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International students find a new home at Monash Uniting Church

Readers respond to last month’s story on immigration detention


23 Talking religion with John Safran

Why a multicultural church needs to be a multilingual church

On 19 July 2013, then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd banned all asylum seekers who arrived by boat from ever settling in Australia. Candlelight vigils were held nationally in July to mark four years of cruelty and death in Australia’s offshore detention centres. Turn to page 10 for the full story.


Christians divided over dying with dignity Bill


Photo by Tim Lam

Congregations share photos of the UCA’s 40th anniversary celebrations

Regulars Letters - 18 People - 19 Reviews - 20 to 21 Notices - 24 to 25 Moderator’s column - 26

Editorial Bad web design and the hope of God


Communications & Media Services

UCA Synod Office, 130 Little Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000 Phone: (03) 9251 5200 Email: ISSN 1037 826X

HUMANS are creatures of habit. We often go about our daily activities as if on a conveyor line. But sometimes a person, an event, some words on a page, will break through and stay with you. I like to think of it as a gift from God. Reading The Age online early last month was one of those ‘aha’ moments. It was an article on the dark web by Fairfax journalist Peter Hartcher. He was describing how the concept of the internet began – not surprisingly – as a result of US military research. He wrote: “In 1967… a prescient engineer warned of the danger of connecting computer networks… it would become impossible to protect anything connected to those networks.” The article continued that the Pentagon took note of the warning and considered adding security features but, and here’s the

Crosslight is a monthly newspaper produced by the Communications and Media Services unit of The Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania. It is published 11 times a year. Opinions expressed in Crosslight do not necessarily reflect those of the editor or the policies of The Uniting Church. Advertising: Crosslight accepts advertising in good faith. Acceptance of advertising does not imply endorsement. Advertising material is at the discretion of the publisher. Distribution: Crosslight is usually distributed the first Sunday of the month.

kicker, “the net’s chief scientist ‘begged’ his superiors not to burden the project with such hindrances, and assured them that it’d take the Russians decades to catch up.” (‘The web belongs to the bad guys’, Hartcher, 4/7/17). Stop for a minute and think, if that chief scientist was more future-focused, rather than on the immediate need to be first, on time and on budget, we might never know what the dark web is. The child sex trade, drugs trade, illegal arms trade, terrorist networks might not have been able to operate so easily in this hidden international network. I felt a moment of anger towards this short-sighted chief scientist for the world that he had inadvertently created by his inability to take advice, and then stopped. I might not be managing decisions of such monumental importance, but how often

do I go for the quick fix, the easy out, the short-term solution? The Bible is littered with stories of men and women making rash decisions. Peter, who denied Jesus three times, cutting off the ear of the guard, comes to mind. However, the God of the Bible is without time. God’s plans are eternal and, often, it is hindsight that reveals for us God’s hand in our lives. Take Nehemiah, the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. God had placed him there in a place of extreme trust and influence to enable the rebuilding of Jerusalem. That was planning beyond human capacity. In a world of the dark web, of subterfuge and dirty dealings, of human frailty and environmental degradation, I am grateful that God sent his son, Jesus, to give us eternal hope and grace. This hope enables me to live faithfully in this broken world.

Circulation: 21,000 (publisher’s figure).


Deadlines: Advertising and editorial. Please check exact dates on our website <>. Closing date for September – Monday 14 August 2017. Printing: Rural Press, Ballarat (Fairfax Media) Visit Crosslight online:



Executive Editor - Penny Mulvey Managing Editor - Deb Bennett Graphic Artist - Mirna Leonita Design, Digital Illustration and Print Services - Garth Jones Communications Officer - Tim Lam Media Communications Officer - David Southwell Advertising Co-ordinator - Lynda Nel Communications Manager - Nigel Tapp Digital Technology Officer - Graham Holtshausen

News Sit-in secures meeting with minister DAVID SOUTHWELL ENVIRONMENT Minister Josh Frydenberg has agreed to meet with faith leaders opposing the Carmichael coal mine after a six-hour sit-in protest of prayer and worship was staged at his office building in east Melbourne late last month. “It’s a significant win,” Fairfield Uniting Church minister Rev Alex Sangster said. Ms Sangster was one of the core group of eight who took up position in the adjoining lobby space after they were barred from entering Mr Frydenberg’s office in Camberwell. The ARRCC (Australian Religious Response to Climate Change) staged hourly funerals for coal in the various faith traditions represented. They vacated the premises at 4pm after the offer to meet Mr Frydenberg was relayed and accepted. The protesters and supporters included Baptist ministers, Catholic nuns and a priest, a Buddhist priest and Jewish rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black, who acted as a media spokesperson. Ms Sangster said the group decided to stage the protest after Mr Frydenberg had not responded to a letter, which was signed by Uniting Church President Stuart McMillan and 10 other faith tradition representatives, demanding the government halt the Carmichael coal mine. “Given the climate emergency that the world now faces, it is morally irresponsible for Australia to allow the building of any new coal mines, coal-fired power stations or other fossil fuel infrastructure,” the letter stated. Ms Sangster said the giant Carmichael coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, which is being funded by the Indian Adani

ABC report not whole story PENNY MULVEY DOMESTIC or family violence is a serious issue that touches all facets of society. Therefore, it is no surprise that 7.30 (ABC) and ABC Online last month focused on the high rate of domestic violence in church communities. What was disappointing was the lack of rigour around the reporting. Statistics were unverified, information provided by other groups, including the Uniting Church, was not cited, and no interviews with church leaders (male or female) outside of the Anglican Church were included. This has changed the focus from the issue at hand – violence in the home – to shoddy reporting. Andrew Bolt, The Australian, Media Watch and other media have condemned the ABC for “illogical, unfair and quite possibly inaccurate”(The Australian, 26/7/17) reporting. In late May, assembly communications manager Matt Pulford was approached by the ABC regarding the Uniting Church’s protocols for preventing and responding to AUGUST 17 - CROSSLIGHT

Rev Alex Sangster (kneeling) at Josh Frydenberg’s office with other faith leaders

Group with federal and state government assistance, cannot be justified as the world needed to turn to renewable energy. “Josh Frydenberg has the power to stop the mine and he’s refusing to do so,” Ms Sangster said. “So the decision was made that a small group of religious leaders would come and engage in an act of non-violent peaceful protest.” Ms Sangster said police were called to the scene of the protest early and had maintained a presence throughout the day but interaction with them had been cordial. “We are coming from traditions of nonviolence so there’s no concern from the police,” she said during the protest. “The way we’re going to conduct ourselves is completely respectful. “It’s about seeking justice, not about causing trouble, so they’re happy with us to continue what we are doing as long as we

keep the entrances clear.” Ms Sangster said the decision to stage the protest was not made lightly and was reached after other means such as meetings, petitions and letter writing had failed to elicit a satisfactory response. “There is a space for direct action,” she said. “And when all those other methods haven’t worked sometimes it can be time to take an actual stance with your body. “As Christians we believe in a God of the incarnation, which is spirit in flesh. So I believe I am called to use my body to be part of that work, not just my letter writing skills or my preaching.” She also invoked the history of the Uniting Church and, more broadly, the memory of Christian-inspired civil rights campaigners such as Martin Luther King and the Freedom Riders in the US. “Jesus was the archetype of non-violent peaceful resistance and all the great

movements of change and social justice have been inspired by his work,” she said. She quoted the words of St Francis: “Preach the gospel every day and if you must, use words.” “I feel like there is no clearer way to preach the Gospel than to be standing here with Jesus and my companions from other faith traditions and standing up for our planet.” Ms Sangster said her church council and members were backing her. “Fairfield members have been incredibly supportive,” she said. “I’ve had four of them here this morning. They’re well aware of my vocational call. “I have some particularly older members who say ‘oh I wish I could be there’. “I say ‘you are there because you are there praying with us’. “That’s just as powerful an act of social justice and love as me sitting on a cold office floor.”

domestic violence. One question alluded to the direction the story was going: Have you sought to address the fact that some scriptures and teachings are interpreted as justifying male control and superiority over women – in the Church and in the broader community? The Uniting Church believes the equality of men and women is a central principle of the Christian gospel. It does not ascribe to any doctrine of headship, as referenced by 7.30. Rather, the Church is deeply committed to ensuring men and women are supported to exercise equality of leadership within the Church and the broader community. In the Uniting Church’s foundational document, the Basis of Union, specific emphasis is made to acknowledge the equality of gifts of both men and women in leadership roles. Concerning leadership within the Church, the Basis of Union states: The Uniting Church recognises that responsibility for government in the Church belongs to the people of God by virtue of the gifts and tasks which God has laid upon them. The Uniting Church therefore so organises its life that locally, regionally and nationally government will be entrusted to representatives, men and women, bearing the gifts and graces with which God has endowed them for the building up of his Church.(par 5)

However, this does not provide automatic protection from violence to any vulnerable person within a family setting. The UCA Synod of South Australia has sought to bring awareness and education to the scourge of domestic violence through its program Beyond Violence for individuals, people in placements and pastoral carers. Vic/Tas moderator Sharon Hollis stresses that the Uniting Church firmly believes all people deserve to be safe and free from persecution and abuse. “This commitment to safety and zero tolerance towards abusive behaviour must be enshrined in our institutions, religious or otherwise, and most certainly in the family homes of our community,” Ms Hollis said. Ms Hollis said the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence’s report, handed down in 2016, made mention of the important role faith leaders have in educating their communities about family violence. It also acknowledged that prevention would only be achieved when attitudes and social conditions which give rise to family violence are addressed. The UCA’s Code of Ethics for Ministry Practise, Code of Conduct for Lay Leaders and safe church training all aim to address how its members relate to one other.

However, Crosslight regularly receives letters highlighting dysfunctional behaviour in churches. And the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse made clear that those in church communities are not exempt from committing vile acts upon one another. South Australian moderator Sue Ellis has asked church members to join her in praying for anyone who has been, or continues to be, subjected to or affected by family or domestic violence. “I pray that God will enlighten those living in violent situations and provide them with wisdom to see when things are not right within their relationships,” Ms Ellis said. “I pray that ministry leaders can create safe, respectful and supportive environments so that women and men experiencing domestic violence feel safe to seek help.” Ms Hollis asks churches and agencies throughout the synod to join an international campaign – 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence – between 25 November and 10 December. Anyone concerned about Domestic Violence should ring 1800RESPECT


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News ‘Someone standing beside me’ TIM LAM AS the number of incarcerated people in Victoria reaches a record high, a former prisoner has called for greater chaplaincy support in the state’s correctional centres. Allison served six months in jail for stealing from her employer. The mother-of-two recounted her story at the 2017 Victorian Prison Chaplaincy Conference, held at the Darebin Arts and Entertainment Centre in June. Approximately 75 prison chaplains from different faiths attended the conference, now in its third year. It was organised by the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania along with other interfaith partners.

Penguin Uniting’s starring role WHEN the Penguin Uniting Church’s Uniting Friends group decided to weave 10,000 eight-pointed stars for a 2018 Commonwealth Games art project, the small group from Tasmania’s North-West Coast thought reaching the target might be a bit of a challenge. However, last month it delivered not only its own 13,500 stars but also a further 500 from Glen Waverley Uniting and 400 from Galston, 36 km north-west of Sydney, in readiness for the April Games on the Gold Coast. The stars will form part of the One Million Stars to End Violence project, which was begun by Maryann Talia Pau as a personal response to the tragic rape and murder of Jill Meagher in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick in 2012. They will be displayed in an arts

Sound investment in the love of music


During Allison’s time in prison, there was one person she could always turn to for support – Laurel, the prison chaplain. “I had someone standing beside me the whole way, apart from my family and children,” Allison said. “I’m always met with compassion from Laurel. The chaplains were the only people who did not judge and do not judge.” A number of chaplains at the conference remarked that religious programs are often given a low priority at correctional centres. This concern was echoed by Allison, who said many prisoners have to endure long waiting lists before they can sit down with a chaplain. “We don’t get to access these services enough. Sometimes it can be too late for people,” Allison said. “You feel like you’re nothing when you’re in there. That’s why we need more availability to have the chaplaincy in there – people who don’t judge you, who want to sit down and just have a cuppa with you.”

installation highlighting the effects of violence, in all its forms, within society. Ms Pau said the project encouraged people to make something beautiful and powerful together. “We know that domestic violence, violence on our streets, racism and harassment are happening right now and often it is difficult to know what to do to help those who are suffering and to help prevent it,” she said. “The Million Stars project is an opportunity to remind each other that we can do something about it and not feel paralysed by all that is broken with humanity.” Penguin UC was one of 100 star-weave communities worldwide, and the only one in Tasmania, committed to producing 10,000 stars each by the middle of this year. Project organiser Jeanne Koetsier said 20 groups and eight individuals – spread over about 180 kilometres to the east and west of Penguin – had helped by weaving stars. There were church groups, community groups, service club groups, school groups and people who just wanted to lend their support to the cause.

When Allison moved back into the community, she quickly realised society would never look at her the same way again. She lost many friends and her criminal record was a permanent stain she had to carry with her. “You are judged for the rest of your life. People don’t want to know you. Everywhere you go, people say ‘there’s the crim’,” Allison said. “[Prison] is not a good environment but at least you’re with people. When you go out, you’re on your own again. “The only thing that got me through, and continues to, is the chaplaincy. It helped not only myself but helped my family stay connected.” Allison credited Laurel for helping her regain a sense of purpose and self-worth after she left prison. “I did a period of 12 months on parole and many times I thought I might as well go back,” Allison said. “I kept going for my family and also

because, at the end of the day, I had Laurel. When I came out, she was still there for me.”

One of the school groups will continue weaving stars as it found the exercise a good way to encourage students to open up about their experiences of being bullied and what might be done about it. Mrs Koetsier said she was pleased that the

project had highlighted the issue within the local community and believed it had also seen new friendships develop. “We have seen people sitting around a table and just talking and that is a wonderful thing,” she said.

Uniting Church prison chaplain Craig Madden with Giovanna Danza

Penguin UC goes star glam before they were shipped to Gold Coast

A GROUP of young people’s dedication to making music has certainly hit the right note with Sammy Stamp, who gave them $2000 to buy some much-needed equipment and record their performance. Young people with disabilities have been taking part in the U Music Group, run by local musician Dennis Kadmon and his partner Anne-Marie Becu, at the Leongatha Uniting Church in South Gippsland for nine years. The group of eight to 12 people, mostly now in their 30s but who have been part of the program since its beginning, meet at the old church building every Wednesday to make music and socialise. The group’s band Free Spirits performs annually at the Leongatha Uniting Church Christmas concert and other events. “The aim is to enjoy the experience of making original music,” Ms Becu, who is a retired teacher, said. “They love it. They express their love of the program every week.” Stamp collecting and fund-raising fellowship Sammy Stamp presented U Music with $2000 last month following the successful application made by Leongatha

mission group member Wendy Holm. “It’s an incredible program,” Ms Holm said of U Music. “They are very supportive of each other and they encourage each other and have gained such confidence and feelings of self-worth. “It is really incredible to see how these young people have developed. “It’s given them a belief in themselves and what they are able to do as well as being able to increase their potential as musicians. It also makes them part of a bigger area in the community.” Ms Holm said the Sammy Stamp donation was very welcome especially as the instruments in use were largely donated second-hand 10 years ago. Ms Becu said the Sammy Stamp donation will buy new leads, an amp and microphone. Some of the money is also being used to record the group during their Wednesday sessions as part of the Brave Souls Dare project. The recordings, which happen progressively over the Wednesday sessions, will be edited into a keepsake for each of the group’s participants.


News Warm western welcome PENNY MULVEY

John Diprose with op shop coordinator, Ash Binney in the backyard of the Argyle Shop Shop

‘A PUB with no beer’ aptly describes the former Argyle Arms Hotel in Hamilton, now the proud home to the Argyle UCA Op Shop. To all bower birds who love to pick over former treasures, this store will truly bedazzle. With room after room of ‘stuff ’, including a backyard also appropriately cluttered, shoppers are sure to find a bargain. My visit to the shop during a trip to western Victoria was organised by Synod Standing Committee member and longterm resident of Hamilton, John Diprose OAM. He is delighted with the success of the Argyle. “As all items are donated they can be priced to move quickly,” he explained “and in some cases may be given away to people in extreme need.”


The unruly Argyle stands in stark contrast to the Warrnambool UC Op Shop, also a new initiative for the congregation. This op shop is as neat as a pin, taking up two shop fronts, making me wonder whether op shops take on the personality of their owners/managers. Wendy Crofts, the op shop manager, whispered in my ear that she feels 34 instead of 70-something. Warrnambool minister Rev Geoff Barker said Wendy manages the op shop four-and-a-half days a week and volunteers at another church activity on the other half day. Both op shops fund mission activities. Warrnambool UC feeds up to 80 local people at its weekly community lunch, an initiative introduced by Mr Barker nine years previously, and strongly supported by church

members who volunteer as welcomers, ‘bottle washers’, servers and musicians. I found the environment welcoming and the food delicious, a labour of love by chef Kristie Ann Kelp. Apart from attending the community lunch, I managed to squeeze in a visit to Food Share, Heatherlie Homes, whale watching (no luck), participated in children’s meditation and gate crashed a home group monthly dinner. And that was Wednesday. Thursday included travelling to Hamilton UC to witness a Mother Goose children’s music session, the food distribution program, a trip to the pub with no beer and a personalised tour of The Hamilton and Alexandra College by the principal, Dr Andrew Hirst. Warrnambool and District Food Share is the largest food distribution centre in the region. Although it is not a Uniting Church initiative, the warehouse in which it resides has been made available to Food Share by the Warrnambool UC at a peppercorn rent. Executive Officer Dedy Friebe, a former school principal, is another highly-driven and passionate individual who has been running the logistics, rosters, deliveries, gifts and all other aspects of the warehouse for several years. Gesturing around the shiny warehouse, Mr Friebe said: “none of this would have been possible without the help of the Uniting Church.” “The Uniting Church in Warrnambool as we know is a very quiet achiever – it works in the background and it does marvellous

community support work and welfare work,” she said In Hamilton the following day, I witnessed food slated for the UC’s Second Bite delivery service arriving from the Warrnambool Food Share. Roger Thompson OAM, coordinator of the Second Bite service, said they rely heavily on the fortnightly delivery which comes from Food Share. They also collect bread from local bakeries and cafes and a range of products from all the local supermarkets. “We deliver to about 90 families a week, including in Coleraine and Casterton. We’ve got quite a network assisting,” Mr Thompson explained. The list of hamper recipients is provided by the local Salvo housing office. Mr Thompson said occasionally people will let them know of families who are doing it a bit hard and they follow up. Before I left the district I caught up with the chairperson of the Henty region, Elaine Edwards and local minister Rev Will Pickett. The Henty region is in the process of creating three clusters and Ms Edwards says they are each going to have two names – an Anglo name and an Indigenous name. Mr Pickett said that actually walking together means to join hands and to be there supporting one another 100 per cent in every situation. “Christ said in John 17 to walk as one. It’s easy to accomplish when you have a right mindset and a right attitude to where you want to go into the future,” Mr Pickett said.


News A decade of disaster DAVID SOUTHWELL


UNITING Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress leaders have continued to speak out against the Northern Territory Intervention, which passed its 10th anniversary in June with little fanfare from political leaders and the mainstream media. Congress and Yolgnu Nations Assembly member Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra was forthright in his verdict in a prerecorded video message to a forum on the Intervention anniversary held on Melbourne’s RMIT campus. “My judgment is I think it is getting worse. It’s disgusting,” Dr Gondarra said. He said politicians were ignoring the failure of the Intervention measures, which the Howard government enacted in response to the alleged widespread child sexual abuse and family violence in remote Indigenous communities. At the forum, hosted by TV journalist and documentarian Jeff McMullen, the Intervention, which continued and even expanded under the Rudd/Gillard government’s Stronger Futures legislation, was painted by a number of speakers as a destructive failure in almost every respect. The Intervention, otherwise known as the Northern Territory Emergency Response, saw uniformed Australian Defence Force personnel, backed by police, abruptly deployed into remote Indigenous communities in 2007. The Commonwealth revoked the permit

system Aboriginal communities had over their territory and compulsorily acquired five-year leases over privately owned land. Alcohol and pornography were banned in some areas. Employment projects were axed and residents were put on income management. The police presence was bulked up in some communities and customary laws revoked. Deakin University Professor Jon Altman said that on a range of welfare measures, such as income and health statistics, remote communities were actually faring worse than before the Intervention. He said this showed that “billions of dollars have been wasted”. Prof Altman said “a wholly unnecessary intervention in 2007” had led “to a sustained and ongoing disaster in 2017”. The Intervention proved to be part of the “long-failed colonialist project” to assimilate Indigenous peoples by force. “They need to be treated differently in a positive and productive sense, not in a punitive and discriminatory and destructive sense,” he said. “In reality the Australian state is treating them as second-class citizens.” He advocated a different approach to Indigenous people, one that was consultative and preserved their identity while meeting their needs and aspirations. “We can mobilise non-Indigenous and Indigenous people who care in the face of this care-less assault, this brutal

assault by the Australian state that is deploying a range of measures that are impoverishing, disempowering and demeaning remote living Aboriginal people,” Prof Altman said. However, he said many Australians needed to be made more aware of what is going on and what they can do about it. “We have government-orchestrated national emergency interventions just a decade ago that proved to be an absolute disaster; the Australian government and the mainstream media have said nothing about it,” Prof Altman said. Dr Gondarra also issued a challenge to Australians to face up to the denial of rights to Indigenous people. “We challenge you by saying you have to wake up, the Australian nation you have to wake up,” he said. ‘We need to work together to recognise our sovereignty.” Dr Gondarra said that it was time to move past the recognition that Australia was taken off Indigenous people, without consultation or Treaty, and to take action on recognising their sovereignty. “We in our heart, we still say we are a sovereign nation,” he said “Why are we a sovereign nation? Because our contact has not been taken away, our law has not been taken away, our Aboriginality, our language, everything is still there. So we have not lost our sovereignty.”


News Story of Noah’s arc TIM LAM

WHEN Monash University student Noah Yan first set foot in Melbourne 18 months ago, he did not know anyone in the city. Most of his family and friends were back home in China and it was the first time he lived by himself. Just across the street from where Noah

stayed was a red brick church. A sign on the church’s front lawn read ‘Monash Uniting Church: Many Cultures, One Community’. “My family are all Christians back in China, but when I first came here I didn’t know where to go for Sunday worship,” Noah said.

Noah (top right) with Margaret Farrell (bottow left) and members of the Monash UCA congregation



News “One Sunday I went into the church and Margaret Farrell greeted me. After worship, I knew this was the church I want to go to.” Noah is one of 550,000 international students living in Australia. Uniting Church congregations throughout the synod offer

hospitality, friendship and a second home for young people who otherwise might be alone in a foreign country. “All the people in my congregation gave me a lot of help – both in my studies and my life here,” Noah said. “Ray McCluskey is also a really good

Noah’s parents visited Melbourne last year. They are pictured here with Noah and Rev Ray McCluskey.


reverend, a kind and optimistic person who always encourages and helps me.” While the worship style at Monash is similar to his church in China, Noah said there are a few notable differences. “In China we don’t have morning tea after worship. People would normally go home after church. Here, we can chat after church and everyone has a really good time,” Noah said. “I had a church with a really big congregation in China, but I didn’t know anyone. But here in Monash, I already know everyone in the congregation.” Another difference is the culturally diverse composition of the church. Monash Uniting Church minister Rev Ray McCluskey believes it is one of the most multicultural congregations in the VicTas synod. The Monash congregation is home to people from more than 16 nationalities, including Indonesians, Japanese, Malaysians, Ghanaians and Tongans. “Because our church is in such close proximity to Monash university, we have a constant flow of new people coming in to the congregation,” Mr McCluskey said. “Currently we have a lot of Chinese students who come into the country for education and that’s where the international students find their way to our church. “For a lot of them, we are an extension of their family. That’s the great thing about our community – it’s a very hospitable place and they can feel at home.” Most of the international students who attend Monash UCA are postgraduate students like Noah. Some come by themselves while others bring their families along to services. “One of the great things is that we don’t get what you traditionally find in large multicultural congregations where there are what I call ‘clusterings’,” Mr McCluskey said. “They mix very well and it’s a very inclusive group of people. For an Anglo minister it’s been especially rewarding to come and work with them. “Not only have they got their cultural differences, but they come from hugely diverse theological understandings as well, so it’s a wonderful acceptance of people’s different points of views.” In addition to his ministry work with the Monash congregation, Mr McCluskey is part of Monash University’s multifaith chaplaincy team. International students often fly to Australia as 17 to 18-year-olds with no family connections or existing support networks. Some struggle with homesickness and cultural shock. “Loneliness is a big issue because, for a lot of them, it’s their first overseas trip,” Mr McCluskey said. “But the thing that stands out from my chaplaincy work is that there’s enormous expectations on international students, especially our Asian students. “There are a lot of high expectations culturally about attainment in terms of their marks and it places enormous pressure on them.” Many international students also have to work part-time to cover their daily expenses. They are particularly vulnerable to exploitation from unscrupulous employers who prey on

those unfamiliar with Australian law. “Most of them are on the border of poverty in terms of day-to-day living,” Mr McCluskey said. “Their folks have spent a lot of money for them to study in Australia and so they have very little disposable income and enormous pressure in terms of needing to achieve. “There’s a lot of loneliness and depression that comes with having an enormous amount of expectations on your shoulders.” The Monash congregation supports international students through an English language program that offers free tutoring to students, migrants and refugees. Monash Uniting Church member Margaret Farrell coordinates the program, which has been running since 1990. “Sometimes, the students’ English skills aren’t so good so they get brushed off by people like landlords,” Ms Farrell said. “We had one class for many years but the students wanted more, so about 15 years ago I added a Café Conversation class. So it’s grown a bit as we try to respond to the enormous need out there.” While the program focuses on improving participants’ English skills, the tutors also offer practical assistance outside classes. This can range from proofreading CVs to accompanying students to police stations to report break-ins. There are currently 12 volunteers in the English language program – seven volunteers from the congregation and five from the community. Historically, the church has relied on volunteers and BOMAR funding to sustain its missional activities. “It’s been a battle financially, but it’s certainly worthwhile because you can see the changes in the students who were initially quite timid about just coming to class,” Ms Farrell said. “Then to see them after a year or so full of confidence and actually enjoying Australia instead of walking around crying because they’re so lonely – it’s really rewarding to see.” When Ms Farrell first started running the English classes, international students were a minority at Monash UCA. Now, almost three quarters of the congregation are from overseas. “They add an energy, a vitality, an enthusiasm we sometimes lack,” Ms Farrell said. “At the moment we’ve got a group of young Ghanaians and they’ve been able to sing songs from their country in our worship services. “Because we have welcomed them to our congregation, they in turn get to be the welcomers. They want to give back and it’s tremendous to see.” Noah was recently elected onto the church council and is excited to contribute to the congregation in a new capacity. He thanked Monash congregation members, especially his godmother, Chinglyna Chan, for their support throughout the past 18 months. “Since I came to Melbourne, Chinglyna regarded me as her child without any hesitation,” Noah said. “She takes care of me a lot during my life here and I think this is why I don’t feel like I’ve had a difficult time in Melbourne.” After graduation, Noah hopes to obtain permanent residency and secure a job in Australia. But because his degree is not on the skilled occupation list (Noah is studying a Master of Applied Linguistics) he may have to return to China after graduation. “If I can get a chance, I would love to remain in Australia,” Noah said. “I really love this congregation but no matter where I will be, my heart will still be with them.”


News Never giving up on social justice NIGEL TAPP

THEY may be small in number but the Bendigo Uniting Social Justice Group’s advocacy work certainly packs a punch locally and even further afield. Group convenor Garth Phillips said six or so members work with the local Uniting Church congregations – particularly St Andrew’s and Forest St – to get their message out. Recently its advocacy with the City of Greater Bendigo has seen the development of both a positive ageing strategy and a social housing strategy included in the

city’s 2017-2021 Community Plan. Mr Philips said the group took great heart from the fact it was able to successfully lobby for both initiatives. The group is just one of many church communities active in the justice space. Mr Phillips said the Bendigo group’s efforts are not limited to local activities. In partnership with Rural Australians for Refugees, the group has campaigned long and hard for a more humane approach from the federal government in dealing with asylum seekers. A series of four banners supporting this cause, initiated by the group, are rotated quarterly around the four local Uniting Churches. The group’s tenacious letter writing campaign in 2012 and 2013 saw retail giant Myer publicly commit to ensuring no cotton sourced from forced labour overseas would be used in any of the products stocked on its shelves. It has also lobbied federal Trade Minister Steve Ciobo in relation to unfair InvestorState Dispute Settlement provisions

Shining a light on four years of offshore cruelty THOUSANDS braved the chilly Melbourne weather last month to join in a candlelight vigil marking four years of illegal offshore detention of asylum seekers. It was one of 57 rallies held nationwide, with similar events taking place in major cities and regional centres throughout Australia. On 19 July 2012, then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd introduced mandatory offshore detention for all asylum seekers who arrived in Australia by boat. Since then, the Australian government has spent more than $5 billon incarcerating refugees on Manus Island and Nauru. Close to 2000 refugees still remain in offshore detention centres, including 169 children.


VicTas Moderator Sharon Hollis attended the Melbourne vigil and called on the Australian government to immediately transfer all refugees detained on Manus Island and Nauru to Australia. “I’ve come to the refugee rally because the stain of detention of refugees illegally in offshore detention is of such concern to me,” Ms Hollis said. “These people are human beings who deserve to have their rights respected.

contained in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. Mr Phillips said the group met monthly and its advocacy was often guided by the information sent out from the synod’s Justice and International Mission unit. From those meetings the group selects issues it wishes to campaign on and presents its case to Sunday morning services with the aim of encouraging congregation members to sign letters of support. From there Mr Phillips said the group would continue to lobby until it got satisfaction. Mr Phillips said it was never enough to just send a letter; the group continues to engage until an issue is resolved. “Justice does not happen overnight, it is only achieved by patience and effort,” he said. Mr Phillips said there was a very simple reason why the group remained committed to the cause of justice locally, statewide, nationally and internationally. “We are seeking to make a difference (within communities) and it is what the Gospels say needs to happen,’” he said.

“The Gospels are all about justice.” Turn to page 16 for a 40th anniversary story investigating the synod’s work in the struggle for justice throughout Victoria and Tasmania.

“As a Christian and a leader of a church, I really want to say to the government and to the people of Australia that four years is four years too long. “We need to exert whatever pressure we Sharon Hollis at the Melbourne vigil can on the government to bring these people here to this country where they can again have a future and hope and do the basic things they want to do – get an education, be with their families and live a life that’s free and hopeful.” Sajjad Askary, a Hazara refugee, spoke at the vigil and shared the story of how he fled Afghanistan at the age of 17. The Hazaras are considered one of the most persecuted ethnic groups in the world. “People like Hazaras, when they are being persecuted, it’s a matter of life and death for

them to run,” Mr Askary said. “I still fear for the people who are being targeted in Afghanistan, I still fear for those children who are being targeted on their way to school.” Mr Askary asked Australians to remember not just those detained in offshore camps, but also refugees living in the community on temporary protection visas. “People have lost their minds, lost their memories, lost their hope,” he said. “I hear people say refugees are a burden. Refugees are hard-working people. “If you want to see an example, go to Dandenong and see the refugees in the south-east. Go to Shepparton and see how refugees are working hard with their children and their families on the farms.” During the vigil, the messages ‘Evacuate Now’ and ‘Four Years Too Many’ were projected onto the side of the Melbourne Central shopping centre. A minute’s silence was also held for the six refugees who have died in Australia’s offshore detention centres.

Garth Phillips and fellow justice group member Ruth Hosking


Profile John Cleary laments the ABC’s loss of belief DAVID SOUTHWELL

JOHN Cleary looks back on his career as a religious broadcaster with a personal sense of fulfilment but fears his old employer has lost its sense of purpose. Cleary wrapped up a 30-year career producing and presenting religious programs for ABC radio and television last December with the axing of Sunday Nights. The four-hour nationally networked radio show presented in-depth discussion and talkback around spiritual matters. Although Cleary, a Salvation Army member, officially finished employment at the ABC in January, his farewell function was held in June. “For myself I am quite comfortable,” he said. “What I am disturbed about is that major changes are happening that do not go to what the ABC was constituted to be.” Cleary argues that the public broadcaster was created to fill a gap left by the commercial stations. “The commercial model is where you reduce everybody to a sort of lowest common denominator for different agebands,” he said. “The ABC was constructed to reflect communities of interest. It recognised that some kids could be interested in science from cradle-to-grave or religion from cradle-to-grave.” He said the ABC had lost sight of this mission. “Over the last 10 years there has been a push for the ABC to move to a model that

downplays all those specialist strands in Australian culture, or in any culture, and base its approach to audience on the same ratings-driven models that commercial stations use,” Cleary said. “All of the specialist units across radio and television have been axed basically. They’ve lost their funds and staff.” Two areas that have especially been gutted are science and religion, which Cleary said showed short-sightedness. “What’s dominating every day in the newspapers? You are getting major stories about religion whether they go from institutional abuse or ISIS and terrorism through to the politics of the way religion has impacted,” Cleary said. “How do you explain the Trump phenomenon without alluding to the conservative evangelicals? How do you explain Putin in Russia without alluding to the links to the Orthodox Church? “Religion as a fundamental cultural driver has been more important in the last 10 years than it has been in the last 60 years. “The ABC is the only organisation in the country that still retains professional religious journalists and producers. Yet they’re being shafted, speaking colloquially.” He said Sunday Nights had served an important role in promoting religious discussion and understanding, and had found a dedicated audience. “Sunday Nights was deliberately designed to bring people into a civil conversation across those gulfs that exist and it rated well right up until its last program,” Cleary said. “Its ratings were always up to about one or two points below the equivalent generalist program. “Sunday Nights as a specialist program proved that you could follow the old ABC model and make it work. That is you could take specialist material and make it available and accessible to the general audience and win with the ratings.” Cleary said the ABC’s abandonment of serious in-depth specialist coverage was happening at a time of collapse of the mainstream commercial model in broadcast and print media. “The audience is fragmenting into smaller

groups and being picked up by YouTube, where everybody has their own stream of content,” he said. “You are getting an increasingly fragmented narrowcasting, which completely undermines what broadcasting was about, which is about bringing things to everyone. Narrowcasting is about gaining audience by talking exclusively to closed groups.” Cleary believes the creation of silos or echo chambers of communication is to the detriment of broader society. “Our civil literacy is being lost because we are no longer accessing everything, we are just being fed by our narrow interests. So you get the rise of the Hansonite stuff, the groups where people have lost the fundamental civil literacy that they have,” he said. Cleary said it was ironic the ABC was moving in the opposite direction from its founding principles, when in the era of fake news and confirmationbias the public broadcaster could be enjoying a greater relevance than ever. “As mainstream media collapses, the ABC is missing a great opportunity to actually use its editorial authority and trust and integrity to be what most

people want,” he said. “What’s been lost in mainstream media is the capacity to run those in-depth articles and material. “What is desperately needed in the journalistic area is accuracy and editorial integrity so that people sloshing around in all sorts of sludge in journalism can find those few areas that have accuracy, integrity and editorial authority that the public can rely on. “At the very time that is most needed, the ABC is dismantling the editorial structures that gave it that authority.”

John Cleary



Profile Going to extremes with John Safran DAVID SOUTHWELL

THE last national census may have recorded a decline in religious affiliation, but John Safran says faith and belief still can’t be conveniently relabelled as something else in contemporary Australia. Religion has long been a preoccupation for Safran in his eclectic and sometimes provocative backlog of TV and radio work plus print and online journalism. In his new book, Depends What You Mean By Extremist, Safran mingles with radically fundamentalist Christians, such as Catch the Fire Ministries leader Daniel Nalliah, ISIS-supporting Muslims and pugnacious Jewish gym owners as well as far-right activists and their left-wing opponents. “Increasingly you can’t understand Australia if you’re not going to spend some time looking at things through a religious filter,” Safran told Crosslight. “I just think when it comes to Islam, for instance, the people just don’t know including the people who most confidently talk about it like the ABC crowd.” Safran has spent the last month on a speaking tour and sat on numerous discussion panels to do with religion and extremism. “Generally what happens is that religion is just flattened, so it’s no longer got anything to do with religion. It’s just like ethnicity,” he said. Safran says that even when apparently secular many extremist groups still have a religious overlap. “The far-right is obsessed with religion even if they are not always religious themselves,” he said. “The (Klu Klux) Klan has this whole talk about the Bible and what it says in the Bible about who the Hebrews are.” As a self-confessed “trainspotter” of the far right, that makes them even more fascinating for Safran. “I am super-interested in the mystical aspects of religion,” he said. “I am more interested in these fringe groups where they overlap with that.” Safran said his ancestral history and religious identity (he is perhaps the bestknown graduate of the orthodox Jewish Yeshivah Beth Rivkah College in East St Kilda) also led to his interest in the far-right. “It’s got to do with growing up with grandparents where there was always this cloud hanging over things, even though they didn’t say anything, I just knew something was up,” he said. “Possibly that even made it more interesting, the whole secrets of it all, where things weren’t discussed. “The assumption is that Jews just talk non-stop about

the Holocaust and the Nazis. But hang on, my grandparents lived with them and their whole family was killed and they fled. Even my mum was born on the run, but it just wasn’t really spoken of. “At Yeshivah College, we didn’t really talk about it there either.” Even if extremism was somewhat taboo for Safran growing up, it’s not a subject he feels the need to be serious about. His book displays a self-conscious determination to find the funny side of beliefs that often disdain humour. “For whatever reason I decided to underline that a bit in the book,” Safran said. “I wouldn’t be ambiguous about that, I’d be ‘humour is good’. I felt that in the modern world it is not just the radicals and extremists who are dark on humour they have somehow convinced the mainstream that there is something suspicious or useless about humour.” However, sometimes the jokes had to stop. “I tried to make this book funny but there were just things that happened that, in an ideal world, wouldn’t have happened. Like the terrorist attack in France,” Safran said. “It affected all the people back in Australia I was covering, everyone was talking about it. I sort of had to (include the terror attack), even though I realise it was not funny.” At others times Safran says he was so “down the rabbit hole” of being surrounded by extremist people and messages that it began to affect him.

“I was getting all paranoid and miserable because I thought everyone was like the people I was hanging out with,” he said. Luckily this was easily remedied by getting ‘outside the bubble’. “I stopped just hanging out with these real intense people and started hanging out with the people down the street, my regular friends, and I was like ‘Oh people are normal’.” He rejects accusations that in portraying people with extreme views in normal and identifiable situations and showing unexpected sides of their personality he is humanising them in a dangerous way. “I’ve never got feedback from this book that’s like ‘Oh my god, you’ve really made the United Patriots Front or ISIS look good. I’m going to join them’,” he said. “I don’t think the book comes across that way where I’ve made these people look attractive or their causes attractive because I’ve shown the different layers to them.” Safran writes in the book of his surprise at the extremist positions he saw being espoused to niche audiences becoming increasingly mainstream through the election of One Nation and Trump. However, he thinks most of the extremists he met will remain marginalised. “I think they can be trend leaders, but in the context of Australia most of them are too strange to remain trend leaders,” he said. “But their ideas aren’t too odd for Australia.” Safran says that this is understandable given the constant stream of terroristrelated incidents being reported from around the world. He says some people on the left would prefer to talk about other things or try to contextualise this in some other way but to expect the general population to not be “absorbed and frightened and be really screwed up a bit by this terrorism is just ridiculous”. “It’s really distressing how violence is normalised,” Safran said. “It does seem in the last year we have moved to something that is different from what it is before. “We have become extreme. In Melbourne we have put bollards up on the streets. How strange is that if you said two years ago ‘they’re going to have bollards in the street to prevent terrorism’? “It’s too late now. Yes, we have changed.”

John Safran






IN western society death is rarely discussed, perhaps because it stirs the deepest of emotions and raises the most profound existential questions. So it is to be expected that when the Victorian government introduces a Bill into parliament later this year to allow voluntary assisted dying in the state it will generate an intensity of passion and clash of fundamental beliefs rarely seen in public debate. The Bill follows a wide-ranging inquiry by a bipartisan parliamentary committee set up to look at end-of-life issues. The committee outlined 49 recommendations in its Inquiry into End of Life Choices Final Report. The majority of the report examines issues around access to quality health care, choices in care provision and increased funding and training for palliative care services. It is the last point in the report that is the most contentious. Recommendation 49 reads: “That the Victorian Government introduce a legal framework providing for assisted dying, by enacting legislation based on the assisted dying framework outlined in this Report in Annex 1, Assisted Dying Framework Summary.” The model includes a number of safeguards to allay some of the fears of those who oppose assisted dying on the grounds people will feel pressured into taking this option. They include: • The request must be made by the person with a terminal illness and an expected lifespan of less than 12 months • The person must be of sound mind • Independent assessment by two medical practitioners • The patient must then make a written request witnessed by at least one independent person who does not benefit from the person’s death • A third and final request must be made by the patient, followed by a 10 day ‘cooling off ’ period before the medication is provided. Doctors involved in the scheme will undergo specialist training. Medication will be self-administered by the patient. While advocates of assisted dying feel the Bill is long overdue, the government



acknowledges the moral anguish and ethical concerns of those who are opposed. Politicians will be allowed a conscience vote on the issue. Some groups will advocate strongly for the rights of the individual to choose, while others will argue passionately for the sanctity of all human life. Many Christian churches have been very vocal in their opposition to the Bill. Australian Christian Lobby Victorian director Dan Flynn has suggested such legislation puts the lives of vulnerable people at risk. “The elderly, especially those experiencing elder abuse at the hands of family members or medical staff, and those with disabilities or from a non-English speaking background would be particularly vulnerable if state-sanctioned assisted suicide was legalised,” Mr Flynn said. The Catholic Church in Australia acknowledges on its website that calls for people to die with dignity are motivated by compassion, but believes they are, “misguided and even dangerous”. “Killing people is wrong, and this principle is fundamental to our law,” the church says. Victorian premier Daniel Andrews, himself a Catholic, says he was initially against assisted dying during his time as health minister, when he feared ‘economic rationalism’ would influence medical decisions. He has spoken publicly about his change of heart after watching his father suffer a painful death from cancer. “As his quality of life deteriorated and as I realised that he’d passed away from us long before he died – I knew our laws needed to change,” Mr Andrews told The Sunday Age. As a Uniting Church minister, Rev Carolyn ‘Caro’ Field is perhaps more familiar with death than most people, having offered pastoral care to parishioners when they, or a loved one, are dying. She thinks that if society re-thinks ideas around death and dying, the arguments against assisted death would be different. People naturally fear death, so to hasten it seems unnatural. Since caring for her mother in the last months of her life, Ms Field has reflected on what it truly means to ‘die with dignity’. “Towards the end, it would take two hours for an Endone (painkiller) to work

Prof Dutney cites research of former UC minister Kenneth Ralph. His 2015 book Your Final Choice – Hastening Your Death When Terminally Ill suggests that euthanasia is compatible with Christian principles. Mr Ralph spoke to Crosslight about how his faith developed over time and he began to question the doctrines and beliefs he had been taught. “Originally I was very much against IVF and abortion because I had been trained in the traditional scholastic Presbyterian reformed tradition in New Zealand,” he said. Mr Ralph said his support for euthanasia developed when he was a young minister faced with the reality of watching people die in terrible pain. “In my first parish a lady died in excruciating agony with stomach cancer. I thought ‘There’s something dodgy about this, watching this lady die in agony’,” he said. “She was very stoic though, she believed that Jesus was alive and was present to her, so she suffered through it. “Her husband remarried. Two years later, his wife was diagnosed with the same cancer and she went badly, was screaming and yelling and really suffering. “I began to think that earlier view I had was, too rigorous, lacking in compassion and not respectful enough for individual people making their own judgement.” Mr Ralph believes the church has a role in reassuring people of faith who are struggling with end-of life decisions. “For an older person in their 80s, and more traditional in their faith, to go through the questioning that I went through as a younger man would be very confronting for them,” he said. “I would say to such people ‘don’t take too much notice of what the hierarchy tell you’. The ordained, professionally-paid professors are very much bound to the traditions and the creeds of the church with its conventional view of a very loud ‘No’. “I would question if they are the only people who speak for Christianity. I would introduce them to about 10 or 15 wonderful people who are professors of religion who are writing wonderful books about this subject.” Mr Ralph feels there are two main benefits

“Both inside and outside the churches there is a general ignorance of the diversity of Christian opinion on the morality of euthanasia.” – Prof Andrew Dutney.

effectively, it was doing nothing for her,” Ms Field said. “I would sit with her on the side of her bed rubbing her back waiting for the pain to go. She would say to me ‘This is so bloody cruel, why can’t I just die?’ “On the wall were wedding photos of her and Dad taken back in 1957. Here was this beautiful young woman full of life and here is this shell of a woman in agony just wanting it to be over. It was just so cruel.” Opponents of assisted dying often cite improvements in palliative care and pain management as options for those facing a painful death. But as Ms Field explained, even though her mother’s palliative care team was terrific, towards the end of her life her mother’s body was unable to absorb medication efficiently, so she would endure hours of unbearable pain. Ms Field has little doubt that, had her mother been offered the choice to continue suffering or end her life, her final days would have been less traumatic. But, because the legal option wasn’t available, it was something they never considered. “Mum wouldn’t do anything unless it was legally recognised or advised by a doctor,” she said. “She would have been worried that if we’d ‘accidently’ given an overdose it could have had implications for me as her carer, and I could have been in trouble with the law.” Ms Field is also aware of the religious objections to assisted dying, but says her faith enables her to see the importance of ending life with dignity and self-determination. “I’m not going to throw around a whole lot of Bible verses, I’ll leave that to the scholars,” she said. “My reflection is more of my experience and my own personal journey of faith.

“Human life is sacred and God holds the key. The dice had already rolled; God had made the decision that Mum was going to die. Whether it was tomorrow or next week was immaterial in the scheme of things. “It was interesting for me that I never once thought about praying for God to miraculously cure Mum of the cancer. I just thought ‘OK she’s got this cancer and it’s going to kill her’. So my prayer was for a good death. “Certainly for Mum and I both, if there had been a legal option to end her life sooner we would have grabbed it with both hands. Because the level of suffering that she had towards the end – I’m talking the last two to three weeks – there was nothing that could be done.” While religious groups are expected to be the most vocal opponents of the Victorian legislation, surveys reveal adherents to faith differ in their opinions. Polls suggest more than 80 percent of Australians support legislation for voluntary euthanasia. A 2012 Newspoll found that 77 percent of Catholics and 88 percent of Anglicans supported medically assisted euthanasia to “end unbearable suffering for terminally ill patients”. The synod of Victoria and Tasmania has yet to make a definitive statement regarding voluntary euthanasia. The Tasmanian Parliament considered a voluntary assisted dying Bill in May last year. A response submitted by the Presbytery of Tasmania considered the complexity of the issue and stated the Church was neither for nor against the introduction of the Bill. The Church’s stance contrasted with that of other denominations, who expressed their opposition to the Bill. In a conscience vote, Tasmanian politicians voted eight for and 16 against the Bill. For a brief period of time in the mid-1990s, Australians could legally decide the manner in which they died. The Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995 was a law passed by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly in May of that year. The Act allowed a terminally ill patient to end their life with medical assistance, either by the direct involvement of a physician or by procurement of drugs. The law came into effect on 1 July 1996. The Bill caused controversy throughout Australia,

with churches and right-to-life groups lobbying the federal government to intervene. The Bill was overturned by an Act of federal parliament in March the following year. In 2001, Rev Professor Andrew Dutney (former president of the UCA assembly) wrote about euthanasia in his book Playing God. Writing in response to media reports that spoke of ‘Christian’ opposition to the NT legislation and euthanasia in general, Prof Dutney expressed frustration at the assumption that Christians speak with one voice. “Both inside and outside the churches there is a general ignorance of the diversity of Christian opinion on the morality of euthanasia,” Prof Dutney wrote. “For, contrary to the journalist’s confident assertion, the fact is that there have been Christian voices raised in support of forms of euthanasia. “In the case of teaching on euthanasia, Christians who support some form of euthanasia may be led to believe falsely that they have fallen into doctrinal heresy.” Prof Dutney discusses theological responses to euthanasia from a variety of Christian scholars. He concludes the chapter by stating: “The belief that Christians and churches are united and unambiguous in their opposition to voluntary euthanasia is false. “There is in fact strong support for voluntary euthanasia among both nominal and active church members. There are also numerous Christian thinkers and theologians who have set about to show that the holding of Christian faith and doctrine is consistent with supporting voluntary euthanasia.” Along with the work of other theologians,

to dying with dignity legislation. The first is that it will bring peace of mind. People who feel they have no control over their lives will have options, even if they choose not to take them. The other is that it acknowledges the fact that throughout Australia, pain relief is already being used as a method to speed up death. He believes the legislation will return autonomy for such decisions to the patient and remove it from doctors or family members. Mr Ralph acknowledges the concerns of those opposed to assisted dying. However, he contends those who speak of a ‘slipperyslope’ or persuading elderly relatives to end their life early for convenience are not examining the evidence in places where voluntary euthanasia is legal. “To me that smacks of paternalism and treating people as if they don’t have the capacity to think things through for themselves,” he said. “You decide who you will marry, when to have babies, where to plant your tomatoes. You have done all that, so don’t be a limp lettuce leaf at the end of your life.” Although the Vic/Tas synod will not make a submission to the Victorian parliament, the Church recognises the importance of the issue. Director of the Justice and International Mission unit, Dr Mark Zirnsak, said the unit will hold a series of discussions throughout the synod to discern the views of members. “The churches are united in support of better support for people through measures like palliative care, it is in the area of assisted dying/suicide there will be significant controversy,” Dr Zirnsak said. “The discussion paper released by the unit will contain a variety of theological reflections on assisted dying/suicide. “It will also examine the experience of places around the world that already allow for such a measure. We are keen to get as much feedback as possible from church members on this issue to establish where discernment on this issue has led members’ views.” To obtain a copy of the discussion paper email:

“The elderly, especially those experiencing elder abuse at the hands of family members or medical staff, and those with disabilities or from a non-English speaking background would be particularly vulnerable if state-sanctioned assisted suicide was legalised.” – Dan Flynn ACL






Image by Garth Jones




IN western society death is rarely discussed, perhaps because it stirs the deepest of emotions and raises the most profound existential questions. So it is to be expected that when the Victorian government introduces a Bill into parliament later this year to allow voluntary assisted dying in the state it will generate an intensity of passion and clash of fundamental beliefs rarely seen in public debate. The Bill follows a wide-ranging inquiry by a bipartisan parliamentary committee set up to look at end-of-life issues. The committee outlined 49 recommendations in its Inquiry into End of Life Choices Final Report. The majority of the report examines issues around access to quality health care, choices in care provision and increased funding and training for palliative care services. It is the last point in the report that is the most contentious. Recommendation 49 reads: “That the Victorian Government introduce a legal framework providing for assisted dying, by enacting legislation based on the assisted dying framework outlined in this Report in Annex 1, Assisted Dying Framework Summary.” The model includes a number of safeguards to allay some of the fears of those who oppose assisted dying on the grounds people will feel pressured into taking this option. They include: • The request must be made by the person with a terminal illness and an expected lifespan of less than 12 months • The person must be of sound mind • Independent assessment by two medical practitioners • The patient must then make a written request witnessed by at least one independent person who does not benefit from the person’s death • A third and final request must be made by the patient, followed by a 10 day ‘cooling off ’ period before the medication is provided. Doctors involved in the scheme will undergo specialist training. Medication will be self-administered by the patient. While advocates of assisted dying feel the Bill is long overdue, the government

acknowledges the moral anguish and ethical concerns of those who are opposed. Politicians will be allowed a conscience vote on the issue. Some groups will advocate strongly for the rights of the individual to choose, while others will argue passionately for the sanctity of all human life. Many Christian churches have been very vocal in their opposition to the Bill. Australian Christian Lobby Victorian director Dan Flynn has suggested such legislation puts the lives of vulnerable people at risk. “The elderly, especially those experiencing elder abuse at the hands of family members or medical staff, and those with disabilities or from a non-English speaking background would be particularly vulnerable if state-sanctioned assisted suicide was legalised,” Mr Flynn said. The Catholic Church in Australia acknowledges on its website that calls for people to die with dignity are motivated by compassion, but believes they are, “misguided and even dangerous”. “Killing people is wrong, and this principle is fundamental to our law,” the church says. Victorian premier Daniel Andrews, himself a Catholic, says he was initially against assisted dying during his time as health minister, when he feared ‘economic rationalism’ would influence medical decisions. He has spoken publicly about his change of heart after watching his father suffer a painful death from cancer. “As his quality of life deteriorated and as I realised that he’d passed away from us long before he died – I knew our laws needed to change,” Mr Andrews told The Sunday Age. As a Uniting Church minister, Rev Carolyn ‘Caro’ Field is perhaps more familiar with death than most people, having offered pastoral care to parishioners when they, or a loved one, are dying. She thinks that if society re-thinks ideas around death and dying, the arguments against assisted death would be different. People naturally fear death, so to hasten it seems unnatural. Since caring for her mother in the last months of her life, Ms Field has reflected on what it truly means to ‘die with dignity’. “Towards the end, it would take two hours for an Endone (painkiller) to work

“Both inside and outside the chu diversity of Christia

effectively, it was doing nothing for her,” Ms Field said. “I would sit with her on the side of her bed rubbing her back waiting for the pain to go. She would say to me ‘This is so bloody cruel, why can’t I just die?’ “On the wall were wedding photos of her and Dad taken back in 1957. Here was this beautiful young woman full of life and here is this shell of a woman in agony just wanting it to be over. It was just so cruel.” Opponents of assisted dying often cite improvements in palliative care and pain management as options for those facing a painful death. But as Ms Field explained, even though her mother’s palliative care team was terrific, towards the end of her life her mother’s body was unable to absorb medication efficiently, so she would endure hours of unbearable pain. Ms Field has little doubt that, had her mother been offered the choice to continue suffering or end her life, her final days would have been less traumatic. But, because the legal option wasn’t available, it was something they never considered. “Mum wouldn’t do anything unless it was legally recognised or advised by a doctor,” she said. “She would have been worried that if we’d ‘accidently’ given an overdose it could have had implications for me as her carer, and I could have been in trouble with the law.” Ms Field is also aware of the religious objections to assisted dying, but says her faith enables her to see the importance of ending life with dignity and self-determination. “I’m not going to throw around a whole lot of Bible verses, I’ll leave that to the scholars,” she said. “My reflection is more of my experience and my own personal journey of faith.

“Human life is sacred and G had already rolled; God had Mum was going to die. Whe next week was immaterial i “It was interesting for me th about praying for God to mi the cancer. I just thought ‘OK it’s going to kill her’. So my p “Certainly for Mum and I b legal option to end her life s grabbed it with both hands. suffering that she had towar the last two to three weeks – could be done.” While religious groups are e vocal opponents of the Vic reveal adherents to faith diff suggest more than 80 perce legislation for voluntary eut found that 77 percent of Ca Anglicans supported medic “end unbearable suffering fo The synod of Victoria and T definitive statement regardi The Tasmanian Parliament assisted dying Bill in May la submitted by the Presbytery the complexity of the issue neither for nor against the i The Church’s stance contras denominations, who expres Bill. In a conscience vote, Ta eight for and 16 against the For a brief period of time in Australians could legally de they died. The Rights of the was a law passed by the Nor Assembly in May of that yea terminally ill patient to end assistance, either by the dire physician or by procuremen into effect on 1 July 1996. The Bill caused controversy

“The elderly, especially those exper family members or medical staff, non-English speaking backgroun state-sanction



Celebrating 40 years Forty years of fighting for justice NIGEL TAPP

IN its first Statement to the Nation, the newly minted Uniting Church declared it would seek to rectify injustice wherever it saw it and vowed to stamp out racism and poverty. In the fairly brief statement, 143 of the 509 words – or better than one in every five – were devoted to either justice or the protection of the environment. Forty years on, the Church remains steadfastly committed to a more just and equal Australia as well as pushing the case for a more inclusive world. At the local level as well as internationally the Church has campaigned against government policies which exclude the vulnerable and hamper their full and equal participation in society. A commitment to social justice continues the tradition of the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches, each of which had a long history of speaking for the voiceless. Rev Dick Wootton is one of the many social justice advocates who have pursued the Church’s mission in Victoria and Tasmania. A former Presbyterian missionary in Korea, Mr Wootton returned to Australia in 1970 and quickly became active in the Church’s resistance campaign to conscription during the Vietnam War before being appointed as a justice minister based in Melbourne by the Board of Mission and Resourcing. Mr Wootton suggested that the young Church’s strong commitment to justice was at least partly reflective of the stance adopted by the World Council of Churches (WCC), particularly its general secretary Reverend Dr Phillip Potter. A West Indian, Dr Potter – who preached at the Uniting Church’s inaugural gathering on 22 June 1977 – was known for his strong stance in support of his people. He made the fight against racism a pivotal issue for the WCC. The WCC waged an effective campaign against Apartheid in South Africa, and other forms of racism throughout the

world. The Uniting Church was a powerful ally with Mr Wootton establishing strong relationships with groups such as the trade union movement. This led to regular protests by Church members on the Melbourne offices of South African Airways as well as the Shell oil company, who were accused of propping up racism by continuing to purchase South African oil. The former director of the synod’s Commission for Mission, Rev John Rickard, said while the focus areas and methods of engagement had changed over the years, the fight for justice remained very strong in the Uniting Church. “Seeking justice as a key outcome of the gospel is central to the thoughts of many within the Church,” Mr Rickard said. Mr Rickard said the passion for social justice has not diminished even if it is less visible. He said that more of today’s interaction took place in ‘backroom’ meetings rather than large public demonstrations. Justice and International Mission (JIM) unit director Dr Mark Zirnsak agreed. He suggested that for some issues, the mobilisation of bodies on the street was no longer the most effective way to get the ear of decision makers.

“In society generally now there is less taking to the streets,’’ he said. “While mobilisation has occurred over (Indonesian military atrocities in) East Timor and the second Iraq War they were short lived in comparison with South Africa and Vietnam (in the 1970s).” That is not to say there are no current day examples on Uniting Church members taking a public stand against injustice. Support for Palm Sunday asylum seeker rallies remains strong. Uniting Church members have been among the almost 200 Christians arrested over the last threeand-a-half years for protesting against the inhumane asylum seeker policies of both major parties at MPs offices as part of the Love Makes a Way campaign. Dr Zirnsak said with less Church members, and therefore less people active in the social justice space, the unit had found letter writing and postcard campaigns and face-to-face visits to MPs were much more effective strategies in effecting change. “I think we have been more effective by understanding what works in having influence in the corporate and political spheres,” Dr Zirnsak said. “We do a lot more work providing evidence to back up what we are saying. In the past we were inclined to make statements out of theology but now spent time proving them to get credibility.” A clear example is the work in the tax justice sphere. The JIM unit has been at the forefront of achieving significant government policy change aimed at making it harder for individuals and international companies to avoid paying their share of tax in Australia. However, not all within the Church think that it has remained prominent in social justice advocacy. Former Victorian Labor minister Bronwyn Pike has long been involved in the Uniting Church’s quest for social justice. The chair of the church’s community services organisation Uniting was the synod’s director of justice and social responsibility between 1991 and 1997. “It has disappointed me that the Uniting Church has not always been heard on ministry advisory committees,” she said.

“I can remember when we were always at the table but that is now not the case. Which is disappointing given the Uniting Church has always had a deep interest in justice.” Ms Pike acknowledged the Church remained active in campaigning but could be more effective. “This is not just a matter of size because Church membership is still significant and mounting a major social justice campaign did not necessarily require large numbers of people,” she said. “Look at what domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty has achieved as an individual.” Dr Zirnsak said in recent years Church members have encouraged the unit to focus on domestic issues rather than international ones. “There has definitely been a shift, probably following a broader trend in society where local issues are considered more tangible than international,” he said. Mr Rickard supports active engagement at a local level. “While it can be romantic to engage on the international stage the local issues are just as important and should not be ignored,” he said. Dr Zirnsak said issues church members wanted the unit to focus on had remained the same for most of the past decade. These include asylum seekers, the relationship with First Peoples, poverty, gambling reform and the environment. He said mental health was a growing area of concern for many supporters in recent years so work in that space was becoming more prominent. “The authors of the Statement to the Nation gave us a really good foundation and I do not see the focus changing any time soon,” Dr Zirnsak said. Ms Pike said she is keen to see Uniting work with the JIM unit to speak on behalf of society’s most disadvantaged. “We are very big players in the delivery of services and that provides us with a real opportunity to build on that engagement by helping them to have a strong voice on things such as government policy decisions which affect their lives,” she said.

Participants at a social justice retreat for schools run by the JIM unit



Vision and Mission Powering up the Network ON Saturday 15 July it was my privilege to join about 60 people from the Banyule Network of Uniting Churches for their retreat day focused on mission planning. The day was built around three key sessions: • seeking to strengthen understanding of God’s mission • exploring a refreshing of mission priorities • exploring future leadership for mission and ministry. Table groups engaged the topics with energy. There was enthusiastic response to the introductory inputs and to the questions that provoked focused explorations. I asked myself: Where did such energy and enthusiasm come from? What encouraged 60 people to give up their Saturday and share in this way? First, it seemed to me (as an ‘outsider’ to the Network) that they had a lot to talk about! Like those fellow travellers on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-35), the Banyule Network needed to discuss everything that had been happening. Over the past 10 years or so, they have walked a particularly adventurous journey that

Rev Mark Dunn speaks at the Cafe of Dangerous Ideas.


began as a deepening partnership across a number of congregations. They have explored new models of ministry that have changed and challenged their structures. They have completely rethought their use of property as a resource for supporting mission. An Asset Strategy Plan was developed in partnership with Synod Property Services that proposed rejuvenated and flexible property configurations for mission and ministry. It also put in motion the selling of surplus property assets and positive short and long-term financial management. In recognition of the need to be open to changing ways of being church, new gathered communities have emerged in a variety of contexts. These include Cross Generation congregation, SPACE for young adults, two Messy Church groups, and the Café of Dangerous Ideas. Second, there was energy arising from the recognition that the Network is growing and changing. This led to a desire to learn from the journey. They asked questions such as: what has been helpful and hopeful in the changes; what has been hard and perhaps painful; what can we learn from the journey that might inform us going forward; how do we begin to redefine ourselves in the light of all that has happened so far? I trust Jesus is their companion on the road. The journey of change is not always easy. It often comes with much wrestling and difference of opinion. Nonetheless, God leads us all on. Every gathered community, small or large, city or rural, can do the sort of wrestling that the Banyule Network is doing. We are all called to walk the pilgrim road. But thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, there was energy in the room because there were signs in their life together that the Spirit of God was moving amidst this Network. At the forefront of this day was a desire to continue to discern the activity of the Spirit’s guiding hand, and to discern the call of God upon them as God’s people in Banyule.

My hope is that, amidst all the challenges, the Banyule Network is increasingly discovering life in God’s mission in a privileged movement energised by God’s ‘high calling in Christ Jesus’ (Basis of Union #15c). As I write this a new booklet, Supporting Information on the Statement of Intent, has been released for use across the synod. It is a resource for seeking to articulate a further key element of the synod’s strategic direction. In response to identified issues across the life of the Church, the 10 Statements of Intent form a tool to strengthen those attributes that would encourage and shape a vibrant Church – one that might continue to grow as a faithful sign and instrument of God’s mission. I was initially surprised to see so many of these Statements of Intent active in the life of the Banyule Network of Uniting Churches. I was surprised because they have not drawn directly on these Statements for their inspiration. The Statements are only now being more fully articulated for use across the Church. But perhaps I should not be surprised. If these Statements are an aid toward vibrancy of life, then I should expect to see those Statements reflected in the vibrancy that I felt at the Banyule Network retreat day. Indeed, almost every Statement is reflected in the opportunities that are energising and challenging the Network. I pray God’s blessing be upon all gathered communities across our synod. May each community draw on the energy and power of the Holy Spirit in seeking to be a vibrant sign and instrument of God’s mission in and for the world. And I pray that the new booklet Supporting Information on the Statement of Intent is a help in your gathered community. Supporting Information on the Statement of Intent is available at: David Withers Strategic Framework Minister


Letters Continued cruelty

much worse than prison, because in prison you have a set term and know how long you have to endure. This hardening of treatment is symbolised by the out-of-date photo you used to illustrate Helen Stagoll’s story. The photo shows the sign marking the entrance to MIDC at 53 Hampstead Rd. It loudly proclaims that down this driveway is a detention centre under the control of the Australian Government – arrows proudly point the way. About two years ago this sign was painted over. Now all you see is a white wall with the number 53 on it. This is a little thing that speaks volumes. The centre is hidden from view, unidentified, a shameful secret. We should be ashamed of this place as a nation, but we should not hide it. It is part of who we have become. Christ have mercy.

READING your excellent article (July) by Helen Stagoll telling the plight of asylum seekers at the Maribyrnong Detention Centre prompts me to congratulate Helen and call on our church to continue to speak out against this iniquity by our government in our name. The Uniting Church and all of us as individuals should be crying out continuously and loudly wherever we see injustice. Otherwise we should regard ourselves as complicit. Helen Stagoll mentions some of the seemingly trivial prohibitions visited upon the detained (imprisoned) asylum seekers – no flowers to be received, no written material (e.g. journal) to be shown by them to a visiting tutor or friend, confiscation of art material, bureaucratic delays in obtaining writing material or books, banning of musical instruments and so on. These are just the more minor of meaningless measures, surely designed to destroy morale and quality of life. And such restrictions are being made more severe as time goes by. As well, having committed no offence by international standards in seeking political asylum, these victims (and I use the word advisedly) have to endure indefinite separation from loved ones, the trauma of total uncertainty as to their futures, the gradual breaking of their spirits by the hopelessness of their situation, loneliness and despair. All the above appears to be bipartisan policy of both our major political parties, and all of it silently endorsed by an uncaring population. Otherwise it would change wouldn’t it? I challenge my fellow members of our Uniting Church to uphold our Christian values of justice and fairness for all by demanding a complete review and revision of the cruel and inhumane practices which are being perpetrated on these powerless victims of our political system.

I READ the article in July Crosslight headed ‘A glimpse into the despair of detention’ and couldn’t help feeling that perhaps there are some human rights laws or issues being broken in the way people are being treated in this story. I feel sad for the way the asylum seekers or refugees in the Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre are being treated and for the lack of support Helen Stagoll is receiving in her efforts to care for and teach these people. I believe the Uniting Church should take up the mantle for Helen and make representation to the government about the inhumanness being shown where a little care and concern may lead to a better understanding between Australians and people seeking asylum, as well as the possibility of improved behaviour by the interned people as they experience real love and concern. I write this letter in the hope the powers of the pen of Crosslight may challenge the Church to take this issue further in support of the vulnerable and persecuted.

Iris Pederick Geelong, VIC

Norman Warren Strathmore, VIC

Hidden shame

Of Church and Nation

I WAS moved to read Helen Stagoll’s account of the brutalising treatment immigration detainees receive in Melbourne’s detention centres. I am part of a group of clergy who lead worship services inside the Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre (MIDC) and have been visiting there monthly for two-anda-half years. It is one of the most shocking and depressing places I have ever been to in my sheltered life, and it is getting worse. For example, two years ago detainees moved freely around the centre and I was able to enter their living quarters and interact with them. Now they are confined to their ‘zones’, needing to be escorted when moving anywhere else, such as to a religious service. Previously anyone could wander in to a service, now they must register in advance. And now they are searched on arriving and leaving. Many of the detainees at MIDC are people who have completed a prison term and are detained pending deportation. Some have been there for years. They say MIDC is

Letters to Crosslight are always welcome. Letters should be 300 words or less and include full name, address and contact number/email. Letters may be edited for space, style and clarity.


Rev Ian Ferguson Brunswick Uniting Church

Church should act

AS the excitement of the UCA’s 40th anniversary celebrations fades from our hearts and minds, the front cover of July’s issue of Crosslight contains two key words coupled together with an ampersand – “church and nation”. The reproduction of the front page of the first issue of the newly created Victorian Synod’s newspaper, Church & Nation reflects a historical, albeit, time tarnished snapshot of life 40 years ago. These past four decades have seen a significant change both in the life of the Christian church and Australia as a nation. The reality of that change was recently brought into the light with the release of the 2016 Census data. Not surprisingly, the shrinking number of Australians who associate themselves with religion has sent commentators into all types of analysis. These figures, combined with the increasing multicultural and secular environment prevailing in our modern society, bring into question the view of Australia being ‘Christian’. Critics of our faith and belief well may proclaim that as a nation we are losing our religion. The biggest challenge for the Christian church, and in our case the Uniting Church, is to hold firm to our faith and not be ashamed of the

Gospel which calls us to be part of the world in which we belong. More than ever our reputations are at stake yet we can still play our part in the broader society demonstrating a true willingness to ensure that indeed the Church can be part of our nation. Allan Gibson OAM Cherrybrook, NSW

Uniting on Facebook ‘PRAYERS that Unite’ is a Facebook group set up early in 2016 as a forum for individuals to share prayers they have written for others to use, particularly in public worship. The initiative arose out of recognition of members in the Uniting Church writing wonderful prayers. Those prayers have emerged and are shared at moments when we yearn to articulate common-felt experience in response to significant events in the world. Examples are times of natural disaster such as major bushfires and the recent Grenfell Tower fire. ‘Prayers that Unite’ creates a repository for prayers to be rapidly disseminated across the church. I am writing to invite people who use Facebook to avail themselves of that resource, or to make their own contribution. Another Facebook group has also been created called ‘Uniting in Contemplation’. This group is for those people who have discovered the wonderful dimension of contemplative Christian disciplines. More and more people are discovering spiritual disciplines such as Lectio Divina, the Examen, and Centering Prayer. This Facebook group supports people in these practices and creates opportunities for people to share their experiences. I hope there will be a follow-on from this Facebook group where people in congregations or presbyteries might start ‘Uniting in Contemplation’ gatherings. In the Hunter Presbytery of NSW, such a group is being established to meet monthly. People will gather together to share some silence, give new spiritual disciplines a try, support each other in goal setting in spiritual growth, and develop events that will encourage renewal of spiritual disciplines in the wider church. This is a letter of invitation to join the Facebook groups, or start up a gathering generating mutual support in contemplative practices. You can contact me at or M: 0427625502. Rev Tom Stuart Minister of the Word Charlestown & Garden Suburb Congregation Charlestown, NSW.

Vote on marraige THE government’s failure to go ahead with the plebiscite on ‘same-sex marriage’ as promised by Mr Turnbull during the election campaign has got to be a big worry for today’s parents and parents-to-be. Leaving religiosity aside, and remembering how Margaret Court was so viciously bullied by the same sex lobbyists, I am amazed that our politicians don’t appreciate how the majority of Australians feel on the issue. The latest opinion poll I saw reported said those against same-sex marriage have grown to 55 percent. I imagine this is because the socalled ‘Safe Schools Program’ introduced by state governments was hijacked and parents, whose children were affected, did not want schools to be telling their little children

they could choose whatever type of sexual relationship that ‘turns them on’. Be that as it may, it is a worry to me to think that our government would abandon the promised plebiscite on such an important and controversial issue because the legal result of changing our current law, which provides that marriage is between a man and a woman, must require everyone, thus encompassing Muslims and Christians, to allow their children to be trained in our education system to accept same-sex relationships. I have known both women and men who are in same-sex relationships and have had friendly relationships with some so I don’t want to come in as a critic. Our current church attitude seems to be that we should welcome everyone who comes into our midst and should not be judgmental. However, I have noticed that many parents we know, of children who are so engaged, say they are very disappointed their offspring headed off in that direction. Notwithstanding that other countries have decided to accept same-sex marriage, the matter is still controversial and I would be urging Mr Turnbull and his government to stick to their election promise and facilitate a vote by all Australians on this issue. Ross Scholes-Robertson Croydon VIC

Old time religion I BELIEVE becoming a Christian means believing in the Gospel. The Good News that God loves us so much He came in the human form of Jesus to suffer death so that we can have Life. At Calvary, Jesus, the Son of God, took on our sins so that we can be reconciled to the Father. I am blessed to be in a church of like-minded believers who worship with heart and spirit. I am aware that these beliefs may sound too passé or overworked to churches who prefer to re-interpret the ‘old-time’ religion, or unpalatable to people who want to follow Christ but find it difficult to subscribe to the belief that Jesus is much, much more than just another great teacher of morals and ethics. I can only validate my belief in Christ’s divinity on the basis that ‘the Bible tells me so.’ Everything distills down to that thing called faith. All I can do is declare my faith in His words and His Love. I believe Jesus loves me (the hymm Jesus loves me, this I know sums it up!). I believe He will never disappoint all who turn to Him. I believe Salvation is by grace through faith. I believe Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I believe religion is man reaching out for God but Christianity is when God reached out to man. Nothing is beyond the One who spoke the universe into existence. Nowhere else than in John 1:1-4 could you find a more complete and magnificent revelation of Christ’s identity: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” And the sad truth in verse 5: “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” Steven Ching Ballarat, VIC (capital letters retained at author’s request)


People Birthday celebration in Trafalgar

Historic day for new UCA society

CHRIS DUXBURY APPROXIMATELY 30 people gathered at a Chinese restaurant in Trafalgar on 22 June to celebrate the Uniting Church’s 40th birthday. Conversation and laughter flowed as people enjoyed each other’s company as well as a delicious meal. Each congregation from across the parish was represented. It was wonderful to have our presbytery minister Wendy McDonald and her husband Peter join us for the night. As we read through a list of some of the Church’s achievements it was wonderful to see how the Holy Spirit has led and guided us through some significant and, at times, tough issues that have help shaped the church we are today. Joy Grigg from Yarragon has been part of the Sammy Stamp mission for many years and this is yet another example of the Church working together in mission. A quite spectacular cake was made for the evening. This was a combined effort by Dee Crosby who made a large chocolate mud

cake and Di Axford, who made the roundel of the Uniting Church out of fondant, which lay on top of the cake. Val York, who was celebrating a big “0” birthday along with her mother, made the first cut of the cake. Lolly bags were handed out to each person, with the words, “Thanks for coming to the party.” Looking around the room it was a party, with friends catching up, lots of talk, memories shared, red 40th birthday helium balloons, with the writing in white and the string being black (UCA colours!) adding to the festivity. It was a wonderful night to mark the event.

HISTORIANS and archivists from various synods came together in June to launch the Uniting Church National History Society. The landmark occasion was a highlight of the National Uniting Church History Conference, hosted by the South Australian UC Historical Society. It was held at Pilgrim Uniting Church in Adelaide over three days as attendees reflected on the rich history of the UCA and its predecessor denominations. NSW synod moderator Rev Myung Hwa Park led worship during the conference. She was joined by SA moderator Rev Sue Ellis, assembly president Stuart McMillan and president-elect Dr Deidre Palmer. Mr McMillan spoke about the importance of remembering the past as the Church looks towards the future. He referenced the Maori proverb “Ka Mua Ka Muri” which translates to “walking backwards into the future”. “We can’t see where we are going, but we can see where we have been,” Mr McMillan said. “We learn so much from the past which equips us, a pilgrim people, for the journey into an unknown future, but a promised end.” The conference’s keynote speaker, associate professor Renate Howe AO, called for a reinvigoration of the current theological debate on ecumenism. She also expressed concern for what she perceived as the

increasing corporatisation of the Uniting Church and the decline of the Church’s inter-conciliar nature. Attendees presented papers on a diverse range of topics, including Methodism’s influence on public policy, the role of former missionaries in shaping the Church and what John Wesley might say to the Uniting Church. A small committee comprising of representatives from various synods was elected to guide the fledgling society through its first steps. One of the society’s first projects is to publish a journal of all the papers and speeches presented at the conference. For more information, contact Dr Judith Raftery, President of the Uniting Church SA Historical Society (judith.raftery@adelaide., or Rev Robert Renton, the editor of the forthcoming journal (

Heidelberg art and craft show

the artful faith coordinator at the Centre for Theology and Ministry. In her opening remarks, while marvelling at the diversity of the art and craft displayed, Ms Rowntree said, “We stitch together relationships over time, threads connecting us to family, friends and the faith community. With wood and leather, metal and glass we mould, shape and form our faith communities. We attend to the materiality of our sacred spaces, bringing our best craft to enlivening worship spaces. “And so this exhibition acknowledges our church heritage… Here is a metaphor for us to wonder... How might we bring our imaginations, our art and our skills to join the work of God’s Spirit at work transforming the church?” Tribute was paid to Barb Brook, the Scots drop-in coordinator, and her team of helpers for taking on the suggestion of an art exhibition and turning it into an inspiring reality.

Robyn Cross, Sonya Roberts, Wendy Cameron and Jan Cougle (seated)

Cornish college students go MAD MORE than 600 students from Prep to Year 12 rolled up their sleeves last month and went MAD as part of Cornish College’s Make A Difference (MAD) Week. Students planted 300 new heathland plants on the college’s grounds. A range of other initiatives aimed to make a difference, not only on the school’s grounds but within the wider community. The plants were purchased with funds from a successful bid for a $1000 Momentum Energy Junior Landcare Grant. Cornish College’s grounds manager Tom Humphreys and parent David Jupp coordinated the three-day mass planting. Cornish College is located about 45 kilometres south of Melbourne, near Chelsea. Mr Humpreys said the project was a ‘great start’ to building an understory below the established gums behind the college oval. He said the work would increase biodiversity and attract a broader range of bird life. Some of the other activities undertaken during the last week of term two included:

Year 9 ambassadors leading efforts to collect new socks for homeless people and food and personal hygiene items for underprivileged and vulnerable members of the community. • Prep students creating planter boxes and visiting local nursing homes to sing. • Primary students developing a largescale tree sculpture and a heart from five cent coins as a fundraiser for the Love Ya Sister Foundation. • The whole school participating in an annual book swap to support the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Students from Years 4 to 12 involved in a major construction project to create a four metre high wooden cross with a stained glass effect and solar lighting for the college campus. Principal Vicki Steer said MAD Week was a wonderful opportunity for students to demonstrate the college’s motto - Make A Difference - through a range of initiatives. “This project directly involves them in improving their 100-acre campus and understanding the difference they can make to their environment,’’ she said. “It is great to see older and younger students working together in multi-age groups and further cementing friendships that span year groups.’’

Principal Vicki Steer and students tree planting as part of MAD week activities


ROD HORSFIELD THE Banyule Network celebrated the 40th anniversary of the inauguration of the Uniting Church by holding an art and craft show at Scots Church in Heidelberg. This may seem to be a strange event for such an occasion but the organisers thought it gave expression to a number of key convictions of the UCA. A dazzling array of quilts laid across all the pews of the church was awe-inspiring in colour and design. This beautiful display was arranged beneath the sanctuary arch which proclaimed ‘Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness’. It was a clear affirmation that the God of Christian faith is a God who creates and delights in beauty. The extraordinary giftedness of ordinary people who make up the membership of the church in the Banyule Network was on display. Arts and crafts created by members of the congregation included hand-painted porcelain, wood and leather work, needlework of all kinds and even a three-and-ahalf metre Heron Class cedar sailing dinghy in the church’s drop-in centre. There was also a demonstration of the art of poetry through a performance by ‘Bloomin Bards’, a local poetry writing and reading group. The art show was officially opened by Christina Rowntree,

Current UCA President Stuart McMillan and former Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe meet at the UC National History Society conference in Adelaide

Art and craft show at Scots Church in Heidelberg



Radical conservation Everyday faith

Table talk

Fringe festival









WENDELL Berry is a novelist, poet and essayist, a self-described ‘crank’, a critic of technology and the idealism that comes with it, a Kentucky farmer who uses horses instead of a tractor, and a writer who uses a pencil rather than a computer. Berry has been criticised as an unrealistic Luddite. But others recognise that, in his prophetic writings over decades, he puts his finger on the problems of Western lifestyle that go beyond disputed global warming, issues of pollution, extinction, pointless materialistic waste, urban ugliness, the tyranny of corporations and their lackey politicians, and the hollowing out of communities. He is also a critic of radical causes that, he says, aren’t radical enough and modern libertarianism that confuses freedom with individualism, at the expense of tradition, culture and family. Berry is a conservationist for the places where people live. This book collects decades of essays that amount to, as he says, more-or-less one argument: we depend on nature, which is not something that can be sealed off in order to be preserved, but something with which human beings must interact with reverence and care. We must be able to produce food and shelter in our local communities in a way that means our descendants will be able to do the same. He is a critic of an economy based on false premises, on agribusiness reliant on long-distance transportation, on quick fix chemicals, on the myth of endless growth, on profit and greed ‘debited to the future’. It is not incidental that Berry is a man of faith. He notes that God’s creation is first-of-all not utilitarian, but a work of delight. He understands that a slow, locally centred, conservative (in its true sense) lifestyle makes us happy because it makes us healthy – physically, mentally and morally.

A MINISTRY colleague and friend tells me that only theologians are interested in theology, and many of the introductory books are heavy in both weight and terminology. By contrast, this very readable book (subtitled An introduction to Christian Theology) is relatively short, conversational and reliable. Perhaps just as significantly, it makes clear the relation between theology as thinking about faith, and theology as living out that faith in everyday ways. Christian discipleship in the Uniting Church is built on an informed faith lived in company with other disciples. As an experienced disciple, minister, teacher and leader, Chris Walker is well placed to write this introduction to theology from the context and perspective of the Uniting Church. This perspective is not distinctive, in the sense that the Uniting Church lives and works within the faith of the worldwide Christian church, but it is particular in that it consciously recognises its own context, situation and commitments. Reading the book arouses many rich conversations that I would love to hold with Chris and other faithful disciples and leaders. The book enables these conversations by providing questions for personal reflection and group discussion. Instead of seeing such questions as a test, view them as an invitation into the conversation with Chris, and with the Christian faith. Chris writes with confident hope in the good news that Jesus Christ still offers – afresh in each context and time – to a desperate, broken and hurting world. Living out this good news is the task of every disciple, and of faithful communities together, and this introduction to theology helps us navigate the challenges of the contemporary world in thoughtful ways.

HOSPITALITY is a rich word. It is a concept, it is a practice, it’s complex and simple, profound and mundane. Tales from the Table: Stories from the Indigenous Hospitality House makes this rich, big, slippery word come alive through poetry, storytelling, reflections and essays. Its various contributors are all current and former residents or partners in the Indigenous Hospitality House (IHH), a settler/non-Indigenous household in Carlton North that opens its doors to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people visiting Melbourne hospitals. While the house serves as a place to stay for guests, its other equally important purpose is to make space for settler/nonIndigenous people to explore issues of identity on stolen land. The book traverses topics from getting enough personal space in what can be quite a large and changeable household, to reflections on feminism and the didgeridoo. A common thread through the entire book is the way it tackles topics familiar within academic and policy circles in a down-to-earth and personal manner. We non-Indigenous people have unfinished business. While the term ‘unfinished business’ can sound menacing, threatening or uncomfortable, the heart of the Indigenous Hospitality House, as this book illustrates, is to make reckoning with that business personal. It involves sitting with grief and seeing our own need for healing. Ultimately, this enriches us and informs our discipleship in this time (post-colonisation, postapology, pre-Treaty) and this place (Australia, Narrm, Melbourne). Tales from the Table is gentle, relaxed and sometimes humorous. It demands to be read alongside a good cuppa and offers insights big and small. It is not a book to pore over like a textbook, but to soak up like a rich conversation. Its stories will prompt people to think about their identity on this land, in this society. As well as encouraging personal reflection and entertainment, the book is a valuable starting point for enriching and vital conversations.

JOHN Safran, who is perhaps best known as an idiosyncratic TV prankster and provocateur, is asked what he is doing at an anti-Muslim rally organised by the far-right United Patriots Front. “I’m in charge of sarcasm,” he replies. There is plenty of sarcasm and other wry commentary duly supplied in this self-consciously impressionistic account of monitoring and mixing with far-right nationalists, radical Muslims, fundamentalist Christians, left-wing activists and a gung-ho Jewish gym owner. Safran particularly relishes pointing out paradoxes, or what he calls ‘tangles’. For example, he repeatedly notes that anti-multiculturalism protesters are far more ethnically diverse than their leftwing opponents. Safran’s commitment to making the unwelcome observation or asking the awkward question, including of his own or his presumed left-liberal audience’s preconceptions, is in stark contrast to his subject’s implacably cemented-in belief systems. However, this can make the book unsure of what conclusions to draw or stances to take. Indeed Safran recounts his own susceptibility to some of the paranoia and anger he is immersing in which, even though it is fairly fleeting, at one stage prompts him to buy a knife for self-protection. The book initially conveys a somewhat comforting sense that its selection of motley extremists, such as far-right leader Blair Cottrell, inhabits a fervid closed-off ecosystem of alternative worldviews, which if anything revolve around and feed off each other while having little impact on wider society. Such complacency is shaken by Donald Trump, with his alt-right and nationalist backers, taking the White House and the resurgence of One Nation, who use talking points previously only seen on farright forums. Safran admits the political developments take him by surprise and offers no real broader analysis other than reflecting it’s good for the book. While Safran might be right that humour is useful to detect and deflate absurdities created by dogmatic certainty, against the grim backdrop of terror attacks and once extremist positions gaining mainstream credibly, the laughs seem increasingly harder to come by.

Available at: RRP: $49.99

Available from RRP: $23.95

Independently published in Melbourne; RRP: $35. Available at IHH on P:(03) 9387 7557, or

Available at RRP $34.99 20



THIS novel by Freya Barrington is not, in fact, written by Freya Barrington. Barrington is the pen name used by a senior child protection social worker in a local authority in England. And while it is a work of fiction, Barrington clearly draws heavily on the many cases that have impacted her professional life. Known to Social Services details the work of a social worker with a range of people living in a housing estate. Common themes emerge as we meet parents struggling to cope: family violence situations, drug dealers and out of control adolescents. We encounter genital mutilation and child death. The carefully planned approach of a paedophile is chillingly detailed. Having previously worked in an institution for children with a disability, he now focuses on ‘grooming’ a local church congregation. While he finds the worship services and the need to be ‘nice’ extremely tedious and demanding, he is prepared to endure all to achieve his ends.


Image by Garth Jones


MARKETING material for SBS On Demand’s The Handmaid’s Tale depicts a young, disfigured woman sheathed in a demure scarlet cloak, her bonnet evoking 17th century Puritanism. Paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 7:4, the poster starkly declares “your body is no longer your own”. Based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale is set in the Republic of Gilead, a near-future dystopia which we eventually surmise is the United States of America subsumed by a theocratic, patriarchal police state. ‘Gilead’ – a name drawn from the Old Testament – is connected to the story of Jacob and his infertile wife Rachel in Genesis 30: 1-3. The founding dogmatic precept of the Republic – a totalitarian regime forged in the midst of a global fertility crisis – is rooted in the following biblical verse: “Jacob’s anger burned against Rachel, and he said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?’ She said, ‘Here is my maid Bilhah, go in to her that she may bear on my knees, that through her I too may have children.’ So she gave him her maid Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob went in to her.” The Handmaid’s Tale focuses on handmaid Offred, played with cool resolve by Top of the Lake’s Elisabeth Moss. Assigned to Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), Offred – ‘of Fred’ designating her identity has been erased by her status as the Waterfords’ slave – is a fertile woman tasked with bearing the barren couple’s first child.

The theme of the novel was particularly relevant to me. As a former child protection worker, senior social worker and case-planning chairperson in our child protection system in Victoria, I was reminded of families, individuals, police, support agencies and court officials who had been part of my life over the years. The novel very accurately brings to life the relentless overload placed on the social workers in the child protection system. As the phone rings, there is always a new high-priority case to take on, followed by the anxiety about the children and families you are already responsible for who you are not able to see as frequently as you need to. Not to mention those who remain unallocated, similar to those whose operations are ‘bumped’ in the public health system by emergency cases. Given the recent fatal apartment blaze in London, the book’s cover – which features three high-rise towers – is eerily evocative. Visiting similar towers in Richmond, Carlton, Kensington and Prahran was often physically, mentally and spiritually challenging. I experienced similar life-threatening moments to those depicted in these pages. These inevitably occur when high stress levels and desperation meet. The cumbersome nature of the bureaucratic and court systems, their inability to assist timely interventions, and the lack of knowledge sharing among professionals all play out in this novel. The stretched resources of early

intervention and family support services repeatedly lead to unwanted outcomes. Inter-generational poverty and underresourcing leap out as the key factors that perpetuate the sometimes desperate world of the housing estate. When I took up social work, my mother was extremely concerned. “Won’t that be very depressing?” she asked. Indeed, on picking up this book my first reaction was to put it down again. Yet despite all the struggles outlined for the housing estate residents, the social workers and the broader child protection system, this was a page-turner. There are moments of hope and the book is engaging. The people and the life challenges they face draw you in. You can see why the novel is a 2015 London Book Festival Winner and gained an Honourable Mention in the 2016 Paris Book Festival. In recent times I have been involved in the UCA’s work to respond to the outcomes of the Victorian State Inquiry and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse. For those who question the reasons why such measures are needed, the stories in this novel reinforce that every effort we make to keep children safe is time extremely well spent.

This process, as suggested by Jacob and Rachel, is undertaken in a monthly ritual benignly known as ‘The Ceremony’. In truth, The Ceremony is a rape, committed in the presence of the Commander’s wife and household staff. Founded by the Sons of Jacob – a cabal of wealthy white men for whom Catholicism is too wishy-washy (as evidenced by the demolition of a cathedral in an early episode) – Gilead and, more broadly, the world of The Handmaid’s Tale is shrouded in a harrowing, forever-grey pall of repression and misogynistic abuse. Embracing the extremes of Old Testament morality, the Sons of Jacob (masterminded by Waterford) have imposed a regime in which women are tagged and prodded like cattle, eye-for-an-eye punishments are meted out and ‘gender traitors’ – homosexuals – are either genitally mutilated (fertile women) or executed (men). Using omnipresent surveillance, paranoia, fear and violent intimidation to keep the populace supine, the Sons’ fundamentalist doctrine invites parallels with authoritarian governments in the East and West. Even the spectre of ‘fake news’ is conjured by the Sons’ deployment of propaganda and misinformation during their initial assassination of the US President and the overthrow of the government. Contrasting Offred’s dire predicament with flashbacks to her thoroughly modern pre-Gilead life, The Handmaid’s Tale offers us an insight into the inexorable creep of oppression under a tyrannical administration. As the Sons of Jacob draw down the veil

of subjugation, we watch with heartquickening dread as the female population’s independence is first denied, and then their personhood is erased and redefined by reproductive, domestic or bureaucratic obeisance to the patriarchy. Chiding Offred’s rebellion, a genuinely bewildered Waterford admonishes her, as if a child: “(but) we’ve freed you to fulfill your biological destiny”. The Sons of Jacob believe that, by enacting their medieval societal reforms, their tainted Republic will be saved from the infertility crisis and inevitable doom. Written in the mid-’80s, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale exists in the vanguard of cautionary science fiction. In the tradition of Philip K Dick’s Man in the High Castle, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta and George Orwell’s 1984, Atwood’s novel also imagines a dystopia in which society has surrendered to authoritarian rule. This adaptation, which aired on US television in May, is a gruellingly effective episodic horror story. Paralleling contemporary socio-political concerns, this first series is a gripping revelation, a timely warning on the dangers of fundamentalism in all its forms. At times unbearable to watch – its plot machinations traumatic and fraught with tension – The Handmaid’s Tale is, nonetheless, essential viewing. It serves as a prescient reminder to us – humanity – to remain ever vigilant. To value and fight for every hard won freedom, to be defiant in the face of creeping authoritarianism.

Charles Gibson is the former director of UnitingCare Vic/Tas. Available at: RRP: $9.22 (ebook) $19.99 (paperback)


Pilgrim Reflection Care, discipline and courageous conversations – effective pastoral leadership

IS there a difference between pastoral care and pastoral oversight or leadership? I think so; however, I am aware that many assume both terms refer to the same thing. For our life as a vibrant church I think we need a clear distinction between pastoral care and pastoral leadership. The latter is a requirement in many recognised roles and responsibilities such as elders, leaders (lay and ordained) and those exercising presbytery responsibilities such as chairperson and pastoral relations committee. Pastoral leadership may involve pastoral care, however, it is not its dominant characteristic or priority. All leadership expressions within our Church should be saturated with care; however the term ‘pastoral’ as it applies in pastoral leadership is as much about discipline and courageous conversations, conflict resolution and the effectiveness of timely and appropriate feedback. The term pastoral prompts the image of a shepherd who both constrains and guides, as well as comforts and protects. When the image of the shepherd is portrayed in terms such as ‘meek and mild’ and reflected in a particular view of Jesus, then our leadership within the church communities becomes distorted. (As an aside, such a view of Jesus as meek and mild is unsustainable with a close reading of the Gospel stories!) Pastoral leadership is anything but meek and mild. In my checklist of attributes for pastoral leadership I would include: trustworthy leadership that ensures effective maintenance of agreed upon and recognised roles including the exercise of power and authority; ability to constrain excessive behaviours that damage the fabric of a community; willingness to have courageous conversations identifying unhelpful behaviour; and being willing and able to offer effective feedback to ensure the dynamics of relationships within congregations and councils are as healthy as can be. 22

Specifically, I want to highlight three elements. Pastoral leadership is about care. It displays care for all in good times as well as difficult and challenging times. Leadership is exercised in a way that cares for the wellbeing of individuals yet does not allow care of individuals to override the care and wellbeing of community life, be it a congregation, church council, PRC or a working group. This means willingness to challenge or offer feedback on how an individual’s or group’s behaviour is affecting the community. It also involves reflecting back to the community how it is faring – where the stumbling blocks are being experienced, where relationships are assisting (or not) the progress of the community and where coalitions are affecting the community. Pastoral leadership is about discipline. The meaning of discipline can be distorted if only understood in terms of punitive actions. I suggest in the life of our church that discipline primarily encompasses correction or realignment. Pastoral leadership, at its best, offers leadership in aligning the community and individuals to the gospel values and vision for us as a people of God. It is about seeking pathways to correct misalignment with agreed upon goals – whether in an individual’s behaviour or a community dynamic. This correction is not about punishment, rather it is about restoration and maintenance of the integrity of community decision-making and relationships, all of which need to be congruent with agreedupon vision and goals. Pastoral leadership is about courageous conversations. Conversations that are constructive, brave and offer feedback and care are crucial. Identifying and naming unhelpful and destructive behaviour takes courage and careful preparation to ensure that the feedback is interpreted in helpful and constructive ways. The tendency of a leader to ‘let things slide’ and take the less confronting pathway may serve us

occasionally, yet in the long run creates an unhealthy and untrustworthy basis for relationships and decision-making. There is a tendency in the Uniting Church to claim we are hamstrung around questions of leadership, authority and power because of our flat structure and emphasis on collaborative leadership. However, to vacate the responsibility of pastoral leadership is not the way forward. It is certainly unhelpful to redefine it only in terms of pastoral care. Our flat structures and concepts of shared leadership mean there is a higher call on us to pay more attention to the character of this leadership and to navigate the intricacies of pastoral leadership within our church. To exercise pastoral leadership demands that such leaders are fully grounded and mature in both their personal development and in their faith. Those exercising this leadership need to welcome correction and realignment, receive care and be open to feedback from colleagues and communities for whom they are responsible. It is a precious responsibility to participate in leadership within our communities – always to be exercised from a foundation of love and integrity. This is a conversation that we in the Centre for Theology and Ministry’s Living Leadership program would like to continue to explore with colleagues across the synod. On the afternoon (4pm-6pm) of the Synod opening worship (Friday 8 August) in the synod office at 130 Little Collins Street, you are invited to participate in exploring more deeply the role of pastoral leadership and its implications for the Church in congregations and presbyteries. registration/pastoral/

Jennifer Byrnes Executive Director CTM CROSSLIGHT - AUGUST 17

Opinion Intercultural celebration at Glen Waverley Uniting Church

Languages matter THE theme for this year’s NAIDOC week was ‘Our Languages Matter’. It celebrated the richness and resilience of First Peoples’ languages and the important role of language in connecting Aboriginal people to their cultural identity. Michael Walsh is a senior research fellow at the Centre for Australian Languages and Honorary Associate at the Department of Linguistics, University of Sydney. According to Dr Walsh: “It is thought that around 250 distinct [Indigenous] languages were spoken at first (significant) European contact in the late eighteenth century. Most of these languages would have had several dialects, so that the total number of named varieties would have run to many hundreds.” The First Peoples of Australia are multilingual, as are many of the Second Peoples. It is obvious that a multicultural Australia means a multilingual Australia. Though Australia has no official language, English is regarded as the national language and is spoken in the home for close to 72 percent of the population, according to 2016 census. The census also identified more than 300 languages spoken in Australian homes. More than one-fifth of Australians speak a language other than English at home. After English, the next five most common languages spoken at home are Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Italian. Language and culture cannot be separated. Language is the key to understanding culture. Cultural knowledge and concepts are carried through languages. Writing about the importance of language during NAIDOC week, editor of Eureka Street Andrew Hamilton said: “Culture includes our relationship with our own history, the customs and symbols of our parents, and the songs and stories that make up our heritage.” Today, only 18 Indigenous languages are spoken by all generations of people within a given language group, and even these languages are endangered. Approximately 100 Indigenous languages still exist in some form in Australia, though many of them are in an advanced stage of endangerment. Small numbers of older people are the only full speakers of these languages. Preserving AUGUST 17 - CROSSLIGHT

the Indigenous languages of the First Peoples of this country is critical. Language is often a central issue in postcolonial studies. During colonisation, colonisers usually imposed their language onto the peoples they colonised, forbidding natives to speak their mother tongue. In some cases, colonisers systematically prohibited native languages. Many writers educated under colonisation recount how students were demoted, humiliated or even beaten for speaking their native language in colonial schools. To insist that one has to speak or be proficient in the language of the dominant culture is linguistic imperialism. Language is used as a colonising tool as one of the ways to ensure that the minority groups assimilate the values of the dominant culture. Undoubtedly, language is a critical factor in identity giving or removing. And so to lose one’s mother tongue is to lose one’s culture and identity. Andrew Hamilton went on to state: “Language is much more than a means of communication. It is an emblem of our tribe, marking out those who are strangers. Language shapes how we interact with others. To say that our languages matter implies that no one language is given absolute precedence over others. Diverse languages may have precedence in different areas of our lives.” In April this year the Turnbull government announced an overhaul of the Australian citizenship test. Prospective Australian citizens will need to be fluent in English, have four years of residency, adhere to Australian values, and a demonstrated capacity to integrate. A tougher English language test will exclude people from disadvantaged backgrounds and advantage those from English-speaking countries. Louisa Willoughby, a senior lecturer at Monash University, said the new requirements ignore the fact that learning a language as an adult is ‘difficult’. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has outlined that the English test applicants will be required to pass will involve elements of reading, writing, listening and speaking.

“There are questions about the White Australia Policy [re-entering] through the back door” according to Anna Boucher, a senior lecturer in public policy and political science at Sydney University. A few people within the Uniting Church in Australia advocate that before we receive a minister from overseas as a minister of the Uniting Church, he or she must demonstrates proficiency in English, both written and spoken. I strongly object to that requirement. Often ministers from overseas are invited to minister in language-specific congregations because they can speak the particular language required. At the 13th Assembly in Adelaide the issue of English language was discussed. It was decided that the synods, in accessing an applicant in relation to language, based their decision on “the language proficiency of the applicant relevant to the context” (12.8 (d) (v) of his or her ministry. Let me end by saying that I always encourage my colleagues who have limited proficiency in English to learn the language. I tell them it’s important if they want to live in Australia and continue to minister within the Uniting Church. However, to require them to have proficiency in English before we accept them as a Uniting Church minister is putting the cart before the horse. It’s saying to them: “You are welcome to ‘work’ in my house (Church) but before we accept you as a member of this household, you must learn to speak the language of the dominant culture.” A multicultural church is a multilingual church. All languages are accepted and no one language ought to be more important than others. Every Sunday in the Uniting Church across Australia, vast numbers of languages are used to praise and worship the triune God. We should celebrate that God understands all languages and is not confined to one. All languages matter, each and every!

Swee Ann Koh Director of Intercultural Unit 23

Placements CURRENT AND PENDING PLACEMENT VACANCIES AS AT 25 JULY 2017 PRESBYTERY OF GIPPSLAND Lakes Entrance (0.6) (*) PRESBYTERY OF LODDON MALLEE Sunraysia (UCOS) (0.5) (P) (C) Tyrrell Parish (0.6) (P) (C) PRESBYTERY OF NORTH EAST VICTORIA Alpine Regional Resource Ministry (P) (C) Seymour Community Pastor (P) (C) PRESBYTERY OF PORT PHILLIP EAST Beaumaris (0.6) (P) (C) Mount Waverley (St John’s) (C) Springvale (C) PRESBYTERY OF PORT PHILLIP WEST Aitken College Chaplaincy (P) (C) Coburg (*) Geelong (Wesley) (C) Highton (St Luke’s) (C) Williamstown (St Stephen’s) (0.6) (C)

PRESBYTERY OF YARRA YARRA Ashburton (C) Burwood (C) Canterbury (Balwyn Road) (C) Croydon North – Gifford Village (0.5) (P) (C) Deepdene (*) Ringwood (C) Northern Synod Casuarina (C) Nhulunbuy (0.7) (C) (C) Current - may be in conversation (*) Pending - profile expected soon. Ministers available for placement may express interest in a particular placement. (P) Suitable for pastor. A lay person wishing to be considered must lodge an Expression of Interest. Enquiries and written Expressions of Interest to: Ms Isabel Thomas Dobson Secretary, Placements Committee Email:

PRESBYTERY OF TASMANIA Bridgewater-Gagebrook (0.8) (P) (C) Synod Liaison Minister (5 year term) (P) (C) Ulverstone – Sprent (3 year term) (P) (C)



Apwee Ting, Assembly – National Consultant, commenced 1 July 2017

Drew Hanna (Lay) to conclude as CTMYouth Ministry Coordinator on 28 July 2017

Ji Zhang, Assembly – Theologian in Residence to commence 1 August 2017

Tom Kirchner to conclude at Morwell – Yallourn Parish on 31 August 2017

Gavin Blakemore, Uniting – Mission and Ethos Partner to commence 1 August 2017

Wendy McDonald (Lay) to conclude as Presbytery Minister – Administration on 30 October 2017

Lisa Stewart, Uniting – Mission and Ethos Partner to commence 16 October 2017 Chris Duxbury, South Esk to commence 1 January 2018

RETIREMENTS David Webster, Mid North West Parish to retire on 31 December 2017


COMING EVENTS UCA FUNDS MANAGEMENT INVESTOR BRIEFING 11AM-12.15PM AND 5PM-6.15PM, TUESDAY 8 AUGUST 2017 Rydges Melbourne, Broadway Room, 186 Exhibition Street, Melbourne. This year’s annual investor briefing “Investing for impact” will provide an update on your investment as well as share how your investment makes a positive impact. Each session will include question time and a meet-and-greet with the investment team. For more information or to register contact Karli McRostie on P: 1800 996 888 or visit CAMBERWELL UC ASYLUM SEEKERS SUPPORT GROUP FUNDRAISER – HELPING HOUSE ASYLUM SEEKERS 2.30PM, SUNDAY 13 AUGUST 2017 Camberwell Uniting Church, 314 Camberwell Road, Camberwell. Travels in Northern Spain - A travelogue presented by Elizabeth and Eric McKay with afternoon tea to follow. Cost is $20. For further information P: (03) 9882 7441. BEER AND HYMNS 5.30PM, SUNDAY 13 AUGUST 2017 Wesley Anne Restaurant, 250 High St, Northcote. Celebrating the 40th year of the Uniting Church. An initiative of Chalice and Richmond UC. Bring along a copy of TIS or AHB.

PRESBYTERY OF WESTERN VIC Henty Region (*) (2 placements)



Will Nicholas to conclude at South Esk on 31 July 2017 Paul Chalson to conclude at Mount Martha on 31 October 2017

SPECIAL SLICE MORNING TEA AT THE HUB, SUPPORTING RESEARCH INTO PARKINSON’S DISEASE 10AM-12 NOON, WEDNESDAY 16 AUGUST 2017. Glen Waverley Uniting Church, cnr Bogong Avenue and Kingsway. Come along to The Hub and enjoy delicious home-made slices for morning tea and take home the recipes. Bring your family and friends, all ages welcome. All donations go to research into Parkinson’s disease. For information and group bookings P: (03) 9560 3580. MAGIC LANTERN SLIDES AND EARLY MOVIES – UC HISTORICAL SOCIETY. 2.00PM-4.00PM, SUNDAY 20 AUGUST 2017 Deepdene Uniting Church, 958 Burke Road, Balwyn. Enjoy an afternoon of rare magic lantern slides from Synod Archives and early 20th century films of the Methodist Inland Mission. A free event following the Society’s AGM. All are welcome. Enquiries: M: 0427 812 606.

WORKSHOP: THE WAY OF THE SYMBOL 10AM – 5PM, SATURDAY 19 AND MONDAY 21 AUGUST 2017 Habitat Uniting Church, 2 Minona Street, Hawthorn. Uranio Paes is an internationally recognised Enneagram facilitator specialising in spiritual, transformational work with groups and individuals based around the Enneagram. If you are prepared for profound personal work, you’ll find this workshop invaluable. This is a rare opportunity to experience Uranio’s unique and highly experiential approach to psycho-spiritual transformational Enneagram work. For more information, contact the Habitat office on P: (03) 9819 2844. Bookings essential: Keynote address and lunch $50, up to $675 for four-day conference. WEAVING A NEW CLOTH: RENEWING OUR COMMITMENT TO ANGLICAN-UNITING RELATIONSHIPS 5:10PM SERVICE OF EVENSONG, SATURDAY 29 AUGUST 2017 St. Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne CBD. All are welcome to a service to accept and recognise this new document for use in our churches. The Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, the Most Rev Dr Philip Freier, and the Moderator of the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, Rev Sharon Hollis, will launch this agreed document for use in our churches within the Anglican Province and the UCA Synod. Weaving a New Cloth has been formally received by the Anglican General Synod and the Uniting Church Assembly. START MAKING BEANIES FOR THE BEANIE BONANZA SATURDAY, 23 SEPTEMBER 2017 Boronia Road Uniting Church, 209 Boronia Road, Boronia. Drop your entry into the church office whenever it’s open. You may well be one of our award winners! Judging day is Saturday 23 September. Market stalls will sell a variety of crafts, jewellery, cosmetics, homewares etc on the day, as well as Devonshire Teas and light lunches. Call M: 0421 769 067 for more details. COME AND VISIT THE HUB The Hub at Glen Waverley Uniting Church, corner Bogong Avenue and Kingsway, is a welcoming and friendly place for people needing company, a cuppa and a biscuit, time to relax in a busy day or to practise speaking English in an informal setting. The Hub is open Tuesday and Thursday 10am-2pm, and Wednesday 10am-12 noon during the school term. People of all ages are welcome. For more information P: (03) 9560 3580.


Notices CENTRAL MALLEE CO-OPERATIVE PARISH – WALPEUP 80TH ANNIVERSARY 11AM, SUNDAY 24 SEPTEMBER 2017 Walpeup Uniting Church, Patchewollock Road, Walpeup. Join the Walpeup congregation and Moderator Rev Sharon Hollis in a parish service of celebration to mark the 80th anniversary of the Walpeup Church (formerly Methodist church). A Frontier Services barbecue (in nearby park) will follow the service. Enquires and RSVP to Merle Pole P: (03) 50941331 or E: RSVP by 17 September. DANCE CLASSES FOR MATURE WOMEN 1PM-2PM, THURSDAYS Habitat Canterbury, cnr Mont Albert Rd and Burke Rd, Canterbury. Join this gentle, joyful space for movement and self-expression. For more information contact Susan on M: 0433 259 135. CELEBRATION OF AGEING WELL – UNITING AGEWELL SUNDAY SUNDAY 8 OCTOBER 2017 Uniting AgeWell will host a Sunday worship service to draw together the festivities of October’s ageing well celebrations. The service gives thanks for the diversity our residents and their families bring to Uniting AgeWell communities. It is also an opportunity for congregations to acknowledge the UCA mission of assisting older people to age well in environments “infused with the Christian faith tradition”. The Uniting AgeWell Mission Committee has made available resources including a PowerPoint presentation for the order of service, wording for prayers, blessings and suggested hymns, resources on the lectionary and a sample sermon. Resources are available at or by requesting a hard copy from E:


175TH ANNIVERSARY, WESLEY CHURCH-UCA GEELONG CITY PARISH 10AM, SUNDAY 22 OCTOBER 2017 Wesley Church,100 Yarra Street, Geelong. The celebrations will include a service of worship and thanksgiving, a provided shared lunch and various activities throughout the day. We would be delighted to welcome all who may have been part of this congregation, especially over the last 40 years and during the period of ‘Worship in the Round’. Enquiries should be made to the church office P: (03) 5229 8866 or E: SWAN HILL UNITING CHURCH CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS ADVANCE NOTICE 2-4 MARCH 2018 Swan Hill Uniting Church, cnr Beveridge and Rutherford Streets, Swan Hill. Swan Hill Uniting Church will host a weekend of activities and a service of thanksgiving to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Church. For more information please contact E:, Office P: (03) 5032 2380, Jen Waldron (church council chair) on M: 0466 569 010 or Anne Ryan (office sec.) on M: 0439 345 979. GRAVE BUSINESS 2.0 – NAVIGATING THE FINAL JOURNEY Grave Business 2.0 - Navigating the final journey is a considerably revised and expanded edition, with an additional 30 pages of resources, for those looking for material for funeral services. Ten copies are available free of charge, one per congregation, for congregations without a minister and who are looking for resource materials for their libraries. Requests can be made to E: Copies may be also be purchased from Jacob’s Well, 41 Roberts Street, Horsham, VIC, 3400, or E: RRP of $20 plus p.p.

GROUNDSWELL 7PM, FIRST SUNDAY OF THE MONTH Habitat Hawthorn, 2 Minona Street, Hawthorn. Groundswell is a monthly inter-spiritual gathering. We draw upon our rich human history of spiritual journeys to experience the sacred together. We look at all spirituality in the light of the archetypal patterns in our lives and engage in practical transformative experiences. For more information, visit the Habitat website Enquiries to Elizabeth Bethune on P: (03) 9818 2726.


FEED YOUR SOUL YOGA MONDAY THROUGH SATURDAY – MORNING, MIDDAY & EVENING CLASSES Habitat Uniting Church, 2 Minona Street, Hawthorn. Free your mind, body and spirit; strengthen your back and core muscles, and improve your overall wellbeing. Classes offered include yoga for beginners, yoga for seniors, yoga for men, yoga for menopause, yin yoga and hatha yoga. For more information please contact Angelika on M: 0401 607 716.

GRAMPIANS WORSHIP: When visiting the Grampians, join the Pomonal Community Uniting Church congregation for worship each Sunday at 10am.

WEEKLY SITTING MEDITATION IN NORTHCOTE 7.20AM FOR 7.30AM START, TUESDAY MORNINGS Chalice Community of Faith, Northcote Uniting Church, 251 High Street, Northcote. Contemplative practices invite us to a deeper relationship with ourselves and God. Comprising sitting meditation, a reflective reading and an opportunity to connect. Open to people of faith, no faith or seeking a contemplative lifestyle. No charge, no need to book. See or P: (03) 9482 2884 for more information.

CALOUNDRA: Sunshine Coast, Queensland. Beachside units, from $400 a week. For details contact Ray P: 0427 990 161 E: CAPE WOOLAMAI, PHILLIP ISLAND: Summerhays Cottage. Sleeps three. Tranquil garden. Stroll to beach. Discount for UCA members. Ring Doug or Ina, M: 0401 177 775.

LORNE: Spacious apartment, breathtaking ocean view, open fire, peaceful, secluded, affordable. P: 03 5289 2698. SENIORS’ SPECIAL: Enjoy a break in luxury surroundings. Three days and three nights, dinner, bed and breakfast for $450 per couple (including GST). Jindivick Gardens. P: 03 5628 5319. SOUTH GIPPSLAND WORSHIP: When visiting South Gippsland you are invited to join the Mirboo North Uniting Church congregation for worship at 10am each Sunday. Contact Lynne Oates on P: 03 5668 1621. WANTED: Any unwanted AHB or TIS books would be appreciated by the Winchelsea Uniting Church. Contact John Bumford on M: 0419 535 490. WANTED TO BUY: Antiques, second hand/retro furniture, bric-a-brac and collectables. Single items or whole house lots. Genuine buyer. Contact Kevin, P: 0408 969 920.


Moderator’s column

Pastor Ray Minniecon and Rev Chris Budden at the President’s Conference in Darwin

Putting First Peoples first


I RECENTLY had the privilege of attending the President’s Conference in Darwin. The conference focused on what it might mean for the church to acknowledge the sovereignty of the First Peoples of this country and to seek a treaty with them. The theme arose from a commitment at the last Assembly meeting to explore the implications of Treaty and sovereignty for the life of the Church. To enter into a conversation about Treaty and sovereignty requires us to be truth tellers. At the heart of the founding of the nation of Australia is a story of violent dispossession. Frontier wars, incarceration, missions, reserves, stolen children and assimilation policies are all ways Second Peoples have sought to make Indigenous people invisible, because the presence of First Peoples challenges the key founding myth of Terra Nullius – nobody’s land. The deliberate and planned dispossession of Indigenous people has created structures of power and privilege for those who stole the land, and leaves Indigenous people marginalised in their own country. For many, not only has their land been taken from them but also their language. Important Indigenous landmarks have been moved or destroyed in much of Australia. At the conference, we were challenged to ask ourselves as a church ‘Are we willing to be truth tellers?’ ‘What role can the church play in helping our nation to tell the truth?

‘Will we allow the truth to set us free as a church and nation?’ In this year when we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Uniting Church, we need to acknowledge that the Church was founded with almost no involvement of, or engagement with, the First Peoples of this land. It would be another eight years after Union that the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress came into being and many decades before the Preamble to the Constitution of the UCA formally witnessed to the truth of colonisation. Many of us Second Peoples have barely allowed these things to touch us, let alone allowed them to break us, reshape us and remake us. I wonder if at this time the Spirit is calling us to ask what it might truly mean to be an Australian church? Are we willing to find the resources to enable the First Peoples in the Uniting Church to further develop Indigenous theology? Will we Second Peoples listen deeply to First Peoples’ lives and theology and allow it to actually change us and how we live as church in this land? Will we acknowledge the image of the divine in the First Peoples of this land and seek ways to hear their stories of faith and spirituality? These conversations are essential if we are to live out our synod Vision and Mission Principles of walking together as First and Second Peoples. I invite you to think

about how your congregation or faith community can acknowledge the First Peoples of your region. If you haven’t already done so, find out the name and language of the First Peoples of the place where you worship. Listen to their ancient stories and discover more deeply how God has been present in this land for all time. Learn about the stories of contact between indigenous people and the coloniser. I encourage you to develop relationships with Indigenous people and organisations in your area. Listen to their stories, hear their struggles, witness their courage and cultural pride. In these ways we will take some steps on the journey towards walking together as First and Second Peoples.

Sharon Hollis Moderator The writing of this article has relied heavily on presentations to the conference by Denise Champion, Ken Sumner and Chris Budden. CROSSLIGHT - AUGUST 17

Crossword This month in Crosslight For the cluey reader



6. It is a precious responsibility to participate in this within our communities 8. Cornish College students went _ at their Make A Difference week 9. Terra _, meaning ‘nobody’s land’ 10. Relating to existence 11. Wendell Berry, a self-described _ 12. The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way 13. _ proverb which translates to ‘walking backwards into the future’ 14. The Very Rev Dr _, a great church leader 16. Road we are called to walk 17. A spiritual discipline 18. Penguin UC’s Uniting Friends group wove 10,000 of these DOWN 1. Eager or quick to argue, quarrel, or fight 2. Call for a reinvigoration of the current theological debate on _ 3. Part of the DNA of the Uniting Church 4. God’s creation is first-of-all not this 5. Christina _, the artfull faith co-ordinator at the Centre for Theology & Ministry 7. Act for Peace _ Challenge, to eat the same daily portion of food as a Syrian refugee 8. Immigration detention centre for detaining asylum seekers 12. The number of nationalities attending Monash Uniting Church 15. Refers to the country around Port Phillip Bay in Woi Wurrung

Giving is living Generous God, We offer this prayer for the refugees in the world Let us respond with compassion and generosity Not with anger and division Let us be united by our shared humanity Not divided by our differences Open our eyes to the sorrows and injustices in the world So that we may we be instruments of your peace Spreading your message of love to all Amen

Photo credit: Ben Littlejohn/Act for Peace

With the support of Act for Peace, Fatima is now a trained volunteer who helps distribute food to her fellow refugees. She also educates other refugees on how to allocate rations safely and fairly throughout the camp. The synod’s Giving is Living program encourages congregations to embrace a spirit of generosity. To download monthly pew sheets and prayers for congregational use visit ACROSS 6. Leadership 8. MAD 9. Nullius 10. Existential 11. Crank 12. Serendipity 13. Maori 14. Watson 16. Pilgrim 17. Examen 18. Stars

The Act for Peace Ration Challenge is an annual fixture on many Uniting Church calendars. Taking place in Refugee Week every year, the fundraiser involves participants eating the same rations as a Syrian living in a refugee camp. Money generated from the campaign provides food, medical care, education and psychosocial support for refugees. Fatima (pictured) fled Syria with her sons after they refused to fight for the Syrian army. She currently lives in Jordan with her children. DOWN 1. pugnacious 2. Ecumenism 3. Justice 4. Utilitarian 5. Rowntree 7. Ration 8. Maribyrnong 12. Sixteen 15. Narrm



Synod Snaps


Walter Sholl was guest preacher at the Jeparit Uniting Church. Following the service, he launched his new publication Grave Business 2.0 - Navigating the final journey.

Rev Bruce Gallacher and Betty Curtis from EchucaMoama Uniting Church cut a 40th anniversary birthday cake.

Ken Wilhems, Laurenne Robertson and Loryl Oglethorpe attended the 40th anniversary celebrations held at Ballarat Central Uniting Church Around 40 UCAF members and friends attended the Bentleigh UC Heather Circle’s July fundraiser to hear Dr Mark Zirnsak give an overview of the JIM unit’s work. (Left to right: Rev Dr Julie Hall, Dr Mark Zirnsak and David Evans, Bentleigh’s head of mission and outreach).

The Brunswick Indonesian Uniting Church choir performed at the ‘Uniting in Song’ event at Wesley Uniting Church. Cobden Uniting Church celebrated the UCA’s 40th anniversary. Two of the congregation’s most senior members, Bob Maskell and Fred Sheaton, cut the cake along with minister Rev Mele Fakahua-Ratcliffe.

Skipton St Uniting Church cut a cake to celebrate the UCA’s 40th anniversary.

40th anniversary celebrations at Uniting AgeWell Strathdon. Volunteer coordinator Deborah Hilderbrand (left) made the cake. She is pictured here with Loloma Tyson.

Crosslight August 2017  

Crosslight is a monthly newspaper for people who have a link with the Uniting Church. The paper is based at the church’s Victorian and Tasma...

Crosslight August 2017  

Crosslight is a monthly newspaper for people who have a link with the Uniting Church. The paper is based at the church’s Victorian and Tasma...