Southern Cross SEPTEMBER 2020

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Struggle street spike on the cards “Seek help early”: An Anglicare staff member talks to a client under financial stress.

Judy Adamson

As the first reduction in COVID support payments for people on JobSeeker and JobKeeper kicks in this month, it heralds the start of a trickier balancing act for agencies seeking to provide support. Teresa Clark, the head of food and financial assistance at Anglicare Sydney, says that so far, client numbers have been “pretty much the same”. This is because some below the poverty line have been managing much better while the $550 fortnightly Newstart (JobSeeker) has been almost doubled, while recently unemployed people have struggled to find their way in an upturned economic environment. “Newly unemployed people are accessing their superannuation, they’re using their savings, they are – I’m assuming – maxing their credit cards and borrowing money from friends and family to stay afloat,” Mrs Clark says. “That doesn’t sound crash-hot for the future. “Perhaps not in six months, but in one year or two years we will see the result of that debt accumulation, especially if those people are not able to get back into work. It’s going to mount debt on top of debt.


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“As the supplements are reduced, we also expect to see more of our normal cohort returning... On top of that we expect those newly unemployed people we would not normally have seen to be under more extreme pressure because their incomes will also drop.” She says that if employment hasn’t “taken off” by the time the supplementary payments are due to wind up in March, “we’re going to see a huge spike in demand”. “If everything opens back up – and everyone who was working could get back into work – maybe it will be okay, but as less people can get back into work and pay their own way, as the supplements and the benefits drop down, we’re going to see more and more people falling below the poverty line. “We have done a lot of work to get ready for these spikes… we’re going into this with our eyes wide open… and we always, always encourage people to seek help early. If we can help people to avoid debt traps, if someone can reach out for help rather than going to a lender and getting themselves into long-term debt, that would be a great outcome.” MEETING NEED WITH SUPPORT Anglicare’s chief operating officer for Community, Bill Farrand, says a revamp of the food and financial assistance network 18 months ago has made a more tailored response to client needs possible. The network now assists 30,000 people a year – double the number in 2018. Until June next year, the Government has also provided Anglicare with extra funding for emergency relief. His team has been reviewing COVID’s effects on the different groups it serves, and is therefore preparing for a “significant” increase in demand for financial and emotional support. “The lower that JobSeeker drops the more likely it’s going to be that people will need to resort to organisations like Anglicare to make ends meet,” he says. “We want to be able to help them in whatever their circumstances require. “We also think this is a potential moment where Community Services churches might really step out towards their careers communities in need, so we’re keen to respond to this together with the Diocese or the local church As a Christian organisation we provide accommodation, in a way that honours Jesus Christ. We’ve started care and community services to people at all stages some conversations with diocesan figures but of life and have a long standing service spanning 160 years. they’re at an early stage.” Anglicare Community Services are passionate to serve Mr Ferrand adds that it’s not clear what extra children, families and those experiencing social isolation. funds Anglicare might need to support people Through a range of programs located throughout the greater Sydney and Illawarra region, we provide support beyond June 2021. for our clients and partner with local churches in service “There’s a lot of not knowing here!” he says. delivery and community outreach. “We’ve been funding these services and it would We have job opportunities across counselling and relationship programs, youth programs, foster care/ be our intention to continue doing that, [but] for adoption, migrant and refugee support to name a few. the food and financial assistance work we rely If you’re looking for a rewarding career then apply today. very significantly on our supporters. Government puts some money in but a lot of it comes from our supporters.” To find out more about us please visit or contact the Anglicare He says that to allow people to “live with Recruitment Team on 02 9421 5344 dignity… we certainly support JobSeeker being ANG4641 SouthernCross



at a higher level than Newstart was. The poverty line is a contested line so it’s not exactly clear what the right level is, but we certainly believe Newstart was too low and just ground people down in poverty.” sc

ANGLICARE CRAVES OUR PRAYERS AND INVOLVEMENT: FOR WORKERS “They hear some horrific stories and walk a journey with people through some really hard situations,” Mrs Clark says. “Just pray for God’s protection over them, that they’ll be refreshed and renewed and able to continue their work.” Says Mr Ferrand: “Prayer is critical for us, that we’re on the front foot and ready as things unfold – we need to be agile in our response.”

FOR THOSE IN NEED Pray for those who have lost jobs or businesses, and those whose financial or accommodation situation is precarious. “Reaching out to people you know have lost a job and supporting them is really important for people’s mental health – to know that they’re not alone,” Mrs Clark says. “[Some families] have dealt with bushfire and now this… They’ve been trying to hold on for so long and they can’t keep their heads above water. You’re just getting hit with wave after wave; it’s a bit relentless.”

FOR CHURCHES AND INDIVIDUALS “It’d be great for people to talk to their rector about how the local church can engage with Anglicare in caring for their local community through this time,” Mr Ferrand says. “We’re always looking for volunteers for our food and financial assistance work. “In 2020 I think people have had to look at their own weakness in the face of things, and we really want to make sure we take the opportunity to step towards people in this time… and do that together.”


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Call for “ethically uncontroversial” COVID vaccine Archbishop Glenn Davies has released the text of a letter, signed by the archbishops of the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches, calling for ethical research on COVID-19 vaccines. “Along with many Australians, we are praying that a vaccine might be developed that will help bring an end to the pandemic,” the joint letter said. “We were therefore disappointed to learn that of the 167 candidate vaccines for COVID-19 identified by the World Health Organisation, 29 of which are already in clinical evaluation, the Commonwealth has chosen to throw its lot in with one [being developed in Oxford] that makes use of a cell-line (HEK293) cultured from an electively aborted human foetus. “Some will have no ethical problem with using tissue from electively aborted foetuses for medical purposes,” said the letter, signed by Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher, Archbishop Makarios Griniezakis – the Greek Orthodox Primate – and Archbishop Davies. “Others may regard the use of a cell-line derived from an abortion performed back in the 1970s as now sufficiently removed from the abortion itself to be excusable. “But others again will draw a straight line from the ending of a human life in abortion through the cultivation of the cell-line to [its] use for manufacturing this vaccine; even if the cells have been propagated for years in a laboratory far removed from the abortion, that line of connection remains. They will be concerned not to benefit in any way from the death of the little girl whose cells were taken and cultivated, nor to be trivialising that death, and not to be encouraging the foetal tissue industry.” After the letter’s release Dr Davies said, “this is not an anti-vaccination stance, it is a positive call for ethical research. We do not yet know which vaccine might prove effective against this insidious disease but we must not allow people to be placed in a moral bind on such an important issue. Vaccines are a good thing, yet consistent with our view of the protection of human life in the womb it is vital that they be produced within an ethically scientific framework. “For this reason, I call on the Government... to explore the several alternative lines of research which do not depend upon the use of foetal tissue. When they get access to a vaccine, Australians should have every confidence [it] is ethically uncontroversial and poses no moral dilemma.” Dr Davies made it clear in media interviews that he was “not seeking to bind anyone’s conscience”, nor was he suggesting there would be no choice – especially considering the number of vaccines in active development, including one from the University of Queensland which posed no ethical and moral issues. “I will honour people for what decision they make, but I don’t want them to make a decision ill-informed and unaware of the genesis of this [Oxford] vaccine,” Dr Davies told SBS. A spokesman for Scott Morrison said the Prime Minister “respects the views of Australia’s many religious communities and understands the issues that are being raised. “Many vaccines in development do not contain these cell-lines, including the University of Queensland vaccine candidate which the Government is already supporting with $5 million,” the spokesman said. “The Government will always follow the medical advice and will be encouraging as widespread use of the vaccine or vaccines as is possible.” sc SouthernCross



SUFM pauses traditional summer missions

Scripture Union NSW has announced that mission teams will not be travelling for the 2020-21 summer break, and is urging all teams to find creative alternatives to reach communities with the gospel. “Mission is not cancelled, but this summer we’re not going to travel,” says SU NSW’s missions chairman, Nathan Milham. “In light of the challenges of COVID-19, in our best wisdom under God we think it’s good for us to pause traditional mission structures. We’re directing teams to plan not to travel but instead find other creative ways to stay keen for mission and stay connected.” Scripture Union family missions are commonly known as beach missions, although they occur inland, in suburban areas and country towns in addition to many holiday parks along the NSW coast. Each year teams spend an average of 10 days running children’s and family activities and sharing the gospel with locals and vacationers. Mr Milham says the decision was not made lightly. “Missions are a ministry that people hold very close to their hearts, so it’s a hard thing to do differently. When we look at the risks and the other alternative opportunities, we think this is the best way forward for the movement right now.” CARE FROM AFAR This will be the first summer in nine years that Georgia Condie won’t be setting up tents and speaking with campers about Christ. Although there is disappointment, the co-director of Huskisson mission says there is also a sense of relief. “We had bushfires last summer, which was high intensity and very stressful and we felt exhausted at the end of that,” she says. “The thought of going back to mission with another thing… the prospect of planning for that was huge. How would we do social distancing when we sleep in tents? How would we run activities without putting people at risk and damaging our image within the community?” SouthernCross



“This kind of ministry is very face-to-face and relational”: Georgia Condie at Huskisson with her husband Adam. Mrs Condie will miss reconnecting with campers most, and the team is brainstorming ways to care for the campers from afar. “This kind of ministry is very face-to-face and relational,” she says. “There are a group of families who camp right near us. They’re always up for a chat, and that’s been the long game for the ministry. We feel like every year we can share another gospel truth, and see them move towards Jesus in small ways. Last year, they came to church with us because their daughter had never been and wanted to know what it was like. I feel really sad we won’t see them.” Mr Milham is hopeful that this year’s disruption will encourage teams to think creatively about how to reach out to communities now, as well as for future summer missions. “Our prayer is that we make God’s good news known wherever we are,” he says. “It’s not a summer thing, it’s an all-of-life thing. Pray we wouldn’t be discouraged by a change in plan, but that we would preach the word in season and out of season. “Pray also for the communities that will miss us. A lot of caravan parks will miss having a mission team there. Pray they would welcome us back again next year and that the doors would remain open for years of mission.” With Scripture Union missions pausing travel, it’s vital for holidaying Christians to boldly evangelise. “There’s no better time than when people are away from the stress of life, have a bit more time and are a bit more ready to talk about what they believe,” Mr Milham says. “Particularly this year – a year of anxiety and disruption – people are open to asking what it all means and finding out about the certain hope Christians have. We have really good news that answers a lot of these questions.” sc SouthernCross




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“Lots of rain”: There’s been a transformation in this Lake Cargelligo wheat field.

Judy Adamson

The fields are green, growing and gorgeous – and many farmers across NSW are looking forward to their first harvest in years. “It’s probably been one of the biggest winter plantings in a long time,” says the rector of Narrabri, the Ven Dr Bernard Gabbott. “Wherever you look, crops are coming up. When you drive past paddocks, you feel you could almost walk on top of the wheat. It just looks magnificent.” Southern Cross has spoken again to rectors we contacted in February to see how their churches and communities are faring, and to find out whether, for them, the drought is over at last. Six months ago, 99 per cent of the state was officially in drought; now, that has plummeted to 43 per cent. And while, in late August, 10 per cent of NSW’s dams and water storage systems were still at under 20 per cent capacity, this is a significant improvement from the February figure of one in three. “We’ve had lots of rain – lots of rain,” says the Rev Paul Kumasaka from the Riverina parish of Lake Cargelligo, adding: “The congregation members are rejoicing”. The lake is full, he says, the Lachlan River is “topped up” and there have been consistent falls in recent months, so the local mood is buoyant. “This will be the first harvest for three years,” he says. “Last year and the year before the local SouthernCross



Full: Water stretches almost as far as the eye can see at Lake Cargelligo. silo didn’t operate but this year it will, although I’m hearing the price of crops is down because they’re expecting a full harvest everywhere.” Farmers with sheep and cattle are also doing well in his area, because the drought-breaking rains have produced lots of feed for their stock. THE NEEDS Of course, Riverina farmers may not have the same stock numbers, if their drought experience is anything like that of farmers in the far north of the state. The Rev Kurt Langmead from Lightning Ridge Community Church says his family visited a local sheep station, where they were able to watch sheep being shorn for the first time. “Three thousand sheep sounds like a lot, but originally this property would be shearing between 20,000 and 25,000 at this time of year,” he says. “It takes years to rebuild stock numbers. “That farmer is responsible and wise – and also a Christian, so he’s giving thanks for the rain – but it’s going to take multiple seasons of follow-up rain and multiple seasons of restocking to breed up his numbers back to where he would like them to be. “A complicating factor is that with uncertainty in the global trade situation due to COVID-19, the wool prices [from] big purchasers are down, and prices are down for other agriculture commodities like grain. Rain falls and the farmers grow it, but they still need to be able to sell it, and you might not be able to sell it at the price you would like to.” Lightning Ridge goes green: (top) June Langmead Yet although Lightning Ridge hasn’t had the with a lamb during a family sheep station visit; Buddy the same kind of rainfall as other areas, “in God’s dog enjoys puddles after the rain. SouthernCross



providence we’ve had just enough rain at just the right time,” Mr Langmead says. “We’re starting to get heads coming out on the barley crops and it looks like it’ll get through to harvest, so there are farmers with smiles on their faces at last and lots to give thanks for.” The rector of Gilgandra and Archdeacon of The North West region of the Bathurst Diocese, the Ven Grahame Yager, agrees. He is rejoicing to see “rich, dark wheat fields” surrounding his town, and is also aware of the blessing it is that communities didn’t have to grapple with COVID at the same time as the drought, as they would A different world: (left) looking towards a field outside not have been able to meet in person in the same Gilgandra, late August 2020; (right) the same location during a drought duststorm in November 2019. ways to support and care for each other. Yet while he is no longer receiving many requests for financial assistance, he knows plenty of locals are still doing it tough. Even if all goes well with the harvest, he says, farmers “have had to spend more money to be able to plant, because very few people were able to keep their own seed after having so many years of failed crops. It’s going to be the end of the year before people start to get some income and… they’re going to need a number of good seasons before they recover. “The requests for support have drastically slowed, but I’m needing to be very careful because I’ve had people tell me that they would feel ashamed to ask for drought assistance when everything is so green… Last week I sent one person a message saying, ‘May I please get some support for you?’ and in the end they said ‘Okay’. “However, people are resilient and although the greenness mightn’t give an income straight away, it does give hope.” THANKFULNESS For Mr Langmead, a coffee voucher scheme organised by Anglicare that’s about to begin locally is a cause for great thanks. It will give parishioners the opportunity to take a farmer or someone else from the Lightning Ridge community out for coffee, providing “time and space” for conversation and care. The church has also begun supporting subsidies at the local chemist with drought assistance funds from Anglican Aid. The program, begun by Rotary earlier this year, makes all prescriptions on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme free for 76 farming families around Lightning Ridge. “When the scripts go out, there’s a little note with it that says, ‘Provided by your local community church… we’re praying for you’,” Mr Langmead says. Two farmers have already written to express their thanks, and he is delighted. “The farmers are very proud and resilient, so they rarely respond,” he explains. “It might just be this particular scheme has found a way to help farmers without them feeling too proud to take the help that’s offered.” Out at Narrabri, Archdeacon Gabbott is tremendously thankful for the support his parish has SouthernCross



At the water’s edge: The Gabbott family relax, and paint, beside the now-filled Narrabri Lake. received in recent times, particularly through Anglican Aid and St Paul’s, Chatswood. “Steve Jeffrey [Chatswood’s rector] grew up in Narrabri and they’ve reached out to us and said, ‘We want to make you a mission focus for our church’,” Archdeacon Gabbott says. “Last year they gave us $10,000, which we used to buy gift vouchers for all the small businesses in the main street. In these last school holidays he came up to visit, and they’d raised another $10,000! “He said, ‘Please use this for your day-to-day running as a church’… we were able to give a farming family $5000 so they could afford to pay some of their bills. We are so thankful – that’s been a godsend – and the money that’s also come through the [Armidale] diocese from Anglican Aid has been astronomical. In our parish we’ve given out more than $30,000 in the past 18 months.” COVID has also provided him with a timely reminder that everything is in God’s hands. He says earlier in the year his parish council told him they were expecting the pandemic to result in a 40 per cent drop in congregational offertory. “I was really stressed,” he admits, “but three members of parish council who were in the middle of dealing with the drought said, ‘He’s always provided – stop stressing!’ It’s been a good reminder from practical life that God always provides. “I’ve not met one hard-core atheist in my time in the bush,” he adds, “it’s just that people don’t want Jesus as boss. Christians are incredibly thankful for the rain and the wider community is excited – it’s just bringing the two together, so people see the link.” sc

PRAISE AND PRAYERS • Praise God that the drought is now over in so much of NSW. Pray for the farmers and communities still coping with the after-effects of drought and consider supporting them financially if you are able (to date, Anglican Aid has distributed $586,000 through local churches from its ongoing appeal: • Give thanks that farmers have been able to sow crops; pray for rain and good weather at the right times to ensure the harvest can finish growing and be brought in safely. • Pray that communities will continue to support each other and for locals to be open to receiving help if they need it – particularly those in financial hardship or grappling with mental health problems. • Pray for God’s hand to be on those unable to keep their farms going during the drought, who have had to leave the agricultural industry (and in some cases their local community). • Pray that non-believers will have their ears and hearts opened to the gospel. • Pray for wisdom and safety with regard to COVID-19. SouthernCross




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Will FEE-HELP changes make theological study expensive?

Tara Sing

The most recent changes to the tertiary education sector are no cause for alarm according to the Rev Dr David Hohne, academic dean of Moore College. In June the Federal Government announced there would be a rise in the cost to students for a number of popular university courses, such as those in humanities, law, management, communications and social sciences. Combined with the 2019 introduction of a loan cap for HECS and FEE-HELP debt, those thinking of further tertiary education may need to take their student loan amounts into consideration. However, despite a reshuffling of fees for degrees, this does not mean theological education is now out of reach for people. “We’re not worried about changes to the loan system. Our trust is in the Lord,” Dr Hohne says. “We have to live with those changes all the time. What a student chooses to study will have a SouthernCross



flow-on effect to what fee help they can access [at college].” Many of Moore College’s current students come from a variety of financial contexts and rely on a combination of FEE-HELP loans and other financial options. “Depending on the circumstances of the individual, and the first degree they have chosen, there has always been a balancing act between the debt they have and the FEE-HELP they want,” “Pursuing ministry is... a choice not to have a career”: the Rev Dr David Hohne (right) chats with college students. Dr Hohne says. Often students will rely on other sources of income to help cover costs. Some have spouses who work, some make use of savings, some work part time or secure paid student ministry positions, and others fundraise for their theological education. Moore College provides a system to help those fundraising, where contributors can donate directly to a fund for a particular student. The college believes fundraising is a valuable skill for future ministry. “All ministry will be a matter of having prayer and financial supporters,” Dr Hohne says. “It’s always good for people who are involved in ministry to be skilled at raising support for their ministry. A lot of our students come with this mindset. They’ve been formed towards seeing ministry in that way. “That’s one of the main differences between being a student at Moore and being a university student. Entering into Moore College is about being formed to be a particular kind of person – one with convictions, character and competency for ministry. College is about who you are, university is about what you can do. Those are two very different ways of understanding your place in the world.” THE EXTRA COSTS OF STUDYING Course fees comprise only a small portion of what it costs to provide theological education. Along with a grant from the Sydney Diocese, the college raises its own funds to subsidise theological education for students. At the time of writing this article, Moore College aims to keep costs steady, only rising with CPI, and is not planning to pass on any increased degree costs to its students. Aside from tuition fees, those considering college also need to factor in costs for a residence, books, IT resources, travel costs and daily expenses. “It is very rare that a student has to discontinue their study for financial reasons, because the Lord provides,” Dr Hohne says. “It happens in a number of ways. The most mundane is that the college has some bursary funds that students can apply for if they are in trouble. Broader than that, [for] students who have established a support network, their supporters help out. In rare but joyful situations, people find sizeable cheques in their pigeon holes, or funds anonymously transferred into their accounts when the Lord wants to remain anonymous. “Preparing to serve the Lord and his people is the sharp end of taking up your cross and following the Lord Jesus,” he adds. “That’s the kind of framework in which I encourage people to think about the life change they are making. Pursuing ministry is not a career, it’s a choice not to have a career. People need to be willing to make that kind of choice.” sc SouthernCross



The emergency you haven’t heard about

Disaster: The latest flooding in South Sudan has forced at least 150,000 more people to leave their homes.

The numbers are staggering, but there has been little world attention given to an emergency situation in South Sudan. At least 150,000 people have been displaced from their homes due to heavy flooding in the eastern Jonglei state. This comes after violence in the region affected an estimated 400,000 Sudanese in early 2020 and last year’s floods in the same area displaced a further 900,000 people. The Archbishop of Sydney’s Anglican Aid has opened an appeal to help. Sydney minister the Rev Samuel John, who pastors the Sudanese congregation at Oakhurst, is providing information on the effects of the disaster. “Jonglei state’s flood is not on the major news outlets,” Mr John says. “However, we receive updates through livestreaming videos from relatives on the ground, and we use social media networks and telephone calls to connect with those who are affected by the floods. In fact, we all have family members and close relatives who talk to us day and night.” The disaster couldn’t have come at a worse time in South Sudan’s annual lean season, as the country also navigates a fragile peace deal and grapples with the effects of COVID-19. “Last night, it was traumatic and deeply disturbing to learn that many people have lost their lives, including a mother and a child at birth,” Mr John said in a prayer letter. “Elderly people are left unattended, they drowned in the water; some who are isolated starved to death. “The death toll is currently close to 100; properties are damaged, livestocks are gone. Sooner or later, water-borne diseases will erupt... hygiene-related disease is imminent. I am afraid the disaster will take many lives.” According to international reports, Lake Victoria is filling up to levels not seen since 1964. The impact of the water’s rise has already been felt in the basin countries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, and Uganda has taken steps to release water to ease the pressure on the lake. SouthernCross



Water, water everywhere: (clockwise from above left) Elders travel by canoe through the fields; drowned livestock; another village in Jonglei state is partially submerged.

Downstream, the swelling of the Nile adds to the problems caused by the rainy season in South Sudan, which is still recovering from last year’s catastrophic floods. “We cannot sleep or have joy in our hearts while our brothers have tears in their eyes – we have to be our brothers’ keepers,” Pastor John said. “Paul said in Philippians 2:2-4, ‘Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.’ “Please consider [those affected] in your prayers.” sc For information about the appeal see

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Streamlined and simple: Barneys at Broadway has its COVID check-in area well staffed and signposted.

For parishes used to welcoming new people with open arms, the advent of taking personal details for contact tracing has made services a little more complex. Regulars will naturally have no problem giving their details – they already go to the church, after all – but what do you do when someone refuses? And is your church ready to respond appropriately if this happens? The rector at St Barnabas’, Broadway, the Rev Mike Paget, had just such an experience on August 2. It was the church’s first Sunday of in-person meetings, and the fourth and final service of the day, when a man sought to walk straight in and had to be stopped. “He’s someone who has been at church a number of times before, who’s not identified himself to us in the normal ways, but he’s not totally new to us,” Mr Paget says. “We have a team of ushers and welcomers… and he swept past them. I was just at the entrance to the auditorium and was able to intercept him and give him the direction that, in order to enter the church, he needed to provide details because of the current government restrictions… it all went downhill from there.” When the man became abusive, the church enacted the next stage of its COVID safety plan, which included closing the doors leading to the foyer to insulate the service from any noise, delaying the start of the sermon with a song, contacting a couple of “bigger guys” in the church to come to the foyer and eventually, calling the police. The man left before the police arrived. “We’re used to having to deal with challenging potential interruptions to services on a reasonably regular basis – that’s just the nature of ministry at Barneys,” Mr Paget says. “We’ve had Anglicare staff train us in how to deal with people onsite who are aggressive – with perhaps drug use, mental health issues or psychosis behind the behaviour – and if we can avoid confrontation, that’s ideal. “Often we’d let someone go and sit in church quietly at the back and they might calm down… but SouthernCross



the problem with [COVID] is that because of the risk of community transmission we’re not able to pursue that strategy. We have to confront and potentially remove them.” Parish members began work on a pandemic safety plan two months ago and, as part of that, considered how they would respond in a range of situations. “For example, what do we do if someone starts coughing in the middle of church?” Mr Paget asks. “Let’s think through that in advance so that when it happens, we’re not all trying to think on our feet while people are freaking out! “And what do you do if someone becomes more broadly symptomatic in the middle of church? Or walks in off the street and is potentially quite difficult in the middle of church – under the influence of drugs, for example? Or people who, for various reasons of mental health, [find] the collection of those details… very confronting and dangerous?” Although Mr Paget expects churches in major centres or areas with a high volume of pedestrian traffic are most likely to experience non-compliance issues with Sunday visitors, anecotal evidence suggests funeral directors are also finding the occasional funeral attendee unwilling to provide personal information – and that could happen at any church. “Given the current rash of people who are COVID deniers, so to speak, I wouldn’t be surprised if churches experience that kind of thing in some areas of their population,” he says. “Visitors need to know that we’re allowed to require people to give their details – that it’s a legitimate thing.” He adds that although a church service is a public event, churches are private property and, if members have to, they can remove people from the grounds. “Training is crucial – particularly in smaller churches where volunteers are going to be the ones to manage this,” Mr Paget says. “Having a plan prepared in advance, and ensuring people have prepared what to say, is really important.” sc

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"The course is careful and enriching and brings together biblical content with research on healthy relationships." Lauren Errington, Mental Health Social Worker and Family Therapist





A letter from Africa Trying to keep safe: Locals wait for a COVID-19 test in Madagascar. photo: World Bank / Henitsoa Rafalia

From lockdown videos in Britain and the US, herd immunity experiments in Sweden and deserted streets in Italy, our media has been full of the pandemic’s effects in the West. But what about Africa? Southern Cross is reaching out beyond the usual places so we can pray and help our brothers and sisters overseas. Our request drew this response from the Rev Berthier Lainirina (left), an Anglican parish rector on the east coast of Madagascar who is also provincial secretary of the Anglican Church of the Indian Ocean. Mr Lainirina was in Sydney just 12 months ago to speak to Synod about ministry in Madagascar. We asked him about the situation in his country and the impact of COVID-19 on people in the community and on churches. Berthier Lainirina: Thank you for thinking of us. We desperately need prayers and we need God’s mercy. Madagascar is passing through a very tough moment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now nearly five months that the Government has declared a national “lockdown” and social distancing. However, the majority of the population are poor; they buy their food by the money they receive during their day work [day-to-day living]. Yet they can no longer do their daily business, therefore many have difficulty to find foods to eat during the day. Many are starving. The pandemic has had a massive impact on the economic life of the country and Madagascar is now struggling economically. It also impacted our social life – for example, a social security problem has started [and] numbers of thefts and murders increase every week. SouthernCross



Economic fallout: At this bus station in the capital Antananarivo, people prepare to return to their home towns as the prolonged lockdown leaves them with no opportunity to earn a living.

photo: World Bank / Henitsoa Rafalia

Churches locked is another big problem for clergy. Most of the churches in Madagascar pay their clergy out of Sunday’s weekly offerings. Since churches could not open for Sunday worship, and church members are financially struggling, so they could not afford to pay their pastors. Another issue is that there is no possibility of “online ministry” here, so Christians are currently missing pastoral care. Before the COVID 19 pandemic, dioceses in Madagascar were already struggling structurally with poverty, illness, vulnerability, unemployment and famine. We can’t imagine how bad things are at this time of the pandemic. Almost five months of locked churches has had a huge impact on the spiritual and economic life of the church. SC: How can people here in Sydney be praying for people in Madagascar and other areas where the effects of COVID-19 are significant? Berthier Lainirina: • Pray that churches in Madagascar will remain encouraged, especially the pastors. • Pray that Christians’ faith will not be weak because of church [being] locked. We are still in lockdown, more than four months now and we never know when it will end. Pray for our country that this will not take the country down. • Pray for the Church’s witness of Christ in this difficult time. • Pray for the Archbishop James Wong, all bishops, pastors, the provincial secretaries and administrative staff of each diocese for their work, that they will be blessings for others. • Pray that churches will remain trusting in Christ for their future. • Pray that the crises will come to an end. • Pray for church renewal and national revival. Southern Cross will continue to highlight other countries struggling with COVID-19. We urge prayer support and contributions to Anglican Aid’s pandemic appeal (see covid-19-relief-appeal). The organisation is working with churches and other Christian partners in developing nations to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. The relief appeal is raising funds to support handwashing and relieve hunger caused by lockdowns in the most vulnerable communities around the world. sc SouthernCross



How is your Bible reading and daily prayer? Dr Glenn Davies


ccording to McCrindle Research’s media release of August 11, Australians are experiencing spiritual revival amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Aussie workers are giving the spiritual life a go – with many participating more in spiritual practices. One in three Aussie workers are praying more (35 per cent, much/somewhat/slightly) and having spiritual conversations (33 per cent), with a further two in five (41 per cent) thinking about God more and one in four reading the Bible more (25 per cent). Aussie workers are also facing the stark realities of COVID-19, with one in two Aussie workers thinking more about their own mortality (53 per cent) and the meaning of life (55 per cent) during their experience of the COVID-19 challenge.

The Christian respondents in the study not only prayed more (41 per cent), a quarter were reading their bibles more and one in five attended church more often. About half also thought about God more, were considering the meaning of life and thought about their own mortality. Many feared that COVID-19, with its restrictions on gathering, lockdowns and cancelled church services, would have a devastating impact on the spiritual life of our churches, let alone our nation. However, this has not been the case! When results included all Australians (not just the employed), McCrindle found exploration of the spiritual world was still on the rise: 47 per cent had thought more about their mortality and the meaning of life, while a third had thought about God more. SouthernCross



This is not to underestimate the challenges our Public Health Orders have brought to the wellbeing of many Australians, nor to trivialise the significant mental health issues that have arisen in our society due to the pandemic. Yet by God’s grace there has been an upswing, according to McCrindle Research, in the Australian spiritual psyche. We should not be surprised by this, as God still has his purposes for his church and his world. The fast-spreading, canny Coronavirus, which infects before its symptoms are evident, is no match for our sovereign God. He can turn tragedy to triumph, sickness to health, and sadness to joy. While Satan may seek to undermine our confidence in God’s promises to his people, we should not be fooled. Moreover, the way to ward off Satanic folly is to return, again and again, to the Word of God. You will note that McCrindle reports 41 per cent of Christians are praying more and a quarter are reading their bibles more. In the midst of your experience of COVID-19, how is your Bible reading and daily prayer going? We used to call this the daily Quiet Time. I first learned it from my parents, when I used Scripture Union notes as a young child, marking my calendar for each day that I read my Bible. This practice was reinforced by attendance at Crusader camps in my secondary school years and throughout my university days. Of course, the pattern changed over time. While Scripture Union notes have been a wonderful resource, I moved in my twenties into reading through Tyndale commentaries (as the original editions were generally shorter than the later editions), which provided me with a lineal progression at greater depth through books of the Bible. I well recall reading through Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ published sermons on Romans. For my 21st birthday, some dear friends gave me a copy of Bishop J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, which I have recently begun to re-read as a daily devotion for the beginning of each day. In the evening, my wife and I have found Christopher Ash’s devotions on the Psalms to be uplifting and encouraging. We have also found John Woodhouse’s expositions of 1 & 2 Samuel to be similarly nourishing for the soul, as they are the fruit of his expository chapel sermons when he was Principal of Moore College. One does not need to read a whole chapter in one sitting, as we found it helpful to read smaller portions, even if it took a year to complete each book! We are blessed with many Christian resources to help us understand the Scriptures, but nothing can take the place of meditating on the text of the Bible’s own words. It is food for our soul, words conveyed by the Spirit of the living God to feed us and nourish us. David, like most of the psalmists, found the limited canon of barely seven books of the Old Testament to be a delight for daily meditation (Psalms 1, 19, 119). How much more then should we, who have both the entire Old Testament and the fulfilment of God’s purposes in the person and work of Jesus, as revealed in the New Testament, delight ourselves daily with the precious words of God. Well may we join in the prayer of Thomas Cranmer, using the words of the Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent: Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen. SC SouthernCross



The Antioch model: a platform for mission

A centre for ministry expansion:Â The facade of the Church of Saint Peter in Antioch (Antakya in modern Turkey), which covers caves where it is thought the early church met.

If we want a clear missionary pattern, we need look no further than the book of Acts, writes Malcolm Richards.


n Acts 1:8 the risen Jesus, using the words of Isaiah 49:6, predicts that his good news about the Kingdom will reach the ends of the earth. The history of the church is full of remarkable stories of the gospel breaking new ground as it makes its way across the globe.

One such story is that of Waswa Munubi. He was born in northwest Uganda in the mid-1860s and as a young man was apprenticed to a witch doctor. He was also influenced by Islam, brought to Uganda by the Arab slave traders. SouthernCross



From this background he became a Christian at about the age of 30 through CMS missionaries. With a new faith came a new name – Apolo Kivebulaya – and he was sent as an Anglican evangelist to a pagan tribe in the village of Boga, in what is now northeast Congo. Although initially welcomed, he endured significant persecution as he promoted Jesus as Lord and spoke forcefully against sorcery, polygamy and drunkenness. The chief ordered Apolo to be beaten severely. Although the beating brought him near to death, he recovered and kept on with the ministry. The chief was impressed by Apolo’s tenacity and faithfulness, together with his willingness to suffer for Jesus, and then subsequently – miraculously – became a Christian himself. And so Christianity and the Anglican Church took root.

Apolo Kivebulaya

So, because of this one faithful Christian, prepared to go from the known to the unknown and to suffer for Christ, many have been brought into the kingdom – one more tribe and language standing before the throne.

THE GOSPEL REACHES ANTIOCH In Acts 11 and 13 we see a major breakthrough point in the gospel going out to the nations, as the church in Antioch is established and then becomes central to God’s plans to take the good news to the ends of the earth. Antioch is the next Jerusalem, or centre for ministry expansion. In 11:19 we read that “those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews”. This takes us back immediately to Acts 8:1 and 8:4 and the scattering following the Jerusalem persecution. All the Christians except the apostles are reported as leaving Jerusalem. The Bible doesn’t say they were going out officially as evangelists but, nevertheless, having been taken over by Jesus, they take the gospel with them.

early church


This new diaspora of Christian Jews met up with the existing Jewish diaspora in the surrounding countries and the gospel was established in various Jewish communities.

DATE: 15 SEPT – 27 OCT


However, in v20 we see that some of these unknown evangelists, men of Cyrene and Cyprus, arrived in Antioch (a key Roman city in what is now Turkey) and – as well as preaching SouthernCross


PTC Lecture Series 26


to Jews – also told the Greek-speaking Gentiles about Jesus. Now we have both Jews and Gentiles becoming Christians in great numbers. The Jerusalem church is delighted and decides to send back-up. It’s not clear if the leaders in Antioch asked for help or if head office thought it was prudent, but the man they choose to send is Barnabas. A wise choice: not only is he also from Cyprus, but verse 24 tells us he is a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith – interestingly, the same description given of Stephen in 6:5. As a result of Barnabas’ ministry, a great many more people, Jews and Gentiles, become Christians. What joy! Clearly, God is working so powerfully in the city that more help is needed. Barnabas goes to fetch from Tarsus the now-converted Paul – the new Apostle to the Gentiles – and brings him to Antioch. Now they have enough ministry resources to cope and Paul and Barnabas teach (and presumably evangelise, since many in Antioch were becoming Christians) for a whole year. We don’t know what the church in Antioch looked like but scholars think it’s probable that it was a number of house churches, as in other cities.

ANTIOCH – THE NEW CENTRE FOR MINISTRY EXPANSION In the early chapters of Acts we are shown the picture of gospel growth in Jerusalem. We see that through the Holy Spirit the church is empowered to gather for teaching, building up the fellowship and prayer (Acts 2:42), as well as declaring the gospel to non-believers. The whole fellowship is taken over by Jesus! In the summary statements of 2:47 and 6:7 we hear that “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” and “the word of God continued to increase and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith”. Now, in 11:21 and 11:24, the same sort of language that was used of Jerusalem and the apostles is used of the work in Antioch: Luke is deliberately picturing Antioch as the new Jerusalem, or the next Jerusalem, with the same dynamic messianic community and the same work of the Holy Spirit. However, there are two big differences. First, the work of ministry is not done by the apostles but ordinary Christians. And second, there is a whole new category of Christian. In Jerusalem, only Jews were becoming Christian. Now, in Antioch, Jews are still turning to Jesus, but also this new breed: pagans, too, are becoming believers. Perhaps this is why they had to come up with the new name of “Christians” (v26). These are Christ’s people – Jesus has indeed taken them over. Jerusalem has been cloned, and in a most repeatable manner. If it’s been done once it can be done again. Between 11:26 and the beginning of chapter 13 Paul and Barnabas visit Jerusalem to take the love gift of famine relief. Now, in 13:1, the church leaders in Antioch are meeting with prayer and fasting, seeking God’s will. The Holy Spirit tells them to “set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (v2). By the end of Chapter 11 the reader might be thinking, “Antioch looks like Jerusalem except for one thing: no scattering!”. But then in Chapter 13 we see it: the scattering/sending out phenomenon SouthernCross



– not caused this time by persecution but, nonetheless, through a definitive intervention of the Holy Spirit. So, we have the circular gathering and reaching out and now, with the sending out of Barnabas and Paul, we know this second Jerusalem in Antioch will definitely not be the last – that this pattern is set to be repeated time and time again until the Lord returns.

THE REPEATABLE PATTERN I believe that any healthy church or group of churches should be exhibiting this Antioch pattern. We can see that local ministry/evangelism and wider mission to the next suburb, the next city, the next state and the next country are normal parts of church life under the power of the Spirit. It’s so unhelpful when people try and set the local witnessing activity of the Spirit in opposition to the wider scattering or sending work of the Spirit in mission. Both are clearly activities of Christ as he builds his kingdom, and both activities need the best people doing them. It’s funny how the wheel goes around. When I was at college, people constantly questioned my decision to become a missionary. Why wasn’t I staying in Sydney where there was so much work to do? Now it’s trendy to go anywhere rather than stay in Sydney. It’s even implied that those who want to stay in Sydney have no imagination and they are not taking the most strategic gospel path. Both these attitudes are inconsistent with Scripture. We need Sydney to continue being the effective Antioch that it has been for many years: we need the best people to stay and the best people to go! But it’s not as if the people involved in these two types of ministry – “local” and “mission” – are two separate groups. Please note that in the case of Antioch, the same people were used in both. Paul and Barnabas built up the church in Antioch and then were sent out. It is not necessarily one or the other! Mission is a team sport. If you are convinced of the Bible’s clear teaching that the scattering/ sending out phenomenon is a normal part of church life, then the question is not “Should my church be involved in sending out?” but “How should we be involved?” For a start every church should be actively identifying and encouraging suitable people to consider ministry – local, mission or either. Second, recognise the place of mission agencies. They aren’t there to replace the local church’s responsibility to be involved in mission! It’s best to think of agencies as local churches in Australia combining forces to help each other do a ministry that needs particular expertise and training. Acts is so exciting, as we see the gospel going from the known to the unknown. The Church must continue in this pattern until the Lord’s return, taking the known gospel to the unknown, so that people of every tribe and nation and language might be known by God. SC

Bishop Malcolm Richards is director of the Centre for Global Mission at Moore College. SouthernCross



I am grateful for COVID-19, and I am grateful that my husband of 36 years has Alzheimer’s disease

Menai Anglican Church recently asked its members to share things for which they could thank God in the midst of COVD-19. This is an edited version of a heartfelt story one member posted on the church’s Facebook page.


can no longer have a “normal” conversation with my husband; cannot share my thoughts, my needs, my concerns with him. To a large extent I have become “single”, though married, and do experience the loneliness of that.

But I am never alone. Through this I have found an ever-increasing need to talk to the one who loves me unconditionally, understands me wholly, knows my every need, who listens to my every word and responds with grace beyond my understanding – our great Father. SouthernCross



I am grateful for COVID-19 and I am grateful that my husband of 36 years has Alzheimer’s. Both outrageous statements, but nonetheless true. GOD HAS ALLOWED THESE CIRCUMSTANCES FOR HIS PURPOSES Why? Because both circumstances are completely in our great God’s control and allowed for his purposes. I believe this with my whole heart. I cannot accept some things as God’s will and leave others to “chance” or “mistake”. Everything comes from the Father and during this time of isolation he has reminded me of his words in James 1:2-3: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness”. I am so grateful for the wonderful ways our Father has, and continues to, bless me with strength, courage and patience as he carries me through each moment with just enough grace for my needs. I am grateful for the wonderful ways he has shown me his love and stirred in me a deep yearning to know him more, love him more and serve him more – however that looks, in all areas of my life. Praise be to God; my husband is now on a sedative at night to help with the random episodes of potential “wandering” in the wee small hours of the morning. GOD HAS OPENED EVERY DOOR In April, despite being told previously that I could not be with him during his pacemaker replacement because of COVID-19, on the day of surgery God opened every door to me. I was not only welcomed but appreciated by doctors and staff throughout the whole process. Praise the Lord! Our Father has provided unexpected Bible quotes, links to inspiring songs of praise, offers of prayer through text messages and also via Zoom and phone conversations. He has enabled me to become a bit “tech savvy” so as to join my sisters in a growth group via Zoom as well as take part in church each Sunday. I’ve even learned how to connect an HMDI cable so I could run my laptop through my little TV in the study. Just recently he opened up an opportunity for me to join a dementia support group via Zoom and that has been very encouraging. These are but a few of the ways he helps me, guides me, encourages and enables me in things I have never had to do before. I’ve been reminded that he wants to bless me and grow me if I let him. Isolation has been a time of renewal and reaffirmation of God’s great love and purpose. SC

2020 Martyrs Appeal

Honouring the Martyrs ABM’s 2020 New Guinea Martyrs Appeal brings you stories from young Papua New Guineans who have benefitted from the legacy of the Martyrs, and who are set to carry on their tradition.

To educate is to empower

To donate to this appeal, please visit SouthernCross



Twisted teaching erased by the grace of God Joseph “The cult didn’t give me answers – but Jesus did”: Joseph talks about coming to faith.


n 2011 I had this overwhelming sense of purposelessness. I was in my second year of TAFE. I was given an assignment and I thought, “Another assignment? What’s the point?” I was depressed and lonely because of these thoughts. My mother would ask me, “What’s wrong?” and I would say nothing.

An old friend told me I should read the Bible. I put it off, even though I was raised Catholic. I had never been devoted to Catholicism, I just... went to church on the special days. We never read the Bible. However, I bought an NLT version and started reading. I was always fascinated by prophecies, and so became obsessed with the May 2011 conspiracy about the end of the world. Obviously it didn’t end, but I wanted to know what happened to the guy who prophesied this. I came across a video [from a cult called the British Israelites] a few days later explaining why May 21 was not the end of the world. He explained many things, and I was captivated… I thought I could learn a lot, so I watched their videos and ordered their resources. You can imagine me, obsessed with prophecies and vulnerable in the faith. Part of their teaching was that Jesus did not do away with the seven festivals we are commanded to celebrate in the Old Testament. The cult said we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas or birthdays, and was strict on Sabbath keeping. Saturday is the day you are not to do any work, no matter what. During this time, my family cleaned my grandparents’ house every Saturday and when I joined this cult I stopped contributing to cleaning. I tried to share these beliefs with my family. I ordered so much material and sent them to my extended family, but that didn’t work out. Fights with my family were “evidence” I was doing the right thing, because the cult would say Jesus himself said they will persecute you. That made me SouthernCross



feel like I was in the only true church. My family thought I was brainwashed, which made me more lonely and depressed. I contacted the pastor of this cult in Australia [and asked], “If I fail in this life, will I be given a second chance?” He said, “No. You’ll be sentenced to the lake of fire.” This scared me. I wanted my family to be saved but they thought I was brainwashed. It started off positive, having a purpose, but now I thought, if I leave, I’m damned; if I stay, I’m alone. I stopped praying... because they said God doesn’t listen to the prayers of sinners, therefore all my prayers were meaningless because I was still a sinner. After two years, the head pastor released a prophecy that all their splinter churches would either reunite or die. I was incredibly excited about this because if it didn’t happen, it was my chance to leave. Deuteronomy 18:21-22 says if a prophecy does not come to pass, that prophet is not from the Lord. And I held onto that. When the time came, the pastor made an excuse for why it didn’t happen, and I tore up all the literature. I got a steel bucket, doused the literature in petrol and lit it on fire. I closed the Bible and did not want to ever affiliate myself with this book again. I poured myself into work, travelled, got into self help and improvement, motivational speakers. I had a new perspective on life, but after a few years those existential questions still came up. I still wondered what the point was when we were all going to die. I [looked for] something to help people who had gone through cult experiences, and found a support group of strangers who had very similar experiences. The group leader gave me a book with a new perspective on understanding what it means for God to love. Even though we don’t deserve that love, it’s there for us and it changes us… because it’s such a beautiful gift. The book made me cry like crazy because it gave me a new hope. It helped me deprogram what I had learned from the cult. I wanted somewhere to fellowship but I didn’t know who to trust. [The support group leader] recommended a church that ended up being in my suburb! I started studying the Bible but was still thinking, “Jesus died on the cross but what does that mean?” I got home from work one day, and my Bible was open. My mum had dropped it while cleaning, and left it open on my desk. It was at Luke 24, when Jesus was on the road to Emmaus… he said I’m written throughout the entire Old Testament, everything was pointing to when God himself would come in the flesh to demonstrate his love. That just blew my mind. I have a massive church family that I never thought I would have. I have Christian brothers and sisters, and my social support group has enlarged on a scale I never thought possible. My family were happy when I left the cult. The relationship I have with my mother is so full of love and closeness and laughter, it’s really improved. And I have an assured hope because of Jesus. He died for my sins. Life is not about getting the best career. Things in life are here one day, gone the next. I find a fulfilled purpose in what Jesus offers in Matthew 28 when he gives the Great Commission. Everything else fades away, but that will last forever. I would say I was meant to go through that cult experience. It has made me not just blindly accept what the leader of a church says to be true. Grow in knowledge and understanding and find out for yourself if it’s true. SC SouthernCross




Responding to Jesus during COVID-19

In a recent talk on Matthew 11:1-24 at St Andrew’s Cathedral, the Dean of Sydney, Kanishka Raffel, asked how we are responding to Jesus and whether COVID-19 has caused us to re-examine our lives? See


here’s no reason to think that the Coronavirus is a particular judgment of God. This is a fallen

world, not heaven. This is a world subject to disease and decay and death. A world under judgment. God has not given us a reason to think there is a special judgment because of some particular sin. On the other hand, the Bible is clear that the very presence of sickness and death in the world should remind us to reflect on our response to God. It would be supremely foolish to make our way through this COVID-19 pandemic without personally and corporately examining ourselves and repenting of sin. Personally, have I made plans and set goals without recognising that every day is given to me




as a gift from God, for the good of others, and for his glory? Have I used my time and wealth and abilities to further my own name and interests, without consideration of how these might serve God’s purposes and his kingdom? Have I resented this intrusion into my plans as though God owed me something, when in fact, I owe him everything and he owes me nothing? In the time of COVID, have I devoted any time to serving the needs of others, or have I had only my own needs in view? And corporately, what should we repent of as a nation, or a city, or a church? Are we thankless, prayerless, neglectful or contemptuous of God’s word? Indifferent to the needs of others? Are we self-serving, self-indulgent, self-satisfied? Do we honour our leaders? Do we pray for them? Do we seek to share what we have? Do we speak for the oppressed, the widows and the orphans, the powerless and the voiceless? Have we any concern at all that the name of Jesus should be given the honour he is due? Do we weep over the lostness and hardness and foolishness and ruthlessness of our own nation? Do we long for our neighbours to know the love of God, the gift of the Spirit, the royal rule of Jesus? Jesus denounced the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed because they did not repent. There’s the line of clear sight: blessed is the one who does not reject me; let those who have ears, hear the word of the Lord’s prophet; wisdom is proved right by her deeds; see the works of the kingdom that I have done. Repent. There is the gospel window that Jesus opens. Repentance is the window that opens to the enlivening breeze of forgiveness and adoption. Not a work of our own, but the gospel’s work in us when, by God’s grace, we see with clarity. When, by God’s grace, we see Jesus. SC

Do you see him?



“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.”

The centre for all information about our churches and their response to the COVID-19 pandemic in faithfulness to God and love of all people. • IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENTS • ARCHBISHOP’S UPDATES • PRAYER

Glenn Davies, Archbishop The Professional Standards Unit receives and deals with complaints of child abuse or sexual misconduct by members of the clergy and church workers.


A Pastoral Care and Assistance Scheme is available to provide counselling and other support to victims of misconduct or abuse. The Safe Ministry Board formulates and monitors policy and practice and advises on child protection and safe ministry for the Anglican Church Diocese of Sydney. SouthernCross

 Abuse Report Line 1800 774 945 34


The “not yet” of going to church now

Judy Adamson


hile most parishes are now running face-to-face services, the lack of a few familiar faces tells us that attending in person is still a bridge too far for some.

Ministry staff in any parish can tell you about members who aren’t willing to return until the service is “normal” – read, pre-COVID in all respects. There are also some who don’t get out the door on Sunday because they’ve become so comfortable watching from home. Yet those of us who are at church need to be very careful not to make assumptions about the brothers and sisters who aren’t with us, as there are many other reasons why they might not be in their usual pew. SouthernCross



For Georgina Barratt-See (right) – a member of Ashbury parish – a bout of glandular fever in 2018 left her with debilitating chronic fatigue. While she has gradually returned to her full-time university work, managing her lower energy levels and the need for regular rest is an ongoing balancing act. “I’ve been at home since the 17th of March,” she says. “Once they started talking about COVID at work, I left a week before everyone else… to work from home. We have a lot of international students in my office, so it was a high-risk area at the time. “Some of the long-term effects for people who get COVID are exactly what I have,” she adds. “Twenty-five per cent of people with chronic fatigue are bed-bound, [so] if I get sick I’m worried that I’ll end up in bed all the time, not be able to work, not be able to pay my mortgage and my life will just collapse.” Asked if she was staying at home because of anxiety or her compromised immune system, Miss Barratt-See immediately says, “Both! I went to the supermarket a few days ago, and it was the first time I’d done that in four weeks. “I go once a week to my friend’s place for dinner… and I have managed a careful weekend brunch occasionally… but really, I’m scared of getting sicker. And also, it’s sensible. As much as I would love to see people and be physically at church, the reality is I have to be sensible. There isn’t an alternative.” WHEN OTHERS ARE AT RISK For Dr Stuart Perry (left), it’s a no-brainer to avoid church in person for the foreseeable future. This decision also includes his wife Tracee, who is manager of the general practice in Bowral where he works. He finds it “absolutely” frustrating that he and his family can’t attend church in person, but says, “as a solo GP I feel a sense of responsibility that I’m not putting my patients at risk by getting unwell… and then not being able to serve them and care for them when I need to”. This means life right now consists of being at work, then at home. The couple also doesn’t go to Bible study for the same safety reason, and the family watches church from home. Dr Perry says it’s become a struggle to keep church as central and important to their family as it would be if they attended in person. “That’s a real drawback,” he says. “In the first couple of SouthernCross



months you felt a bit more optimistic that this would be a short-run affair, before we came back together to worship in body and spirit, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.” He asks people to pray that they would have the strength to do the job they need to, as well as the faithfulness to cling to Jesus. “We need to lean into God at this time – to remember that he is faithful, and we need him.” A part-time health worker whose parish is in the South Sydney region describes herself as “too informed about COVID and its spread” to feel comfortable in most public situations – whether that be shopping, going out with friends, or going to church. She still connects online for church and Bible study and has cautiously returned to work, where she can see tremendous efforts have been made to keep staff and patients safe. Yet she believes that most people in society – particularly those over 60 like herself – need better risk management strategies. “I read too much and scared myself,” she says with a laugh. “My church is complying with all the health [department] and diocesan guidelines, but it’s still a personal evaluation of the risks one wants to take.” SERVING FROM HOME Out at Windsor, Merryne Ghantous (right) might not be able to go to church – her medication has left her with no immune system – but that doesn’t mean she isn’t involved. Sure, she’s not physically in the building on Sundays, but she’s on parish council and, as “a talker”, was approached by her rector the Rev Chris Jones to keep in phone contact with some of the elderly people in the parish. There are a dozen people on her list, but she rings others, too. “There are some people on their own and I thought immediately, ‘They’ll be lonely, they’ll be fearful, it will be a difficult time for them’,” Mrs Ghantous says. “But my expectations just completely went out the window because all the people I was ringing – some of them in their 90s – were so positive and happy. “If they do have a difficulty, I know who to ring to help fix it. And they’re always happy to have me call. Each time I ask if they would like a prayer and most of them say, ‘Yes, please’.” Despite her positive outlook, Mrs Ghantous admits to getting a little “stirred up” occasionally. At those times she gets into God’s word, goes for a drive or takes a walk – and for the latter chooses a place where she knows there will be few or no people. Her husband Bassam does the shopping, and she’s also been able to keep in touch with grandchildren online, “so I’ve really got nothing to whinge about! “I haven’t felt depressed or down or anything,” she adds. “I’ve been talking to so many people, and I get as much from it as they do because they’re really so positive… I also feel I’m not letting Chris down by not being there [on Sundays].” SC SouthernCross



A spiritual health check for your church

Tara Sing


e’re very focused on physical health at the moment – and for good reason, too – but when was the last time you checked the spiritual health of your church?

Peter Mayrick, co-director of the Centre for Ministry Development, believes we should all stop and ask whether our church is as healthy as it could be. He helps churches assess how spiritually healthy they are and then identify areas of improvement. “A healthy church understands what church is, and seeks to express that in all they do,” he SouthernCross



says. “A healthy church will align with the mission of Christ and will look for fruit to that extent. Are people growing in their love for Jesus and God? Is the kingdom growing?” Having strong and healthy churches is vital if we long to see God glorified and his kingdom grow. “God has entrusted his mission to his church,” Mr Mayrick says. “God has entrusted the job of reaching the nations to us and to each generation. We have an opportunity to serve him in this generation and to make sure the next generation can pass on [the faith] as well. There is no greater privilege than to be invited to serve the living God in his plans, which are to redeem the world in Christ.” Sadly, it’s common for churches to slip from focusing on God’s mission and become inwardlooking. Mr Mayrick says we want to avoid becoming more like a country club – which happens when our efforts are focused on pleasing the members of the congregation rather than the Lord. “Does the church exist to satisfy members who pay for the service?” he asks.

GIVE YOUR CHURCH A SPIRITUAL CHECK-UP Here are some simple indicators of spiritual health from Peter Mayrick that every parishioner can look for.

1 THE TREATMENT OF GOD’S WORD “How do we treat God’s word? Do we treat it well, with respect and authority?” The attitude to the word of God and the authority of Scripture can reveal a lot about a church’s heart.

2 THE APPROACH TO PRAYER AND THANKFULNESS “Do we recognise that we are praying to the Almighty? Do we only pray a laundry list of requests or do we crave that the kingdom would grow? Or crave that God would be honoured?”

3 THE INCLUSION OF OUTSIDERS “How many people are inviting friends to church? Are you comfortable inviting a friend here? A healthy church wants to see conversions. Whether they do or not is God’s work, but we want to see people coming to know Jesus. That protects us from being a country club in some ways.” The Centre for Ministry Development notes that it only takes a small number of people (for example, five per cent of church members) to be actively welcoming for a church to become a welcoming church. A small number of intentional laypeople make an extraordinary difference to helping visitors feel welcome.

4 THE CONCERN FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH A healthy church cares how each person is growing. “A great question to ask is, ‘What is God teaching you from his word?’ or, ‘How are you growing in your faith?’. That would show they actually care for a person as a member of the body rather than just caring for them as a friend. Every person who is a disciple is called to be a discipler, to encourage people in their journey.”

5 THE STEWARDSHIP OF RESOURCES A church’s focus impacts how it uses its time and resources. “We have to use our resources well. Not to be the best, but to do [God’s mission] well and be pleasing to him.” SouthernCross



MY CHURCH SEEMS SICK – WHAT CAN I DO? The actions of one person can go a long way in helping a church grow healthy and strong,” Mr Mayrick says. “It’s amazing how ‘infectious’ health is. When one is on fire for the Lord, I’ve seen whole growth groups change.” Small actions can have a big impact. Begin by asking people about their faith. Seek to encourage others spiritually. Pray for one another. Cultivate thankfulness by asking how God has worked in their lives lately. When mingling after church (once it’s okay to do so), be willing to spend time with visitors. Show care and love to people practically as well as spiritually. Trying to initiate change is not always easy. It’s important your faith is firmly anchored. “I’m first a disciple before I’m a discipler,” Mr Mayrick says. “We know that burnout in ministry starts where people… become so busy that they stop their spiritual formation, their personal prayer and time in God’s word. It’s so important that service is anchored in an understanding of why we’re serving. The last thing we want to do is overburden people and cause people to suffer because they’re overcommitted. We want to encourage wisdom as well as faithfulness. “We are all part of the body, we all have a role, and it’s a privileged role at that,” he adds, drawing on passages such as 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. “An unhealthy church has a few people doing all of the work. Ephesians 4 encourages pastors to equip the saints for works of service. It doesn’t say we should put money in for the pastors to do all the work. I think it starts with us.” SC




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Three ways to keep recruiting for ministry

“We want to create a tidal wave of people living for Jesus”: Phil Colgan.

Tara Sing


here’s a collective call in Sydney churches to see more people step into ministry. Multiple churches waiting for senior ministers to lead them indicate that the harvest is plenty but the workers are few.

To encourage people to the task, Moore College recently held the online conference “Sydney to the World”. With 270 registrations, it’s clear that many people are keen to consider and encourage others to take up their cross and serve the Lord in vocational ministry. The principal of Moore College, the Rev Dr Mark Thompson, hopes that many were challenged by the conference and longs to see them undertake theological study and pursue vocational ministry. “We are excited that the Lord is laying it on the heart of so many men and women to consider SouthernCross



full-time gospel ministry in Sydney and beyond,” he says. “The Lord listens to the prayers of his people and many of us have been praying for a huge contingent of men and women who will give themselves to this work. The need is great and the time is now.” While one Saturday afternoon can inspire many, our churches need to develop cultures of continual recruitment to see a steady stream of people stepping up to serve. The Rev Neil Fitzpatrick, senior minister at Jannali, recognises it can take two to three years to start on the pathway to full-time vocational ministry. His church has sent an average of one person a year over the past 14 years to study theology. “I expect people to say ‘No’ the first time I invite them to start in full-time ministry,” he says. “Sometimes it’s a matter of the heart. It takes time to let go of the world and serve Christ in that way.” The Rev Canon Phil Colgan, senior minister at St George North, adds that this conversation shouldn’t be an out-of-the-blue proposal. His parish has also sent a large number of people to serve the Lord as their vocation. “You can’t separate recruiting for ministry from recruiting for vocational ministry,” he says. “We want to create a tidal wave of people living for Jesus, evangelising and serving. Then there will be a constant stream of people bubbling out of the top. They’re the people you get alongside and tap on the shoulder.” There are three things churches can do to help keep recruiting for ministry on the agenda: 1 KEEP SPEAKING ABOUT GOSPEL WORK AND NEEDS “Ensure the air people breathe is gospel ministry,” Canon Colgan says. “Whether that’s through preaching, Bible study, one on one… it’s all got to be in the air. Stress the expectation that all people would be serving, that service isn’t something you add on.” 2 KEEP SEEKING THOSE WHO CAN SERVE “I try to identify who are our potential gospel workers, and I think you see them young,” Mr Fitzpatrick says. “Identify and notice who is around and who could go. Invest in them in particular.” 3 KEEP TRAINING AND SENDING PEOPLE Mr Fitzpatrick encourages people in his church to serve in other ministries, too. “The people who leave us [to pursue vocational ministry] are often people who have also participated in ministries outside of our church. They get a bigger picture of the world and gain confidence that they can do stuff outside of our ministry here. It breaks them out of their comfort zone. It’s good for the kingdom. They will influence people who are still here as well, so it’s not a sacrifice but a blessing to our church for people to be involved elsewhere.” Adds Canon Colgan: “I try to give people the opportunity to talk about the next steps. We find a mentor for them who is consciously talking to them about what ministry might look like. I invest in them.” Mr Fitzpatrick and Canon Colgan discussed these issues at a Ministry Training & Development event in late August called “Creating a Recruiting Culture in Your Church”. SouthernCross




socially distanced games for youth group

Hannah Thiem


lanning youth group games requires a high level of creativity at the best of times, but as the

pandemic continues and our youth groups are in various states of meeting online or in person, it’s important to ensure teens can feel safe but still have fun. Youth will likely require encouragement to maintain a safe distance and need guidelines for how close they should sit or stand together. While this is relatively simple to achieve when people are sitting down, it gets harder when it comes to less structured time. Here are six old-school youth group games that naturally lend themselves to social distancing.



A great icebreaker game with no prep – and once people have spread out, they don’t move from their place. You can find the instructions here.

This game is all about the intrigue and discussion, rather than running around. You can find the instructions here. Things to look out for: make sure you have a plan to clean the cards after use. Leaders should also take time to emphasise the fictional nature of the role-playing game and encourage truth and honesty. If people feel uneasy about a game like this, the most loving thing to do is choose another game.

Things to look out for: it could be helpful to have markers on the ground showing where people should stand to ensure they don’t shift around during play.






All you need for this is a soccer ball and two ropes with notches. Split your groups into teams and have them try to play a normal game of soccer, while only able to move backwards and forwards. If the ball goes behind the ropes, or reaches a certain point, it can count as a goal. You will need one leader to bring the ball back when it goes out of bounds.

Set up your own putt-putt obstacle course and let the fun begin. Things to look out for: make sure you have enough equipment so that each student can use their own, or have systems in place to clean it as you go. It could also be helpful to have markers where youth can line up safely.

Things to look out for: this has a bit more movement, so make sure you are keeping an eye on how people are using the rope.



Anybody can create a Kahoot game, or select one that’s already on the website. The youth can all play remotely or in person, competing for points.

Whiteboards allow the visuals to be larger and easy to see, so there’s no requirement to bend over a piece of paper. It also means the game will work for a larger group. Things to look out for: make sure each individual player can have their own whiteboard marker and consider wiping down the board between each round.




Masks, music and (no) mingling…

Kara Hartley


ur church returned to face-to-face meetings some weeks ago, and more recently

we’ve been wearing masks. While I’ve been wearing a mask on the train or to the shops, wearing one at church provides a particular challenge. It is a completely different thing to wear a mask in the public – where rarely am I trying to strike up conversation walking the aisles of the supermarket – compared to spurring on my brothers and sisters to love and good deeds when I come to church. I’ve been struck by how alien I’ve felt sitting in church wearing a mask. Combine that with no singing and no mingling and, to be honest, I have found it really hard. I am no singer but I long to be able to stand with my church family and sing out praises to God together. Having a prerecorded song on the screen does offer the chance to hum but sitting in my own seat, distanced from others, I am suddenly acutely aware that I would even welcome hearing other out-of-tune singers around me. I am a chatter, so leaving church quickly and trying to have conversations on the footpath doesn’t feel satisfactory. I know these are reasons many churches have been reluctant to begin gathering again. What’s the solution? Obviously not to stop coming! Instead I need to rethink how I walk into church. This was the title of a study, produced by Matthias Media, that we did in my growth group a few years ago. It’s a great study series because it reminds us that, as we come to church, we are coming as much for our own feeding from God’s word as we are coming to serve. Not just on a SouthernCross



roster but to serve others. Seeking to invest in the lives of others. Yet with church being so different now it feels a little more daunting. For those of us who’ve already returned and those who’ll be returning in the coming weeks or months here are a few things I’ve been considering as I walk into COVID-restricted church: 1. Some things remain the same. Before COVID I used to pray before I left home for those involved in the church service, for the preacher, for the kids’ ministry, for others coming to church and for me. This remains whether we’re gathering physically or still experiencing church online. 2. Arrive early. Pre-COVID I tried to operate on the B.E.L.L principle when it came to arriving and leaving church: be early, leave late. Arriving five to 10 minutes before church and trying not to have commitments straight afterwards, making it possible to stay longer to talk to people. It’s not quite as possible to linger after the service now, but it’s still possible to arrive early. After taking my seat I can still welcome others as they arrive. Greeting people with “smiling eyes”, calling out “Hello” across the room accompanied by a wave. It’s especially important for churches where services times and congregations have been changed around. Some might be feeling a bit uncertain because they don’t know who they’ll know in a different service. A friendly welcome could be the first step to a new friendship. 3. Seating. I used to walk into church mindful of those who might be on their own, or new, or at church for the first time. We sat in different seats each week to try and connect with different people. But we now have individual, separated seats in church. I want to sit close to the front so the preacher might be encouraged, but that might mean missing out on connecting with a newcomer or a latecomer. So I am going to sit towards the middle, hoping it will provide opportunities to connect with those I don’t know super well. 4. Hum. When we discovered congregational singing was not possible, I remember being in a meeting where one person really advocated humming. The rest of us expressed our dismay at this. Yet I’m willing to admit, as I listen to music played (recorded or live) in church and hum along – while others hum along, too – it does create a sense of connection. I’m amazed that I’ve come around to it but, to be honest, it’s actually hard to resist! 5. Leave late. No mingling cuts down the opportunity for post-church conversations. At my church, our after-church chats take place on the footpath due to the fact that all the buildings are used for the second morning service. Our cars are right there, parked on the street. In the cold or wet it’s really very easy to simply say goodbye and jump in the car. This is the moment to know the closest café, invite someone to go with you. Ensure we’re not the first to head to the car. Given that we don’t know when restrictions might change how we gather, rather than lament on what church isn’t, now is the time to reimagine how to walk into church: to reset expectations, to manage our own desires and seek to serve others. None of these suggestions are revolutionary and I encourage you to be creative as you consider how you might walk into church. SC

The Ven Kara Hartley is Archdeacon for Women in the Sydney Diocese. SouthernCross



A journey of discovery Tim Swan


ugust 2019. My iPhone pings. I glance across: Hi Tim. You may know that I’m the chair of Anglican Aid and that we are looking for a new CEO. Would you be happy to meet to talk about the position? Peter (Tasker)

I was at my desk in the office of Willoughby Park Anglican Church, where Sally and I had spent the past five and a half years building relationships and the church after returning from a 10-year stint as CMS missionaries in Chile. I was surprised to be contacted, but let him know I was committed to long-term ministry in Willoughby. Besides, I had no history with or knowledge of Anglican Aid! After a bit of digging, what I found inspired me. I learned that Anglican Aid has a history of caring for the poor through churches in the Diocese, reaching back to the Great Depression. There’s also a history of partnering with overseas ministries like that of Dr Catherine Hamlin – who treated victims of horrific fistula injuries in Ethiopia with her medical skill and the love of Christ – through the Overseas Relief and Aid Fund (ORAF) established by Archbishop Sir Marcus Loane. I learned that Anglican Aid also administers the Overseas Ministry Fund established by Archbishop Goodhew, and that more than 400 full-time Bible college students in Africa are currently sponsored in local colleges for ministry in their countries.The board was looking for a CEO to greatly expand this work. The question came again, would I be interested in the role? Would I?! Sally and I had always wanted to give ourselves to train pastors in the developing world and care for children and others in distress. Here was an opportunity to do both on a scale that could strengthen churches and whole dioceses, and bring transformation to vulnerable communities in Australia and across the globe. So with the support of Sally and my church, and delight from my children (“Yes! We get to be involved in global mission again!”), I began work as CEO of Anglican Aid late in April. Last month I spoke about theological education with an archbishop in Mauritius and Bible college principals in South Africa and Chile; worked on building relationships between churches SouthernCross



conducting mission in Sydney’s socially disadvantaged areas and wealthier churches. I discussed a proposal to support a fistula prevention project in Tanzania, helped set up appeals to help the destitute in South Sudan and Beirut and spoke with some wonderfully generous donors. Right now, we are forging a new Bible training sponsorships program due to launch on Reformation Sunday (November 1). This will mean churches and individuals in Australia can directly sponsor full-time Bible college students in needy parts of the world. Through our international links, more and more bishops are asking Sydney for help in training their clergy. God has given us an amazing opportunity for strengthening his church around the world! Through Anglican Aid we see God’s grace overflowing from Australian Christians to more than 100 projects in over 30 countries, encompassing women’s refuges, children’s education, village access to clean water and more. Most impressively, all this is done through trusted Christian partners linked to local church ministry, in situations where it is Christians – not governments – reaching the most vulnerable people. Getting to know some of these partners (via Zoom!) has been a great joy: Christian brothers and sisters in Australia and overseas living very simply, pouring themselves out for others and using whatever resources we send to great effect. Please join me in praying for the work of Anglican Aid – our own agency as Sydney Anglicans. With growing support we “let grace flow”, strengthening churches and transforming communities locally in Australia, and across the world, to the glory of God. SC The Rev Canon Tim Swan is CEO of Anglican Aid. Ipalo Christian Community School, Zambia

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Clergy Moves

THE BISHOP OF SHOALHAVEN HEADS After eight years as Bishop of the Armidale Diocese, Rick Lewers will return to Sydney next year to become rector of St Peter’s, Shoalhaven Heads at the end of January. “I’ll be 63 by the time I begin, and I didn’t want to finish my ministry as a bishop, I wanted to finish it in parish,” he says. “I was looking forward to having people that I pastorally know and love closely – as opposed to over a distance – and I wanted to be able to have a pulpit in which I could teach God’s word for a period of time before I was finally told that I needed to hang up my shingle!” He mentioned this in a chat about a year ago with the Bishop of the Wollongong Region, Peter Hayward – who then contacted him earlier this year to gauge his interest in the parish. “I have never been to Shoalhaven Heads except to drive in on holidays, take a peek and get a hamburger – that’s about as much as I knew about the place!” Bishop Lewers says. “But Peter talked to me about it, and I had a conversation with them, and that’s how it happened.” Some have expressed surprise that a bishop would be willing to move to a small regional parish, but for him, it’s perfectly logical. “I believe that God is the God of small things, not just big things,” he says. “Shoalhaven Heads has a population of 3000 people and only one church, and there are only 60 people going to church, so there’s plenty of scope for outreach. “Also, I’ve been sticking young men and their families into small, isolated parishes all across the Armidale Diocese, and if I’m not prepared to go to a small place myself, then what right have I got to ask younger men to do the same? And I have to say, since being the bishop of a small rural diocese, I love rural – it suits me, I think. I know that Shoalhaven Heads is not really like rural up here [in Armidale], but there is that rural aspect to it.” He adds: “There are lessons about humility that I’m looking forward to learning. Some people think that’s crazy, but I think there are good things for me to learn and grow through, and I think there’s a contribution I can make down there that hopefully will be helpful.” SouthernCross



CHEUNG’S COVID SERVICE The Rev Nate Cheung became rector of St Martin’s, Georges Hall on July 23. More than 180 people attended his induction service – 80 per cent watching live on Zoom from as far away as the Northern Territory. Careful and creative thought was needed to set up seating safely for those attending in person, as well as placing the three cameras so that people viewing from home would feel fully involved. An order of service was also emailed to those participating from home. It was the first service held in the church building since March, so the members who took part were excited to be able to open the doors again. Churchwarden and nominator Janene Morrin said the extra cleaning and set-up work was worth it to allow all church members and other supporters to experience the service live, even if they could not physically be in the building. Mr Cheung is now looking forward to seeing what God has in store for Georges Hall as he steps up to serve the saints. “Pray for us as we get to know people here and embark on this new adventure together, as we start in this time of COVID,” he says. After three years as the episcopal assistant to VACANT PARISHES the Bishop of South Sydney, Michael Stead, the List of parishes and provisional parishes, vacant or Rev Hugh Isaacs will finish up midway through becoming vacant, as at August 31, 2020: • Mittagong this month. He will continue as acting rector of • Albion Park** • Granville • Mosman, St • Balgowlah • Gymea Dulwich Hill. Mr Isaacs’ replacement, the Rev • Bulli Clement’s • Huskisson • Newport Brett Hall from Rosemeadow-Appin Anglican • Cabramatta* • Katoomba • North Epping • Kurrajong Churches, starts one day a week in the role • Carlingford • Paddington** and North • Leura** Rocks • Pitt Town on September 1, and will move to a half-time • Mt Druitt* • Rosemeadow* appointment after finishing up in his parish on • Cronulla • Malabar • Darlinghurst • St Clair* December 31. • Menai • Figtree • Sans Souci The Rev Stuart Milne became rector of Christ Church Northern Beaches in early August.

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A pitstop to revive your faith Verity Stead Are We There Yet? By Ruth Baker Published by Ark House


hristians have always, and will continue to, experience difficulty in living the Christian life.

There will be times when we feel distant from God. When we know that our faith is lukewarm. Maybe daily devotions and prayers have become a chore, or forgotten entirely. Perhaps church attendance is not as regular or as spiritually nourishing as it once was. The feeling of frustration is familiar because we know what to do to revive our faith, but it’s a struggle to do it. We feel inadequate and guilty, compared to the seemingly perfect Christians that surround us. Are We There Yet? is a timely reminder that “the Christian journey doesn’t look like we think it should look”, and that the “perfect Christian” mentality – and a lack of understanding of why and how specific Christian habits are essential to nurture faith – often hinders our relationship with God from flourishing. Ruth Baker is systematic and logical in her examination of the proposed ideal habits and principles of a Christian (i.e. daily devotions and prayer, church attendance, evangelism and service). She highlights the contrast between the ideal versus reality. Scriptures from the Old and New testaments are consulted to provide understanding about why and how these habits are fundamental to nurture one’s faith. Baker also uses psychological insight into human thinking and motivation to provide understanding of why we struggle to implement these habits, and subsequently provides thought experiments and activities that encourage readers to reflect on what assumptions, cultural and psychological barriers are impeding any rejuvenation of their faith. I found the book an enjoyable and easy read due to its conversational tone and hints of humour. It was also incredibly helpful for my own faith, as the psychological explanations behind why Christians struggle with good habits not only provided greater understanding, but enabled me to critically reflect on the influences that negatively affect my faith – then specifically pray for the Lord to work in me to proactively nurture positive influences, and combat or avoid negative ones. Are We There Yet? is an excellent read, especially for those feeling lost or stagnant in their journey of faith. I would also highly recommend this book to those looking for guidance on establishing good Christian habits, understanding why we struggle to do so, and why these specific habits, values and attitudes are fundamentally important to Christian living. SC SouthernCross



Ready to have the sex talk with your kids?

Tara Sing Talking Sex by the Book By Patricia Weerakoon Published by CEP


y friends and I used to laugh in our early twenties at the awkward conversations we had

with our parents about where babies came from and what those bits were called. Now the tables have turned, and we’re navigating these topics with our own children. It feels trickier for us, given how early children are exposed to sexualised things now, and how much more complex discussions are than they were in the mid-’90s. My daughter is only 17 months old but I suspect conversations about birds, bees and bits are not as far away as I once thought. With this final instalment in the “By the Book” series, our favourite Sri Lankan sexologist, Dr Patricia Weerakoon, is back to help parents, grandparents and anyone who knows younger people to answer the big and sometimes awkward questions of life. The first part of the book deals with parenting principles and offers guidance for positive sex education conversations. The second part deals with the topics you might need to discuss, from how the body develops to love and desires. The third covers the hot topics on teens’ minds – and parents be warned: Dr Weerakoon probably mentions some questions you are praying your child isn’t even thinking about. After 12 years of youth ministry, I have come across variations of almost every question Dr




Weerakoon addresses, whether it be in youth group discussions or on teens’ personal Instagram or Tik Tok accounts. Section three should be mandatory reading for all youth leaders. The most loving thing you can do for teens in your care is be ready to listen and gently point them to God’s word in every situation. The book’s reflection questions are helpful springboards for conversations. I’m a nerd, so I wrote down all the relevant questions and have been forcing my husband to discuss them with me over dinner. We’ve explored how we were raised and how we want to approach issues such as sleepovers, phone use, camps and other situations. Not only do I think it’s fun to hear his approach, it helps us to understand each other so we can work as a team to raise our daughter. The book emphasises laying a solid foundation through many small moments, rather than saving sex education for one big awkward talk (or leaving it to school and youth group). Every day I parent my child, small moments of connection help build trust and openness. The way I love my husband matters, too, because kids learn about relationships from our teamwork and love, and they also learn they can come to us with questions and concerns. Dr Weerakoon is engaging, clear and makes complex research accessible, providing confidence that the things she is saying are based on Scripture and science. Also, the layout and style is aesthetically pleasing – a subtle thing, but it helps make the book readable at the end of a long day. Conversations about sex can be awkward. Our own experiences and what we want to believe about our children’s innocence can cloud what young ones need to hear. But God is good, he has made sex good in its right context, and he has entrusted us to educate our kids and youth in his ways. I not only feel prepared but empowered to tackle these discussions in a way that will glorify God without Bible-bashing my kid. Dr Weerakoon’s helpful breakdown of different ages and stages of discussion make me feel ready to begin teaching my daughter now about the great way God designed her body and lay a good foundation for the future. SC SouthernCross



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