SouthernCross THE NEWS MAGAZINE FOR SYDNEY ANGLICANS
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HOW A DOCTOR WANTS US TO PRAY AS RESTRICTIONS EASE
Churches to reopen, with care • Remembering Ravi Freedom of religion: a human right? • Pastor care
Moore Moore College College equips equips men men and and women women to to present present a a sure sure and and certain certain hope hope to to a a world world in in need need Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20 Matthew 28:19-20
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Safety first as restrictions on church gatherings eased
Archbishop Glenn Davies (above) has welcomed the lifting of numbers allowed for church gatherings, weddings and funerals, saying a return to public worship will bring relief, joy and comfort to many people. Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Health Minister Brad Hazzard have announced that, from June 1 up to 20 people can attend weddings, 50 can be at funerals and 50 at places of worship, as long as congregations adhere to the 4-square-metre social distancing rule. “We know how important these services are to individuals and families but as we ease restrictions further, we must remember to keep one another safe,” Ms Berejiklian said. The health minister unveiled a checklist to help places of worship create a tailored COVID-19 safety plan to ensure they can keep participants as safe as possible. The announcement follows consultations with Archbishop Davies and other church leaders. “I recognise the challenges that the Government faces in loosening restrictions while maintaining a COVIDSafe environment,” Dr Davies said. “This has been a delicate balancing act and I appreciate the level of consultation and the careful, yet flexible, approach of Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Health
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Minister Brad Hazzard and health officials. “Our first concern is public safety and, where risk cannot be minimised, then some churches will not be able to reopen their buildings. But I was able to assure the Premier that Anglican churches are well prepared to return to normal services, within the limits of the 50-person maximum, appropriately distanced. “Hand sanitisers will be available at each entrance, along with signage indicating that anyone with symptoms such as fever or cough should not attend. Church premises will be thoroughly cleaned between services and designated ushers will record the contact details of each person who attends.” The NSW Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said while people would be familiar with many general measures in the plan, others are more specific to places of worship. “Places of worship will be asked to find alternatives to practices that might spread the virus, like group singing, sharing books and even passing around the collection plate to reduce infection risks,” she said. Said the Archbishop: “We realise that this is not the normality we enjoyed in 2019 as congregational singing will not be possible, the greeting of peace and the distribution of bibles, hymn books and paper service sheets will not resume. However, we are grateful for the relief, joy and comfort that many parishioners will feel in meeting again in public Christian worship. Some congregations, of course, will be too large to return to public worship, but will continue to provide church online until it is safe for the whole congregation to gather as one. “We continue to pray for our Federal and State governments as they navigate the terrain of a Coronavirus world and provide us with wise advice and prudent measures to protect the safety of all.”
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How a doctor wants us to pray as COVID-19 restrictions ease
Be thankful, and be careful: Charlotte Hespe. photo: courtesy Team Philippines medical team
With restrictions easing, and people itching to get back to all the things we’ve been missing, Associate Professor Dr Charlotte Hespe is urging Christians to be very thankful and proceed with caution. A GP specialist with a practice in Glebe, Dr Hespe wears many hats. She is the academic GP at the University of Notre Dame, heading up the department of general practice and primary care research. She sits on the NSW Health clinical council and, since the pandemic, has been GP advisor to the public health unit response team for NSW Health – assisting the state’s Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant in making medical recommendations to the unit in relation to general practice. Make the most of the disruption The pandemic has not only brought stress and fear to our society. Dr Hespe, who attends St Barnabas’, Broadway, observes that the mass disruption to normal life has presented many opportunities to share faith. “I was very struck, particularly when everyone was banished to home, that there was a real lack of meaningfulness of anything,” she says. “It made me extraordinarily thankful that I had faith. I knew a hope, and despite the despair and fear around us at the time I knew my existence was about my relationship with God rather than anything else. It made me more aware that there were SouthernCross
an awful lot of people who didn’t have that, so they were in a far more precarious state. “The virus has given us huge opportunities. Our society is extraordinarily self-satiated – we are very complacent. In Australia, we’re very fortunate that, by and large, most people’s needs are met. There are a large number of socially vulnerable people who that doesn’t apply to, but the majority of people are housed and fed. It’s very easy to ignore God, to ignore spirituality, or instead to turn to self-gods, to idolatry of material possessions, worshipping crystals and the people around us. When disruption occurs, it makes people question what’s going on. Spiritual conversations are very hard to have with people who are complacent.”
Our healthcare workers are weary Many doctors are still exhausted after adjusting to major changes over several months. The introduction of Telehealth has been a good medium, but has also brought disruption and anxiety for Dr Hespe’s colleagues. “They are more emotionally exhausted with their daily schedule than they would normally be,” she says. “A lot of people are not presenting with acute medical issues because they’re scared, so there’s been delayed diagnoses. We fear that we’re missing things unwittingly by using a medium that we are not familiar using and may not be ideal for all scenarios. A lot of patients are choosing to have phone appointments, which is not as good as video, which is not as good as face-to-face. It’s a great medium to do what we have to do in the current time of COVID, but we fear missing things to the detriment of the patient.” Dr Hespe asks that we would keep health professionals in our prayers. “Pray that people will restore their emotional banks – that they can go home and feel safe,” she says. “We don’t have the same fear we had before, that everyone was being exposed and taking the virus home with them.
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People were so worried about their family members. “Give thanks that in NSW only 4.7 per cent of COVID infections were health care workers. That is much less than the rest of the world. That’s because we have been careful about being safe. Even though we didn’t have enough personal protective equipment, most of the time [we] were able to do that.”
This is no ordinary appeal for help.
There is much to be thankful for She also praises God for the efforts many churches have made to continue teaching God’s word – something that has made a big difference to her and her family. “It was nice to see that support as a Christian. I was impressed with how my church family organised itself into running church and growth groups and communicating well. “One of my biggest prayers is thankfulness. When we can see how awful it is in the rest of the world, we are extraordinarily lucky. Yes, it has caused anxiety and we’ve had a number of deaths. But I keep thinking how fortunate we are: that we have such a good health care system; that our government has responded well.” As restrictions change, Dr Hespe warns that we must continue being vigilant to prevent a second wave. “The biggest thing is that everyone needs to be mindful,” she says. “The best way to do a good job is to continue to be respectful of social distancing, and hand and face hygiene measures. That is how the virus spreads. Even if there are hidden pockets of infection, we can still remain safe. “For us to continue to be like that we need to continue to test, to pick up new cases immediately, and chase down any potential cases – hence the COVIDSafe app. We can do this with lots of testing, everyone being aware and continuing to not put themselves in situations where the spread will go wild.”
Every day, the COVID-19 health and economic crisis pushes more Sydney families into poverty. “Anglicare has always been about supporting people who fall through the cracks. And there are more of those people at the moment; there are more cracks and there are more people,” says Anglicare’s Bill Farrand. You can help Anglicare reach struggling families with vital food and financial assistance. Together, we can bring hope and light to our city at a time when people need it more than ever.
Please support Anglicare’s Winter Appeal at Anglicare.org.au or 13 26 22 SouthernCross
Kirribilli support goes the distance It’s nothing new for Church by the Bridge in Kirribilli to provide meals for those who need them. But the needs of people during COVID-19 have been so urgent that the church has had inquiries from interstate. Parish intern Naomi Deck says she posted on the “Kindness Pandemic” Facebook group about what she and others were cooking in the church kitchen, simply because “it’s helpful to see what’s happening and how people are responding in this crisis”. To her amazement, among the responses she received were two separate contacts from people in Victoria Practical help: Naomi Deck writes labels for takeaway containers. asking for help. “One was a lady living with a disability who didn’t have any food, was stuck in her home, and didn’t have any friends or family,” she recalls. “That’s really common for people living with a disability. I was able to connect her with a Presbyterian church nearby and they’ve been able to provide a deeper level of social support as well as food. “Another lady contacted me from Pakenham… one of her colleagues had just gone on maternity leave, then her husband was made redundant, but because they’re in Australia on working visas they weren’t entitled to any support, so they just had no money. The [local] Baptist church responded really beautifully and delivered them a massive parcel of stuff. Together, we’re all serving the Lord.” While Miss Deck admits she was very surprised to receive calls for help from such a great distance, she says the desperation some feel because of the pandemic has pushed them to pursue connection wherever they can find it. Most of the 70 meals she and her volunteers make each week are for parishioners and other locals who need them – whether families, single people, meat eaters, vegans or those with allergies. But Miss Deck’s group of cooks isn’t the only one in the parish providing food. Church by the Bridge has had an active presence at the Greenway housing commission estate for the past seven SouthernCross
Doing the prep: cooking volunteer Lynn stirs the mixture; gluten-free carbonara to go. years, running a fortnightly Sunday barbecue and church service. Viv Chapman, the parish’s Mercy Ministry director, says this ministry hasn’t been possible due to the pandemic so, instead, team members cook up to 100 meals each week, then bring them in takeaway containers to distribute to those who want them – some of whom are members of the church. “It’s quite a large housing estate, mostly made up of people who live on their own in one-bedroom units,” she says. “They might have enough food but what they really need is social contact – they’re isolated and lonely. A lot of them are older people so, as we drop the meals off, it’s good to be able to say ‘Hello’ even briefly and maintain the relationships while we’re not able to meet up. “What me and my husband have done in the past few weeks, now we’re able to have people in our home, is invite a few residents into our place to watch online church in the morning, then we drop them back at Greenway when we’re dropping off the meals.” The church has also given out meals to contacts from its ESL class, many of whom are Thai nationals “doing it pretty tough at the moment”. “There’s a Thai Christian lady who helps out with those classes and she has a lot of connections within the Thai community,” Mrs Chapman says. “She got wind of the fact that quite a lot of the students had lost their jobs as result of COVID and obviously most of them are not permanent residents. “One of the students runs a Thai restaurant, so they paid her to provide about 150 meals, which they then distributed in the city to a bunch of Thai people – as well as handing out Bible tracts and information about our English classes. “It was really well received [but] the need was much greater than what we could address. So, while it was a one-off, they’re looking at doing it again.” Miss Deck says the community is experiencing “massive, ongoing need” in a range of areas. “People keep saying that it’s an unprecedented time. I see it as an unprecedented opportunity: how are we going to capture that unprecedented opportunity and not waste it? “It isn’t just a meal we’re giving to that person – we’re showing them hope, really.” SouthernCross
Newmarch COVID-19 tests clear Progress: Anglicare’s chairman Greg Hammond with the Bishop of Western Sydney, Gary Koo, alongside the Wall of Gratitude containing messages to staff at Newmarch House.
Anglicare says all residents at Newmarch House who had tested positive for COVID-19 have now been cleared. In a statement on the last day of May, Anglicare expressed relief but said “We remain vigilant to ensure we maintain strict infection control protocols for all our residents at Newmarch House until the site itself is declared COVID-19 free by NSW Health.” The independent advisor called in by Anglicare in response to a demand from the Aged Care Commissioner has written a letter to staff and families, expressing condolences to the loved ones of those who have died in the outbreak and praising staff for their efforts. “Even before I commenced in this role,” independent advisor Andrew Kinkade wrote, “it was clear this was an extremely difficult time for residents, staff and families.” Nineteen residents died at Newmarch House after being diagnosed with COVID-19, with 17 of those deemed to be Coronavirus deaths. In a letter in mid-May, Mr Kinkade thanked staff at the aged care facility, saying, “I spent the day at Newmarch House last Saturday listening to the frontline team and observing first-hand their practices, processes and the compassion they have for their residents. I also met Anglicare staff who, three weeks ago, left their own homes to respond to the call for assistance.” The advisor said a joint team from Anglicare, NSW Health, the Commonwealth Department of Health, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and others was working to protect residents and staff. “I also want to highlight and recognise the good things happening on the ground at Newmarch House,” Mr Kinkade said. “I have seen letters from families, notes on the ‘Wall of Gratitude’ and your feedback to the Registered Nurse call team. I also witnessed the Mothers’ Day visits at Newmarch House.The aged care sector is focused first and foremost on residents and staff. When I have had a challenge in the past, I have been overwhelmed by the support offered by peers. And I know Grant [Millard, the Anglicare CEO] and the team have felt this solidarity and sector-wide support as well”. Mr Millard spoke in the media of the lessons learned during the crisis, such issues surrounding the official advice to give ‘hospital-in-the-home’ care to COVID-positive patients, instead of moving them to hospital. “If I had my time again, I would be insisting that those people who were COVID positive did go to hospital,” Mr Millard told the ABC. “In hindsight that would have been my preference – that they went to hospital.” SouthernCross
Pastoring a Sydney church from Scotland
Church from a (big) distance: Daniel and Kirsten McKinlay go for a walk in Scotland.
The Rev Daniel McKinlay and his wife and daughter arrived in Scotland in February to visit family in their home country. Then the world shut down. He is an assistant minister at South Head Anglican with responsibility for Watsons Bay, but is pastoring his church from an Airbnb in Edinburgh. As temporary residents, they have no idea when they will be able to return. Having travelled to the US and to England prior to landing in Scotland, Mr McKinlay was unaware of his exposure to the virus. “I was running an event in London, at the Tate Modern Art Gallery, which is right next to St Thomas’ Hospital,” he says. “It was overrun with ambulances. We had no idea what was going on, we only knew COVID-19 meant we had to ask people to wash their hands.” After a week of holiday with family in Edinburgh, he and his wife Kirsten fell ill with virus symptoms. With no tests available to him or his family in the UK, they hunkered down and isolated themselves in their accommodation, trying to get well. “In the midst of this, we got messages from people [in Australia] asking if we were stuck,” Mrs McKinlay says. “We realised there had been announcements in Australia asking people to return.” By the time they were well enough to consider travelling, Australia’s borders had closed. Since then, Mr McKinlay has been sending sermons from Scotland and attending a number of Zoom meetings. The added difficulty of the time difference makes a tiring situation even more exhausting, but he is grateful to be able to work remotely. The flat they rent in Rose Bay remains empty. They live fortnight to fortnight, waiting for news on when they can return to Sydney with their nine-month-old daughter. “The toughest thing is the SouthernCross
uncertainty of not even knowing,” Mrs McKinlay says. “But James 3 reminds me that it’s absolute foolishness to think we have control over what tomorrow holds, let alone what next year will hold. “James says it’s arrogant to boast. I didn’t feel proud or arrogant assuming the year would pan out like I thought, but it was arrogant. All my plans are still in our calendar, but dates in a calendar are vague hopes at best in contrast to the certain hope of the one day that is definitely coming. It’s a cliché, but it’s a real comfort.” Adds Mr McKinlay: “I’m convicted about just how comfortable life is for most of us, most of the time. We worry about things like our purpose, and various aspects of how life will turn out. Rarely do we worry about the bare necessities or having to make decisions about life and death, but generations before us had to make these decisions. It feels like wartime.” The experience has encouraged Mrs McKinlay to pray more earnestly for governments. “I see how weary the government here in Scotland is,” she says. “What an incredible burden they bear. I don’t envy them but, looking at them, they are very much creatures like the rest of us, with limits and sin and huge responsibilities. I pray for them that God would give them wisdom.” Mr McKinlay says their prayers are now “much more about gratitude”. “We’ve experienced a different kind of prayer life. Even as we sit down to eat at night, we reflect on how God has been good to us during the day. The temptation is just to criticise and grumble.” The couple also continues to pray for the new openness many in Scotland are displaying towards God. Says Mrs McKinlay: “Pray God will indeed use this time to bring people back to himself. Pray that we would make the most of every opportunity, have eyes for the good works God has prepared for us here. We have been [in Scotland] for a while now, and I can get complacent. God has given us good work to do wherever we are.”
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A biblical cup of tea at Wilberforce
The women at St John’s, Wilberforce aren’t about to let a global pandemic get in the way of their fellowship. When an afternoon tea event planned for early last month was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions, the women’s team got their heads together (in an appropriately socially distanced way) and decided they could make it work online. “Someone said, ‘Let’s make cloth bags to show the women that we care,” says Wilberforce’s women’s ministry co-ordinator, Renee Gowing. “Then someone else said, ‘We could take afternoon tea to everyone and then people who are able can join in’. The steering committee for women’s ministry has a Facebook group and it just started pinging: ‘There are microwave cake mixes that you can get’; ‘I can sew some bags’; ‘Let’s write a personalised invitation to every woman in the “We wanted to let everyone know we were church’. It ended up being quite an operation!” thinking of them”: Renee Gowing The team made 105 cloth bags – one for each woman and school-aged girl connected to the northwestern Sydney church. Into these they popped handwritten cards and invites to the online tea party, along with a name tag, a teabag and the cake mix. Each bag was then delivered, some up to 20 minutes’ drive away. “We wanted to let everyone know we were thinking of them and encourage them in their faith,” Mrs Gowing says. “All the cards had a Bible verse on them and a personal message offering some encouragement: we wanted to remind you that you still have fellowship with your sisters in Christ at this time, or we’re praying for you, or we hope we can meet again at church soon… something meaningful for that person. “Also, by doing this it meant that the women we knew didn’t have the technology to log on, or didn’t want to, could still feel part of it in some way.” At 3pm on the designated day, 45 women and girls gathered online with their cups of tea, ate cake, prayed, and played games together. These included a quiz about everything from the history of tea to online church, and a scavenger hunt where participants had to find specific items around their home. SouthernCross
Julie Sedorenko, who attended the event with her daughter Rebecca, says, “We haven’t seen each other for a long time, so just seeing faces to start with was wonderful, but hearing people’s stories was great. “We had people there from little girls to older ladies. Five people spoke about their experience during COVID-19, and to hear from a seven-yearold to someone in their 70s was lovely.” “It was really encouraging to pray together”: Rebecca While it was obviously different from how past Sedorenko (right) with her mum Julie. women’s events have been run because people couldn’t gather together, she says, “I think COVID has made us appreciate what we have in normal times – ’cause this is not a normal time!” The afternoon’s theme was women in the Bible who had endured strange or difficult times with faith. A presentation featured quotes about a range of Old and New Testament women including Esther, Sarah, Mary, Lydia and Rahab, to help the participants remember women of faith from the past and be encouraged by them. Says Rebecca Sedorenko: “It was really encouraging to pray together and also to hear stories of what [people] are being taught through these COVID-19 times.” She feels the loss of not being at work regularly, seeing her colleagues, and of course, attending church in person, but says the afternoon was “a reminder that we’re all in this together and that God is in control”.
Study the Bachelor of Divinity Think theologically from ﬁrst principles Learn practical skills for lifelong Christian ministry moore.edu.au/divinity SouthernCross
Ready to shine the light at Stanhope
Light and hope: the interior of the church is purposely visible to passers-by.
After more than a decade of waiting, Stanhope Anglican Church is all but ready to open – except that, because of COVID-19, it can’t. Not just yet. “People are very excited, but we know we’ve just got to be a little bit more patient,” says rector the Rev Steve Reimer. “It’s finished right on time. The official opening was planned for Saturday, July 4, with a big congregational celebration on the 5th,, and we would have had a soft launch before that… but we’ve waited so long that another few months, or however long it will be, will be fine. It will just keep teaching us that it’s not all about the building!” The church complex has two main spaces: a 250-seat auditorium, and a multipurpose hub behind its big front windows where children’s and youth ministries, English classes or meetings can be held. The windows overlook both a children’s playground and the main street of Stanhope Gardens. “It definitely gets attention,” Mr Reimer says of the church. “It’s really open and light and so, hopefully, very inviting to the community… and that’s what we want: to be light and hope to the community.” SouthernCross
Well done, good and faithful servant
Defender of the truth: Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias.
photo: Carlo Millan courtesy RZIM
Some Australians may never have heard of Ravi Zacharias, the Indian-born, US-based Christian apologist. However, those who have would know him as a man who had a superb and gracious mind and helped an extraordinary number of people – including Australians – “find” themselves. I became both a friend and supporter of Ravi and his team over the past eight years. I saw the great need that he fulfilled – sharing, defending and explaining truth in a post-truth world that is losing its way. Recently diagnosed with a rare and very aggressive cancer, Ravi passed away on May 19, at least physically. His vast writings and teachings in this age of YouTube and social media will remain, and will continue on the tradition of his mission, which he described as, “Helping the thinker believe and helping the believer think”. As a gifted observer of cultural trends, he will be greatly missed as a brilliant critic of poor and misleading thinking, the flows of which show no signs of slowing any time soon, and which visit untold trouble on our world. Growing up in India in a nominally Anglican family, Zacharias came to faith after an attempt to take his own life at the age of 17. He committed himself to “leave no stone unturned” in his pursuit of truth. As his public life unfolded and he became a Canadian, then American (in reality a global) citizen, his capacity to engage his listeners became outstanding. I was always struck by his ability to unpack worldviews and explain the Christian faith and its relevance clearly and winsomely. I found very powerful his belief that a worldview, if it is to meet our needs, must answer the questions of “where did I come from, is there any meaning to my life, what is right and wrong, and what is my destiny”. I was always impressed, too, by his politeness, and refusal to take offence even when it was intended that he should. One sensed that winning the soul was more important than winning the argument – not that I could ever fault his logic or knowledge! He was gentle, warm and personally engaging, which meant he had a wide circle of friends and admirers; it is not only his family who will miss him. He touched countless lives, including my own. But he would argue that his separation from his family and friends is but temporary. He is confident that he goes to be with Jesus, who invites us all to join him, saying of himself that “because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). He believed he was unconditionally loved and forgiven and that, in fact, God stands at every person’s door and knocks, and that if we open, he will enter. If you’ve not heard what he has said, I cannot recommend his books and talks too strongly! John Anderson served as Deputy Prime Minister of Australia from 1999 to 2005. SouthernCross
Bible-touring bishop hangs up his boots Walking in their footsteps: Anita and Paul Barnett by the remains of the ancient wharf at Troas.
here’s a wistful note in Bishop Paul Barnett’s voice when he says that, after 30 years, his tour-leading days with his wife Anita are done.
“We miss it,” he says. “Last year we did a long tour – a month-long tour to Turkey and Greece – and we were able to make it possible for our daughter Sarah and two of her children to come. They had such a wonderful time that I was saying a couple of days ago, ‘I’d love to take them to Jordan and Israel’… but I don’t think it’s going to happen.” The 84-year-old historian and author has loved bringing the Bible to life for people, enjoying their fellowship and making deep friendships with their “much loved” travel guides. He and Mrs Barnett began to take tours to Bible lands while he was still Bishop of North Sydney, and they cheerfully continued on well after most other people would have been happy to put their feet up. SouthernCross
BEING THERE “I always loved to see people’s excitement and joy – standing on the top of Mount Nebo looking over the Promised Land, for example,” he says. “I’d say, ‘Just put yourself in Moses’ shoes, because he was here!’ To look across to the Holy Land from Dan to Beersheba was so exciting for people. I said to Anita, ‘If I’m ever not excited by being here, I won’t come back’ – but I was always excited.” Adds Mrs Barnett: “From Jerusalem you drive down the hill to Jericho, and a lot of people would say, ‘That’s what it says in the Bible! “They went down from Jerusalem to Jericho”’. And they’d be amazed that it was so clear. It was the same when we visited Jacob’s well in Nablus in the West Bank… the description in the Bible is what we saw. People always commented on that type of thing because it really stood out to them. “Whenever we went to a site, Paul would read what the Bible says at that site, so people could look around and say, ‘Well, yes’.” Over three decades the couple have led 25 tours to Israel and Jordan, 15 to Turkey and Greece, and three to Egypt. They have visited Reformation sites in Germany, Switzerland and England twice, and “followed” the Apostle Paul from Malta to Rome. There was also a private visit to Syria with two other couples almost a decade ago with the plan to take a future tour, “but then the civil war started, so that was that”. Apart from the Reformation sites, the tours have overwhelmingly focused on Bible history, visiting sites mentioned in its pages. That never changed, and the enthusiasm of those who came – some more than once – never wavered. Bishop Barnett describes them as educational tours, saying participants were always given notes before each tour began, and there were afternoon talks two days out of every three. Most countries have modernised and upgraded their historic sites and facilities during the Barnetts’ 30-year stint, but the bones of what was being seen and experienced remained the same. “In one way or another we have visited every place mentioned in the New Testament – every one, except Tarsus, and Antioch in Syria [now Turkey],” he says. “This has been incredibly helpful in my writing because I can visualise the place, I can know how far it is from somewhere else… I just remember it, because I’ve been there so many times. “It’s the combination of being there and the fellowship and sharing that makes the difference. People come away thankful for an enhanced relationship with God through it.”
GREATER BIBLICAL UNDERSTANDING For him, another ongoing benefit of the trips has been a deepening understanding of the Bible. “You discover, for example, what a tiny country Israel is: you can drive from top to bottom in a day,” he says. “And words are two dimensional, but when you go there and think about the climate, the geography, topography and history, you’re looking at a third dimension – and one that I think brings the Bible to life. I said to people on tours, ‘You might curse me for this trip! You’ll never read the Bible again in the same way because you’ll see it’. “Another thing is that visiting in person overwhelmingly confirms the integrity of the text. One guy who came with us – his wife was a Christian, and he wasn’t – he was a bit worried about being preached at. I said, ‘We won’t be preaching at you, mate. The talks that are on in the afternoon, SouthernCross
PAUL BARNETT ONLINE Anglican Media produced a series called The Bishop, the Chef & the Fisherman in 2000 and 2001 that saw Bishop Barnett spend a “crazy month” in Israel and Turkey with a variety of chefs and a fisherman from Cairns nicknamed “Lumpy”. Some episodes of this series can now be found on YouTube.
you’re entirely free not to come’. But when the tour ended, we had a debriefing night and he was the first to offer a comment. He said, ‘I’m still not a Christian but I can’t deny the integrity of the Bible’. So that was a really good insight.” The couple believes that travel – provided it’s not just superficial sightseeing – has the additional benefit of giving people a deeper appreciation of the world and its politics. Despite this, Mrs Barnett says they always sought to keep political discussion out of their trips. They would encourage tour participants to simply listen to and respect those around them, rather than engaging with their views – especially if they disagreed with them. “Not having lived there we don’t know what it’s really like,” she says. “I would say to people, ‘We are guests in this country and it’s not our place to tell them what’s what!’”
JUST ONE MORE While age has inevitably meant that running a tour is no longer an option, the couple has agreed to be part of one more – although the central responsibility for the group will not be on their shoulders. The trip, being organised by Olive Tree Travel – and with the hopefully COVID-friendly timing of June and July next year – will be undertaken by boat on the Aegean Sea, and include Patmos, Philippi, Corinth, Miletus, Pergamum, Kusadasi (near Ephesus) and Istanbul. “Anita and I will be on the boat – a 50-person ship – and I’ll be doing evening Bible studies and lectures,” Bishop Barnett says. “We’ll be honorary guides, as it were. I may or may not go ashore, but the tour will have the same guides that we usually use... and it would be wonderful to see them.” SC
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God’s concern for greater Sydney Dr Glenn Davies
f you were to look for one sentence that summarises the teaching of the Bible, it would be hard to find a more succinct candidate than the final words of the prophet Jonah’s prayer: “Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2:9).
Jonah is a remarkable book for many reasons. One example is that it contains, in the Hebrew text, only five words of prophecy (3:4), whereas both the minor and major prophets of the Old Testament contain hundreds and thousands of words of prophecy addressed to Israel or the nations. The Book of Jonah is more intent on describing the prophet himself, rather than conveying the words of his prophecy. The book details Jonah’s inadequate response to God’s command to go to Nineveh, his experience of God’s chastisement, his rescue from the belly of the fish, his obedience to God’s reissuing of his command, the repentant response of the Ninevites to Jonah’s preaching and, surprisingly, Jonah’s anger towards God’s goodness and mercy in the final chapter. The book is deftly composed with delayed explanations of events described. We see examples of this in 1:9-10 and 4:3-8, and also in the classic revelation of Jonah’s reason for disobeying God (1:3) in 4:2. Yet, despite Jonah’s rebellion and reluctance to preach to the city of Nineveh, God’s sovereign purposes overrule Jonah’s disobedience to bring salvation to unsuspecting pagan sailors, as well as wicked Ninevites. Our God is full of mercy and forgiveness. He also uses us to bring others to himself, despite our frailty and even our disobedience. For God’s mercy and goodness flow from his character SouthernCross
and adorn his purpose, such that when we respond with faithful obedience to his word, the glory belongs to him and not to us. God is not prevented by either human beings or heavenly beings from fulfilling his purposes, for his word never returns to him void (Isaiah 55:11). The highlight of the book is, in many ways, Jonah’s prayer in chapter 2. It is a prayer offered after he was delivered onto dry land, so that verse 2 is best rendered: “And he said”, not “saying”, as in the ESV, suggesting the prayer beginning in verse 2 is the prayer of verse 1. This understanding of the flow of the narrative is consistent with the opening words of the prayer in verse 2, looking back upon God’s deliverance of him from the belly of the fish: “I called to the Lord, out of my distress and he answered me”. It is also consistent with the author’s delayed explanation of the prayer in verse 10: “And the LORD had spoken to the fish and it had vomited out Jonah on dry land”. Thus the prayer of chapter 2 is a prayer on dry land, recalling the prayer Jonah offered inside the fish. It is a prayer of thankfulness after his deliverance as he reflects upon his darkest hour (or 72 hours!), when the outcome of his prayers were unknown. One could not think of a more devastating, let alone distasteful, venue for isolation than the stomach of a fish, even a big one! We may have reason for complaining about our home isolation of late, but nothing quite compares with Jonah’s experience. Yet this solitude enabled Jonah to reflect upon his folly in refusing to follow God’s commands, recognising God’s judgment on him in the storm at sea. While Jonah may have urged the sailors to throw him overboard – humanly speaking – to certain death, it was God who cast him into the sea (2:3). He felt he had been cast out of God’s presence, the presence of God’s blessing. Yet he remembered the Lord and cried out to him, and God’s mercy prevailed as he rescued Jonah, chastened and repentant, for his sovereign purposes. Upon his deliverance, he then journeys to Nineveh and preaches God’s word – and to the surprise of the reader (though not to Jonah), the Ninevites repent and turn to the living God, and God in his mercy relents from the judgment Jonah had foretold. In this respect, Jonah’s preaching foreshadows the spreading of the gospel to Gentiles, in accordance with God’s promise to Abraham that he would be a blessing to all nations. Jesus uses the sign of Jonah to describe his own ministry for the salvation of the world. Unlike Jonah, Jesus was obedient to his Father’s will, suffered the extremity of death – not just metaphorically, but truly – for three days and three nights. Yet from the grave he rose victorious. As God had a concern for the salvation of the city of Nineveh, he has a concern for the salvation of the world and the people of greater Sydney. We should pray for those in our communities that, in the wake of COVID-19, we might have opportunities to share the good news of God’s grace, that many people might put their faith in Jesus and that God’s mercy might be showered upon them. For it is only through Jesus that God forgives our sins: Salvation is from the Lord! SC
PRAYER Father God, we thank you for your mercy towards us and pray that you would use us to declare your promises to the people of greater Sydney. We trust not in our own worthiness for this task, but in your bountiful grace. Strengthen us for every opportunity to declare with a clear conscience the reason for the hope that we have with gentleness and respect, grounded in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Amen. SouthernCross
A pandemic of loneliness? Dan Wu reflects on isolation from Proverbs 25.
here is no doubt the Coronavirus has shaken the world as we know it to the core. I began writing this piece a few weeks into mandated quarantine, when we had just celebrated Easter in a way heretofore almost unimaginable â&#x20AC;&#x201C; by ourselves, in our homes.
While we are heading slowly back towards more regular social interaction, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s clear that the pandemic already has and will continue to have significant negative ramifications. SouthernCross
On the other hand, as Winston Churchill is reported to have said (in light of the wreckage of post-WWII London), “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. Often a time of great upheaval is also a time of great opportunity to reflect and remake what was, so it is stronger into the future. Add to this our trust in a sovereign God, who said, “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7). Sometimes God uses dark situations as the black background so the glory of his good plans for us shine more brightly. One such example of this in our COVID context is the fear and damage caused by isolation. Initially this did not receive much focus in reporting the pandemic. However, while some initially welcomed the opportunity to withdraw from others, the evidence is becoming quite overwhelming that to do so has serious negative consequences at almost every level of society. We know there have been good community health reasons behind the lockdown restrictions. But even as we think about it, we need to keep in mind that the desire to isolate can also be for self-serving reasons – I don’t really care what happens to them, I just don’t want anyone near me so I don’t get sick. Not only that, we need to take seriously the damaging effects of extended isolation. I recently came across an article claiming (with some evidence) that while the epidemic slowed in China, a new wave of anxiety swept the country due to loneliness and lack of interaction. The language that’s being used is “social recession”: a collapse in social contact that has deep and dire consequences. Perhaps surprisingly, this rings true with fundamental things the Bible says about our nature. Primarily, God made us as relational beings, so we are only truly whole and healthy when we’re connected to each other – and, most importantly, connected in a right relationship to the God who loves us. In this light, it is not surprising that when we’re cut off from relationships for an extended amount of time, we start to come apart – mentally, emotionally, even physically.
PRACTICAL, GOSPEL-SHAPED LIVING I find Proverbs to be a deep, rich theological and practical resource God has given us. Take Proverbs 25, for example. It does not address the situation of social upheaval caused by something like a pandemic directly. In fact, it is about the direct opposite: it outlines the key dynamics of a stable, flourishing, God-honouring society that brings blessing to all its members.
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However, it is amazing how relevant every part of God’s word is to whatever situation in which we find ourselves. In this time of social upheaval and isolation, it has been so helpful to have in Proverbs 25 an image of how society should be, so we can seek to recover and bring SouthernCross
as much of God’s blessing to each other as we can. It will also help to prioritise these points once we have the opportunity to build our way back to “normal” post-COVID 19 society, as restrictions continue to lift. Thematically, Proverbs 25 shows us that God’s vaccine against soul-destroying isolation is lifegiving fellowship: to give ourselves to each other in love, because God has given himself to us in love. As his people, then, this basic impulse should characterise our lives and drive us to overcome any obstacles we face in making this happen – which obviously has immediate relevance in our situation of isolation.
GOD USES HIS POWER FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS The first point the passage makes is that God uses his power for righteousness. I will give a slightly more literal translation than some of our mainstream English bibles. Verses 2-5 state: It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. As the heavens are high and the earth is deep, there is no searching out the heart of kings. Remove the dross from the silver, and a silversmith can produce a vessel; Remove wicked officials from the king’s presence, and his throne will be established through righteousness. These verses set the major authorities over the world in their (relative) place. God is the ultimate ruler of everything (v2), so he alone has the prerogative to reveal some things about his world, while others he keeps concealed and completely beyond our comprehension. In verse 3, he delegates a portion of his authority to human kings as his instruments to carry out his will on earth (cf. Rom 13:7). However, as verses 4-5 make clear, the king cannot do this alone. He needs all his court officials committed to the same goal. The key, however, is what that goal actually is. Verse 5 makes it clear that the God-given purpose of stately authority is so that righteousness might flow from God, through the king and his court, to fill every corner of society. The word righteousness often evokes the idea of rules or morals that an individual might follow. But true biblical righteousness is much richer and more positive. It includes rules and morals, but they’re designed to foster fellowship – deep, stable, just relationships of love, that form a framework for good to flow freely to people. However, Proverbs 25:4-5 is also a profound reflection on the nature of power, and how difficult and elusive true justice and righteousness are in human society. These verses press upon us the need to understand in depth how power really works in the world, and to be very aware of our proclivity to use it for selfish, unrighteous ends. Witness the panic buying and the distress this brought to the vulnerable, as they had access to basic necessities cut off by the greed and selfishness of the able, rich and powerful! We need to work hard to make sure our own use of power – and the power structures in our society – are wielded to bring righteousness and do good to those who are in need of it.
OUR SAFETY IN GOD However, there is an even greater point to be made here. The first five verses of Proverbs 25 tell us that the God to whom all power belongs is fiercely committed to doing good to those under his rule, even if the full picture of how is concealed from us for now (as verse 2 says, it is the glory of God to conceal things). SouthernCross
This is so critical for God’s people to remember. Many have scrambled to find explanations for the pandemic in an attempt to have some measure of control over it. Sadly, such attempts have also led to unfortunate consequences such as scapegoating and racism, which only contribute further to societal and personal breakdown and damage. Proverbs 25 helps us to be humble and acknowledge that we may well not be able to grasp the ultimate cause, or the exact part, this pandemic plays in God’s plans. However, while it may seem ironic, this acknowledgement of our ignorance and inability to understand or control the situation is the foundation of comfort and security in a crisis like this. Proverbs 25 reminds us that even though we are not in control, we know the one who is. He is greater, and stronger, than us, this virus, than anything in creation, and he loves us – a truth wonderfully echoed and amplified in full in a passage like Romans 8:28-39. As such, even though there is so much about this virus and its effects that escape our grasp, the most critical thing to remember is that whatever happens in the coming weeks, months or years, God will never leave us. Our true need and comfort is not to be able to reach out and grab a pack of toilet paper, rice, or whatever might replace them on the list of panic buys. It is to be able to reach out and take hold of the righteous God who loves us, and already holds us in his strong hands. Whatever we go through, no matter how much we cannot understand or how isolated we may feel, we are never alone. God loves us, and will never leave us, and even this crisis plays its part in his plan to hold us in his hands for eternity. Nothing – no virus, fear, loneliness, not even death itself – can snatch us from his grip. If we need any proof of that we have only to look at God’s own Son, the Lord Jesus. He is the true, righteous king Proverbs testifies to, and the one the Bible is ultimately all about, who, as Philippians 2 says, laid down his life for us. If it helps to look at it this way, we could say Jesus’ ultimate act of isolation, cut off from humanity and God on the cross, drew us into God’s embrace. Thus, when we feel afraid or alone – in this pandemic or whatever is to come in the future – the Bible says we should run to God: hear his voice tell you he loves you, see his Son give his life for you and cling to him. Find life and safety in your relationship with God. There have not been many times in my life where I have felt truly lonely – even in down times I know I have been surrounded by people who love and care for me. But the times where I have were awful indeed, and that emptiness we can feel at being kept from human contact and relationship during this pandemic can actually be a precious gift that alerts us to the deepest and greatest need we have – to be in fellowship with the righteous God, held safe in his hands. Corrie Ten Boom once said, “You’ll never know that Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you have”. So, don’t let this crisis go to waste! Use the loneliness and low times as impetus to draw closer to the God who made you, loves you, and whose Son gave his life for you, whether it means turning to him for the first time, or drawing closer to him again. SC The Rev Dr Dan Wu lectures in Old Testament and biblical languages at Moore College. SouthernCross
The spiritual impact of social distancing
s we start to see some of the restrictions we have faced over the past few months begin to roll
back, we check in with four Christians from different life stages about the spiritual impacts of isolation.
A GREATER IMPACT FOR THE GOSPEL Adam Condie, part-time student and Christian Education teacher, says the disruption felt like a board game being thrown into the air. “It took me a while to put all the pieces into the right spot and notice what was missing,” he says. “As things settled into the new normal, I was more thankful than ever to have very different things to do each day. It felt like my life was always Saturday, never Sunday”. Apart from being saved from the daily battle to make the 6:11am train, Adam has found himself with more time and with a potentially bigger gospel reach. He’s working as a class cover one day a week and recording two Christian Ed lessons, which are sent to 15 junior school classes. Mr Condie is excited by the idea that parents who normally have nothing to do with SouthernCross
Christianity are watching these classes – and every day, he has the opportunity to point children to the sovereignty and righteousness of God. “It feels easier to remain silent, and not speak into the situation our 5-year-olds are in,” he says. I taught Kindy in 2018 and know how hard the start of the year is for teachers, students and parents alike. As they just start to adjust to ‘big school’, everything changes. They needed to hear that God can use even bad and sad things for his good.” When asked about the impact on his spiritual life, Mr Condie says he has been incredibly humbled, and also encouraged, by the promises of God found in Matthew 6. “There is just so much I’ve been reminded is out of my control. The reality is, it always was.” He wants to keep an attitude of intentionality as he gradually returns to what his life was like pre-COVID. “The Bible says to ‘make the most of every opportunity’, and I hope to do just that,” he says. “To delight in being able to hear the prayer points of my K-2 Sunday school class. To be thankful for the people I study with, and be intentional with the lunch time chat. To keep spending more quality time with my wife.”
FOR SOME, LIFE IS “INCREDIBLY HARD” Dee Stones has had a very different experience. “We have found the COVID season horrific, and I have found it incredibly hard spiritually,” she says. Mrs Stones discovered she was pregnant just before the COVID restrictions came in. A difficult pregnancy and a restless toddler with flaring allergies – combined with isolation from friends, family and support – has made it a very difficult season. She talks about the monotony of each day, trapped inside a tiny apartment with no energy. Her daughter has also found it difficult, struggling with her own anxiety about guests coming to the door and bringing “COVI” into the family home. Attending online church has not been smooth, Mrs Stones has been too sick to join her Bible study group, and has spent her Sundays managing meltdowns. “I’ve really struggled spiritually, feeling very angry with God,” she says. “Our journey since becoming parents has been pretty rough and I pleaded with God for an easier year to recover spiritually, mentally and physically. But that wasn’t his plan for us. I felt like I had been dealt so much more than I could handle, yet it kept getting worse.” Her most helpful spiritual input has been the phone calls and texts from her Christian family and friends. “I am so thankful for the encouragement of brothers in Christ who spoke the word of God to me when I couldn’t hear it,” she says. “Throughout hardship I am learning to trust God, particularly when I don’t understand or agree with him. And I am learning that despite my plans, God has his own, and somehow they are better. He hasn’t left us, he has always sustained us and provided for us what we need. “I still feel I am struggling, but my heart longs to be where I was before all of this. I pray that I will be up to a more hearty spiritual diet soon, that I can get back on track spiritually and be able to help my family thrive rather than just survive physically and spiritually throughout the rest of the COVID season.” SouthernCross
A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY Emily Loa-Ferreira reflects that this has been a strange but helpful time, adjusting to married life and learning about her husband. “The extra time together has helped us learn more about each other and establish some good routines and spiritual disciplines that we probably wouldn’t have established in non-isolation life!” she says. She also reflects that during this time she has been much more intentional in investing in church relationships outside Sundays and engaging with a much wider range of people. “God has used this COVID-19 season to prompt me to have a greater trust in his character and promises,” she says. “Amidst my feelings of not being in control, being uncertain about tomorrow, and being acutely aware of the frailty of human life, God has reminded me that he is always in control, he is the God of compassion and comfort, Jesus has has conquered death and he has secured eternal life for those who trust in him. I don’t think I would be clinging onto God’s character this much if it hadn’t been for COVID-19.”
A NEW PERSPECTIVE FOR A NEW MUM As a brand-new mum, Christine West had a very different picture of what maternity leave would look like. “I had anticipated that my ‘village’ of friends, family and the church community would be able to help me navigate this new role – but COVID-19 changed that,” she says. “My village converted to online video calls.” Mrs West reflects that there are lots of things she took for granted in her pre-COVID life that she misses now. “I miss our family gatherings over food, opening the Bible with a small group, and singing praises to God with our family. I read James 1:17 in a new light – a reminder that ‘every good and perfect gift is from above’. “God has reminded me of the good gifts he blesses us with so abundantly. I would like to keep this particular perspective on the blessings of God in mind. Every day and each relationship is a good gift from God.”
No matter what the last few months have been like for you, remember that in every church community, and in every suburb, there have been people whose experience mirrors Adam’s, Dee’s, Christine’s and Emily’s. For some, this has been a welcome slowdown and opportunity to connect more. For others, it has been spiritually devastating. As we recover over the next few months, one thing to reflect on is that for all of these individuals it was the Christian friends, encouraging them to look to God, that have helped them through. SouthernCross
Lessons we can learn from our prayer warriors Tara Sing
very church has them. They’re the people who devote their energies to the humble and vital
work of petitioning the Lord. They would never call themselves “prayer warriors”, but they faithfully attend prayer meetings and remember the names of the babies at church when they ask God to watch over them. Who better to ask about prayer? We spoke to six Christians who are faithful and fervent in their prayer lives to see what lessons we could learn.
FRANK AND ROBYN HAWKES
Former missionaries Frank and Robyn Hawkes are convinced prayer is powerful and necessary. “Our work wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without the solid core of people praying for us,” Mrs Hawkes says. “That’s what moves us to pray, because we know it is so essential.” She recalls working in Papua New Guinea with a local man on the translation of the New Testament when a problem struck his family. With the whole project potentially about to crumble, the Hawkes received a support letter from Australia. “The letter said, ‘I felt God prompting me to pray about a problem up there, and I prayed for it’, and it was at the very time this problem had come up,” Mrs Hawkes says. The project was able to continue, so they wrote back and thanked this supporter for his prayers. What he said in his reply shocked them. “He wrote back and said, ‘I was about to give up on the faith when I got your letter about how God answered my prayer!’” Since suffering a stroke some years ago, Mr Hawkes has found it difficult to read his Bible at times, but has found great joy in prayer. “Sometimes I would lie on my bed because I wasn’t doing too well; God just seemed to say, ‘Talk to me!’. I felt this freedom to go through all sorts of things and pray about them. God gave me this in a tough time. Prayer is a blessing to me.” Adds Mrs Hawkes: “Frank’s found a real ministry in contacting people in ministry and asking them what he can pray for them. Sometimes people in their 80s say, ‘Well, I can’t be active. I can’t do what I used to do, all I can do is pray’, as if prayer is second-rate. If only people realised what a wonderful ministry praying for everyone was! It’s not just what you do when you can’t do anything else.” SouthernCross
GORDON AND JEAN ROBINSON
The example of godly parents has had a great impact on the prayer lives of Gordon and Jean Robinson. As a child, Mr Robinson observed his father kneeling in prayer every morning before leaving for work. For the past 20 years the Robinsons have also begun each day in prayer, praying for mission organisations, friends, family and world issues. “We finish our prayer time with a chapter from God’s word,” Mr Robinson says. In the evenings, they focus on praying for the persecuted church. Adds Mrs Robinson: “Prayer means a great deal to us, because we are doing as our heavenly Father has asked us to do. It is a privilege, brings great comfort, peace, hope and encouragement knowing that ‘our times are in his hands’.” The Robinsons also regularly attend prayer meetings. They diligently show up at their church’s prayer nights each term, and have been members of a monthly prayer group for South America that has been going for at least 50 years. Their motivation to keep going? Mr Robinson explains: “It’s good to talk to God about all things… he understands and he answers prayer, so we should pray! There have been times when family and missionary friends have expressed appreciation because of the peace and assurance they have experienced knowing that we, and others, have been praying for them.”
Prayer is all about learning to depend on God. A variety of health issues have helped Miss Philpott to rethink the way she uses her time for the Lord. “For a long time I was a very bad sleeper because of pain,” she says. “Orthopedic pain can keep you awake. A Christian mentor said to me. ‘Why don’t you use that time for God somehow? Use it for prayer.’ So I do now, and not just in the middle of the night either.” Often low on energy, Miss Philpott finds it hard to show hospitality or cook meals for people. Instead, she has taken it upon herself to be the person who prays for others. Even as she drives to work daily, her time in the car is used for prayer. “One of my key Bible verses is 2 Corinthians 12:9, where he says, ‘my grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness’. It’s not [in] my strength that I do things, but in his. I come with nothing; many days [it’s difficult] with my health at different points, but God can still use me as his vessel in different ways.” Depending on God also involves watching and celebrating his work in answered prayer. Miss Philpott longs for people to not only regularly share how they can pray for one another, but also to share what becomes of those prayers. “I love it when my friends get back in contact with me and tell me how God answered that prayer. It’s so nice to be able to send out praise points and praise God for answered prayers. I don’t think we talk enough about that.” SouthernCross
Prayer expresses the relationship Mrs Kristy Stalder has with her heavenly Father. “I’ll talk with God about what is going on in life, like you would in the closest of relationships,” she says. “Prayer gives me intimacy with God. It changes my perspective... lifts up my eyes to Jesus. It changes my demeanour as he gives me peace and joy when I may have been sad or stressed, in handing everything over to the Lord.” Her passion for prayer comes from the joy she experiences when speaking with God, and from seeing God work through her prayers. She recalls one evening feeling led to pray and reach out to an old acquaintance she hadn’t contacted in years. “They replied instantly saying they were in Emergency in a lot of pain. It was a moment where God showed his incredible love for that person, and they felt loved and upheld by prayer. I felt privileged that God would invite me to do so.” The prayers of the Psalms have helped Mrs Stalder approach God confidently, ready to pour her heart out to him. “If David can talk with God like that, then so can I as his child,” she says. “I also noticed as my Dad and my Nanna prayed, they each had their own special relationship with God. Their prayers were personal to each of them, and they didn’t sound different speaking with God as they did with me. They were themselves when they prayed. “The Lord already knows what is going on in our hearts and in the world, but he wants us to tell him about it. It’s a beautiful invitation to be near, and to be part of what he is doing. Talk to him like you would a loved one. Be honest and vulnerable. He is kind and loving and gentle. And he can handle whatever it is you feel, or are burdened by, and he cares about it all.”
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Build up your pastors
ow is your pastor? No really, how are they doing? It might be hard to tell through the screen
during a Sunday service, but recent research indicates that there’s a good chance they’re worn out. Nine in 10 Sydney Anglican ministers reported feeling exhausted or tired in a survey conducted by the Centre for Ministry Development, which examined how pastors were coping with the changes since Coronavirus. “We’re not surprised by the research at all,” says the Rev Dr Raj Gupta (above), senior minister at Toongabbie and co-director of the Centre for Ministry Development. “That’s what we’re hearing on the ground.” When churches closed in March, ministers scrambled to adapt their teaching to online delivery
and pushed through until Easter. After Easter, a new reality set in: that things are a long way from being back to normal. “I heard Australia Post make the comment that a decade of change has been thrust upon them in a few weeks,” Dr Gupta says, believing the same comment can be made of our parishes, too. It’s more important than ever for congregations to be looking out for the wellbeing of their pastors. It’s a good time for the sheep to encourage their shepherd. The good news is that there are some simple ways we can bring great joy to our ministers and help them to press on when reserves are low. 1 PRAY FOR THEM REGULARLY Without the help of the Lord, our pastors cannot do their jobs. The future is uncertain, and stress levels are high. So commit to praying for them as they strive to serve God’s people well. Dr Gupta also recommends an article by Christopher Ash titled, “How to pray for your pastor during lockdown”. 2 ASK HOW YOU CAN PRAY FOR THEM Dr Gupta says letting your pastors know that you’re praying for them is a great encouragement. “A guy once messaged me and said, ‘Raj, we were talking in our growth group about how we can encourage our pastors. Can I ask you, would you like to pray or meet up? What can I do to encourage you?’ It was so special.” He encourages people to check in with their pastors. “We don’t get asked how we’re going often – even outside of COVID-19. There’s an assumption people make that everything is okay, or that they can’t ask you for some reason. Most of the time we can say something about how we are going, and we appreciate their concern.” 3 ENGAGE WITH THEM The lack of in-person feedback has been challenging for pastors. Instead of preaching to people, they now stare down the lens of a camera or speak into a microphone in an empty room. There’s no reassuring nods or moments of eye contact to give them any indication of whether the sermon is connecting. “When you preach to people in the pews, you can pick up how people are going. We’ve lost that,” Dr Gupta says. “Drop a note of encouragement to those involved. Let them know how you’re growing spiritually and what they can pray for you.” 4 OFFER TO SERVE Whether you have specific skills, or are just happy to help in any way, ask your ministry staff teams how you can contribute and what you can do to lighten their load. Our pastors are finite people and it’s not possible for them to do everything alone. 5 DON’T ASSUME YOUR PASTOR IS TOO BUSY FOR YOU “It would be tempting for a congregation member to think, ‘I’m not going to hassle my pastors because they have too much to do,’ but one of the hardest things is not knowing how people are going,” Dr Gupta says. “Most pastors have gone into ministry because they love people and now we can’t meet. One of the foundational joys of ministry is not there.” SC SouthernCross
What’s in store for youth & kids’ ministry
irthdays are landmark occasions, especially ones with zeroes in them. They are a moment to reflect on the past and look to the future.
This year Youthworks College turns 20. We were planning a big birthday bash, but the Coronavirus derailed those plans. We are now looking forward to having a 21st next year. In God’s providence, this seems even more appropriate for the Diocese’s youth and children’s ministry training college, even if a little wilder (depending on your experience of 21sts, I guess). Youthworks College turning 20 is no mean feat and is an opportunity to reflect on the future of youth and children’s ministry in the Sydney Diocese and beyond. Is there a future? What will it look like? What will guarantee that future?
NUMBERS DON’T LIE There is definitely a future. The numbers tell the tale. There are more than 60,000 children born in Sydney every year with, doubtless, more coming through overseas migration. There are a lot of SouthernCross
young people in your local churches. There are a lot more that aren’t. It is no secret our churches urgently need more youth and children’s ministers. Every year Youthworks College gets sent more job notices from Sydney Anglican churches – and beyond – than we have students to fill. At the same time we observe the attrition rate among our churched young people, and the ever-growing numbers of young people for whom the Christian faith is a foreign language, as well as those for whom English is literally a foreign language! And it’s not just about numbers. Young people are growing up in a world where they experience many anxieties: Coronavirus, employment, climate change, their own and others’ mental health. They are in the midst of massive cultural shifts and debates. That’s why they need to hear and be grounded in the good news of the gospel, so they can not only negotiate these anxieties but ultimately understand their biggest issue is a broken relationship with God. A relationship that can only be mended by accepting the offer of forgiveness for their sin and rebellion offered in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
HOW DOES THE VIRUS CHANGE OUR FUTURE? So, there is a future, this ministry is needed… but what will it look like in a post-COVID world? From one point of view it will look just as effective youth and children’s ministry has always looked. That’s because the basics of ministry to young people remain the same. These are: • the foundational importance of engaging young people with the Scriptures as the source and sustenance of their relationship with God. • prayerful dependence on God because we know that apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:5). • realising the importance of the family and church context for the nurturing of disciple-making disciples. • understanding young people’s development to help inform our teaching and discipling. • appreciating the cultural context in which young people are growing up and equipping them to navigate that faithfully. No surprises there! It’s my privilege to see the hundreds of gifted, godly and enthusiastic practitioners who have been raised up by the Lord, and presented for training at Youthworks College over the past 20 years, doing such good work in our churches.
WHAT’S IN STORE? As we look forward to the next 20 years of youth and children’s ministry in the Sydney Diocese, I hope for certain things. • I hope the future will look more holistic, with youth and children’s ministries thoroughly integrated into the local church instead of free-floating. • I hope we will continue to think through the implications of our understanding that young people are disciples of the Lord Jesus now and not simply the church of the future. • I hope that we will continue to explore the implications of the increasing body of research suggesting the importance of intergenerational relationships in the church: that every member SouthernCross
of the congregation can play a role with the young people the Lord has brought into their midst. • I hope the Coronavirus lockdown has reminded us again of the fundamental importance of the role of parents in nurturing the faith of their children, posing the question of how we can help each other do that better. What will guarantee the future of ministry to young people? Our inclination is always to look for the next silver bullet, the next technique, the next book, but that is to look in the wrong place. The future of ministry to young people is guaranteed because young people matter to God. We know that he is still working out his sovereign purposes in drawing a people to himself through the proclamation of the gospel of his beloved Son. We know that about 75 per cent of people who come to know the Lord through his grace do so before the age of 18. We trust that he will continue to do this through the name of the one who said, “Let the little children come to me” (Matthew 19:14). And we pray. I pray that God would help us to value ministry to young people as he does. • To value it as parents, congregation leaders, denomination leaders, whoever and wherever we are. • To value it with our time and resources. • To value it by encouraging our young people to take advantage of the opportunities presented in their local church’s youth and children’s programs. • To value it by striking up discipling relationships across generational divides. • To value it by encouraging and supporting people to train for effective ministry to young people. • To value it because we understand that this ministry is nurturing our young people in the only faith, the only worldview, the only relationship that can deliver on the promise of abundant life. Uncertain times can breed fear and anxiety about the future. Praise the Lord that not only the next 20 years of youth and children’s ministry is secure, but all our futures are in his grace-filled hands. SC The Rev Dr Bill Salier is the principal of Youthworks College. SouthernCross
Is freedom of religion a human right ?
ome years ago, a man said to me that Australia would be a better place if it never let Muslims into the country. You can imagine my shock at such a statement.
I quickly tried to turn down the heat and get to the root of what he was trying to say. It became clear that he thought Australia was a Christian nation, and the answer for a flourishing society was to “get back” to a purely Christian context. As offensive as his comment was, I wonder if it doesn’t represent the sentiment – or perhaps the fear – of many people in society today. There are some who believe a single religious community – undoubtedly their community – would be the best form of society. If everyone believed the same, there wouldn’t be any conflict over morality, or even public policy. Of course, the only way to obtain this would either be to get rid of anyone not like you or embrace a totalitarian authority! On the other hand, there are some people who are afraid of discussions about religion because they think those interested in the conversation only want their form of religion to be valid, and that form of religion isn’t theirs. But what if as a society we are best when we allow people freely to choose what they believe, and freely to live according to their conscience? SouthernCross
For the early church, persecution was common. Christians primarily faced trouble when they refused to worship the Roman Emperor. So, the Emperor sought, through his officials, to force the issue – to coerce allegiance and honour or rid the empire of dissension. The sad reality was that the early Christians were not against the Emperor, but rather prayerful for his wisdom and success. This persecution could never bring allegiance, only the appearance of loyalty for fear of punishment. The early church father Tertullian put it this way: It is a fundamental human right, a privilege of nature, that every man should worship according to his own convictions: one man’s religion neither harms nor helps another man. It is assuredly no part of religion to compel religion – to which free will and not force should lead us – the sacrificial victims even being required of a willing mind. You will render no service to your gods by compelling us to sacrifice. Can we agree with Tertullian that freedom of religion is a fundamental human right? Yes, I believe so. But there isn’t a single verse in the Bible that clearly articulates this principle. This isn’t to say religious freedom isn’t a biblical principle, but instead that it must be explained from theological principles we conclude from Scripture. I believe there are three theological points that show us freedom of religion is a human right, integral to the common good of society according to God’s design for the world. First, we must understand that God made human beings with agency (the ability to decide and act) and dignity. In fact, agency and dignity go hand in hand. God made human beings – both male and female – in his image, and as image bearers gave them the task of having dominion over the earth (Gen 1:26-28). For this task, humans were equipped with all they needed: the ability for relationships, a rational mind, moral righteousness and reproductive capability. These were intended to be used to honour God freely.
PROTECTION AND CARE FOR EVERYONE
Of course, in the freedom of their choice humanity rebelled against God. But even after their disobedience, God still permitted us to live with agency and dignity. Ongoing accountability for our lives is a mark of dignity – God counting us worthy of judgment as his creatures.
“I am committed to strengthening our culture of ‘safe ministry’ through education and professional development of our clergy and lay people, as we seek to maintain the standards of Christian ministry which are grounded in the teaching of the Bible.”
Second, God gives grace to all living in his
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world. He extends a basic framework for order in Genesis 8:21-9:17. Every living being is given a structure for relationships, with the dignity of human life marked out by a penalty required for the taking of life (9:5-6). Common grace for all creatures is seen throughout Scripture. Psalm 145 is one example of the Lord’s kind care (verses 9 and 14-16), granting a basic satisfaction to all. But the Lord also satisfies his chosen people as they know him intimately (Ps 145:18-20). It is particular grace God grants to his covenant people, saving them from common humanity’s plight, that leads them to the ultimate satisfaction of enjoying him eternally. Third, God gives the gift of government to uphold good order (Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-17). Government takes both common and particular forms, just as God’s people live commonly in the world, and in near fellowship as the church. So, civil government is the political system common to society that, at its best, recognises the dignity of all life and therefore upholds the freedom of agency bestowed on each individual. Key to this is the choice to believe what one chooses and act according to one’s conscience. The primary limitation to this is when harm is caused to another (Gen 9:5-6). Particular to the people of God is the governance of church leaders, intended for the good order of Christian community including the growth and maturation of the people unto Christ. Recognising the divisions of God’s interactions with the world helps us to hold appropriate expectations of different authority structures in society. Christians should not expect civil government to become an extension of the church, nor should civil government expect to exercise authority over the church. This would be a confusion of categories and ultimately lead to coercion or oppression. Jesus recognised an appropriate separation of powers, which each have valid authority over different spheres of life (Luke 20:19-26). So, it is important and necessary that Christians respect authority – both of the civil government in temporal affairs (1 Pet 2:13-17) and the officials in eternal affairs (Heb 13:7; 1 Tim 5:17-22; Tit 1:5-16). But it is also equally important that we maintain proper perspective: there is one King who rules over all, and he will reign forever in truth and with justice (Ps 145:20-21). As we await the coming King and his kingdom, it is important that we recognise the good provision God has made for a pluralistic society: one in which each human agent is upheld in their God-given dignity. Freedom must be maintained as a basic human right because it is only in a truly free environment that genuine worship is possible. That is, it is only when one is free from coercion that they may truly repent and believe. And, it is only when one is not oppressed that they can freely express true devotion. Long may the Lord grant freedom for all to worship and believe as they choose, recognising this gift of agency is a mark of dignity – one for which we will all ultimately be held to account. SC This is an edited version of a talk given at a Centre for Christian Living event on May 27. Chase R. Kuhn is director of the Centre for Christian Living and lectures in theology and ethics at Moore College. SouthernCross
After 15 years as rector of Kurrajong and North Richmond, the Rev Shaun McGregor (above) is moving to St Alban’s, Lindfield. He will finish up in mid-July and begin his new role on September 14. The Rev Warren Smith will retire as rector of Mount Druitt on July 30. The Rev Rich Wenden will become rector of Seaforth in mid-August, after more than 10 years at St Andrew’s, Cronulla. The rector of Ryde, the Rev Greg Burke, was due to retire in August but because of COVID will stay in the parish until next year. VACANT PARISHES
List of parishes and provisional parishes, vacant or becoming vacant, as at May 25, 2020:
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Albion Park** Balgowlah** Bomaderry** Bulli** Campbelltown** Carlingford and North Rocks** Christ Church Northern Beaches** Cronulla Darlinghurst** East Lindfield** Figtree** Georges Hall* Gordon** Greenacre* Kurrajong
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
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Unexpected rescue Judy Adamson Same Kind Of Different As Me Rated PG Heritage Films online premiere
on Hall (Greg Kinnear) is not a great guy. He really isn’t.
A wealthy art dealer, married with two teenage children, he’s got it all. Except he doesn’t. He has a massive Texas home, two Mercs in the garage, a flash job and all the perks, but he’s selfish, thoughtless and disconnected from all the things that should matter most to him. Work comes before family, so his relationship with his wife Debbie (Renee Zellweger) is polite but distant; his daughter calls it “your life, not mine”; and he’s having an affair. So, really, his life is a mess, and he just hasn’t figured that out yet. Same Kind Of Different As Me is based on a true story – and a bestselling book of the same name – by Ron Hall and Denver Moore, who are two-thirds of an unlikely trio brought together by infidelity, love, faith, loss and redemption. SouthernCross
The film is solidly Christian yet more gentle than the book, so perhaps more likely to resonate with non-Christian friends and family. It will certainly provide plenty of food for thought and discussion, whether you have faith or not. Debbie’s response to her husband’s adultery is extraordinary. Yes, there’s a heck of an argument when he admits to it, but afterward she rings up the other woman to forgive her – saying that if she and Ron can remember how to love each other, she won’t be hearing from him again. We never meet the other woman and never know her name, because that’s not what is important. As part of his apology, Ron explains in voiceover, Debbie “was going to make me pay with my hands” at a gospel mission she’s involved with in a seedy part of town. When they first go there together, he’s worried about his car, but she’s concerned about cooking for and serving the homeless. He’s worried about his work, and germs, and criminals… but she refuses to let him simply write a cheque and leave. It’s here that they meet “Suicide” (Djimon Hounsou), otherwise known as Denver Moore, a seemingly wild man who Debbie has seen in her dreams: “a poor, wise man who changes the city”. But how could a violent, suspicious, illiterate homeless man change anything? And how on earth can they possibly get close to him? If this story wasn’t real, you’d roll your eyes in disbelief over what happens to the characters in terms of faith, suffering and rescue. Jesus tells us that nothing is impossible for God; Same Kind Of Different As Me reminds us to believe it. The pace of the film does drag at times, which is a pity – a bit of judicious editing would have helped enormously. However, Hounsou is spellbinding as Denver, and Jon Voight provides an excellent cameo as Ron’s heavy-drinking father Earl. Greg Kinnear’s performance as Ron is a bit patchy, and Zellweger’s portrayal is also a little too restrained. But then, it must be hard to portray someone who seems too saint-like to be true, as Debbie cares for the homeless with seemingly boundless love and compassion, and their lives begin to change. Ron Hall has made it clear the story is in no way about a rich guy rescuing a homeless man, as he has said it was Denver who rescued him and “taught me the way to live”. Denver does indeed become the wise man of Debbie’s dream, reminding those around him that “God is in the recycling business of turning trash into treasure”, and “We is all homeless… just working our way back home”. Importantly, Same Kind of Different As Me shows the invaluable treasure of each human life. Homeless, adulterer, housewife, drunkard – educated or not, rich or poor, black or white, “good” or “bad”. All of us are equally loved, and equally redeemed. And thank God for that. Same Kind of Different As Me will be available online until June 14. A premiere pass ($11.99 single/27.99 family) provides access to the film for 48 hours. A portion of each pass sold will be given to The Salvation Army’s online Red Shield Appeal. For more information see https://premieres.movieschangepeople.com/films/same-kind-of-different-as-me SouthernCross
A song for a broken world
Her best friend: Liv Chapman with brother Sam in Edinburgh.
hen Liv Chapman penned “Take Heart” she was writing a song for her brother, whose life
was crippled by constant pain, hospital visits, disappointments and limitations. In God’s kindness, Emu Music’s latest release is a tune that any suffering Christian can sing. Its lyrics paint the picture of a broken and hurting world that longs for the Lord to return. Chapman is a songwriter for Emu Music living in England and serving at St Ebbe’s Church, Oxford. She says it was her brother Sam who alerted her to the lack of lament songs one Sunday after church.
“He said it was hard for him to sing along, so I asked him if the songs were too high,” she recalls. “It wasn’t a musical issue. It was a theological issue. Sam found singing songs just of praise or victory hard week after week because they didn’t give him an opportunity to express lament and be real with God. I know in our church, Sam was not the only one feeling this way.” Sam Chapman desired to sing about suffering as it was a daily experience for him. Although he didn’t have a pain-free day for 12 years, Chapman remembers him as resilient and kind, and her best friend. “Even as a young boy, Sam was determined and disciplined,” she says. “As an eight-year-old he wanted to be a kicker for his rugby team, and so he would cycle to the local field and kick the ball again and again and again until he got it in the goal. He was one of the most accomplished people I knew, even in his condition, but he remained humble.” “We had lots of deep and serious chats, but we had lots of laughs together. It was one of the
“Take Heart” is available to stream. Sheet music and mp3 can be downloaded from Emu Music.
“I hope this song gives people permission to sing to [God] out of their grief”: Liv Chapman performs “Take Heart”. incredible things about Sam. He was in constant discomfort, so the fact he could still crack a joke and have a laugh was extraordinary.” Chapman recalls how close a relationship her brother had with the Lord. “I’m sure it was because he spent most of his life clinging to the feet of Jesus,” she says. “You could tell in the way it flavoured his conversation, attitude, and his assurance that God was good and loving even though his own life was continually so difficult.” Working with fellow Emu Music writer Michael Morrow to compose the track, Chapman hopes that Christians will find comfort and hope in the song’s truths. “I wanted to capture the things that plague human life because of Genesis 3: sin and suffering. That’s what Jesus came to deal with. I hope this song gives people permission to sing to him out of their grief. I hope it reminds them that God isn’t distant, but he draws near. He loves to hear us and answer us. He delights in a contrite spirit and he will heal the brokenhearted.” A number of Bible verses inspired the lyrics, but Lamentations 2:22-23 in particular sustained the Chapman family. “My family meditated on this verse every morning,” Chapman says. “It was so precious because every day felt hard. So to go to bed and wake up the next morning grasping hold of those new mercies was a lifeline for us.” In February this year, Sam Chapman went to be with the Lord. “I wrote this song for Sam, but it’s not his song any more,” Chapman says. “Sam is singing a song of praise to the Lamb. He does not need to sing about his brokenness or grief any more. “As the Chapman family, we have longed for Jesus’ return for a long time. While Sam was alive, we were so excited at the prospect of his resurrection body so that Sam could live without pain and have his hair back, run and swim again. Now that Sam is with the Lord, we long even more for that day. “I hope that feeling of longing doesn’t ever change. I want to long for the Lord Jesus to come back. It’s good to long for that day. I would love for this song to help people long for Jesus’ return, equip them to suffer well and give them words to say when they do suffer. For me right now, I am all the things in the song. I feel broken. I am hurting. I long for the Lord Jesus to come back.” SouthernCross
It’s not just dancing and gymnastics SEVEN CHRISTIAN TIK TOKS THAT WILL HELP YOU CONNECT WITH A COMMUNITY AND PRAISE GOD
ik Tok is not just the world’s fastest-growing social media platform – it’s also a unique way to
connect with people all around the world. It differs from other social media platforms as the default is to engage with accounts that aren’t connected to you, which means it’s a great way to share what is important to you. Tik Tok has seen a swell in downloads over the Coronavirus period. While it is well known for dance challenges, it has also been used to share educational and serious content. Christian Tiktokers have been sharing their lives and stories in creative and fresh ways. The short videos we’ve collected range from serious to joyful, but they all glorify God. 1 A 10-second testimony about coming back to the Bible
https://vm.tiktok.com/3gVJhR/ Praise God for the way he has worked in Megan’s life!
2 A variation on “Bored in the House” that brings the glory back to God
https://vm.tiktok.com/3g4k8m/ We love this reminder that life is not futile.
3 Speaking of reading the Bible…
https://vm.tiktok.com/3gqXsp/ How’s six months in Genesis?
4 We all need God’s grace
https://vm.tiktok.com/ckFowD/ Seriously, we’re nothing without the love of Jesus.
5 How we’re all going to feel when we can meet together again
https://vm.tiktok.com/vnYxMY/ This could be an understatement, to be honest.
6 A reminder of our situation without Jesus
https://vm.tiktok.com/3gChDQ/ We all need to be saved.
7 Aaand a dance number to wrap it all up
https://vm.tiktok.com/v3qVe5/ We couldn’t help it, it’s Tik Tok!
“Know your story” Tara Sing Becoming Netflix
ood stories captivate us. They cause us to sit up and pay attention. They take us to places we’ve never been, to different periods of time, and put us in other people’s shoes. Stories not only shape us, they show us who we are.
Michelle Obama believes in the power of the story and, in this documentary, she takes us with her as she shares her story with the world in the hope of continuing the legacy of the Obama family. In 2018, Michelle Obama released her memoir, Becoming, which went on to sell 10 million copies. The book covers her upbringing in working-class Chicago, her marriage to Barack and his Presidential campaign, her time in the White House and life as mother to the First Family. This documentary follows the book tour that accompanied the launch of the memoir, selling out stadiums in 21 cities across the United States. With excerpts from each evening, and exclusive footage of Obama visiting schools, universities and book clubs, the documentary demonstrates the impact of her story among a variety of communities. Michelle Obama recognises the power of a gathering. She draws people together to celebrate the launch of her book as a way of “sharing a set of experiences”. The stories of the people she SouthernCross
meets ground her. She says the people she interacts with “give me the perspective I need, that I don’t get. All my interactions are sanitised, so this helps me to relate to people and stay connected”. As she visits colleges and schools, she sits with young women of all colours and listens to their stories. They share how Obama has inspired them and affected their lives. She reminds them that stories are powerful and have the power to change people. “Know your story,” she says to a girl who has just shared about where her grandparents migrated from. “Don’t be a statistic.” Although she is 60, Michelle Obama declares she has no plans to slow down. She wants to be 90 and still be helping young people to become who they are meant to be and help the world be a better place. What a good reminder about the power of the story! Knowing who you are is more than just knowing a series of facts and figures. It’s about the stories that have pieced you together. Where your parents came from, where you grew up, the opportunities you took and how you overcame the hardships and hurdles put before you – these tales are what shaped you, and telling these tales can shape others and the world. As Christians we have such wonderful stories to share about ourselves. We have the story of our salvation. Whether it’s woven into the details of where we grew up or discovered during a tale of trials, we have a story about the Saviour securing a place for us in his Father’s house. But we have many more stories that make us who we are. Stories from long ago. We resonate with the rebellion of the Israelites, because our hearts, too, have rebelled. We feel the shame of hiding in the garden, as Adam and Eve have their sin discovered. The relief that washes over Zacchaeus when he is forgiven is the same relief that washes over us. The hope offered to the criminal hanging on the cross beside Jesus is the same promise we cling to, that we will be remembered by Jesus in his kingdom. Michelle Obama gets it right. Stories are powerful and they shape us. So let us with boldness share the stories of how God is working in our lives, how he is turning sinners into saints, and how he is sanctifying the hearts that once were stone. And as we share, pray that God would use these stories not to just make an impact on the world, but to make an impact on eternity. SC SouthernCross