabwe has more than 60% people in the informal sector who live from hand to mouth and now they are locked down. What do they eat? They are starving indoors. There are many cases of gender-based violence. The situation is bad.” Junior Vitoyi, National Director of our partner MEDRA, Methodist Church of Zimbabwe

For the world’s poorest, this is just the beginning Half a billion people are at risk of being pushed back into poverty as a result of COVID-19. We’re standing strong with our partners to prevent hunger, stop the spread of disease and bring hope. Right now your donation can have up to six times the impact when combined with Australian Aid funding.* ACT NOW ON COVID-19 AND JOIN THE POWER OF PEOPLE UNITING

1800 998 122 | www.unitingworld.org.au/actnow

UnitingWorld is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

*Visit www.unitingworld.org.au/actnow to find out how.

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PANTRY STILL OFFERING

“Small points of connection”

While preventing the spread of COVID-19 has disrupted many services, Bowral Uniting Church are continuing with their community pantry— with an altered format that accommodates the need for social distancing.

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ucy Earl is Mission Development Worker for Illawarra Presbytery. She told Insights that the pantry remains open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10am to 1pm.

IT IS A BLESSING TO BE ABLE TO OFFER THESE SMALL POINTS OF CONNECTION

“We have needed to alter the way people pick up their food, so we now serve people through an outside door, so that they don’t need to come into the building and can follow social distancing guidelines from outside,” Ms Earl said.

said. “We are seeing a lot of people coming to the pantry for the first time in the past couple of weeks. Most of these people have lost their jobs in local businesses and are now struggling.”

As well as non-perishable goods, the “We are also delivering some boxes of pantry offers fruit, vegetables, and bread, food to people’s homes as needed. This thanks to the support of OzHarvest. has been a wonderful thing to be able to do for people who are needing to self“Local supermarkets and businesses isolate because of age or their health.” have been very supportive,” Ms Earl

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“We are so thankful that we have been able to continue to support and serve our local community in these ways. For the past seven years we have held a free community lunch each Wednesday.” “While we aren’t able to eat together at the moment we are offering take away lunches and frozen meals to people on a Wednesday still, as well as a cup of coffee or tea to take away. It is a blessing to be able to offer these small points of connection.” JONATHAN FOYE


Building

H pe

In February, while bushfire smoke covered the ACT, families lost everything. One area that was hit was the Bumbalong Valley, between Michelago and Bredbo. To help those who lost their homes while they rebuild, the NSW and ACT Synod has bought some mobile homes.

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tephen Littlehales and Annika Safe were two of the people who lost everything when their family home in Bredbo burnt down.

Ms Safe told the Canberra Times that she recalled being “completely numb” when the couple first returned to their property, where they had lived with their two young children and animals.

Rev. Dr Squires recalled getting an email from the Synod’s David Rudd and how the idea of buying some mobile homes and transporting them to affected areas came up. Mr Rudd worked with Robert Ramsbottom on the Synod’s side.

“[The homes] could be hooked up and people who had lost their homes could have a place to stay in their community,” Rev. Dr Squires said. “I was asked, were we aware of anyone who would be helped by this? I activated the presbytery networks and asked around. A family in the town of Bredbo, to the south of Canberra… would appreciate this offer.”

“I think I nearly vomited, and then my brain went completely numb,” Ms Safe said. The house was reduced to a column of bricks and some rubble. While the family made their way out with several pets, they lost a number of animals in the fire.

“A few phone calls and emails later, the mobile home was purchased, transported south, put in place, and the family moved in.”

“I just can’t believe how completely the house is gone,” Ms Safe said.

THIS FAMILY HAS BEEN THROUGH SO MUCH GRIEF AND THE CHURCH OFFERED A HAND OF HOPE AND CHRISTIAN LOVE

Thankfully, some temporary relief would be around the corner, thanks to behindthe-scenes work between the NSW/ACT Synod and the Canberra Region Presbytery.

Rev. Dr John Squires is the Presbytery Minister (Wellbeing) for the Canberra Region Presbytery. He recalled that the initiative began after a conversation about how the church could support those who had lost everything. “Back in February, in the days after the full impact of the bushfires, we were trying to work our ways that we could support people in the congregations of the Canberra Region Presbytery where fires had caused great damage. We were aware of the fact that a number of people were without homes. Some congregations had been able to provide material assistance in terms of food and the like.”

Janise Wood is Operations Manager for the Canberra Region Presbytery. She explained to Insights that knowing the family had lost everything in the fires prompted her to get involved in the presbytery’s Bushfire working group. Ms Wood facilitated the delivery and install of the home and liaised with the family. “To see a family, who had been beaten down by circumstances out of their control, smile and see some light at the end of a long tunnel makes me so happy for them and proud to be a part of the Uniting Church,” she said. “This family has been through so much grief and the church offered a hand of hope and Christian love, remarkable and inspirational.” When Insights spoke to Mr Littlehales, the timeline was “still up in the air” regarding when the family would get a chance to return to their property, as debris needed to be cleared. He said, however, that the mobile home had proven to be a “relief” and his family were “massively grateful” to the Uniting Church for the temporary solution. JONATHAN FOYE

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C H U RCH AT H O M E

Sacred Creating a

Space

As people of faith in these dispersed times, it can be important to set aside a space in your home or room where you can come before God in prayer, explore the questions that may arise in your life, and spend time exploring scripture in meditation or silence. Your sacred space should be a place where you can strengthen your relationship with God and find strength for yourself in these uncertain times.

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ven if you can only stop for a few minutes a day, having a space for quiet reflection in your home serves as a reminder that it is important to continue to nurture our faith in the absence of any organised worship. The Christian tradition of the West has generally focussed our spiritual life very much on communal worship and learning, such as attending Sunday services and engaging in Bible study. While these are indeed important events in our faith development and practice, they are not the only way we can worship and learn.

People have created sacred places in many different forms and places throughout history. Sacred spaces can be large, like landscapes, or have natural or created structures such as Stonehenge, Uluru, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. A sacred landscape can be sacred to people or communities because of something that took place there. Modern sacred places that would fit this description include Ground Zero, Anzac Cove, and the grotto at Lourdes. Other religious and communal examples of sacred spaces include labyrinths, meditation gardens, cemeteries, and churches, mosques, temples or synagogues. In the absence of these, making a sacred space or a personal altar will help you set aside some time dedicated to your spiritual growth and well-being.

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The first step is to find a peaceful and uncluttered area in your home or a corner in your room. Sacred spaces should be places that allow you to relax, and where you won’t be interrupted by someone entering or exiting a room. Think about why you want a sacred space. What needs are you hoping to meet? What sort of things are you wanting to do? Are you seeking to deepen your spiritual life or enhance your relationship with God? Do you need a place where you can lament for things temporarily lost? Or do you just need a place to have some quiet reflective time during a stressful day? Will your space be a place of dreaming or reading? Will it be a refuge from all the responsibilities and current distractions around you? Is it a place that will help you put aside the fear and uncertainties of the world? Or is it a place that will provide you with fresh energy and insight into the world? Please take some time to pray and discern what it is you want your sacred space to be for you. Think about what things you would like in your space. What do you find meaningful and what things will help you connect with God? Some suggestions include a small vase with flowers, a cross or icon, a bible, photographs or pictures, a coloured cloth to reflect the liturgical season and a candle.


All of us have meaningful objects in our homes. You may well enjoy a hunt through boxes and drawers to find that special object. In your chosen space, place a small low table or something similar to hold the special things you have chosen. Place a cushion or comfortable seat in front of your table. Make this place one that invites prayer, ritual and reflection, and allow it to change over time as your needs evolve.

THINK OF YOUR SACRED SPACE AS A BEAUTIFUL GIFT THAT YOU CAN GIVE YOURSELF EVERY DAY HELPING YOU TO DEEPEN YOUR FAITH AND RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

Try to spend time in your space every day — whether it is for 30 seconds in the morning or a half-hour meditation at night. Use your space to pray for the day ahead, to express gratitude or to lament, or to discern what God might be saying to you. You might like to keep a journal nearby to write down or sketch any thoughts, images or inspired ideas that come to you. There is no right or wrong way to create and use your sacred space; it is there to help you connect personally with God, with yourself, and with the world around you in meaningful ways. Think of your sacred space as a beautiful gift that you can give yourself every day, helping you to deepen your faith and relationship with God, to put things into a proper perspective. The more you use your space, the more you will find it providing you with unexpected blessings. John and I have created a sacred space in our home in this time of isolation. The cross is a Celtic one from the Western Hebrides, and the illuminated picture is one my late aunt created, and it shows the symbols of the four gospels. We also have a purple candle and cloth to signify we are in Lent. The Bible is opened each week at the gospel reading from the Lectionary.

Tell us how you are doing #ChurchAtHome by sharing your pictures and stories with us at Insights. Simply email photos and stories to insights@nswact.uca.org.au

Think about taking a photo of your sacred space to share with others. It is one lovely way that we can keep in touch and share with one another as a community. R E V. E LI Z AB E TH R AI N E

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The

Radical

Reset

EVER SINCE RESTRICTIONS WERE PUT IN PLACE THAT MEANT WE COULDN’T MEET AS WE’RE USED TO, THERE’S BEEN PEOPLE STARTING TO TALK ABOUT USING THIS COVID-19 PANDEMIC AS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE CHURCH TO ‘RESET’. WE DO NEED A RESET, THOUGH IT’S NOT THAT SIMPLE.

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At the core of this new reality is the recognition we should not be coming to church to join the holy huddle to get a ‘spiritual topup’. To engage in a church community where we care for others ahead of ourselves and see it explode into reality requires us as people of God on the way to do things differently, and it costs time, energy, and money. There’s lots we do already that shows we care for others like Op Shops, food banks, and neighbourhood centres. We worry about whether these things are well attended and not whether or not we are building relationships with the people specifically so we can share about Jesus. We shy away from doing the hard work that the cross calls us to. We must no longer be scared of personal evangelism, and we must absolutely give our everything to engage young people in the life and witness of God.

n IT parlance a reset is switching your computer off and turning it back on again. Many desktop PCs have a 'reset' button – press the button and everything stops, and the computer restarts. Problems vanish, frozen and broken programs are shut down, and the operating system initiates. Many struggled, though, with pressing the reset button, as it meant all the work they hadn’t saved would be lost. It meant they had to start again. It cost time and energy, and it even meant they might have to try a different way to complete the task they were working on. The church faces very similar issues when we talk about a reset: it will cost time and energy. It will mean we will need to try a different way as a church to complete the task Jesus Christ calls us to – that of making disciples.

HOW WE ENGAGE YOUNG PEOPLE IS THE CORE OF RETHINKING AND RESETTING OF THE CHURCH

Spiritual immaturity is rife when church is all about you (e.g. “I don’t like that music, why can’t we just have these kinds of songs?”). Churches are very comfortable places when there is little expected of you.

Our service may change, however the important work of the Gospel must continue throughout our lives. Following God and making disciples is a life-long commitment that should cost us everything – especially costing us the things that *we* want and make us comfortable. The average age of people attending Uniting Churches puts attendees in their mid-60s. We’re looking at congregations that have a history of faithful service and seeing the number who attend dwindle and those that remain cannot afford to maintain their buildings or placement. We need to do something to get us out of this funk… and the reset opportunity staring us right in the face is to disciple young people. “But we already do that.” That’s possible. How’s that going? How are young people included, valued and developed? Do you know all their names and the things they are interested in? “Who will look after me?” That sounds very self-centred. “I’m too old to run a youth group.” Nobody is asking you to, and programmatic entertainment isn’t what discipleship is about.

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We come to church as part of our whole life of witness, because we love and care about the other ahead of ourselves.

When we understand that caring for other people is paramount to Christian community, we will find worshipping together irrespective of our generations a whole lot easier. This will encourage us to work together with God to build his kingdom and to bring more people into a relationship with Jesus. How we engage with young people is at the core of rethinking and resetting the church, and applying the core commitments of the Growing Young program will help every congregation reset and connect intentionally into the mission of God: Mentoring young people and releasing them into leadership will challenge them and strengthen us; Stepping into the shoes of young people and loving them for who they are in the situation they are in, displaying empathy rather than judgment; Prioritising ministry with young people in all areas and at all layers of the church will transform our movement to the glory of God. We face the opportunity for a reset that will allow us to enter into a new age of commitment that will see God’s church flourish with love, grace: a church committed to seeing all people valued, accepted, and encouraged into a lifelong relationship with Jesus Christ. This is the radical reset we need to take part in. Press the button. STE VE (M O LK) M O LKE NTI N

SENIOR FIELD OFFICER (NORTH) FOR PULSE


Virtual Soup Kitchen

A NEW PROJECT COMBINES ZOOM MEETINGS, RECIPES, AND DELIVERY OF SOME KEY INGREDIENTS TO CREATE THE ‘VIRTUAL SOUP+ KITCHEN’. THIS GIVES STUDENTS EVERYTHING THEY NEED FOR SOME CHEAP, HEALTHY MEALS, AND PROVIDES A SENSE OF COMMUNITY DURING A TIME WHEN MOST ARE EXPERIENCING ISOLATION.

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ev. Dr Amelia Koh Butler is the Uniting Church Chaplain at Western Sydney University’s Parramatta City campus. On her blog, she explains the rationale behind the project.

“What I am trying to do is teach students how to survive on basic staples made interesting and palatable with some tiny luxuries—and keeping the costs to a bare minimum,” she writes. “This is a passing on of knowledge from my two grandmothers who were children in the Depression— one in Australia and the other in Malaysia and China. They passed their knowledge on.”

slightly fewer people, but was during holidays, while bandwidth at some of the student residences was problematic. The first step in the project was delivering ingredients to students who needed them.

WE NEED TO SHIFT FROM THE SCRAMBLING AROUND WORSHIP TO FOCUS ON SOME KEY NEEDS IN OUR SOCIETY

“Once upon a time, I was a her that the student supporting myself church has in a foreign country and a missional struggling to survive. I was opportunity studying in France where food during the time “We started by delivering 150 is important but also pretty of COVID-19. care packs. Each had the expensive. I am trying to help basic dry ingredients for six people see they really can “The Uniting dishes that served two people Church needs make nutritious meals for $2 in each, i.e. 1800 meals,” Rev. to use this as to $3 and enjoy them.” Dr Koh Butler said. a Missional “My best advice to you is REV. DR AMELIA KOH (PICTURED) SAYS THAT opportunity to “We also provided a few THE EXPERIENCE HAS TAUGHT HER THAT THE to learn five to six basic CHURCH HAS A MISSIONAL OPPORTUNITY connect with fresh veggies for the first recipes that can be modified people in our according to what ingredients two weeks.” society who are hungering you can get hold of. A few While it is more difficult for physical and spiritual and spices can make things more to get feedback with much relational connection,” she enjoyable and make you feel less face-to-face interaction, said. as if you are still exploring Rev. Dr Koh Butler said adventures.” “We need to shift from the that the initial response has scrambling around worship been positive, with “Good At the time of writing, to focus on some key needs feedback through the internal the online ‘Cooking with in our society. People university messaging and a Chaplain’ class has taken welcome us building Western Sydney University’s place twice, with Rev. Dr community at the moment.” Facebook sites.” Koh Butler sharing her knowledge with students via Zoom meetings.

JO NATHAN FOYE “There were way more hits on my blog—so people are using For more information, visit Rev. Dr Amelia Koh the recipes we think,” she said.

Slightly more than 40 people attended the first night’s event Rev. Dr Koh Butler said that online. The next week had the experience has taught

Butler’s blog: Hyphenated Faith tinyurl.com/kochskitchen

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M A K I N G M O N E Y M AT T E R

From my youth

you have taught me

U

nation, we got through them. Not without However, in the early days of the crisis, ntil this year, the Global Financial hurt and suffering along the way, and not as I contemplated possible worst case Crisis in 2008-09 was the calamitous always quickly, but as the Psalm said, the event that I thought would prove to be the scenarios, several passages in the pattern is not just calamity and that’s Psalms spoke directly to my heart and worst moment that I’d see in my career it, but calamity followed by revival. While into the situation we’re dealing with. in financial markets. However, as the coronavirus started to spread in Australia, Among them, these verses from Psalm 71 the passage is ultimately and primarily a prophecy of the Passion and Resurrection were galvanising for me: gathering pace in late February, I realised of Christ, it speaks to our life experience that we were facing not only a huge “O God, from my youth you have taught as well. health crisis, but also an economic and me, and I still proclaim your wondrous investment market downturn that would My sense that God would revive us again deeds. So even to old age and grey hairs, most likely be worse than the GFC. grew as I watched the Australian and O God do not forsake me, until I proclaim State Government responses to the your might to another generation, your In economic terms, that’s definitely the public health threat. While I personally power to all those to come. case, with unemployment already up believe we should have closed our sharply to levels not seen in decades, “You who have made me see many borders earlier and taken advantage of many businesses closed and incomethe fact that we’re an island to head off producing activities across the arts, sport troubles and calamities, will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you the virus, I agree with the overall view and churches all disappearing practically will bring me up again.” (Ps 71:17-18, 20) of most people that the response has overnight. The best comparison is the been effective. I’ve been pleased with Great Depression of the 1930’s, a repeat As I reflected on that passage, I realised the swift implementation of government of which was threatened in the GFC, but that God was telling me to step back programs to cushion the economic was headed off by a strong government from the current situation and remember impact (imperfect though they are) and and Reserve Bank policy what He’s been teaching me all my life. I measures taken by the Reserve Bank to action. This time learned economics during the severe assist financial market stability. around, although the ‘stagflation’ of the 1970’s, which GOD WAS Reserve Bank has saw soaring inflation and interest However, I’ve also been encouraged by TELLING ME cut rates and the rates at the same time as double the response I’ve seen across the Synod TO STEP BACK Government has digit unemployment. We used from congregations and Presbyteries. A N D R E M E M B E R introduced several to talk in terms of the ‘misery’ The creativity of ministry activities, the W H AT HE’ S B EEN commendable index, which combined the two commitment to supporting one another TEACHING ME income support economic scourges and which and serving in our communities and the packages, the ALL MY LIFE seemed to defy all policy attempts overall degree of working together as a economic hit couldn’t to improve them both. united Uniting Church has been really be averted because pleasing. And the sense that we ought I first entered the workforce during it was part of the public not waste this crisis, but use it to learn the recession that brought down the health management response to the and grow, emerging with new ways of Fraser Government in 1983 and created coronavirus pandemic. living out the gospel and worshipping God, enormous uncertainty for many of my has been at times exhilarating to watch. In financial market terms, the GFC fellow graduates as well as for many of comparison is valid in relation to the my parents’ generation as manufacturing This is quite possibly why God has extent to which the share market fell in began to ‘hollow out’. allowed this to happen. In which case, value. From its peak in late February to another verse that I read will hopefully I left the public service to work in the the trough in early March, the Australian prove to be prophetic for us as well: private sector not long before the 1987 benchmark index, the ASX200, fell by stock market crash, which kicked off the 37%. That’s not far short of the 41% fall “You (God) brought us into the net; you process that eventually resulted in Paul from May 2008 to March 2009, but note laid a crushing burden on our backs; Keating’s ‘recession we had to have’, at the time difference. 37% in a couple of you let men ride over our heads; we the time the worst downturn since the weeks compared with 41% over almost a went through fire and through water; yet year! The speed of this decline was brutal 1930’s. you have brought us out to a place of for investors. It’s a calamitous time, in so abundance.” (Ps 66:11-12) I have managed fixed income portfolios many ways. worth many billions of dollars through As a Church and as a nation, we are not the credit market meltdown that followed I don’t mind saying that, as it unfolded, I out of the COVID19 woods yet. However, the ‘tech wreck’ of 2000 and the terror was highly anxious. I was anxious for our my prayer and the focus of the energies attacks of September 2001. And I was nation and the world as a whole; I was of all of us at UFS, is that we may be still managing fixed income portfolios anxious about personal matters; and I brought through this crisis to a place of during what I thought was my once in a was anxious about the outlook for the true and lasting spiritual abundance. lifetime economic disaster, the GFC. financial health of the Uniting Church WAR R E N B I R D and how I might lead Uniting Financial What I observed as I recalled these EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR | UNITING FINANCIAL SERVICES Services in our role within the Church. episodes is that, both personally and as a

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COVID-19

HUB

INFORMATION FOR PRESBYTERIES AND CONGREGATIONS

The Covid 19 Synod Hub on the Synod website contains all the latest advice and guidance as Government restrictions ease. Bookmark the site and refer to it often for the latest information. Also included on the hub are ministry resources and a full list of the Uniting Churches that are live-streaming their services. For more information visit

tinyurl.com/ucacovid19info

APPLY NOW

FOR THE SECOND SEMESTER! United Theological College has a number of introductory subjects on offer in second semester across four different discipline areas: THL106/THL409 INTRODUCTION TO NEW TESTAMENT STUDIES THL113/THL461 BEING THE CHURCH THL120/THL491 PRACTICAL THEOLOGY THL132/THL419 THE EUROPEAN REFORMATIONS These subjects can be taken as part of a Bachelor of Theology, Graduate Certificate or Graduate Diploma of Theological Studies with Charles Sturt University or for your general interest only.

Be part of a multicultural student cohort with people from all walks of life

CONTACT US SO WE CAN HELP YOU ON YOUR PATH TO THEOLOGICAL STUDY

02 8838 8900

studenta@nswact.uca.org.au

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D I G I TA L M I N IST RY

HOW TO BE AN

INVITATIONA CHURCH IN THE WAKE OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, HOW CAN WE MAKE OUR CHURCHES PLACES THAT ACTIVELY INVITE AND WELCOME OTHERS? REV. DR ROB MCFARLANE WRITES ABOUT HOW REDISCOVERING THE NOTION OF BEING AN INVITATIONAL CHURCH COULD HELP WITH ONLINE MINISTRY.

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s far back as 1988 with books like Roy Oswald & Speed Leas “The Inviting Church”, the idea of being an “invitational church” has become fundamental.

It is a response to how most people describe their churches as “welcoming” or “friendly”. Both “welcoming” and “friendly” are passive; we sit and wait for people to show up so that we can welcome them. That is part of the old idea of an “attractional church”. In contrast, Churches that grow are ones where members actively invite others to attend and join. This is a good habit and culture to grow now and in the future. Google “invitational church” to find an abundance of resources. I said in my last email that people are telling me that it is much easier to invite people to online worship as the barrier is much lower than to face-to-face, both for the invited and the inviter. The invited doesn’t have to go into a strange building full of strangers. The inviter is simply asking someone to a remote, non-threatening experience, so can feel more confident. Further, at this time of physical distancing, people are crying out for connection: this is an opportunity! All of this doesn’t just apply to online worship. If your congregation is operating mostly through distributing printed material or emails, then ask others, such as family, friends or neighbours, if they would like to receive these as well.

PRACTICAL TIPS TO TO BE INVITATIONAL:

1 DESIGN A FLYER

Congregations can design a simple invitational flyer for members to either print and drop in neighbours’ letter boxes or email to friends and family. Be prepared to give printed copies to members who don’t have computers, so that they can distribute them to their neighbours.

2 EMAIL AN INVITE

Consider emailing all the groups who used to meet in your facilities and invite them to your online worship or to receive your regular emails. In this way, you are not only continuing your relationship with them but you are also deepening it as well.

3 NEIGHBOURHOOD GROUPS

Search Facebook for local neighbourhood groups. Most neighbourhoods have them, set up by individual locals. You can respectfully invite people to your online worship, or send you prayer requests, or ask for your regular emails, or even a phone call if you have the people to do that.

4 TURN VIRTUAL INTO FACE TO FACE

Many congregations are finding a large increase in attendance at their online worship compared to their usual face-to-face. Make sure that you invite these people to participate in something more, to begin to turn a contact into a connection. That may be a small Zoom group or to receive regular emails. You may also invite them to continue to share in your online worship if you stream your physically gathered worship post-COVID-19. As we approach the lifting of restrictions on gathering, invite your online congregation to future face-to-face gatherings.

5 PREPARE

Talk about becoming an invitational church now, so that when you do resume gathering face-to-face, you have helped your congregation transform during this time to become one where members invite others.

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AL AT THIS TIME OF PHYSICAL DISTANCING PEOPLE ARE CRYING OUT FOR CONNECTION: THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY! MORE PRACTICAL TIPS

The Presbytery of Port Phillip East (in Melbourne) is doing amazing work, supporting their congregations. What I love about this page is that it begins with the most basic things that we can do at this time, then builds step-by-step to more complex online ministry. There are links to many practical resources. A final thought. There is a saying, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” That’s relevant for us now. As I’ve said before, do what you can and celebrate it. Don’t feel that, because you can’t deliver the grand things that you see others do, that what you are doing is insignificant. What people crave most at this time is connection. Has your church become an invitational community? Do you have any tips for what worked (before or after COVID-19)? Let us know online at tinyurl.com/invitationalchurch

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B E L I E F M AT T E RS

Turning>< Inward “ALL OF HUMANITY’S PROBLEMS STEM FROM OUR INABILITY TO SIT QUIETLY IN A ROOM ALONE.”(BLAISE PASCALL) ‘Stay home’ is the message we get with increasing urgency. A message that is echoed and reiterated by politicians and doctors alike. ‘Stay home; just stay home. ’Staying home is one way of avoiding the crisis. And it seems as if a good proportion of society finds that quite difficult. Perhaps the reason behind this is to avoid the deeper crisis: not the crisis of staying home, but the crisis of turning inward. In a world where we have had to cease travelling, where our longest journey might be to the local shops, it is worth remembering the advice from Dag Hammarskjöld: The longest journey is the journey inward. Turning inward is not fleeing into an imaginary world; it is exactly the opposite. It is the long, arduous journey of facing reality; the reality of my world, the reality of our world; seen from inside out. One of the first things we seem to struggle with, in staying home, is boredom. You can read the newspapers and read online blogs and that seems to be the great challenge that parents face: how to avoid their children from becoming bored.

these initiatives may indeed be of great help to many people. But the deeper question is: Do we do that to create community or is to avoid turning inward? An important question we hear raised both in society, by journalists and commentators, but also in the church, is the question of how this Corona crisis will change the world in which we live. The black plague towards the end of the Middle Ages killed between 50 million and 200 million people in Eurasia. The estimate is that in some countries up to sixty percent of the population perished. It is said that it fundamentally restructured and changed society.

CONFRONTING US WITH OURSELVES

THE FEAR OF TURNING INWARD

The economic aftermath of the corona crisis will reverberate through our world for years to come. What the spiritual aftermath will be, is still anyone’s guess. It might confront us with our preoccupation with things, with prosperity or it might even reveal to us what a fantasy world we’ve been living in. But whether it will confront us with ourselves, is the real question. Not only as individuals but also as a society and a church.

On another level boredom is the sign of having taken the first step of turning inward. One of the interesting things that happen if you allow children to become bored, is you give them the opportunity to play, to discover, to be inventive, to dream. Keeping them occupied, busy all the time, is robbing them of the first step of turning inward, namely - to become bored.

The journey inwards is not a flight into faith; an escape into a world of inner peace or spirituality. The journey inward is the long journey of seeing the plight of the world reflected in the mirror of my soul. And it is in seeing the plight and the pain of the world as it is, as it really is, that we see the pathos of God, where it is really shown: on an isolated hill in the grief of a small group gathering around a dying man on a cross.

On one level boredom is already the symptom of a society unable to turn inward. And I often wonder if the fear of parents of their children’s boredom is not perhaps a reflection of their own fears. The fear of turning inward.

What is interesting that is we see exactly the same tendency in the church and among believers: the obsession with busyness and the reluctance to turn inward. One of the things that has suddenly proliferated in the church, is a whole raft of online meetings, of online aids, of new ways of being church, of new ways of connecting with people. Many of

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Then it becomes clear what the real purpose of turning inwards is, not to selfisolate from the pain of the world, but to reach out with compassion, by whichever means, to those who desperately need our care.

Etty Hillesum was a compatriot and contemporary of Anne Frank, a Dutch Jew who lived in Amsterdam and died in Auschwitz in 1943 at the age of 29. Most of her diary notes and letters were written from Westerbork, a detention and transit camp, from where mainly Jews were sent to the extermination camps in Poland. There are two things that make Etty Hillesum’s writings remarkable. First, her passion for and her ability to turn inward and self-scrutinize and second, the compassion for others that this created.

THE INTERRUPTION OF WONDER AND GRATEFULNESS

The translated title of one of her books is “An interrupted life”. The ‘interruption’ doesn’t refer so much to the fact that her life was cut short at age 29, but it refers to those moments of quietness that interrupted her day. The interruption of wonder, of gratefulness, of care in a world gone mad. It was in the crucible of the camp, in the isolation that she also saw the opportunity that life offered of seeing herself. “Each of us must turn inward and destroy in himself all that he thinks he ought to destroy in others…I no longer believe that we can change anything in the world until we first change ourselves. And that seems to me the only lesson to be learned.” The last postcard she sent was to a friend in Amsterdam, a postcard that she wrote hurriedly in the train and threw out of the window as they were leaving Amsterdam for Auschwitz. It reads like this: Christine, Opening the Bible at random I find this: ‘The Lord is my high tower’. I am sitting on my rucksack in the middle of a full freight car. Father, Mother and Mischa [Etty’s brother] are a few cars away. In the end, the departure came without warning. On sudden special orders from The Hague. We left the camp singing… THIS RE FLECTION WAS PRE PARE D BY REV DR OCKE RT MEYE R LECTU R ER IN PR E ACHING, WORSHIP AND THEOLOGY AT U NITED THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE


THE JOURNEY INWARD IS THE LONG JOURNEY OF SEEING THE PLIGHT OF THE WORLD REFLECTED IN THE MIRROR OF MY SOUL

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Scholarships from UME allow students to learn and grow in mission and discipleship by providing financial support

Could you be eligible for a Scholarship? Speak with a UTC student support staff member today! (02) 8838 8900

9 Uniting Church Members 9 Ministers 9 Candidates 9 Deacons 9 Lay Education students 9 Overseas students 9 Postgraduate students 9 UTC students

umeinfo@nswact.uca.org.au

ume.nswact.uca.org.au 40 26insights insights


L E CT I O N A RY R E F L E CT I O NS

JUNE

Modelling ourselves JUNE 7

MT 28:16-20

Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday is a celebration of who God is for us: Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The concept of the Trinity evokes the theme of community and relationships. It acts as a model for human relationships as a part of God’s reconciling mission in our world. One God, yet a community of persons, the Trinity expresses the notion that the highest form of existence is communal. God is communal, therefore, we should find the true meaning of being as a person in fellowship with other people. Because of this, the church community should reflect God far better than a lone person, no matter how gifted that person may happen to be. By insisting on being individuals over being community, we limit and diminish ourselves. Growth in faith really only takes place when we give to others and receive from others; when we know we need them and they need us. What kind of wonderful creatures might we become if, in the fellowship of the church, we begin to model ourselves not on individualism but on God’s community, as symbolised by the Trinity?

JUNE 14

MT 9:35-10:8, (9-23)

Pent 2

Jesus has just described himself as ‘Lord of the harvest’. He then summons his disciples, and prepares to send them out on mission, as the labourers to help with the harvest. But who are they called to serve? Matthew has a stern prohibition at the beginning of the disciples’ mission. How are we to understand it?

on God's community

The context strongly suggests that only Israel is envisaged as the mission field, because Israel was the people for whom the Messiah of the Jewish Scriptures had been promised. In this Gospel, Jesus, the shepherd, is sent to turn the ‘lost sheep’ of Israel from following unrighteous and lawless leaders who will lead them astray. These are challenging words for us as gentile Christians, as Matthew’s Jesus here envisages an exclusively Jewish mission field. But then we find in chapter 25:3142 that just and righteous Gentiles are also welcome in the kingdom, through acts of kindness and justice. May be this is a timely reminder that there is more than one pathway to God, and Christians cannot claim they have exclusive rights to this road.

JUNE 21

MT 10:24-39

Pent 3

Being a disciple in Matthew is definitely a difficult and costly experience. Like Jesus, they can expect to be rejected and badly treated, even killed, for following his way. The picture painted here of the sufferings of the disciples reflects the events of Jesus’ arrest and trial later in the Gospel. Though the body can be killed, Jesus points out, the soul cannot, and like Jesus, if they persist in adhering to their faith their reward will be resurrection to the kingdom of God. What are we to make of this, in our relatively comfortable Western churches? Do we trust God enough to risk stepping out in faith, knowing that failure, people rejecting and even scorning us may be the result? Do we have enough faith in God and God’s

care for our lives and souls to trust that as we are worth more than sparrows and are beloved by God, God will guide us?

We are challenged here to spread the kingdom of God and the teachings of Jesus, to work for the justice, righteous and equity that characterises the kingdom of heaven and to not fear the consequences of faithfully carrying this out. Today, more than ever, proclaiming the gospel is an imperative, not an optional extra.

JUNE 22

JOHN 17:20-26

UCA Anniversary

It is the evening of his betrayal, Jesus is praying. Tomorrow, the mob will scream for his blood...Pilate will wash his hands...and let the soldiers do the dirty work. All this is before Him, as he sits at the table with his friends. His prayer - in the face of death - is not for himself, as mine would be, and, I suspect, yours might be too. He prays for these friends he is soon to leave behind: That prayer of Jesus caught a lot of attention last century –it was central to the Ecumenical Movement that encouraged Christians to reach out to each other across their denominational brand-names to build bridges of fellowship in worship, witness and service together. And forty three years ago, what had been the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches committed themselves to each other in a new body. From that prayer of Jesus, they drew their inspiration to become the Uniting Church in Australia, a union that was committed to Christian values

and principles, social justice, a flourishing environment and concern for the welfare of all persons. We celebrate our church, remembering that it is by God's grace that we are the Church in this time and this place.

JUNE 28

MT 10:40-42

It is clear in this chapter that Matthew sees his community as a church that is "sent", a church that goes out into the wider community to proclaim the good news. Through programs like Mission Shaped Ministry with its growing Fresh Expressions of church, we are beginning to understand that mission is not just a program offered by the church (though these are important); rather it is the defining reason for what actually makes us the church. What it means to be sent for your congregation? While we are not all sent to be wandering missionaries in the way Matthew describes, that doesn't mean we should placidly sit and wait in our churches for people to come through our doors. Jesus later commands that all who are baptised are sent into the world, both to tell and embody the good news of Jesus through their words and deeds. Instead of expecting people to come on through our church doors, what would happen if we took seriously our calling to take the gospel to them? What would it look like if we truly believed that we are the face of Christ to every person we encounter in our neighbourhoods? What would be the result if we saw every encounter as an opportunity to embody the command to love our neighbour? REV. E LIZ ABETH R AINE

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L E CT I O N A RY R E F L E CT I O NS

J U LY

Sowing the Seeds

Jesus challenges us to look after the poor and disadvantaged of our communities. Who are the “weeds” of our local communities and how might we help them?

JULY 26

MATTHEW 13:31-33, 44-52

JULY 5

MATTHEW 11: 16-19, 25 – 30

Pent 5

Amid hostility and resistance, Jesus can still find time to praise God. Yet the prayer of Jesus can sound somewhat strange to our ears. It is an odd notion to thank God for hiding the truth from the wise and intelligent. But Jesus is making the point that it is the humble, the childlike and the lowly who are the most receptive to the message of God. The wise and intelligent can be deceived by their faith in their own cleverness. Jesus invites all those who can see beyond his appearance to his real nature to enter into a relationship with him. We are reminded here that appearances can be deceptive. John was seen as too holy, and Jesus as not holy enough. How often do we fall into the trap of judging others by appearances? Is there a challenge here to the church in how we live out God’s call?

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JULY 12

MATTHEW 13:1-9, 18-23

JULY 19

MATTHEW 13:24-30, 36-43

Here we find Jesus telling Most of us love the look of yet another agrarian parable, a well-cared for garden. But this time about seeds and such gardens are a lot of hard soil types. Despite the work and must be tended unsuccessful sowings noted regularly. Despite this care, in the story, Jesus still paints gardeners find themselves a picture of astonishing waging a constant battle success for the crop in good against a common enemy soil. The harvest is so of cultivated plants – the abundant it is weed. The parable we described as a read today tells us hundredfold, that this battle with and sixty weeds is not new. fold and Since humankind THE WISE AND thirty began cultivating INTELLIGENT CAN fold – an land, weeds BE DECEIVED amazing have been a BY THEIR FAITH crop constant enemy. IN THEIR OWN by any If we imagine CLEVERNESS standard. our society as a The sowing garden, who are the of the seeds, weeds in it? And how representing the are we meant to respond words of Jesus and the to them? _Perhaps we need kingdom of heaven, result in reminding that weeds grow both complete failures and profusely in gardens that are spectacular success. But unloved or uncared for. the point is that the sower accepts the risk of failure and In our society today, where is prepared to try growing the many are increasingly seeds on different soils in alienated, oppressed or order to produce a good crop. unloved, is it any wonder that the garden of our Consider whether we as community has many who the church are prepared to see themselves - wrongly - as risk failure in the same way. useless weeds? Have we become too ‘safe’ in what we are prepared to do to spread the gospel?

Matthew’s Jesus has a number of sayings and parables about the nature and progress of the kingdom of God, which is described as beginning small and subsequently developing into something very large. It is also seen as immensely valuable, something worth giving up everything for, something worth proclaiming from the rooftops. The imminent arrival of this kingdom is “good news” and it cannot be hidden. Of all the gospels, Matthew is the one that focuses most on the importance of good deeds and just living to be considered as among the inheritors of the kingdom. The righteous or just (the Greek word can be translated as either word), have clearly defined ethical behaviour laid out for them to follow. More is required of them than mere faith in Jesus: they are exhorted to ‘show their good works’ (5:16) and to do the will of the Father (7:21-23). Has the church forgotten the joy of growing the kingdom of God? Of showing our light and ‘good works’ and offering a safe, communal and shady tree for people to gather? We need to recast this vision of God’s kingdom along with its joy, wonder and commitment to growing it in our communities. REV. E LIZ ABETH R AINE


L E C T I O N A RY R E F L E CT I O NS

AUGUST

AUGUST 2 MT 14:13-21

Who are we as the church?

Even when grieving for John the Baptist, Jesus has compassion on the crowds and cures their sick. As evening approaches, the crowds are hungry and Jesus responds by producing much from little, a symbolic reflection of the growth of the kingdom of God. Jesus has given a banquet in the wilderness from very little, and Matthew deliberately contrasts this with Herod’s birthday party earlier in the chapter, where the very few at his banquet had great abundance. Herod’s selfish banquet and Jesus’ joyous feast in the wilderness sit in contrast. Herod’s self-indulgence leads to his murder of God’s prophet. Jesus compassion leads him to satisfy the needs of the sick and hungry crowds. The banquet Jesus holds is a foreshadowing of the heavenly banquet. It is simple and everyone has enough to satisfy them. The two events together demonstrate some fundamental truths found in this gospel. In John and Herod’s case, it is better to risk death and live on in glory than be alive and dead in spirit. Where do we sit today in this story? Are we satisfied with enough or surrounded by excess? Are our churches truly alive in spirit? Or have we been beguiled our own wants?

AUGUST 9 MT 14:22-33

Pent 10

Jesus has gone alone to pray on a mountain, and the disciples are still in the boat on the lake. They are alone and drifting on an increasingly stormy sea during the night.

Early in the morning they see what they think is an apparition walking on the waves towards them. Jesus reassures them it is him and calls Peter to walk across the water to him. Peter becomes afraid and has to be saved from sinking in the water. Jesus chides the disciples for their lack of faith.

This story symbolises the opposition that both Jesus and the disciples will meet. Their progress in preaching the gospel will be impeded by stormy times and resistance. When Jesus leaves the disciples alone to face the growing storm, they are afraid and panic. Their faith wavers and they do not perform well in this dress rehearsal and are in danger of sinking amidst the turmoil. Peter stands as a prototype of all post-Easter Christians. He mixes fear and boldness, faith and doubt, obedience and confusion. He plays out the life of the Christian community in all its facets.

The Gospel story also provides us with a role model of faithful discipleship as the woman was not constrained by social mores and acted in ways that she might once have thought inconceivable. Her behaviour raises interesting questions about how we are called to live out our beliefs, to put into practice our ideals, and to travel in different ways along the path that we are called to follow.

Today there are still voices that press us to toe the line and follow the well-worn conventions of society and tradition. There are voices that invite us to remain comfortable, settled, and unchanging. But the path of discipleship invites us into a risky adventure and beckons us into a new and different way of being.

AUGUST 23 MT 16:13-20

Pent 12

In Matthew’s Gospel, the conversations reported in our reading today symbolises a major turning point in the story. What are the stormy times The question “Who is this we face as a church today? man?” is asked at a number How might we face them of places in the Gospel (8:27, boldly? 11:3). In this section, Jesus himself asks the question AUGUST 16 “Who do people say I am?” The MT 15: (10-20), 21-28 disciples report that there Pent 11 are a number of views. Jesus Every one of us can be caught presses on, querying who in the familiar and well-worn they think he is. Here for the patterns of our lives. We know first time, Jesus’ full identity is what we think about certain issues; we know what we think named by a human character, Peter, who recognises that about certain people. In the Jesus, is in fact, the Christos, familiarity of our lives, we can the Messiah. perhaps breed contempt all too easily. There have been a lot of This Gospel story provides us with an unexpected picture of Jesus, confronting a woman who acts out of character, who transgresses the rules of behaviour for her day, and who provokes Jesus into seeing things differently.

clues as to the answer to this question. Both demons and heavenly voices have suggested Jesus’ identity, as well as the deeds of Jesus themselves. But it is only now that the secret of Jesus’

identity is spoken aloud by the disciples.

The use of the word ‘church’ (Greek ekklesia) is unique to this Gospel. It suggests that Matthew is writing at a time where his Christian community is keen to establish its identity. The question of ‘who am I’ is not just about Jesus, but also about his followers. Who are we as a church? How do we identify our faith journey?

AUGUST 30 MT 16:21-28

Pent 13

From this point on in the story, Jesus turns towards Jerusalem and his destiny. The walk along the road to his persecution and crucifixion has begun. Jesus now reveals to his disciples the fate which awaits him, including the necessity of dying on the cross. Despite the protests from Peter, Jesus calls his disciples to take up their cross, and follow him along the path of martyrdom to ultimate glory, asking the question: What will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Surely this is calling us to a sacrificial way of being, where we go beyond ourselves and our own needs and comforts. Surely this is saying to us that we are called to die to self and be raised again in generous lives that are lived for the love of the neighbour. Jesus calls us to actually live our lives in line with our beliefs, to let our ‘works’ be seen as a light on a hill would be seen. The path we walk as followers of the risen One requires we that we embody in all ways what we proclaim. REV. E LIZ ABETH R AINE

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NEWS FROM UNITING CHURCH A D U LT F E L L O W S H I P ( U C A F )

Saltbush –U niting the Scattered Community seeks

to encourage and connect smaller, Uniting Christian communities, irrespective of size or location and to affirm the place and capacity of smaller Christian communities both to gather and be in mission.

facebook.com/Saltbushcommunity saltbushcommunity.uca.org.au

Fellowship news

We are certainly living in unexpected times. Our Churches remain closed and many are exploring new ways of conducting our worship services and meetings. We are learning what is important and what is not. Communication is so important and although visiting has been curtailed, phones are busy. Through Zoom, we have had some people able to join us for our special service on Sundays for the first time in a long while. GATHERINGS CANCELLED

With the COVID-19 lockdown, all Rallies and Gatherings planned for Macquarie Darling, Canberra Region, Mid North Coast (North) and Illawarra Presbyteries were all cancelled. It is always hard as much preparation and planning takes place prior. The National Celebration in Adelaide was cancelled, as was the Moderators Retired Ministry Persons Luncheon in Turramurra. Appreciation Certificates are still available to congregation members who have been active and involved and have not yet received one. Recently five were presented in Moree including to an over 100-yearold. Please contact Laraine Jones. NATIONAL PROJECT PUTS PACIFIC WOMEN THROUGH THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE

The National Project ‘Women in Ministry in the Pacific’ has seen three of the Scholars graduate from their Master of Theology (MTh) degrees. Colleen was top of her class in Rarongo PNG and has been posted to a Congregation, Kerron also graduated from Raronga and is now supporting a Bishop to establish a Bible college. Pastor Leinamau completed her MTh in Fiji and will take a break before starting a PhD in July. We are grateful to the many Fellowships and Congregations who have supported this project which is ongoing. Uniting World continues to inform on how the money is used.

NEWS FROM FELLOWSHIPS AND CONGREGATIONS

• East Maitland has been providing 50 to 60 meals each month for Carries Place, a local Women’s Refuge.

• Quakers Hill sent a team to the Philippines in January to continue supportive connections in Manilla with a Medical Mission and Concert. They have also run a Toy Library in Quakers Hill. • At Westmead- Paramatta Mission, Congregations are trying new ideas in Hospitality. Donations of food, rugs, quilts for Welfare Projects – Meals PlusThelma Brown Cottage-Hope Hostel -Housing for Single women and Headspace. • The Stamp Committee continues to need your support. Last figures available for 2020 were $12,576 (February) Please continue to collect your stamps. • Limited numbers of the Cookbook “Bring a Plateâ€? are still available for sale $10 and postage.

If you would like to share your fellowship news or have any questions, please contact: Judy Hicks on judyh_rnh@hotmail.com

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CU LT U R E WATCH

The desire to

praise God

REVIEWS: BUILDING ST PAUL’S BY JAMES CAMPBELL AND MICHELANGELO, GOD’S ARCHITECT BY WILLIAM WALLACE

S

t Peter’s and St Paul’s are two of the world’s best-known churches, symbols, respectively, of Catholicism and Anglicanism. The books Michelangelo, God’s Architect and Building St Paul’s cover the geniuses behind them, Michelangelo and Christopher Wren, and the monumental processes of their construction, where, as historian James Campbell says, the grand business of art joined the practical considerations of manipulating huge quantities of mundane materials such as stone and wood.

and, as with St Peter’s, major changes would be made along the way. It was normal, says William Wallace, for designs of churches to change during construction with the whims of fashion (and church) and engineering problems. Unlike at St Peter’s, Wren was in charge almost the whole time, something rare, says Campbell, for such a big and longwinded job.

Michelangelo’s lot and his spiritual yearnings. As with St Paul’s, the dome was Michelangelo’s greatest challenge. In both buildings, piers supporting the domes were inadequate and began to shift already during the years of construction. (London’s notoriously dodgy soil didn’t help with St Paul’s.) In St Peter’s, Michelangelo reinforced and rebuilt the supports, allowing the vast, crowning structure (which includes some of Michelangelo’s architectural innovations, such as paired pillars). Wren had to be more engineeringly creative, in order to lighten the load, managing a dome that gives the impression of greater solidity when the outer dome is a simple wooden structure.

THE INTERNAL SPACES ARE CELEBRATIONS OF HARMONY AND MAGNIFICENCE IRRESISTIBLY DRAWING THE EYES HEAVENWARD

Campbell’s is a small book but is packed with details of demolition, stone masonry, paper making, scaffolding, cranes, drawing, city politics and the difficult issue of raising funds, and historians such as Campbell are helped by the unusual proliferation of still-existing documentation for the cathedral’s rebuilding. Wren was a polymath – not only an architect, but also an astronomer and mathematician, with an astonishing range of innovations in the fields of medicine, geometry, printing and music to his name. He designed what was to be the dome of the old cathedral, but the Great Fire intervened, and despite the devastation and loss of life, this was something of an architectural blessing, as the old St Paul’s was a hotchpotch of Classical tacked onto Gothic added to Romanesque. Wren actually drew up plans for the rebuilding of the whole city, but was in the end restricted to St Paul’s, a big enough job, one would think. As with St Peter’s in Rome, there were a number of earlier, competing designs,

Michelangelo didn’t have the luxury of Wren’s clean slate. Wallace’s book focuses on the later stages of St Peter’s construction, when Michelangelo took over – in his eighties, mind you – and boldly modified the frankly ponderous models of his predecessor. It is a myth, Wallace writes, that Michelangelo’s best work was done in his youth – David, the Sistine Chapel ceiling. The reworking of previous architect’s designs and the design of the dome were Michelangelo’s greatest masterpiece and greatest responsibility. Then again, Wallace says that in his old age Michelangelo was frustrated at sculptural failures and commissions from popes – frescoes, urban planning projects – that distracted from the massive St Peter’s undertaking, as well as, more personally, the impediments of an ageing body, the loss of old friends and the prevention of an easy retirement in his hometown of Florence. Wallace is empathetic and understanding of

Both historians emphasise the continuities of building practices – and problems – with today. Architects then, as today, had to wrestle with complex engineering, sourcing materials, scheduling, management of large teams and budgets and finding solutions on the run. But when we look at the technology available 400 and 500 years ago, the achievements of Wren and Michelangelo, and their underlings, can only seem more astonishing, testaments to the desire to praise God. Indeed, in both, the internal spaces are celebrations of harmony and magnificence, irresistibly drawing the eyes heavenward. But whether God would’ve approved of the expense of such astonishing creations is another matter entirely. NICK MATTISKE BLOGS ON BOOKS COBURGREVIEWOFBOOKS. WORDPRESS.COM

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E N T E RTA I N M E

AN ALGORITHM WHOSE BEHAVIOUR CAN BE COMPLETELY PREDICTED FROM THE INPUT. Rehoboam in the Bible was the son of the wise king Solomon and grandson of David. Rehoboam was unfit for the task of ruling and his harsh treatment of the northern tribes of Israel led to them rebelling. Soon Solomon’s son was left with the Kingdom of Judah, which was much smaller than the United Monarchy of Israel he had inherited.

Predictive technology or as tech giants like to call it “algorithmic determinism” runs our online lives every day whether we like it or not. Data is collected on our choices every day, from suggestions of what article to read, to what we should buy online. So what if this data was used to make even bigger decisions for us?

What this means for the computer in Westworld with Rehoboam’s name remains to be seen.

W

estworld has been working through the futuristic implications of this idea throughout its' three seasons.

Initially, seasons one and two were set in an ‘adult theme park’ where people’s basest desires were indulged in a series of historically-created worlds populated by robot hosts. The big reveals for its first two seasons were that the company that created the park was collecting data on the human visitors in the park to use in some sinister way. Season three has taken a dramatic turn and assisted the robot hosts to escape to what they believed to be freedom in the real world. While the hosts at Westworld were stuck in their endless loops, they find humanity is not that much different.

THE NETFLIX EFFECT

In season three, a global company called Incite uses an orbital supercomputer called Rehoboam developed by Engerraund Serac (Vincent Cassel) and his brother, to chart the path of the world. Serac and his brother believe they can change the course of civilisation through algorithms to determine humanity’s path. What he discovers is that the ‘divergences’ in the system are unpredictable and therefore dangerous.

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BIG DATA

Westworld asks: What if computing catches up to the point where “tracking” switches to “determining?”

T RE AT I N G OTHERS WITH LOVE AND EM PAT H Y I S W H AT M A K E S US MORE LIKE HIM

“One of the things that is happening is ‘the Netflix effect’ that decides what you should watch next based on your choices, by some algorithm in the sky,” explained creator Jonathan Nolan at Comic Con San Deigo in 2019. Taking historical data and breaking it down to infer choices based on behaviour is used via artificial intelligence and powers Google, Facebook and every streaming service.

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It takes escaped host Delores (Evan Rachel Wood) to reveal Rehoboam’s plan to enslave humanity with its predictive algorithms.

While the robotic host technology in Westworld’s first two seasons seemed impossibly complex and futuristic, a super computer that runs the world somehow seems a little more disturbingly plausible.

INTELLIGENCE AND TRUTH

Despite all this, as Thandie Newton explains of her character Maeve in Westworld: “Power in Westworld is about intelligence and the truth. It’s the principle that Maeve is fighting for, the principle that we cannot harm innocent beings.” God requires that we treat others with love and empathy and this is what makes us more like Him and less like the base humans we could be. This is free will, not determinism. We have a Saviour that has borne all the ills of humanity on a cross and given us a choice. We can turn off our devices and cease being slaves to algorithms that tell us what to do. We don’t need a super computer to tell us that. Seasons one, two and three of Westworld are available on Foxtel and digital platforms. ADRIAN DRAYTON

This is an edited excerpt of a longer article available at insights.uca.org.au/determinisim-vs-free-will-in-westworld


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