God: Aid grade: the spirituality of long-distance running P8 lessons to learn from bushfire recovery P18 Two feet from
is a time of invitation, “toThis be caught up into the deep desire of God for a world of mercy, justice and peace. How might we respond?”
Reverend Denise Liersch Vic Tas Synod
In the past few months, we’ve been hearing stories of people’s experiences as they have been travelling this roller coaster we call “the pandemic”. We keep hearing phrases like, “when this is over …”, or what the “new normal” might be like. Those phrases carry something of the depth of sadness, struggle and hope we have for something different to now. I’m on the same roller coaster and there are so many resonances with my own experience. I’m aware how these stories, as they touch into my own experience, help give a tiny glimpse into the lives of others and what I hope for – not just for me, but for all of us. I’ve been reflecting on the mix of frailty, brokenness and promise of being human: of what we’ve been discovering we appreciate now more than before, and what we want to make sure we don’t lose when we “come out the other side”. Normally, living in isolation is reserved for detainees: those in prison and detention centres. In recent months, many of us have gained a glimpse into the impact of isolation on our emotional, mental and spiritual health and wellbeing. We have gained a glimpse into what it’s like to not know how long this will go on for, how elusive a “return to normal” seems, and the effect this has upon our sense of hopefulness about the future. We speak about extroverts finding this most difficult, yet are becoming aware of how much, even for introverts, this is “not good for us”. Community sentiment has shifted and there is increased government funding and resources for mental health support, aware of the harms of isolation
and living with unknown futures. And all this within just a couple of months – because ordinary people have felt the impact. Perhaps, in an unexpected way, it has helped us to have some insight and greater appreciation of what it’s like for prisoners separated from family and society, or for asylum seekers in indefinite off-shore detention. How is this good for our society? What can we learn from this for our “new future”? What might the Spirit of God be inviting us into? We have discovered how much we value family relationships, friendships and colleagues; how much they sustain us and the impact on us when we don’t have them. We have discovered how vulnerable and fragile we humans are (and our economic structures and systems); how little it takes to undo us; and the renewed sense of need to include and hold those who were already vulnerable.
Community sentiment has shifted in unexpected ways, with a wideranging embrace of support to include those previously out of the line of sight, in an attempt to correct areas of systemic inequity. For instance, hotel accommodation has been provided for those without secure housing. But what will happen when the “crisis” has passed? And how will we approach the issue of national debt, as we consider how to support those who might otherwise fall through the cracks? Who will we expect to take up the burden of repayment: the poor or the privileged few? An article from the Ethics Committee in this edition (P34) highlights some of these areas of inequity of which we are more aware because of the pandemic, where we might hope for a “new future”. What are we learning about inequity in educational opportunities, employment, racism, access to internet technologies,
participation in the economy and the impact of economic structures on our environment? During April, there was an international conference to once again hear the groaning of the Earth, which has become stronger in this time of COVID-19. The “Economy of Life in a Time of Pandemic” online conference focused on the socio-economicecological impacts of the pandemic and how it offered the world an opportunity to rethink and reshape financial and economic systems to prioritise the health and well-being of communities and the planet. Chris Ferguson, general secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, of which the UCA is a member, stresses that the current global scenario calls us “to show up and carry forward the core visions and core themes of the New International Financial and Economic Architecture, and that these
have to necessarily be transformational”. “We need to raise the questions about debt and taxation. Our next steps, including our short-term steps, cannot be less than radical,” he said. Isabel Apawo Phiri, World Council of Churches deputy general secretary, added: “In the harsh light of COVID-19, we see more clearly the great inequality of income and wealth. We see the gender inequities and generational disparities of our economies. “Our responses to the pandemic could very well rewrite the world for the better, and fundamentally transform the way we live, what we eat and buy, what we produce, how we distribute goods and where we invest.” The international project of NIFEA raises our awareness of the interdependency of our economic and financial structures, the impacts upon the ecology of our planet and the disproportionate burden upon the poor.
STAINS An emotional documentary shines light on Aboriginal oppression and calls for reform in education and justice systems. By Mikaela Turner Last September, a 12-year-old boy named Dujuan Hoosan addressed the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, the youngest person ever to do so. “My name is Dujuan, I am 12 years old. I am from Arrernte and Garrwa Country,” he began. “I came here to speak with you because the Australian Government is not listening. Adults never listen to kids like me. But we have important things to say.” And he’s right. Dujuan, who lives in Alice Springs, has a very important story to tell. But he doesn’t need to tell it now 4
because film director Maya Newell has done it for him. Her recent movie, In My Blood It Runs, a documentary chronicling a year in (then 10-year-old) Dujuan’s education, lays bare the systemic racism that still pervades our education system and community at large. “My film is for all Aboriginal kids,” Dujuan told the UN. “It is about our dreams, our hopes and our rights. I hope you can make things better for us.” In My Blood It Runs shows Dujuan, who could speak four languages, struggling to learn the curriculum and being told he was a failure.
“I was always worried about being taken away from my family. I was nearly locked up in jail,” he tells the UN. “I was lucky because my family, they know I am smart. They love me. They found a way to keep me safe. “There are some things I want to see changed: I want adults to stop cruelling 10-year-old kids in jail.” Maya says the education and juvenile justice are “intrinsically connected”. “Without knowing it, we’ve made a film that outlines how the school-toprison pipeline is very alive in Australia,” she told the ABC. “We cannot have a conversation about juvenile justice
Dujuan Hoosan as he appears In My Blood It Runs. Image: Maya Newell 5
Dujuan and his mother, Megan. Image: Maya Newell
without looking at the education of our country” and describes Cook as system.” a “great sailor” who claimed this “new In My Blood It Runs opened to positive land”. reviews in February before having its Dujuan, of course, knows there’s screen-life cut short when cinemas were nothing “new” about Australia, his closed in March. ancestors had called it home for Synod’s Youth Ministry Coordinator generations before Captain Cook arrived. Bradon French recently hosted a live And when you consider the impact of YouTube session with two prominent colonisation on Australia’s Indigenous Christian people, it’s Indigenous understandable women, Safina that Dujuan Stewart and doesn’t see Cook Brooke Prentis, to as “great”. Dujuan discuss the movie. tries to voice his Safina, an perspective on acclaimed artist, Cook, politely, by says In My Blood It raising his hand, Runs was difficult but he is ignored. to watch. In a subsequent Safina Stewart “To be honest, interview, Dujuan I was angry,” she says. “It’s a brilliant said instances like these made him documentary and, because it’s so well “confused and not want to listen at put together, it is so real, I had to sit in school”. ‘protection mode’ so as not to go into “We were taught Captain Cook was a trauma. hero who discovered Australia, that’s not “The discomfort with the pain is an true. Before there were cars, buildings everyday thing for Aboriginal and Torres and houses there were Aboriginal Strait Islander people, so I found it people,” he says. disturbing, but not unfamiliar, not new. Brooke says scenes like this aren’t “It was rehashing the rehashed, raising unusual within our education system. what has been raised for generations “The true history is still not being taught over the injustices of colonisation.” in schools today and we need parents to For Brooke, CEO of Christian justice challenge this,” she says. movement Common Grace, the “That is one of these foundational overwhelming familiarity of Dujuan’s systemic injustices – that the land was story was something she also took away stolen.” from the screening. Another scene shows Dujuan, again “We’re living this each and every day. in school, being read to from a different This isn’t just happening in Alice Springs, book – one the teacher clearly views as aboriginal communities exist right across fiction. She reads “for a long time there this country we call Australia,” she says. was nothing, then, in the mind of the “For me, this told the story of how Spirit of Life, a Dreaming began”. all the systems are embedded in this This is the creation story central to injustice, the prison, the police officers, Aboriginal beliefs, something Dujuan the education, hospitals, welfare. When sees as far from fiction. Yet the teacher Dujuan’s mum is talking about welfare, is sceptical and, at one point, says: she isn’t talking about Centrelink, she’s “They’re saying there’s actually a spirit, talking about child protection. These I’m not sure how that works.” systems are not about the safety of our This time Dujuan doesn’t even attempt Aboriginal children, they are systems to raise his hand, he just blurts out: “The that are built on centuries of injustice.” spirit is real!” The teacher ignores him One scene shows Dujuan being and continues reading. taught about Captain Cook in school. This scene was particularly troubling His teacher declares “this is the history for Safina. “To know one’s belonging
Whatever connections you “have with your Indigenous community, it’s incredibly beautiful to be connected in humility.
and one’s purpose is so important to the survival of our people,” she says. “If you take that away, if you dismantle our dignity and our amazing connection to our place, then you continue to kill us. It has the effect of killing our spirit.” Brooke fears the documentary will fall victim to Australia’s short attention span. There will be a period of time, after viewing, in which people will be shocked and outraged, but it won’t be long before it disappears from people’s minds. “Australia keeps having these wakeup moments, one of those is the background of the movie, the Four Corners program on Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, it felt like Australia woke up and I prayed it would stay awake, but Australia fell back asleep,” she says. “It woke up again with the Adam Goodes documentary. The nonIndigenous community wakes up and
falls back asleep again, but Safina and I continue to pray that Australia will stay awake.” “Waking up” or even “staying awake” can come with its own set of problems, however. “Non-Indigenous people may have good intentions, but sometimes their actions only add to an already heavy burden being carried by our Indigenous population. Humility is the key, according to Safina. “When you interact with Indigenous people, come with an understanding that this pain has been carried from generation to generation, even if it’s only now that we are beginning to be heard,” she says. “It’s not our responsibility to help you through your white guilt. I’m holding enough already and for you to assume that you can approach me and say ‘I have this big issue with my guilt’,
wouldn’t that be another misuse of power? If you guys did your business and faced your own demons, we could meet and do our mutual business in a much more safe and productive way. Whatever connections you have with your Indigenous community, it’s incredibly beautiful to be connected in humility with each other. Humility doesn’t assume a lot, it accepts much and it hears and honours.” Brooke says it’s important that nonIndigenous people continue to call out racism. “The impact of racism is breaking our peoples,” she says. “The amount of people who say to me ‘you just have to forgive’, I have forgiven, but we have to forgive every day.” Safina and Brooke encourage people to see In My Blood It Runs and hope it will lead to more conversations with our First Peoples. “Please take up the call for justice, we
need you, we need you to learn and want to grow and we want you to connect,” she says. “See us through the eyes of Jesus, as His loved ones.” In My Blood It Runs is available to rent on Vimeo for $12.50 7
I feel more connected with God out in “creation and the way I like to be out in creation now is to be running. ” Rev Mat Harry
IN IT FOR
Everyone runs for a reason. Get fit, lose weight, clear the head but, for some, the benefits of running extend to providing sustenance for the soul – a chance to connect with your inner self and also with God. By Stephen Acott and Mikaela Turner The first time Rev Nigel Hanscamp went for a run he lasted 300m. Next day, he tried again and tripled the distance. Five weeks later he was running 5km, which is all the more impressive when you consider the popular Couch to 5km program takes nine weeks. Nigel now runs six days a week, totalling about 75km. He’s in training for a 100km run in September and … wait for it … he’s looking forward to it. “I can’t wait,” he says. Nigel, it goes without saying, is not like the rest of us. He’s been bitten by the running bug and the symptoms 8
are there for all to see: nine marathons (42km) and four ultra-marathons (up to 56km) in the past 10 years (three of those in 2019) – that’s the equivalent of running from Melbourne to Canberra. Nigel wasn’t always like this, however, as his first run would indicate. Back in 2010, Nigel wasn’t exercising at all and if it wasn’t for the fact his father suffered a heart attack, he may never have used his runners for anything other than the occasional walk. But there’s nothing like mortality staring you in the face to make you sit up and ask yourself a few hard questions.
“I remember walking through the hospital car park thinking ‘I can’t end up like that, I have to do something, I have to start running’,” Nigel, 54, says. At the time Nigel weighed 96kg, which included the stereotypical spare tyre around his waist. These days he’s a very lean 77kg, even with a beard. Nigel may be different, but he’s not alone. About three million Australians consider themselves “runners” and the number is increasing as more and more people focus on their physical health. Physical well-being isn’t the only byproduct of running, however. There are scientifically-proven mental
LONG benefits and enough anecdotal evidence to suggest the perks extend beyond the mind and body and inhabit the spiritual, the soul. And you don’t need to be religious to tap into it. Kelly Linaker is an example. The 43-year-old triathlete describes herself as “non-religious” yet revels in what she calls the “spirituality” of her regular runs. “Our world is so 24/7, there is just so much information coming in and so much required of us being attached to devices constantly,” she says. “We’re accessible at all times so, for me, I get pure enjoyment in being able to go
RUN into the bush with no phone and just run. The freedom and the fresh air, it refreshes and resets you and you just come back feeling better. That’s my spirituality of it – I get to disconnect from the world and it’s something I do purely for my own enjoyment.” Nigel, who lives at Wandin North, is part of a running group called the Knox Road Runners (based in Bayswater), of which he is one of the few “religious” people. He says for his fellow runners, spirituality transcends religion and is something they are all cognisant of as they crank out the kilometres. “Most people I talk to about
spirituality who are not religious say ‘spirituality is something that’s internal and personal, something that happens in me and for me’,” he says. “For runners, it’s often the ‘runners high’ – those transcendent moments when you’re completely in the zone and you’re not thinking about the way your body is working.” Rev Mat Harry, 48, says he’s always been in reasonable shape, but 10 years ago, a friend invited he and his wife to join her on the Couch to 5km challenge. He says he managed a “gentle jog” for about five minutes on the first day of training and hasn’t looked back since. Continued P10
These days, he and his wife will think nothing of going on a 20km run “just to do something productive”. Mat, who lives at Narre Warren, says one of the things he most looks forward to when he hits the nature trail is “being in creation” and the affinity with God that inspires. “I feel more connected with God out in creation and the way I like to be out in creation now is to be running,” he says. “Part of the spiritual aspect of running is the next step. Part of my makeup is always wanting to push the boundaries and running is a way I can push the boundaries of who God has created me to be.”
The youngest person to run a marathon, Budhia Singh, completed 48 events before his fifth birthday.
a thing or two to say about running. There’s 1 Corinthians 9:24-25: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” And there’s Hebrews 12:11. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” In other words, no pain, no gain. Mat didn’t have Hebrews buzzing about his brain when he lined up for
DID YOU KNOW?
The oldest person to run a marathon, Fauja Singh, completed the London event in 2010 aged 101. His time was 7:49:21.
Mat says he’s completed three marathons in the past three years and “four or five half marathons a year”. It wasn’t meant to be like this, however. Another victim of the running bug, Mat says he used to look at long-distance runners and shake his head. “In the early days I remember going for a run around Lysterfield Lake (about 6km) and there’d be people running along carrying their own water,” he says. “I said to (wife) Susan ‘if I ever get the point where I am wanting to run distances long enough to need to carry my own water, take me aside and give me a stern talking to because I’ve lost my mind’. So, of course, now I’m always running with a backpack. That’s just an illustration of the transformation that happened in terms of my attitude towards it.” Like most things in life, the Bible has
excruciating, intolerable, untreatable agony. And it’s not like you don’t need your knees if you’re running a marathon. They’re an essential item. Anyway, as Mat completes the first 27km he’s feeling OK, all things considered. But when he gets to the 28km mark his leg seizes. And he still has 16km to go. “I’m in agony, like nothing I’ve ever experienced,” Mat says. “But I was determined to push through the pain.” Of course he was. He’s a runner. What was it Hebrews said again? Something about a “harvest of righteousness and peace”. That doesn’t seem imminent right now.
It takes 200 muscles to take a single step when you run.
the Great Ocean Rd Marathon (Lorne to Apollo Bay) in 2017, but it may have come in handy when he hit the 28km mark. If you’ve reached this far and are still not convinced runners are a breed apart, then let Mat tell you about his GORM experience. Before he begins, it’s worth noting he goes into the race - all 44km of it - with a dicky knee, specifically Ilitotibial Band Syndrome. He could have decided to do the half-marathon instead (23km), or the Paradise Run (14km), or even the Mizuno Murengo Run (6km), but, no, that would have been sensible. And Mat’s a runner. He’s different. Sensible is for someone else. As Mat waits for the race to start, he knows it’s not a case of if he’ll find himself in pain, but when. And not your garden variety knee pain, but
Running 32km a week increases your chances of living longer by 20%
The way Mat tells it, he had to push on. He knew he had ITBS, he knew this moment was coming so, because he’s a runner and his head isn’t screwed on straight, he thinks “I’ve got no excuse”. Yes you do, Mat. Your leg feels like it wants to detach itself from the rest of your body. You. Can. Just. Stop. And. Get. It. Treated. Hell, you could even take a painkiller. But no. Mat had been to the physio four weeks earlier and was told he couldn’t do any more damage. “I was only going to be in pain,” Mat says. In other words, it was just a flesh wound. “So I thought ‘I’ve just got to keep going’. So I kept going for the remaining 16km and when I crossed the line I couldn’t do anything but cry for 15 minutes. I was in that much pain. “It took me six months to recover mentally. I was mentally scarred from the pain. I had no joy or enthusiasm Continued P12
An ave enoug his fat nonst days
erage man has gh energy in t stores to run top for three
Mat Harry completes the Great Ocean Rd Marathonin 2017. He ran the final 16km with a badly injured knee. 11
Nigel Hanscamp is all smiles at the end of a 50km event.
for running. But then, one day, I went for a 5km park run and I got to the end and said ‘I want to sign up for my next marathon’. I can’t explain it.” Maybe Nigel can. We ask him to talk us through one of his recreational runs. It’s worth pointing out that, for Nigel, a “recreational run” is anywhere from twoand-a-half-hours to three. Anyway, over to you, Nigel. “The alarm goes off at 5.30am,” he begins. “Getting out of bed can be difficult, but I grab a coffee, pack my bag with fuel (electrolytes and water), do some stretches and am out the door at 6.30am. “I’m looking forward to hitting the trail, the sights and smells – and I really enjoy the sunrise. I’m going on a threehour run. After nine years of running I’m no longer thinking about the tiredness for the first part of it, I’m thinking about the joy that comes after the run. “For the first part of it, I’m running slightly uphill, then I get to a fairly steep short hill and I’m feeling for the burn on my legs to know if I can push it a little more, because if I push it too much I’m going to struggle at the end of the run. Soon after that hill, I’m stretching out my stride and my body gets into the flow and I’m able to lift my head up and look at what’s happening in the bush around me. I’m looking out for wallabies and echidnas or whatever is around. “Further along I get to a stream and, as I cross it, I look down it to see what’s there. If I see something interesting I might stop, pull my phone out and take a photo. I usually post about 10 photos at the end of each run. “About an hour into the run I refuel. Further on, I come across a place where there are sometimes lyrebirds. If they are there I might stop and video them. At about the halfway point I start to pick up the pace and decide which way I’m going to go back home. “One way involves a 100m stretch where I’ll be ankle-deep in mud, there’s no getting around it, you just have to run through it. Eventually, I get to the last 4km downhill so I pick up the pace. If I’m feeling good I’ll pick it up even more and just enjoy the feeling of going downhill. 12
Just before I get home there’s another uphill section. “The mental battle comes after the first hour or so, but I try to focus on the positives – the fact I’m out here when no one else is. The body does what the brain tells it to.” The flora, fauna and sunrise are just three of the factors that get Nigel out of bed at 5.30am. The other driving motivation is the inevitable spiritual experience that awaits him on the less taxing parts of the run. “There’s no distraction, no television, no Facebook, you’re having to explore scenarios and process where you’re at and what’s going on in your life,” he says. “By listening to your own breathing, you’re able to get into almost a trance. It has that meditative thing where you get into a pattern of doing something enough to be able to not focus on it. “Sometimes I’ll pray, just think through situations with God. Then there’s the connection with nature.” Most people see running as an individual pursuit. It’s you – your legs, your lungs, your grit – versus the finish line. As author Michael D’Aulerio put it: “It’s not the distance you must conquer in running, it’s yourself.” But there’s an unmistakable camaraderie, kinship even, among runners, particularly those that gather regularly to run and reflect. Kelly says when she’s on a run with someone else a sense of trust soon develops. “You have this shared sense of something with somebody that’s so pure and something not everybody gets to experience, so when you’re out there and you’re separated from your life and you feel comfortable and trusting, you can just divulge whatever it is that’s going on,” she says. “You never expect to go into that run and talk to your running buddy, or even someone you don’t know that well, and share something personal, but I think you just find a connection. If someone helps you through a huge physical challenge, it can definitely translate into a mental sense as well.” Nigel says the Knox Road Runners is a very tight group and its weekly runs can Continued P14
By listening to your own breathing, “ you’re able to get into almost a trance. Sometimes I’ll pray, just think through situations with God.
Rev Nigel Hanscamp
sometimes resemble a group counselling session. “A running community is much more than random strangers getting together to run occasionally,” he says. “You get to know each other’s stories, weaknesses, strengths and you connect with people who have so much wisdom and experience. “Recently, I was running with a guy who told me about his business going under and having to walk away with $100,000 of debt. When I saw him again two weeks later there was a look exchange, a recognition that we’d been through something together. “Another time I was running with two women and they both shared their similar experiences of domestic violence and at the end one of them said ‘I don’t think we’ve ever actually talked about that with each other’. 14
“There are moments when, because of the physical difficulty, you’re far more vulnerable, you’re having to admit it hurts, but the companionship enables you to get through and that builds a level of trust. “There are people who rely on these running groups for their mental health.” Runner, Christian, blogger and “lover of all things outdoors” Michael Fitzgerald has written extensively on the relationship he’s formed with running and religion. He says over the years he’s “picked up a lot of obvious health benefits from running” but also gained some “not-so-obvious spiritual benefits”. In one of his posts he lists five things he’s learned from running that have helped him “go deeper spiritually”. “1. Running helps me believe in myself. I’ve been dancing with a dodgy disease for over a decade, so when I first
expect to go into th “You never buddy, or even someone y
and share somet but I think you just f
Kelly L got started, running a competitive race seemed only remotely possible. But I’ve run 11 races since I started running again. I’m staring that disease down every day, challenging it with faith in myself and in the resilience of my body. And it’s working. “2. Running helps me believe in something bigger than myself. Left to its own devices, your body will always want the shortcut. But you are more
Kelly Linaker: “I get to disconnect from the world and it’s something I do purely for my own enjoyment.”
hat run and talk to your running you don’t know that well, thing personal, find a connection.
than your body. There is something infinite inside of you that longs to express itself. Turn off the greed gland and you’ll be able to reach for something higher. “3. Running heals me. After a few weeks of getting on my feet and peeling the mattress off my back, my body chemistry changed. My body longed to get out and run and started reminding me to do that often. It liked my lower
blood pressure, the lost pounds, and the regular endorphin high. And when I really listened to it, my body steered me toward real food, not the imitation stuff. I’ve started to heal and it feels good. “4. Running amps up my meditation. Lots of runners like to listen to music when they run, but I rarely do. I’ve found my thinking is more clear when I’m running than at any other time, and I’m more open to new ways of looking at the world. I listen to my body and to my inner self. I sort through problems and discover solutions. Almost without fail, I come back home with a feeling of peace and a better sense of balance and well-being. “5. Running inspires me to worship. I’ve gotten in the habit of offering a lot of thanks when I’m running. As I take in the beauty of the world and the miracle of the human body, I can’t hold back
the sincere, overwhelming sense of gratitude I have for God’s gifts. Running time is a time I feel connected my Higher Power. With new spring in my feet, I feel a oneness with heaven. It’s helped me come face-to-face with who I really am, and the better I know my true self, the closer I feel to God. “Running, to me, is more of a spiritual practice than a physical one. It has taken me places I didn’t think I could ever go again. It’s a path of peace I won’t be stepping off soon.” Maybe runners aren’t so different after all. Maybe we could learn a thing or two from them. Maybe, if we’re really honest with ourselves, they have something to envy. After all, we’re all on a spiritual journey and they seem to have unlocked a shortcut. And, as Nigel discovered a decade ago, that shortcut can be as little as 300m. 15
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Keeping By Damien Tann
I recently read Louise Milligan’s excellent book Cardinal: The Rise And Fall Of George Pell with the intention of reviewing it. I was interested in it for two reasons: I am a Uniting Church minister in placement and I’m also a survivor of a repeated act of sexual assault perpetrated by an adult officer while I was a child in an institution. But on Page 324 (paperback version) all thoughts of reviewing it went out the window because, suddenly, the narrative became too personal. And it only took a couple of statistics. On Page 324, Milligan writes that 20-40 per cent of survivors of abuse develop resilience and coping strategies which see them clear to a relatively normal, unaffected life, leaving 60-80 per cent more adversely affected. Before reading this book, I considered myself to be in the first group but, by the end of it – and after reading Fallen by Lucie Morris-Marr and Walking Towards Thunder by Peter Fox – I realised I was in the second, albeit at the shallow end of the pool of distress. Over the years, I have had to swim during the times when I’ve been knocked over by unexpected waves, but I could always reach the floor with my feet and then stand with my head above the surface. Maybe, I realised, that as a boy I didn’t act as many boys do when they’re mistreated – instead of being violent and defiant, I became sad and withdrawn. As an adult I’ve certainly experienced depression and anxiety and have frequently made ineffective and inappropriate use of alcohol. I continue to be angered that people who have been more affected than me have been denied justice, or compassion, because
my head above water
their coping strategies have left them on the edge of society. Comments such as “well, you can’t trust his evidence, he’s a druggie” refuse to consider that the drug-affected survivor might be that way because he once was a victim. When the High Court of Australia ruled in April on the earlier conviction of Cardinal George Pell, ruling he was not extended sufficient benefit of reasonable doubt and arguing that the prosecution case was incomplete in that regard, I was disappointed. I wasn’t surprised, however, because my own claim for redress under the National Redress Scheme was similarly denied on the basis of a lack of sufficient evidence. The law must do as it does; what happened to me did happen, even if I cannot prove it sufficient to warrant an official apology from the institution which let me down, and I have a letter from Canberra saying as much. It was never about money for me, or even revenge, or even justice for that matter. For me, it was about acknowledgement, apology and, perhaps, the hope that my evidence might jigsaw with that of other boys (now men) such that a series of apparently disconnected sexual assaults might find a common link in a shared perpetrator. My feet have touched the bottom of the pool, and one day I hope to step out, dry off, and walk away. With God’s help I shall, but it’s such a long pool and it seems I have some more swimming to do yet. If you need help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636. Damien Tann is pastor at Kaniva and Serviceton Shared Ministry. 17
Rev Jude Benton featured in the bushfire story in April’s Crosslight.
HOW CAN I HELP?
Rev Jude Benton lists 10 things to consider before offering assistance in a crisis. “Don’t feel guilty if you have made these mistakes – I have too!”
People in crisis are unable to process information properly. Their brains are running on high adrenaline which causes a narrowing of vision/understanding to what is essential for survival right now. Complex offers of assistance, or requests for information beyond the essentials are difficult to process. Almost everything non-essential will be forgotten.
The basic requirements for normal life may not be re-established for some time. After the fire, we had no power at home for 18 days. That means only a gas hob to cook on, using torches at night, fridge/freezer defrosting, no washing machine, no hot shower, no ability to charge a phone/computer at home. We also had to wear masks down the street, the roads were closed, the supermarket was running low, the smell of smoke was everywhere, and our garage and backyard were a burnt and twisted pile of wreckage - yet we continued to work dawn-till-dusk.
Admin is not a priority for the first few weeks. Adrenaline calls for action, not sitting doing admin. On top of this there are only two mobile networks in Mallacoota, one crashed for three weeks - that’s the one my iPad usually uses for emails. Without power at home I needed to go to the church to power the laptop (after power was re-established on about day five) and use a weak mobile hotspot to download messages. The first time I logged on it took over 24 hours to download an inbox full of emails.
Jude Benton on the frontline during the bushfire recovery at Cann River earlier this year.
Keep the phone-line clear. Imagine a parallel relationship between the length of time you’ve known the person plus how close your relationship is, and then translate that into how long it should be before you phone them. My phone went off constantly in the first four weeks, with many calls from people I didn’t know. Each phone call was exhausting and, as I was on one call, the message bank would fill up with more to respond to. I had no energy left for calling parishioners or even my family/ friends for support. As mentioned before, charging a mobile was an effort - turns out those old corded landlines are a Godsend in an emergency! A month later the person will be more appreciative of your call than in the first few days or weeks.
Keep contact during business hours. Do you enjoy being rung by strangers, about work issues, at home at 9pm on a Saturday night? No and neither does the exhausted disaster worker. It wasn’t uncommon for phone calls to start at 8am and finish late in the evening. People in disaster need rest, time to recover, and opportunity to communicate with family and friends. Be professional and keep their evenings free.
Give money, not goods. Australia is a wealthy country, with a government and organisations that provide essential food, toiletries etc for relief in the immediate period after a disaster. A second disaster happens when well- meaning people deliver more and more food, clothing and goods that are unnecessary and require exhausted volunteers to spend hours sorting and even redistributing to other communities. If you are going to give goods ASK first what is required (noting points 4 & 5) and ensure that EVERYTHING is good quality before it is sent. The best clothing delivery we had was all good quality, washed, bagged into categories and labelled, eg “women’s summer tops sizes 8-12”. Continued P20
Jude at home with husband Andy in the days after the bushfire. Behind them is what’s left of their garage. Image: Chris Mulherin
7 From P20
Give money with an open hand. A common phone call went like this: “I want to give you money, but I want it to be used for XYZ, and I want you to ensure the right people get it.” If you choose to give, trust the person/ organisation you give it to will use it wisely. Requests like the above added considerable unnecessary stress and, to me, undermined what the churches’ role in a disaster is - to be there for all people. We are truly grateful to those who gave generously and with open hands because this allowed us to ensure the churches’ ministry could be maintained through this period as well as using funds to bless the community for the long-term, rather than just the immediate when there were multiple other agencies available for instant money.
Give time for decision making because recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. Imagine walking through a swamp that’s how a post-crisis brain operates. It takes three-six months before the post-adrenaline exhaustion even begins to wear off and for normal creativity and reasoning to be re-established. Offers of assistance may initially be rejected as it seemed too complicated, but later on the bits of the jigsaw fit together and the offer will be accepted. Be patient. Give space and allow for changes of mind. Five months in and we’re only just beginning to work out what a longerterm plan is (or at least we were until COVID-19 happened). This is the time where we need all the ethereal offers of help to become reality. This is the time for other organisations and unknown people to call and offer genuine support and longer-term partnership. If your initial call was ignored, try again now that people have more ability to look ahead rather than just being overwhelmed by the immediate circumstances.
Prayer is powerful, pray for the people. The expression “held in the prayers of the people” was very true to me over the immediate fire response. I felt out of my depth and exhausted so busy prayer was illusive, yet in all this I felt closer to God and held in the prayers of others than I’ve felt before. Not sure what to pray for? Pray for wisdom, health, energy, compassion and courage to keep going.
Ask before rushing in to visit with a group. A traumatised community is a sensitive and emotional being. Due to people being evacuated and slowly returning it took close to two months before the whole church congregation had regrouped. Well-meaning people wanted to rush in with groups and “cheer us up” but we needed space and time to be alone, to relive and retell the stories, and to grieve together. Wait three-four months before you begin to talk about bringing a group to a disaster zone, and six-plus months before you actually do it. And when you come, don’t take photos of the damage or the locals will chase you with pitchforks!
Rev Jude Benton is Priest in Charge at the Cooperating Anglican-Uniting Parish of Croajingolong. She was present during the Mallacoota/Cann River bushfires and continued working through the recovery. 20
There have been glad and “ generous hearts; a reaching out from folk that haven’t forgotten the fires.”
Rev Jennie Gordon Resourcing Minister, Pastoral & Strategic, Presbytery of Gippsland
Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts. (Acts 2:46) This vision of the early church is an ideal that we are drawn into often and always after the celebration of Easter morning. We’ve read it this year within the restrictions due to COVID-19 and felt the sharp pull of wanting to gather “together in the temple” when we can’t. To bushfire-affected communities it might be a painful and poignant reminder of the greater depth of what’s lost, not only in the fires, but magnified in the time of isolation that has followed. Day by day, people in these communities displaced from usual routines, frustrated with the slowness of finalising information from properties and proceeding with clean-up efforts are longing for something that holds more of the shape of life as they knew it. The words “at home” convey comfort, security and a place where you can be yourself, care and be cared for, surrounded by family and friends. According to Bushfire Recovery Victoria, from the 300 households who lost their place of primary residence in the summer fires, there are still 100 households who need assistance. As far as BRV knows, as the changing season brings her chill, no one is living in a tent. The COVID-19 response has sharpened the difference between those who lost houses and those who didn’t. Projects around the house don’t work if the house is no longer there. Day by day there is no spending much time together for any of us, unless we live under the one roof. Recovery from major disasters is greatly determined by community capacity; the way people can be strong together, settle their differences and make decisions for the good of all. These processes that
began after the immediate threat of fire passed have been much more difficult to maintain, with an inability to gather around a table, to break bread, talk and share thoughts, hopes and tears. Most mental health and psychosocial well-being providers that flooded in post-fires, have since pulled their workers out of the areas due to compliance with the restrictions, leaving isolated places and people even more isolated. There’s a promise that they will return, and their work will be more vital than ever. Blaze Aid, the volunteers who are lightning fast at replacing lost fences have had to pull back altogether, making it impossible for those farmers on the waiting list to restock their paddocks, to restart their flocks, to get going with their businesses and livelihoods. For some though, these restrictions have been a useful excuse to stop. The towns have shut down quickly, pleased to get a breather from the disrespect of disaster tourists taking photos and videos of people on their burnt-out blocks. Opening up these towns will need to be negotiated carefully, with the voices of the communities being heard and honoured. People are still sad. The break over Easter came and went without the economic boost that was anticipated in January. As winter approaches there may be no ski season. But there have been glad and generous hearts; a reaching out from folk that haven’t forgotten the fires. Messages of support are still reaching the ears of those who need to hear them. Boxes of winter woollies from generous knitters have landed at the same time as the first snows in the High Country. Small and large donations are coming in to support the church’s efforts in bringing hope and comfort where it is needed. May it be so. 21
CHANGE As the world welcomed in the new year no one had heard of Novel Coronavirus, but, six months later, life as we knew it has changed and, in some cases, irrecoverably. Here is how the church was affected, how it reacted and how it intends to emerge from the pandemic.
By Barry Gittins
It started back in January as a bizarre overseas news story, initially dismissed by many of us as a health bogeyman far from our shores. Another MERS (Middle East Respiratory Sydrome), perhaps, or a SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Miles and miles away from hurting us. We saw that it wreaked an unholy havoc in sufferersâ€™ bodies, and was believed to be connected to the food chain, like Mad Cow Disease (Creutzfeldt22
Jakob disease), swine flu, or bird flu. But for the vast majority of Australians, still staggered by the 2019-2020 bushfires, it was not our problem. If we thought of Novel Coronavirus at all, it was with concern for the Chinese people. We blithely dismissed it as akin to influenza, which results in up to 3000 deaths in our nation every year, and 18,000 hospitalisations. A more accurate, if eerier, comparison emerged when we saw the disease
spread devastatingly from China to European states such as Italy, the UK, Spain, Russia, Brazil, Germany and, most of all, the US. But on March 22 the Federal Government closed airports and state borders; weâ€™d finally recognised that COVID-19 (Corona Virus Disease 2019) was, like the Spanish Flu of 1919, a pandemic. Australia lost an estimated 12,00015,000 lives to Spanish Flu, with
estimated international mortality rates reaching 100 million. We did not want to go there again. Physical distancing, perhaps unhelpfully labelled “social distancing”, ensued. Industries were shut down by federal action, and schools were shut. Our population was sent to its room to stem the infection rate, and senior citizens in particular were mothballed. The economy was put into a coma, and
millions of jobs were put on life support through the Job Keeper concept (albeit with dodgy arithmetic). While we Down Under are grateful to have “only” lost 100-plus lives so far (early modelling suggested we could have faced tens of thousands of deaths, and hundreds of thousands of hospitalisations), we are still learning about this disease, and still seeking a vaccine. We wince at its impact on the aged,
on pregnant women, and its far-reaching grasp beyond our lungs and hearts, impacting livers, kidneys, the immune and the gastro-intestinal systems. The Uniting Church has been a bulwark of support for its members and the many communities of Victoria and Tasmania. Here we canvass the impact on our operations, the spiritual and psychological impact of isolation, the Continued P24
health of our churches, our help to those in crisis, and our hopes post lockdown as we gradually emerge from COVID-19’s shadow.
Bronwyn Pike is the CEO of UnitingVic. Tas – the Uniting Church’s community services arm – providing emergency relief, aged and carer services, treatment for alcohol and other drugs, child, youth and family services, disability and early learning services, employment and mental health services, and homelessness and housing services. Bronwyn says that while Uniting seeks to inspire people, enliven communities and confront injustice, it also sees advocacy as “a really important role, and it’s an activity that we must engage in,
“an increase in numbers of people asking for material aid, and support with energy and water bills, and pharmaceuticals. Particularly, we are seeing more people who were in casual, impermanent work. “We are deeply concerned for many members of our communities who are older, frail, shut-in, who may have mental health issues and those who may be suffering from abuse. We are also seeing an increase in the demand for our services for people who are faced with addictions to alcohol and other drugs.” A deeper problem, stemming from stresses, substance abuse and financial pressure, is family violence, which Bronwyn says “can be very hidden in a pandemic”. “People are not coming forward because they are locked in a house with the perpetrator of violence; they don’t have the freedom to get out
in adverse situations, “andWewecancancommunicate change our patterns of behaviour and work when we need to. ” Bronwyn Pike
especially at this time”. Her weekly ABC Radio segment with Virginia Trioli is one way she helps “to set our conversation about justice in a broader social context”. “When we work with vulnerable people, we recognise there are unjust systems and structures,” Bronwyn explains, “and we feel compelled to try to influence public thinking and government policy. COVID-19 presents real opportunities to re-litigate some issues that have been challenging, because governments can move and adapt very quickly in crises – for example, consider the doubling of the Newstart allowance. “This pandemic has actually given the country an opportunity … it’s like the pressing of a pause button. We can ask, ‘what is really important to us?’ Everyone is understandably pre-occupied, but the recovery phase is our chance to pose important questions about who we want to be.” In terms of service and support, Brownyn reports UnitingVic.Tas has seen 24
and seek assistance,” she says. Bronwyn says many of her staff are working from home and “doing phone contacts and Face Time … we have been providing ‘takeaway’ food and delivering food to people who are unable to travel, rather than having people come into our sites, sit down and share meals, as we did before COVID-19”. Asked if she and her staff are encountering optimism or pessimism, Bronwyn says that “largely we are facing people’s fear – fear of losing their home, and longer-term financial consequences. People are scared for their kids, scared for themselves, scared for their elderly parents”. “Underlying it, people are frightened of being infected with COVID-19. A lot of people are so frightened that they are not going to medical practitioners for other health conditions and assistance,” she says. Bronwyn’s staff combats this fear by finding hope “in the constructive ways
people have responded to this crisis”. “There has been an outpouring of generosity also, and a renewed respect for the things we need to do for the common good,” she adds. “I’ve seen people adapt fairly quickly to an emergency; I remind them that people are important, and that change is possible.” This is not Pollyanna optimism – it is an observation from a former Victorian Government minister, skilled in political and service operations, and a seasoned observer. “Intractable problems can be solved very quickly in a crisis; consider the fact that we have seen a thousand homeless people taken off the streets into temporary accommodation to assist the prevention of the spread of COVID-19. People can and do rise to the occasion, and we can do amazing things as a community when we need to,” Bronwyn says. “We’ve learnt that we are more adaptable than we think we are. Our computer skills have increased 100 per cent. We can communicate in adverse situations, and we can change our patterns of behaviour and work when we need to. “We have also learnt that we can slow down a bit and still achieve great things – a lot of people are valuing having more time with their families and getting out of the ‘rat race’. And, surprisingly, that we don’t need three-quarters of the clothes in our wardrobes!”
As General Secretary, Rev Dr Mark Lawrence is the Executive Officer for all Synod Ministries. His remit includes the Office of the Secretariat, the Office of Moderator, the Property Trust, the Mission Resourcing Unit, which includes Administration, Finance, People and Culture, IT ... the list goes on to include education, leadership, strategy, advocacy, etc. Mark also serve as the formal liaison point between the Synod and other councils and institutions of the Church. Before COVID-19, Mark had lightheartedly described himself as Continued P26
We’ve learnt that we are more “ adaptable than we think we are. ” Bronwyn Pike 25
a “meeting junkie” – how is that description standing up at present? “There are still as many meetings,” he notes, “but they tend to become shorter because of Zoom and Teams. Life is more sedentary, checking in and out of video meetings rather than physically travelling.” Mark had also, somewhat prophetically before the pandemic, called for the church to look for “fresh words and deeds”. Mark places the quote in the context of the Uniting Church’s Basis of Union (para 11), which in a lengthier setting thanks God “for the continuing witness and service of evangelist, of scholar, of prophet and of martyr”. Somewhere in the midst of all those roles, as people pray and hope, suffer or die, work for a cure and nurse the afflicted, grieve losses, celebrate progress and fear the unknown, the “occasion demands to confess the Lord in fresh words and deeds”. 26
“Expressions of the faith are never carved in stone,” Mark explains. “It is a question of what is appropriate – in light of following Christ.” In our churches, he says, “across the congregations, it’s been incredibly
what’s available, like Zoom for meetings and study groups and worship. “A number of congregations are using YouTube for services. Others are using Zoom to have a ‘cuppa’ with groups and friends before or after services.”
people that the Church has always been called “Itoremind think about how it shares the good news of Jesus, in the context in which it finds itself. ” Rev Dr Mark Lawrence
encouraging to see them using new forms of technology. They are also using old ways – calling people over the phone, writing letters, posting them”. “They have gathered together ‘virtually’ for worship and pastoral support,” Mark says. “Our congregations have been really creative. But yes, it has been hard. This is a moment in time when they can use
Mark notes that some ministers are writing services and posting them to their congregation members during the week, to have for Sunday. Others are wrestling with God, “theologically reflecting in response to COVID-19 impacts about factors such as the Church’s forms of worship, community, and engagement with society”. Past the pain and uncertainty, in the
doubt and trials, Mark sees a role for us. COVID-19 is an “exciting opportunity for further growth and understanding about faithful and thoughtful engagement with the world of which we are a part”. “Overwhelmingly, members of the church are part of a wider community that needs to change, for everyone’s sake and health,” he says. “The church needs to maintain its social license, and in whatever we do we need to abide by community standards. That’s happening in our congregations. “Our Synod staff are working from home – the way they have engaged with technology to continue to provide services to the wider Church makes me proud. They have done that well. I recognise the challenges, balancing their work with their parenting and the schooling of their kids. They have been very flexible, they have met those responsibilities and supported the church.
“There are a lot of commitments and meetings, but we are having shorter meetings more frequently. We have risen to the occasion, contributing to the resourcing of the Uniting Church.” Mark thanks God that people have been able to continue to worship and serve their communities, even with the current restrictions. “We are all asking questions about the future and how long we can sustain those efforts. I remind people that the Church has always been called to think about how it shares the good news of Jesus, in the context in which it finds itself,” he says. “We are a pilgrim people; our tradition is that of a reforming and renewing church. A church with this tradition, and as a pilgrim people, we are always called to engage with the culture we find ourselves in.” Keen to think things through, to burrow down, Mark is already contemplating what we have learnt and
can learn from the past months. “We need to be – I need to be – attentive to this strange, strained environment,” he says. “Addressing change effectively takes a lot of concentration. Working through difficult and different things does take energy, and we can be more tired doing new things. “I am surrounded by people who are optimistic; people who want to continue to express worship, witness, and service as a church, whatever the circumstances.”
Andrew Kinnersly is the CEO of Uniting AgeWell. He has worked to keep up the morale and safeguard the health of those people in his remit. Stringent cleaning and physical isolation measures have reduced the risk of infection for 1590 residential care beds in 20 residential care facilities in Victoria Continued P28
my staff they are on the “andI tell they are heroes. Despite ou we are holding strong. ” Andrew Kinnersly, CEO Uniting AgeWell
and Tasmania, as well as caring for 520 residents in independent living units and 7350 home care and community services clients. Andrew also has responsibility for the wellbeing of more than 2800 staff and 660 volunteers, although, he explains, “most of our volunteers are protecting our residents and themselves by staying at home and physically isolating themselves as per the authorities’ instructions”. Morale for aged Australians in Uniting AgeWell care has been sustained by “a significant focus on lifestyle activities, and keeping families connected”. “We have invested in tablets, smartphones etc, using Face Time and Skype, and boosted our wi-fi,” he says. “It’s been really important and we have received great feedback from families, saying that it is so helpful to be able to ‘see’ their loved ones, and know they are healthy and happy.” The prospects of loneliness, anxiety and depression, Andrew says, have been countered by the fact that “we actually have a lot of people about”. “Our chaplains and staff are brilliant; they help keep human interactions humming along and keep people active. Our residents are mingling, and we have a lot happening, which is good for everyone’s mental health and sense of wellbeing.” Andrew acknowledges that COVID-19 has been challenging for home care clients, but says the home care staff, and management team are doing “a fantastic job working hard to combat social isolation, again helping people stay connected through technology”. Protecting lives by observing health authorities’ instructions is good stewardship. But handling the ceding of personal freedoms with the act of preserving life – ensuring health by limiting personal freedoms of movement, etc – is a nuanced and necessary balancing act. “By far the biggest issue is not having face-to-face contact, and smiles and hugs from family members,” Andrew says. “Technology is a great help, but it is honestly not as good as physical contact. But it is a big step in the right direction. 28
“We have done and are doing everything we can to make social interactions both meaningful and plentiful, and feedback from families of residents has been really positive about the contact they’ve had and the extra care their loved ones are receiving, and the extra cleaning we are doing, in line with government recommendations. That feedback boosts our staff morale.” It was in discussing the crisis with residents that Andrew realised time and again “that most of our residents are extremely resilient. They tell us of hard times they have endured in the past, such as the Depression and wars”. “The ANZAC celebrations gave us a lot of food for thought on attitudes, and ‘bearing up’ under adversity.,” he says. “We learn from older Australians that community is important, and that we need to stick together and not bicker. “I have found it quite inspiring, personally. We have a lot to learn from older generations.” Andrew receives a lot of positive feedback “about our culture” and tells his staff “that we will get through this, and that we will be a stronger organisation because of it”. “There is so much anxiety in our society, and it is present with us too; we are human. “Anxiety is high with our leadership team, our clients and residents and their families, and we acknowledge that truth and talk about it. We clearly do not want to see COVID-19 in our communities, and no-one wants to see it in our own homes, either. “I tell my staff they are on the frontline and they are heroes. Despite our nerves, we are holding strong. Dealing with anxiety is crucial – I am optimistic personally and we are planning huge, respectful parties to celebrate our ‘win’ at the end of this. “We send letters and video messages to staff, to remind them they are valued, and we share positive stories. Our people are going above and beyond, and that is being noticed; we happily share with them the rich feedback from our residents’ families. “We are having great outcomes, especially when compared to our peers in overseas nations. Continued P30
e frontline ur nerves,
“I tell our staff we have welldocumented challenges, and no-one is perfect or incapable of error, but our sector is standing up and their efforts are to be applauded.”
As CEO of U Ethical managed funds, Mathew Browning and his 24 Melbournebased team members manage investments across more than 4000 client accounts nationally. Those clients include corporate and institutional investors, charities and not-for-profits, as well as individual investors and selfmanaged super funds. U Ethical invests more than $1 billion on behalf of its clients. Some 80 per cent of the funds under U Ethical’ management springs from charities and not-for-profits, including education, health, community and religious organisations. “Though we have been actively growing our broader client base,” Mathew explains, “the Church, including presbyteries and congregations, still makes up almost 70 per cent, with members of congregations adding to that.” The question arises, does a pandemic affect confidence in the investment market? “Significantly!” Mathew responds. “The economic outlook is, and will continue to be, uncertain and this constrains our ability to forecast and to value investments. Investment managers
like U Ethical are paid to have a view and, ideally, one held with a degree of conviction, but we must also be realistic.” Mathew cites a quote from medical statistician Robert Grant. An acknowledged expert in infectious diseases, Grant addressed the reality of uncertainty and said, “That’s why you don’t see me making any novel coronavirus forecasts”. “Confidence also affects how organisations and individuals choose to invest,” Mark explains, “and this in turn affects how we work with our existing
we learn “willThegolessons on to have a
greater and more longlasting impact than we currently realise. Mathew Browning
and prospective clients.” The pandemic has seen U Ethical Investors transition successfully to a “working from home force”, with lots of video conferencing across the team and with clients. “Very much a move to ‘business as unusual’,” Mathew quips. “Our investment performance reflects the quality of our investment team, with our Australian and international equity strategies strongly outperforming their benchmarks. The swift and extraordinary
pressure on financial markets, along with ultra-low interest rates, has prompted us to ensure our products are fit-forpurpose and we shall be making some changes to ensure they continue to work effectively for clients over the long-term. “We’ve also increased the frequency of our client communications – this is crucial in uncertain times.” One’s person’s cyclonic flood may well be another person’s drought-breaking rain. “In our portfolios,” Mathew says, “some of our investments in the health sector have done very well. Companies that are struggling include those in sectors like discretionary retail, tourism and hospitality.” Reassuringly, Mathew notes that public concerns about people withdrawing funds against their superannuation has not impacted U Ethical investors. “We manage money for some institutional superannuation funds, and also a number of selfmanaged super funds, which have tended to be less affected,” he says. We all respond to world-changing events in our own way. Mathew notes that “organisations at their core are groups of people”, and that “overall, most are coping and, importantly, making sensible decisions and staying safe”. Mathew believes we can find hope in the quality of resilience. “I am a student of history and pandemics have occurred before, so in a sense nothing is new and yet everything Continued P32
Break camp By Mikaela Turner
No organisation under the Synod’s umbrella has been affected more by COVID-19 than UC Camping, which has seen its entire business shut down during lockdown and all casual and contract staff laid off. Permanent staff (about 10) have been forced to take a 50 per cent pay cut as well. In mid March, the Department of 30
Education told schools to cancel all camps, which meant all remaining term one and all term two bookings were either cancelled or deferred. UCC director Daniel Murray hopes some schools will book day programs during term three and recommit to term four bookings, but he’s not confident. “I think the reality is term four will be heavily impacted and the best we can hope for is term one next year for resumption of normal business,” he says. Daniel says the closures have caused an enormous amount of stress on his staff, even those who have kept their
jobs. “Losing half your pay and not having any work in the foreseeable future is quite an overwhelming feeling,” he says. Daniel too has had many sleepless nights, describing the past few months as “pretty traumatic”. “There’s not been one thing I’ve done that hasn’t had a direct impact on my staff or the operation of the business,” he says. “We know our staff personally and know how important that bit of income and connectivity to the workplace is, so having that taken away is just awful.”
ADELAIDE October 2 - 5, 2020
PRESIDENT’S CONFERENCE 2020
CALLED BY GOD UNDERSTANDING EVERY MEMBER MINISTRY WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO LIVE OUR CHRISTIAN VOCATION IN OUR DAILY LIFE?
Bible studies will be led by Dr Victoria Lorrimar and Rev Dr Ockert Meyer.
That’s the theme for Dr Deidre Palmer’s second President’s conference, which is going ahead in Adelaide on the first weekend of October 2020. The Conference is inspired by the Uniting Church’s understanding of ‘every member’ being called to ministry, and the holistic ways of the Gospel of Christ.
Other presenters include: Sandy Boyce, Sureka Goringe, Mark Henley, Jenni Hughes, John Hughes, Mark Kickett, Peter McDonald, Ian Milne, Joanna Palmer, Catherine
Participants will be invited to hear, share and reflect on the ways we are called to partner with God in God’s reconciling and renewing mission in personal, social, cultural, economic and political aspects of human life and the life of the whole creation.
Pepper, Andrew Robertson, Stephen Robinson, Adrian Sukumar-White, Radhika Sukumar-White, Charissa Suli, and Kate Tretheway
The 2020 President’s Conference will be an event that nurtures faith and deepens relationships, and is open to all members of the Uniting Church. In keeping with COVID-19 safety measures remote attendance options will be available. To register and for more information, please contact Neryl McCallum at NerylM@nat.uca.org.au
“ I believe that the Uniting Church in Australia is a creative movement of the Holy Spirit in our time. Please join me for this exploration and celebration of God’s call in our lives. ”
God is calling us into something new towards “words of graciousness and promise, ” Rev Denise Liersch
is new. It is a question of seeing our experience in context,” he says. “The lessons we learn will go on to have a more long-lasting impact than we currently realise. Significant events like this affect human behaviour for a generation, so its ripples will be felt for years. The human response to life is learnt and lived out over time.”
Among the most potent foes we face during COVID-19, as discussed throughout this article, are fear, loneliness, depression and anxiety, the existential threat of the prospect of death or bereavement, and the emotional impacts of losing or being separated from those we love, and being unable to provide for them or ourselves. These looming issues can manifest, in and outside of the church, through substance abuse, family violence, poverty, unemployment and financial pressure. As Moderator – the church’s spiritual leader whose first responses are reflexively pastoral – Rev Denise Liersch knows context is everything when it comes to how the Church and our broader society are to deal with COVID-19. “It differs entirely for each of us, depending on individual circumstances and personalities; it is contextual,” Denise says, acknowledging that many individuals “are really, really struggling”. “People are feeling the isolation,” she says. “For many workers, almost the whole of their lives at this point consists of them sitting in front of a screen, and it’s not enough for them, not nearly enough. And a lot of people are in that situation. People are finding they are on edge, narky in their responses to others, or withdrawing. Life is harder for them.” Conversely, however, Denise also knows that others are re-discovering time and space. She mentions friends, colleagues and acquaintances “who are taking time for themselves and their families and friends”. Denise shares that she has “gained clarity” during this trying time. “I have really valued the connections with 32
individuals in my life and we have gotten to the real nitty gritty of what is most life-giving in the ministry of the church. We are talking about the stuff that really matters,” she says. “Personality comes into play. As well as being physically isolated, people are feeling isolated socially and without their usual work, church and community activities, have lost their sense of purpose. For some of our Uniting Church members, identity and purpose and meaning are found in church activities, which have changed out of necessity. In rural communities, especially, the one chance to see people and talk is on a Sunday, and that’s gone, temporarily.” Denise is aware the experiences for individuals and congregations vary markedly. “For some,” she notes, “the use of technology has not been an option, as they don’t have computers or smartphones, or good internet. There are factors of age, computer literacy and skills, socio-economic realities and tight incomes or no incomes.” So, while many Uniting Church communities are thriving with the assistance of technology, others are not. “Across Victoria and Tasmania, we know a lot of our people are coping with heartache and grief; there are also a lot of us who are resilient and are doing well,” she says. “Often it is a question of what is manageable, and what feels like too much.” Denise has joined the rest of the country in largely being “grounded” at home. “Like everyone, I am missing events and celebrations. I am an introvert, so I haven’t had as much difficulty as some people, but it is still difficult at times.” What weighs heavily on her heart is those who are disconnected socially and spiritually. While thankful that “our congregations, worship leaders, ministers and lay people have, to a large degree, adapted and found different ways of ‘being church’, serving their communities and connecting with people” she knows that is not true for all. The need for constant adaptation to the changes is draining our energy, and that’s taking its toll. That hurts her.
But it’s not all bad news. “People are saying to me, often with genuine surprise, that they are coping,” she says. “I have feedback from congregational leaders, ministers and lay people, saying they normally have 40 people participating in worship, but they are having 300 people participating, and emailing them thanks afterwards. “The use of technology does allow accessibility for people in many situations to get what they need. Also through phone calls, print mailouts, letters. What matters in these times is that human connection to each other, and looking out for each other.” Denise is sharing hope with those she speaks to, by reminding them that their God is a God of new things. “I tell them God is calling us into something new, towards words of graciousness and promise,” she says quietly. “God is with us through the isolation, the issues of our mental health and our well-being. God is among us and within us. I encourage them to seek God’s presence, no matter the darkness, or even the presence of death.”
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Uniting Vic.Tas CEO “I hope we can continue to work hard, maximisi impact on the lives of individuals and their com in a positive way. We can continue the nimble, in approaches we have developed; the creative wa found to help people.”
Synod general secretary “As the councils and agencies of the Church wor together, we can provide practical, pastoral, and assistance to people. We can help them to think their engagement with each other and with the what meaning they can find in life.”
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Uniting AgeWell CEO “We can apply the lessons we have learnt of community, resilience, and sticking together as a team that’s united in mission. I am stoked by the positivity that we are seeing result from better communication. I hope we don’t lose that.”
U Ethical CEO “We are, as a nation, still living on government payments. When they go it will be hard work for many, many people and the fantastic services the Church and its agencies provide across the community will be all the more in demand.”
Synod Moderator “We still have difficult challenges about what really matters. With all we’ve been discovering, we’re faced with the question, ‘What is God calling us to?’ Big questions are front and centre and we can’t just flip back to how things were. We are being called into a different future, which may not necessarily look like what we’ve known from the past.”
When the lockdown is lifted, will we return to w one that embraces the poor, lonely, marg
By Synod Ethi
COVID-19 has sharpened our focus on wider public issues that have existed in Australia for some time: the inequality that exists between different sections of our community, how the value of human life is defined, the fear of death and the process of dying, racism, and more. We have been reflecting on what it means to go back to “normal” postCOVID, and whether it might simply signal a return back to Egypt, rather into a new future. “Returning to normal” and “easing of restrictions” have become part of our COVID language, but returning to normal 34
could be viewed as a luxury, and not something to be taken for granted. In the Book of Ezra, we read about the rebuilding of the temple after the destruction, the reclaiming of culture. Chapter three describes a time of joy, where the young rejoice at the laying of the new foundations, and lament, as the elders grieve what had been, what they had lost. The voices of joy and lament live alongside one another, with neither silencing the other. Such a vision may ask questions of us at this time: How will we ensure no voice is drowned out as restrictions are eased and we
emerge into a changed world? How will we ensure the lament will be heard as clearly as the celebrations? And how might the people of God work to turn songs of mourning into songs of joy. Before COVID-19, inequalities existed with regard to educational opportunities experienced by different sections of our community and the lockdown-enforced home-schooling highlighted again that technology considered essential for learning is either absent or difficult to access for many. How can Christian communities ensure no child is left behind like this again?
what we knew, or will a ‘new normal’ emerge, ginalised, disadvantaged and vulnerable?
When Jesus placed the child into the midst of the discussion on who is the greatest, that child remained silent, without a voice, a symbol of vulnerability. As restrictions are eased and students return to places of education, they must not be made silent as decisions are made on spending priorities. The inequalities around employment are exacerbated in the current climate and yet the message of Christian faith is we are all members of the household of God. Many workers have been able to work from home during the lockdown,
but almost one million Australians have lost their jobs since physical distancing began. What will a return to “normal” mean for them? Those in casual employment are more vulnerable to economic fluctuations than those in full-time or permanent employment. This imbalance of vulnerability already existed pre-COVID, but is being revealed in the long queues at Centrelink offices around the country. The lockdown has also exposed the kinds of work that really are essential – and this often equates to those jobs that are poorly paid. They
have maintained the structures of society through emptying rubbish bins, stocking supermarket shelves, cleaning public spaces and hospitals, and driving delivery vehicles. We learn from the gospel stories that Jesus spent time with those who were overlooked, considered without value by the broader society. Jesus blesses these people, eats with them, and spends time with them. Will the community continue to recognise such truly essential workers after restrictions are lifted, or will they become anonymous once more? There is an opportunity to revisit the
system of support for those on low or no income, but there is also a fear there may not be an appetite for that once COVID-19 is under control, that our community’s most vulnerable people will be discarded still. An example is how those who are homeless are being accommodated in safe housing. The dignity of the person is recognised through such action, but the longer-term options and support available to them remains as uncertain as it was before. The United Nations has estimated the pandemic will push 130 million people globally to the brink of starvation as supply chains break down, and if an outbreak did occur in a developing nation with limited running water and poor sanitation, it could not be controlled. There is also criticism of some nations behaving bilaterally rather than showing global leadership, particularly around the development of a vaccine - knowledge which needs to be shared, regardless of national borders. There are calls for an international inquiry, not a scapegoating exercise, to draw lessons from this time. This is an opportunity to acknowledge our shared humanity and respond accordingly. As borders close, both nationally and at state levels, and as we keep physical contact with others to a minimum, the question of who is my neighbour may be difficult to answer. If it is the one who shows mercy to the injured, how does this sit with closing our doors and borders to the outside world, crossing the road to avoid other people on our exercise walks? Relationships are key to our wellbeing, but those without access to IT or the skills to use such technologies are at higher risk of becoming even more isolated. Neighbours may be willing to drop in a “viral kindness” card and drop off some shopping, but often a listening ear is the greatest gift. Will that be offered to those needing to be heard once the busy-ness of life returns? The question of neighbour is
highlighted also the increase in racist attacks being reported and experienced. The current situation is revealing entrenched racist attitudes that exist in the wider community. Examples include the description of COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus”, and public attacks on people of Asian appearance and accusations that they are automatically carriers of the virus. How will we reconcile this with our understanding of shared humanity? There are questions too around whether or not a new definition of economic growth might be developed through the lessons learnt at this time, and a model developed that ensures humans and the planet coexist harmoniously. When restrictions are lifted, will the needs of the whole planet be taken into account, or will
touched without personal protective equipment? Such difficult decisions are further complicated because staying away can also be a form of love for our neighbour, making sacrifices so that others are not infected. Instead of showing love for our neighbour by crossing the road like the Samaritan man, love is shown by keeping our distance and crossing to the other side. And here we are brought face-to-face with the need for real discernment. The answers are not clear. COVID-19 has not created these issues, but it has made them more visible. People who are homeless may now be housed with dignity, but that is temporary whilst this situation exists. Educators are creating curriculum resources and developing new ways to engage with students, but these rely on the technology and equipment that many lack. Indigenous populations are at high risk of exposure to COVID-19 and Indigenous people live far more interconnected lives than nonIndigenous people, so social distancing is a very difficult change to adopt. The planet is showing signs of some healing as the world has slowed down, but that won’t last without a long-term sustainable economic, industrial, and environmental plan. When the world returns to “normal”, will the voices of lament be heard, or will they again be drowned out by those who have retained economic power? Will the inequalities that existed pre-COVID–19 widen further or will they flatten? Will the definition of “neighbour” remove some walls and overcome the racial and cultural hostilities that exist across this land and elsewhere, or will such hostilities continue to fester? What is the Gospel calling the Church to be today? The Synod Ethics Committee comprises Brendan Byrne, Chris Dalton, Claire Dawe, Daniel Farnsworth, Jason Goroncy, Jiny Lee, Derek McDougall and Sani Vaeluaga
This is an opportunity to acknowledge our “shared humanity and respond accordingly. ”
the expectations of the most wealthy humans be prioritised? In 1527, as the bubonic plague hit Germany, Martin Luther argued that those engaged in spiritual ministry had a responsibility to remain with those who were sick. However, during the lockdown, leaders of religious communities and other pastoral and spiritual carers have not been permitted to have physical contact with their “flock”. In a recent article, Trevor Hart describes the way Christians have always felt called to attend to the sick and dying, with physical touch being an important aspect of this care. Just as Jesus touched those with leprosy and challenged social and cultural etiquette, and just as Jesus treated such with dignity and thereby restored their humanity, people of faith are challenged not to stay away. There are, of course, sound scientific reasons to stay away, but what is the impact on the dignity of those who are dying and who cannot be held or
The United Nations has estimated the â€œpandemic will push 130 million people globally to the brink of starvation. â€?
pandemic Every cloud has a silver lining, even living in lockdown unable to worship as we are accustomed to. Now that we can gather again, sould we revert to business as usual?
By Rev Dr Bob Faser As we continue to ease ourselves out of the lockdown I’ve been thinking about the impact COVID-19 has had on the way we worship and its future ramifications. During the lockdown, my online worship involved three congregations of three denominations: an outer-suburban UCA congregation, an inner-suburban Anglican parish (where I’ve been a semiregular worshipper for some years) and an interstate Roman Catholic cathedral parish. Looking broadly at the multi-faith context of contemporary Australia, I believe religious traditions can be grouped into two large clusters: On the one hand, for many of the faiths that arose in eastern and southern Asia, the heart of their spirituality is seen in the devotional practice of individuals. A Hindu or Buddhist, for example, may go to their temple to pray or to meditate, but it will most often be a private visit or a visit by a family group rather than in a larger gathering. Group worship or group meditation does take place, but other than at major 38
festivals, individual practice is far more crucial. On the other hand, for a large cluster of faiths which includes Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the heart of spiritual practice is found in gathering with other people of shared faith. Worship as part of a congregation is the “bread-and-butter” of spirituality, while private devotions are the “icing on the cake”. One result of the pandemic on faith communities will be to re-emphasise the value of gathering with others for worship. I believe there are four factors that may positively affect the way we worship from here on in. 1. We may find ourselves having more frequent celebrations of Holy Communion. Those of us for whom the motivation of communion with the Sacred is an important dimension of our worship found the lockdown particularly difficult. Now that we can gather together again it may be a wise pastoral strategy for congregations to celebrate Holy Communion far more frequently
than we’ve been in the habit of doing. 2. Congregations may find themselves offering more worship services at different times, but with fewer people at each, particularly given there is a need to maintain social distancing. This could result in three, highly desirable, outcomes: ■ Worship could be specifically focused. Rather than a congregation having a single service of worship in a “blended” (or, as I sometimes call it, “blanded”) style, the various services could reflect different styles and emphases. ■ The long-dormant Sunday evening worship service may be revived in some congregations, but with one major difference. Rather than being offered as a “second helping” of worship for those who are already strongly committed to the congregation’s life, this service could be an alternative to Sunday morning worship. ■ Ministers serving congregations with multiple worship services may find themselves spending far more time and energy being the worship leaders they were called, educated, trained, and ordained/ commissioned to be, rather than merely being the congregation’s “CEO” or the denomination’s local “branch manager”. 3. With the ongoing need for continued physical distancing, members of our congregations will get into the habit of showing more respect for each other’s personal space and possibly adopt an Asian–style “Namaste” greeting. 4. Some congregations may continue to offer online worship, especially those with a consciously “liturgical” ethos, one frequently not found among UCA congregations. These congregations should continue to offer online worship opportunities to UCA members living outside their immediate geographical area. Rev Dr Bob Faser is a retired UC minister who resides in Claremont, Tasmania.
Sunday, April 12, 2020
20 people are praying for you in Australia
My close encounter with
COVID-19 By Rev Lauren Mosso
When the COVID-19 crisis began, my ministry as a full-time chaplain at Epworth Hospital was continuing “as normal”. Then on April 1, my family received the shocking news that my brother, who was in the United States, was in an intensive care unit with COVID-19. I was quickly transported to “the other side of the bed”, moving from the role of pastoral staff to family member. First I cried. Then I mobilised myself and those around me to send prayers and healing thoughts. I am grateful for the compassionate response I received from friends and colleagues. Fortunately, my brother was able to be cared for at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, an internationally recognised centre of excellence in COVID-19 patient care, research and training. His physician and the ICU staff were not overwhelmed with a sudden admission of patients so he benefited from attentive care. His wife also contracted the virus, but she was able to stay at home. The hospital had a “no visitors” policy, which makes sense in the circumstances. While in hospital, my brother’s phone fell on the floor, but fortunately it still functioned, albeit with a cracked screen. This remained his only way to 40
communicate with family and friends. We all rejoiced when we received a text from my brother to say he was improving. He commented on how hearing that people were praying for him – even in Australia! – had given him strength and hope during the 12 days he was fighting the virus in hospital. “I recall one day in the hospital I looked at my phone and there was a text: ‘20 people are praying for you in Australia’,” he said. “The nurse entered my room a minute later and I turned to her and shared the wonderful news. “We are eternally grateful for the skilled and compassionate health care providers, and for everyone that prayed for us and supported us, during an unexpected and difficult time in our lives.” My brother also had phone conversations with the hospital chaplain, which gave him a new understanding of what my team and I offer. He remains active in Johns Hopkins Hospitalsponsored initiatives to support COVID-19 patients and their families. I have also shared my gratitude with Epworth’s ICU and emergency department staff for the important work they do. It feels good to be working in a healthcare setting with people who are part of the solution.
I continue to embrace my role as part of the pastoral care team at Epworth, where we have adjusted the way we care for patients to meet social distancing requirements We read about the experiences of colleagues overseas who have had major “COVID surges” and are extremely grateful for the way this public health issue is being managed here. My main “takeaways” from this period are that good leadership requires compassion, authenticity, a sense of purpose, clear communication, encouragement, flexibility, and trust. Also, as a society, we needed to stop. Life was moving far too quickly and we were killing Mother Earth. The COVID-19 crisis has offered us the opportunity to step back and look with fresh eyes at the way we live, the things we value the most, and the relationships that matter to us. The biggest challenge will be to allow ourselves to be transformed by this massive collective experience, and not to simply revert to the way we were. To those who are struggling and fearful, I would encourage you to be kind to yourself and others. Ask for what you need. All will be well. Rev Lauren Mosso is senior chaplain at Epworth Richmond and Freemasons
alone Isolation has affected many people during lockdown, but our First Peoples have felt acutely the despair of being unable to gather together. By Alison Overeem We have much to reflect on in how we reconnect, and re-emerge from COVID restrictions. But, before we reflect on the pathway out of the fog of COVID-19, we know this time has given us a gift, a call to rebirth, re-energise and to continue the struggle for justice as the Tasmanian First Peoples, beating as the takila (heart) of the Uniting Church. Isolated, disconnected and unable to gather and mourn, as we need to for healing, this period reminds us of the years of having all this taken from us. It brings a new thirst for justice, for truthtelling, for Indigenous theology and spirituality that tells us that Aboriginal Jesus is a way of knowing and being. Country is our gathering space, our sacred space, our healing space. Connection to it reminds us who we are as First Peoples – calls us to the Creator Spirit as our energy and compass, in these challenging times. Ministry for us, holistic ministry, is as we have always been called to see it, feel it and hear it. In this time it is even more so, the weaving of our stories to connect others to the stories that sit on, and with, country – to connect to the ever-present Creator Spirit, not just in a building, but in our spiritual connection to land, story and each other. We also know that struggle and survival is the story for First Peoples, so
that innate wisdom gives us the courage and vision to look beyond and connect in ways beyond our expectations. The challenges, scars and trauma from the isolation of COVID-19 are yet to be fully openly seen and heard. We need to be ready, but as those challenges arise, we know the gift of our stories, and our shared learning, will continue to be the faith we build our community centre, Leprena, around and for all of UAICC Tasmania and beyond. We will need to hold our Leprena mob’s hands and hearts softly in this new journey, where our safe gathering space became an empty space, but we still stayed connected. We are more than a building, and this sense has spoken loudly to us. We are the interwoven connections of time, place and space. As we develop more resources, we are reminded we are a living resource and gift to all. This has affirmed that. In the perceived COVID-19 darkness, the guiding light of UAICC Tasmania no longer flickers, it glows! That glow is the resilience of a team’s determination to shine. Our people will need us more and us them. Alison Overeem is centre manager at Leprena, home of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress in Glenorchy, Tasmania. 41
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School chaplain Kaylea Fearn and Year 9 student Noah Park.
“I want to be a person that young people consider as open minded, there’s nothing that could shock or disappoint me. I’m just a person that is a loving presence.” High school can be some of the hardest years in anyone’s life, where teens-turned-young-adults are still discovering who they are and what they want to be. School chaplains play a vital role in helping students – and teachers – negotiate the inherent stresses.
Pastor Kaylea Fearn, 38
Wesley College school chaplain This is my fifth year at Wesley College. Before I started here, I had a role in the chaplaincy team at St Leonard’s and then came to Wesley once I had my teaching diploma. I started with a Master’s in Theology, which I did simply because I was interested in learning about God and the world and what it all means, those big questions. I never thought it would turn into a job, but I feel like there’s a magnetic force leading me towards this, so I just kept on that path until I got here. I grew up in the Uniting Church and I was always involved in the church. I never had any peers my own age that were involved in it, or at least I didn’t know they were. So it was kind of a lonely thing, I just thought everyone who was involved in religion was over 80 years old. 44
But I always felt like that community was so embracing and uplifting, and saw me for who I was and wanted to involve me, even though I wasn’t like them. That meant a lot to me, I felt so much belonging there. Every day I come in and pinch myself. I go out to greet families on the oval in the morning and think to myself I would not want to be anywhere else in the world at this moment, it’s just awesome. No two days are the same in this role. A day would be anything from teaching a prep religious education and ethics class to teaching a year 9 class. I teach all year levels, which is extremely diverse, as you can imagine. I guess in a lot of ways I consider myself fairly responsible for the spiritual life of this campus and making sure everybody feels comfortable to be able to either celebrate or even just live out their own religious identity, whatever that would be.
I want to be a person that young people consider as open minded, there’s nothing that could shock or disappoint me.
Wesley’s always been a school that’s welcomed people from not only other denominations but other religions, even in 1866, which I reckon is amazing. The first group of students had one Jewish student enrol. A lot of schools like Wesley did not do that so the tradition has always been that all are welcome, that’s something that really appeals to me. I just think we’re all better off when we can share our diversity. Encouraging spiritual connection and even just exploring that, there’s a lot of people these days that really don’t have any recalled religious connection or spiritual connection. This is a place of learning, it’s a school. There’s always opportunities to explore what that might look like in your life, so that’s something I encourage. I’m always open, I want to be a person that young people consider as open minded, there’s nothing that could shock or disappoint me. I’m just a person that is a loving presence no matter what. It’s so important that young people have an adult in their life that they feel they can share things with and trust. My relationship with Noah has developed a lot. I remember first meeting Noah in year 5 because and he was very cheeky and noisy. We’ve always had a really open relationship. He spends a bit of time here so we end up sometimes having a deep and meaningful chat after school, but I’ve always felt like he was the sort of student that would never put his hand up to do something that would draw attention to himself. Maybe he just didn’t have the confidence, but I’ve always seen him as someone who is compassionate with the younger students. I’ve seen him many times go and do 46
something for a young child or made someone feel good that was crying, when he thought no one was looking. That’s the sort of stuff that I think is really, I guess if you wanted to put religion in a nutshell, that’s practical theology. I encouraged him to go for sports leader this year because when I asked him what’s the reason for being a sports leader he didn’t say it was to hold a trophy over his head at the end of the year, he was like ‘I want people who aren’t necessarily sporty to enjoy the different aspects of sport’. Even today he was talking to some Year 7s about it who just joined the school, saying it’s not just about playing sport, it’s your own fitness, balance, your mind and not just being always focused on the books and I thought that kind of encouragement was really generous and genuine.
Noah Park, 14 Year 9
It’s my last year of middle school, I go up to the Senior campus next year in St Kilda. So we’re the top dogs of this campus this year. I am the alpha male, I like to say. I’m really enjoying it so far. I guess you have to enjoy your last year at a campus with such a tight-knit community. I’m taking on a leadership role this year as Sport Leader. Most of my teachers have tried to push me forward almost to seek discomfort, to get out of my comfort zone and get into a leadership role. It’s something Pastor Fearn has really helped me with. One day she saw me helping a boy and suggested I go for the interview to be Sport Leader. I’ve always tried to be an example to younger students, but more in the shadows I guess, so this year being a leader, it’ll be more in the spotlight. I’m taking that next step, which Pastor Fearn really encouraged me to do. I really enjoy school. Going to a school like Wesley, we get a lot of opportunities. Pastor Fearn and other teachers always encourage us to live out our school motto which is “dare to be wise” and take risks and push ourselves. Pastor Fearn came in when I was in
Year 5. All the students gravitate towards Pastor Fearn because she has such a positive attitude and just a great vibe, which can kind of bounce on to us and make our day better. Young people often think someone who is involved in religion is very serious and basically an old person. But everyone loves Pastor Fearn, she even brings some comedy into her chapel services. I think all of the students, we get caught up in school and our own lives, but Pastor Fearn opens our eyes and that’s a great thing. With my mum being the head of campus, I’m always hanging around and Pastor Fearn is always here for a chat. So our relationship is really good and she’s always willing to help, not only me, but everyone else. Having Pastor Fearn in the school is also important to other staff members, especially towards the end of the year when they can get quite worn down and narrowly focused on their work. The positive attitude she brings is really important to our school. Come exam time a lot of the kids feel pressure. Last year, I remember seeing some year 9 boys and girls having a hard time being in their last year of middle school, and Pastor Fearn saw it and was able to help. I think there’s a skill in noticing when someone is down because a lot of us hide it and Pastor Fearn has it. Sports is a massive passion for me. I love footy, snowboarding and cricket particularly. Footy and cricket I obviously can do quite often down here, but snowboarding is not as easy to access. I do try to get to the slopes with family and friends as much as possible. At the start of last year I was very lucky to have the opportunity to travel to Japan with my parents to snowboard and ski there. It was a really fantastic opportunity and that’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit. I try to make the most of it every time I get to the snow. In the future, I hope to become a professional sports person, either in AFL, cricket or snowboarding - that’s my dream. If that doesn’t happen, I want to do something with sport.
Lenten Offering cancelled Open letter from the Moderator Dear friends, Following a great deal of deliberation at several meetings, it will probably come with little surprise that the Lenten Offering discernment group has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Lenten Offering. I would, however, like to assure you this decision has not been taken lightly. In late 2019, following the call for project submissions, we had identified what were three very worthy Lenten Offering projects. In early January, we were preparing to launch the appeal in the February edition of Crosslight, but with the growing severity of the bushfire season, we even wondered if this yearâ€™s Lenten Offering should proceed. I was conscious of the fact that the common thread running through all of the identified projects was one of connecting communities. The impact of the bushfires has raised our awareness of how important our communities are, as we worked together for the recovery phase for those bushfireaffected communities â€“ and indeed for all communities within the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania. It was for this reason, and only after a lot of discussion, that in late February we decided to proceed with the Lenten Offering, although with a slightly reduced format. Then along came Coronavirus. We were now entering unprecedented times of uncertainty, of anguish, of disruption on a scale never before seen. In light of that uncertainty, we announced we were putting the Lenten Offering on pause, as of April 3. Again, we did not want to cancel the appeal because re-connecting communities would still be our biggest challenge as we come out of the COVID-19 crisis, just as it was at the end of the horrific bushfires. Now, whilst the need may remain, COVID-19 has presented so many more challenges across the entire life of the Church than we could ever have anticipated. The time has passed and the current needs of all of our communities are such that it is no longer appropriate to ask congregations to focus efforts on these three local projects at this time. I have contacted all three projects and advised them we are suspending the 2020 Lenten Offering. Whilst disappointed, all were understanding. For those individuals who made donations your money will of course be refunded in full in the coming weeks. As we gradually return to gatherings, even in limited ways, may we appreciate the gift of each other and the ways our communities sustain and support us. May God continue to guide and strengthen us, as we find new ways to serve our wider communities in love. Grace and peace, Rev Denise Liersch
Not so simple
Norman Warren Strathmore The last paragraph of Bill Norquay’s letter in April’s Crosslight says “the real message of Jesus is how we should live and treat each other”, however it oversimplifies Jesus’s purpose and power. Everything we do as Christians and as God’s creation is for the purpose of giving glory to God. Whether you believe in the virgin birth or not, is really of no account, because in its telling we learn how God is being given the glory through his incarnation in the Christ-child. Once again, God must receive the glory not the interaction between man and woman to breed offspring. The creeds are a human form of giving glory to God. Yes, they were formed by early believers of the Christian Church. While there may have been conflict in the religious scene at the time, the churches were looking for ways of voicing their belief in God for the express purpose of giving glory to God. That is why they emphasise God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus points the way for us to follow Him by giving glory to God, not for us to be pleased with ourselves and live good lives. ●
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Was Jesus a joker? Norm Wearne Diamond Creek I would like to share some thoughts about the humour and wit of Jesus of Nazareth, in response to the thoughtful April Crosslight article by Rev Angie Griffin about Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman. Angie’s article interprets Jesus’s words to the Syrophoenician woman as “rejection, a slur and put-down from Jesus”. So they are, if taken at face value: “First let the children eat all they want, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” Typical Jewish/Gentile antagonism of that time? But what if Jesus is smiling when he speaks to her? Then his words are both recognition and rejection of that typical attitude, and an invitation to respond. This she does, positively and with quick wit, leading to Jesus saying: “Woman, you have great faith!” A Gentile with great faith! This interpretation seems
more consistent with His attitude to the Roman centurion when he heals his servant: “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith!” So was Jesus stern or smiling with the Syrophoenician woman? Of course we don’t know, but my vote goes with smiling. I first came across this interpretation in Elton Trueblood’s book The Humor of Christ. He devotes the whole of his final chapter to it: A Humorous Dialogue. “There are numerous cases in the recorded teaching which are practically incomprehensible when regarded as sober prose, but which are luminous once we become liberated from the gratuitous assumption that Christ never joked,” he writes. Norm’s 10-page essay The Jocularity of Jesus: The Witty Trouble-Maker from Nazareth is kept at the DaltonMcCaughey Library, Parkville. If you would like a copy, email Norm at ● email@example.com.
Piece of cake
Peter Campbell Parkdale I would like to thank Rev Claire Dawe for her reflection in April’s Crosslight in which she looks at the question: What is worship? One line particularly stood out and seemed to beg for a deeper exploration. Claire wrote: “Then it could be argued worship should incorporate the whole of the person’s life - every word, thought and deed to the glory of God.” When I’ve preached on this I have likened our Sunday gatherings to icing on a cake. We don’t eat icing by itself (well we can, but it’s not recommended!). It’s an addition to the cake that enhances our “cake-eating experience”. When we discuss worship we naturally gravitate towards our Sunday activities. But should that day really be our focus? True worship, as Clare mentioned, is the
Rev Bernard Long Torquay Would you please pass on my appreciation to Jennie Gordon, who wrote about the bushfires in April’s Crosslight. It is one of the best written and informative articles I have read in a paper – church or secular – for many years. As an ancient parish person and journalist I’ve seen the lot and there’s much satisfaction in doing both. Keep writing! ●
whole of our lives. Every daily thought, word and deed is supposed to be our worshipful response to God’s grace and love. While we spend time dissecting and critiquing the icing and neglect the cake, I believe we miss the point of what worship actually is. ●
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A minister discusses a part of the Bible that especially speaks to them. From P2
COVID-19 has raised our awareness of how the Earth has been breathing more freely as a result of a decrease in human activity in industry and travel. Recently, our hearts have been stirred by the outpouring of response to the deep inequities in the USA in relation to race, following the death of George Floyd and so many others before him. Yet, we in Australia know of the hugely disproportionate rates of First Peoples in incarceration, and of deaths in custody. We know of the heartache and yearning for healing, for a different way of being, as one people, nourished by the wisdom of the people of this land, our First Peoples. Our First Peoples call all of us to listen to the Spirit who creates and re-creates us. How might we now hear this call? The pandemic has brought a new awareness. How can we hold on to this shift in community sentiment and not lose sight of what we are learning? What direction might the winds of the Spirit of God be sweeping us toward? This is a time of invitation, to be caught up into the deep desire of God for a world of mercy, justice and peace. It is a window of opportunity, a moment of gravitas. ? After we ask Jesus “who is my neighbour?”, he tells us a story, posing a different question altogether: “How might you be a neighbour?” Over the coming months, as we adapt to an easing of restrictions on our gatherings, may we be strengthened and guided by the Spirit of God as we consider: How much do we value our human connections and how much they sustain us in times of struggle, joy and hope? How might we contribute to the future of a neighbourhood that includes all that God loves? Whatever is good for the whole of the community, is good for each part of that community. What might the Spirit of God be inviting us to? Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth. 50
Rev Joan Wright-Howie Head of faith and developement, World Vision
you will gain “By your endurance your souls ” Luke 21:19
These words can be found in Luke’s gospel at the end of a long, rather apocalyptic passage when Jesus predicts the downfall of the temple in Jerusalem. The word “apocalypse” means unveiling: that which is hidden will be made known, another reality that no one can see, is becoming visible. Set in the context of oppressive Roman tyranny, Jesus predicts that nation will rise against nation, and those around him want to know when this reformation will take place. “Give us a sign,” they plead. In response to their question, Jesus teaches about discernment. He teaches about enduring, waiting, watching, trusting and knowing that we will sense our way. We are here in this time and place, in this dimension and space, and it all seems so real. Yet, there is a larger, deeper, more open kind of reality. As I sit with others in the
conversational space of Spiritual Direction and Pastoral Supervision, we tune our senses to glimpse that which is coming, but not yet quite here. We sense, like a reflection in a mirror, the deep vast accessible presence of life coming from beyond into the now. “The days will come,” Jesus says, “when not one stone of the old destructive, self-serving, ways will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” There will be many voices that rise up and behave as if they point to the ways of God, but they are not God’s voice or God’s ways, they will just be distractions. It’s a vision for humanity that remains just out of reach. We humans have a terrible habit of building things up, longing for peace, proclaiming justice and then getting so caught up in our own personal power that the temples we build come crumbling down again.
Her harp’s in the right place In an extract from his new book, Rev Dr Rob Gallacher reveals how St Cecilia touched his life, and others. Very little is known for certain about St Cecilia. In the sixth century, a “Passion of St Cecilia” was written and much of it is certainly fabrication. Generally accepted is that she founded the church of her name in Trastevere, Rome. She was married to Valerian and later martyred in a Roman persecution for refusing to denounce her faith. And she could sing and play exquisitely. The Passion of St Cecilia speaks of her singing to God “in her heart” while instruments were making music at her wedding. Since the 6th century she has been held in high honour and since the 16th century she has been regarded as the patroness of musicians. Usually Cecilia is pictured with an organ, but in this original composition, I have substituted a harp. When my wife was receiving her first chemotherapy treatment in 2017, a lady was playing a harp in the oncology ward. She was a pupil of a former parishioner of mine, Peter Roberts. Thirty years ago, Peter was a member of the congregation at Wesley Church in Geelong, where I was the minister. He decided to leave his successful business selling fine furniture and took his wife and two teenage daughters to the USA, where he learned to play the harp in hospitals caring for terminally ill patients. He returned to Australia several years later and pioneered the playing of therapeutic music to the sick, the aged and the infirm in hospitals and retirement villages. Acceptance of this ministry was slow, but Peter’s sense of call was strong. With his experience in the furniture trade, Peter began making harps as well as playing them and when I saw the harp the woman in the oncology ward was playing I recognised it as one Peter had made. I was so pleased that I contacted him, and offered to write an icon of St Cecilia, patron saint of music, for him.
Rob Gallacher portrayed St Cecilia with a harp, as opposed to an organ, to honour Christine Middleton (below), who comforted his wife when in hospital.
He supplied some photos so that I could get the hands and the harp right, and thus develop the icon of St Cecilia playing one of Peter’s harps. He responded with two DVDs of his soothing music, which we often play, and find solace. I also sent a copy of the icon to Christine Middleton, who was the lady who was playing in the oncology ward when my wife was there. She printed it, framed it and it hung it on the wall in her home. Eighteen months later, I received an email from Peter. He said: “Since you sent me that icon I have had a book published (The Harp & The Ferryman) and a film (From Music Into Silence) has been made and shown in cinemas in most capital cities around Australia. Now I am just about to leave for the USA to attend four screenings of the film in Portland, Oregon. I don’t know if St Cecilia has had anything to do with this, but these are very interesting times to say the least.” A sequel to all this was that I rearranged the icon of St Cecilia so that she was playing a harpsichord, and gave it to a close friend who delights in playing the beautiful harpsichord he has in his home. It was equally well received. The Colour of Prayer: Contemplating Christian Icons, by Rob Gallacher (PenFolk), rrp $60. All proceeds will be donated to Hotham Mission. To order, email email@example.com or phone Rob on 0418 415 856. Rev Dr Rob Gallacher is a retired minister and founder of the Uniting Church Icon Schools. Anglican priest Rev Dr Duncan Reid says of the book: “It will lead you to see some of the Gospel narratives with new insight; whether or not you already make use of icons in your prayer life, this book will deepen your approach to prayer.” 51
gathering When Wesley Place opens later this month, many arms of the Uniting Church will come together under the one roof for the first time. By David Southwell As Victoria and Tasmania cautiously emerge from the COVID-19 separation, the Uniting Church will begin a new era of togetherness as Synod and agency staff converge in a joint centre of operations at the freshly finished Wesley Place development, which is also home to the historic Wesley Church. Over a four-week period from late June, 417 staff from UCA Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, Uniting Vic.Tas, Uniting AgeWell, U Ethical will move into the 35-storey gleaming glass tower that shares a green public space with the restored 162-year-old Wesley Church and its associated buildings. Synod General Secretary Rev Dr Mark Lawrence says moving Synod operations and mission staff from 130 Lt Collins St to Wesley Place, to work in close proximity with staff from the agencies and Wesley Church, presents exciting opportunities. “There are already a lot of ways in which the different parts of the Uniting Church family engage with and relate to each other,” he says. “If we’re in the same place together we can build on those activities, we can more easily set up face-to-face meetings, 52
we can quickly touch base and share ideas. “If we’re intentional, that can lead to a greater scope to do work together and, where appropriate, share services with each other as well.” These thoughts were echoed by Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike, with the agency relocating 200 staff from two other sites to Wesley Place. “It is extremely exciting to be moving into new office accommodation in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD,” Bronwyn says. “The new offices will provide a modern working environment for our employees, while strengthening our traditional links with the Church. “It makes sense to co-locate our community services organisation with other divisions of the Church, given our shared history and sense of common purpose. “Sharing these premises will bring us closer to the Synod and our sister agencies and provide more opportunities to collaborate and exchange information and ideas on driving real, positive social change.”
The Wesley Church congregation, which will have ministry staff based in the new offic e tower, is also looking forward to closer collaboration with the various arms of the UCA. Wesley Place Project Transition Officer Leonie Barber says her congregation is in talks with potential UCA Synod and agency partners to set up a centre that will explore how the Church can have a more effective voice on ethics and social policy. “We want it to be a fruitful and creative way for the Uniting Church’s excellent thinking research and policies to reach out in the public arena,” Leonie says. “That’s the intent to draw together the strengths of the Uniting Church in an identifiable location and perhaps be listened to.” Leonie says this promises to be a new chapter in the congregation’s long history of engagement with the community on behalf of the disadvantaged and disenfranchised, a pedigree that is also noted by Bronwyn. “Wesley Place is at the historical heart of Uniting,” she says. “Over a hundred years ago, the Wesley Church
The new offices will “ strengthen our traditional links with the Church. ” Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike
BY THE NUMBERS
8 Number of buildings that congregation formed the Melbourne Central Mission out of concern for people in need, particularly those who were abused, addicted, homeless or impoverished. “This was the origin of one of our 24 founding agencies, Wesley Mission Victoria. Now, as the recipients, stewards, and continuity of the Uniting Church, we continue the important work of supporting vulnerable people in times of crisis.” The depth of Church history at the 130 Lonsdale St site led to discoveries still being made, even at a late stage of renovations, including the recent find of a forgotten foundation stone under a staircase. “The stone was from the Primitive Methodist church that stood on the corner of Lygon and Queensbury streets,” Leonie says. “It had been retrieved by somebody at the time the church was demolished. There is an intention to feature the stone and its history in the gardens in front of Nicholas Hall.” Wesley Pace will remain in the hands of the Uniting Church, but has been
make up the Wesley Precinct (130, 140 and 150 Lonsdale Sts, School House, Caretaker’s Cottage, Nicholas Hall, Wesley Church, Wesley Manse.
35 Number of floors at 130 Lonsdale St office tower.
1858 Year Wesley Church
Year Wesleyan Church becomes a Methodist Church.
Year Uniting Church buys 130 Little Collins St, with the intention of turning it into its head office in Victoria
Year building is completed at 130 Little Collins St
Year 125-year lease is signed between Uniting Church and Charter Hall.
Year first sod turned on the Wesley Place development.
Year 130 Lonsdale St office tower opens.
leased to developer Charter Hall for 125 years. As part of the $600 million deal, Charter Hall has committed more than $5 million to restoring Wesley Church and related heritage-listed buildings, including Nicholas Hall, the Caretaker’s Cottage, the manse and Schoolhouse. The church reopened for worship last December after two years of being scaffolded followed by 10 months of closure for works. Unfortunately the congregation, which had been “camping” out in Nicholas Hall, only had a short time to enjoy their reopened home before Wesley Church stopped holding services in March as part of the COVID-19 lockdown. Mark notes that UCA people, especially those on floors two and three of the Wesley Place tower, will enjoy a very prominent view of the church. “That’s important symbolism as well,” he says “The southern end of the second floor is where the meeting rooms, main reception and chapel will be and they will have a view of the church and over Lonsdale St. It will be a very lovely place to work in and have meetings in.” 53
Dear valued reader, I hope you have enjoyed this special, expanded 55-page issue. Regrettably, this edition is not available in its regular hard-copy format. At the time we were due to go to print, lockdown restrictions meant we would not have been able to deliver most of you a copy, which made the associated printing and distribution costs prohibitive. We appreciate your loyalty and engagement and apologise for any disappointment this has caused. However, if you who would like a hard-copy version, this edition can be downloaded as a PDF and printed out at home. Simply follow these three easy steps: 1. Go to the top left hand corner of the screen and click on the download arrow (see above). 2. If you are using Internet Explorer, hit the Open tab that will appear at the bottom of your screen. If you are using Google Chrome, double click on the icon that will appear in the bottom left corner of your screen. 3. Click on the print icon that will appear either at the top left, or top right, of your screen. The next edition of Crosslight is due in August and, barring unforeseen circumstances, we expect to print and deliver it to your regular destination.
Crosslight is a bi-monthly magazine produced by the Communications and Media Services unit of the Uniting Church in Australia Synod of Victoria and Tasmania. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the editor or the policies of the Uniting Church. Advertising deadlines Bookings (August issue) Friday July 3, 2020 Copy & images for production Tuesday July 14, 2020 Print ready supplied PDF Thursday July 16, 2020 Advertising Adelaide Morse (03) 9340 8800 firstname.lastname@example.org Editor Stephen Acott (03) 9340 8819 email@example.com Graphic design and print services Carl Rainer (03) 9340 8826 firstname.lastname@example.org Feedback & correspondence email@example.com
Stephen Acott Editor
“I am the
who takes hold of your right
to you, Do
help you.” Isaiah 41:13