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Crosslight Celebrating 25 years of

N 274 March No. M h 2017



Two extraordinary Tassie women are recognised for church and community work

The inspiring story of the first woman to lead the UCA



Australia’s only openly gay imam shares on reconciling his faith and sexuality

Following Christ from church carpark to burnt-out farm

Uniting Church minister Rev Mark Dunn is pictured at the memorial tribute to the victims of January’s Bourke Street tragedy. Read more about the work of the Victorian Council of Churches Emergencies Ministry chaplains on page 3.



Penny Mulvey encounters a “wisdom of moderators” at Yurora

Synod Snaps with a little bit of extra love for Valentine’s Day

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

Editorial Laid low for Lent


WE are in the season of Lent. From childhood we were encouraged to give something up to enable us to reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus. People fast or give up red meat on Fridays. Give up technology. Give up alcohol.

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All noble sentiments but I am not sure whether they translate into any concept of the exquisite pain of crucifixion to which Jesus knowingly surrendered himself. As an adult, I understand that the purpose of self-sacrifice is to enter into a mindset, a prayerful intent, as we journey with our fellow Christians through this period of preparation and reconciliation. The action of giving up, both tangible and concrete, leads to a sense of loss, hunger, or regret, and has the potential to move our hearts and minds to a place of gratitude. For me, giving up this year was not quite so intentional, nor was I thinking of Lent. It happened in an instant. One minute I was upright, the next, sprawled all over the floor after missing my footing on stairs. A small fracture provides a different perspective. The obvious is how important every part of our complex body is, and when one of those parts stops working to 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.

its optimum, the owner of the body really notices. But what happens if I reframe this accident and place it in the context of Lent? Apart from the fact that I have never read anywhere that you might want to give up mobility for Lent, all the other aspects of Lent seem to have resonance. As Christians we are called to be dependent on God. Not an easy ask when most of us in Australia have everything we could ever wish for. We pride ourselves on our self-sufficiency. And yet the early Christians modelled a life of dependency on each other. Our Church’s Vision statement reminds us that we are ‘seeking community’. A loss of mobility has forced me to be dependent on others – to help provide basic needs and to attend to my environment – chores that were previously easy and done with little thought.

How can I turn this physical lesson into a transcendent one, and seek God’s help in being dependent on Him? Being dependent demands a graceful response; many of us are not good at accepting help. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, his life given for ours, is the ultimate gift of grace. As I sit with a mildly throbbing ankle, feeling sorry for myself for a missed overseas holiday and other minor sacrifices, how do I use this period of Lent to reflect on God’s ultimate sacrifice and the gift of grace given freely for me? A dear colleague has been the face of Jesus for me in the early days of my fall, gently tending to me, helping me adjust to this temporary inconvenience. Her grace is the physical manifestation of the Christian call – played out across millions upon millions of communities every single day. In the midst of our daily struggles, we have much to be thankful for.

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WANTED: Nominations for moderatorelect. Attributes: Practically perfect in every way (to quote Mary Poppins). Well, OK, no one is perfect. However, the 15 points listed on the VicTas website to describe the kind of person the Church looks for in a moderator might suggest a modern-day saint or super being. As well as being a pastor, proclaimer and


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a Band-Aid is, it’s a temporary protection of infection in a biological sense,” he said “We use terms like psychological first aid, and emotional spiritual care.” He tells stories of people whose connection with an Emergencies Ministry chaplain helped them come to terms with the tragedy. “They say ‘it was that moment when we connected and engaged in a conversation that helped to reframe my thinking in such a way that I can stand here before you and I am OK’, Mr Stuart said. “So in that sense, it’s not temporary.” The Emergencies Ministry was established the same year as the Uniting Church – 1977 – by John Hill, a Uniting Church minister, in response to a significant weather emergency in Mildura. While the ministry is now ecumenical, the Uniting Church’s commitment is still significant. Of the 162 chaplains who volunteered their time at Bourke St Mall in January, 60 of them were members or clergy of the VicTas synod. Mr Stuart said the service was localised, with trained clergy operating within their own location. For the first 30 plus years of the ministry, it was predominantly the domain of clergy. The 2009 Black Saturday bushfires led to a change of thinking. In 2009 VCC Emergencies Ministry had 280 clergy volunteers. Mr Stuart said there was no way that number could respond to all emergencies across Victoria. “By broadening it out to the laity, we’ve now got nearly 1700 volunteers,” he said. Recruitment focuses on people with pre-


Search on for next moderator



CHAPLAINS volunteering with the Victorian Council of Churches Emergencies Ministry spoke to more than 3300 people on the day of, and the days following, January’s Bourke St rampage. VCC Emergencies Ministry CEO, Rev Stuart Stuart, said it doesn’t matter what kind of emergency it is, the human response is the same. “People are looking for meaning in the emergency, regardless of whether it’s a bushfire, a road accident, or the Bourke St event,” Mr Stuart said. “People are trying to answer the question ‘why?’, ‘why did this happen to me?’, ‘why didn’t this happen to me?’. “The human response is one of yearning to know why this happened and for some, and particularly those of faith, it’s a yearning to know ‘where was God in this?’.” On 20 January a driver evading police turned into the Bourke St Mall and randomly drove through hundreds of lunchtime pedestrians. Six people were killed, more than 30 hospitalised, with one still in serious condition six weeks later. While this was not a terrorist event, it evoked terror. In the following weeks, a spontaneous shrine of flowers, soft toys and messages in the Bourke St Mall provided people with a space of quiet contemplation and an opportunity to talk about their fears and grief. When asked whether pastoral care was merely a Band-Aid in the midst of chaos, Mr Stuart rejected the analogy. “A Band-Aid conjures up the notion of a temporary protection, because that’s what

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Spiritual first responders

SYNOD 2017

prophet, the moderator might have to be a reconciler, healer and advocate. Obviously they need to be wise, a sense of humour is a definite must, as is a strong sense of the presence of God in the everyday. It is helpful if they are adept at social media, relate well to young people, are not daunted by the rapidity of cultural change and generational mind shift and nurture

existing qualification or experience in the caring professions – pastoral care, youth work, teaching and chaplaincy. Once they join Emergencies Ministry they receive specific training in disaster counselling, spirituality and trauma. When an emergency event occurs, area coordinators send text messages to contact volunteers who live in close proximity and can attend rapidly. “The Bourke Street event happened at 1.45pm, and we had 25 volunteers ready to go at 2.15pm to support that community,” Mr Stuart said. In 2016, the volunteers of Emergencies Ministry were called to 44 events across the state. Mr Stuart said the organisation has demonstrated its willingness to work with government authorities. “So not only are we just a recipient of the policies that Emergency Management Victoria puts out, we’re actually invited in on the ground floor, to be part of the decision-making around what those policies look like,” Mr Stuart said. “During the Bourke Street incident, for the first time, the VCC Emergencies Ministry was offered a seat at the state control centre during the event. To not only participate in decision making, but also provide intelligence to government about what’s happening on the ground. “That’s never happened before.” For more information go to: W: F:, T:

their own journey of discipleship. They will value and promote good governance, be well versed in the consensus decision-making of the Church and continue to nurture the special relationship between synod and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congresses in Victoria and Tasmania. There is no mention of being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but there must be days when moderators might wish for super powers – although, as disciples of Christ, they (and we) have access to a real supernatural power. As proof of that, the Nominating Committee points out that the list has been put together based on the experience of past moderators who have managed to fulfil the role admirably. Is anyone leaping out at you yet as being able to follow in their footsteps? If you know of someone you believe has the gifts and graces appropriate to be moderator, please contact your presbytery chairperson, presbytery minister or minister in placement. Do not seek the nominee’s permission – that is the role of the Nominating Committee. Nominations in writing need to be received by Friday 31 March. To find the 15 points referred to above, as well as the duties of the moderator as expressed in the regulations, and nomination form, please go to au/aboutus/Pages/Our-Synod-Meeting. aspx. Click on the relevant links in the right-hand column of the page.


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News Honours for North-West Tasmania churchwomen NIGEL TAPP Mavis Rowlands

WHEN long-time Burnie Uniting Church member Mavis Rowlands was informed she had been successfully nominated for an Order of Australia Medal (OAM), her first instinct was to not accept it. However, noticing how much effort had been put into preparing the nomination Mrs Rowlands agreed to accept the medal. The recognition was for her service to conservation, youth and to the community. Taking inspiration from her parents, Alec and Connie Scott, Mrs Rowlands said she grew up believing that people should always be willing to help others. She and her late husband, Arthur, were ardent conservationists at a time when it was certainly not a ‘trendy’ pursuit in Tasmania. “It is far more accepted now whereas once it was seen as anti-government and antijobs,’’ she recalled. Mrs Rowlands said she was driven by

a strong belief of the need for good stewardship of our natural environment. She has also been the treasurer of the Burnie Uniting Church for almost three decades, an elder, Sunday school teacher, roster co-ordinator for Meals on Wheels and a member of the Presbytery of Tasmania. Mrs Rowlands said assisting people on low incomes with their tax returns was the community service work that gave her the most reward. “That gave me a lot of satisfaction,’’ she said. Mrs Rowlands was one of two North-West Tasmania church identities who had special reasons to celebrate on 26 January. Pam Ingram was named as the Cradle Coast’s Citizen-of-the-Year after dedicating much of her life to serving the small rural community of South Riana, near Penguin. Mrs Ingram was described as a community

Pam Ingram (right) with the Central Coast Mayor Jan Bonde

icon by the Central Coast Mayor, Jan Bonde, for a life of service to community, the church and business. An elder and leader of the South Riana Uniting Church for more than 30 years before it closed, Mrs Ingram was a school bus driver for more than 50 years. Her long list of accomplishments include life membership of the Riana Primary School Mothers’ Club, the Penguin High School Association and the Penguin Child Health Association. She was also a member of the South Riana War Memorial Hall Committee. Mrs Ingram credits her involvement with the local Methodist and Uniting Church as being the bedrock of her life. She and her first husband, the late Thomas Smith, established and ran a coach company and a travel agency. Mrs Ingram turned to community work to cope with loneliness when Mr Smith was away taking coach tours for about six months a year. It also led to her meeting her second husband, Geoff Ingram. What began as a quick visit to drop off some homemade biscuits – which she did for many years to welcome new residents to the local community – eventually developed into a love story. Mrs Ingram said she felt it was very important to be actively involved with one’s local community but admitted fewer people nowadays take on a role in community affairs.

Nurturing faith FOR the past seven years, the Uniting Church’s Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program has provided pastoral training to minsters, lay people and students. The program is offered through the synod’s John Paver Centre and run in collaboration with the Centre for Theology and Ministry. Participants come from a variety of work backgrounds – prisons, forensic psychiatry, schools, aged care and hospitals. It is open to ordained ministers and lay people, students and chaplains. Jill McConnell participated in the program in 2015. She had previously undertaken another CPE program and was seeking an opportunity to refresh and enhance her pastoral skills. “It’s a very intense structure of reflection,

supervision and sharing in a small-group context. We look at our ministry practice, in particular our listening skills,” she said. “We set our own learning goals and there’s a lot of writing, thinking and sharing in a supportive environment.” As part of the course, Ms McConnell completed a placement at the Kildonan UnitingCare’s Pepper Tree Place. This is a community plant nursery in Coburg where families and communities come together to learn about fresh food. “The volunteer-run nursery at Kildonan was a beautiful space,” she said. “I became part of the group of volunteers there and nurtured plants and shared stories and food that the community is involved in. It was a lovely way for me to

share my story and hear other people’s stories.” A central part of the synod’s CPE program is exploring and developing participants’ eco-identity. Ms McConnell said participating in the program enriched her connections with the environment and made her more “switched on” to her natural surroundings. This eco-ministry training has influenced her current work as a chaplain at a Prep – Year 12 grammar school. Every chapel service she runs incorporates an element of eco-ministry that helps students become more aware of the environmental concerns facing the planet. “I highly recommend people do CPE,” she said.

“It’s hard work, but the more you put into it the more you get out of it. It’s just a beautiful thing to do.” The 2017 program includes 400 hours of supervised pastoral care placements and education. The full-time unit will commence on 20 June and conclude on 30 August. Successful completion of the unit can be credited as a subject for Bachelor of Theology degrees associated with the University of Divinity. Applications close 31 March 2017. Visit for more information or contact centre director Rev Andy Calder at P: 9251 5489.

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News The write way to tell UCA stories THE Uniting Church in Australia turns 40 this year. So it is perhaps not surprising that throughout the synod, many budding historians are unearthing the story of their own congregations and church communities. Rev Robert Renton is the treasurer of the synod’s UCA Historical Society. The society works with the synod’s archive centre to preserve and document historic records and photographs from the Uniting Church and its three antecedents – the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches. Mr Renton said the interest in church history extends beyond the congregations, as often the church was the centre of community life. “We were conscious that this being the 40th year of the UCA there will be interest in historical matters,” Mr Renton said. “At the same time, there seems to be a number of churches celebrating their 100th or 120th or 150th anniversary, as well as articles about churches or congregations that have closed.” Mr Renton said while there is interest in the history of church communities, some people may not feel confident in their ability to write this down. He hopes that an upcoming seminar will encourage those people to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard). “It’s an opportunity for congregational members interested in writing a history of their congregation, or of notable people from their congregation, and who are a tad reluctant to do it because they have no experience in writing history,” Mr Renton said. “The seminar will include insights from some of our members with experience in research and writing. “The world seems to be changing at a rapid pace, and the Church is not immune to that change. In this 40th year of the UCA it is important that to understand where we have come from if we are to understand better where we are now and where we might head in the future.” For more information contact:


Young people the agents of change NIGEL TAPP

Helping to raise funds to educate Ugandan girls (from left): Sarah Webb, Felicity Savage, Lauren Webb, Amie Anne Mclean, Emma Webb, Alli Savage and Brianna Savage.

SOMETIMES it is easy to forget that when it comes to putting meat on the bones of faith-filled missional activity, children can be just as effective, and committed, as their elders. At the Kingston Uniting Church, about 15 km south of Hobart in Tasmania, that lesson is clearly expressed. Following a visit in May 2016 from Ugandan minister and teacher Rev Justus Miwanda the congregation’s young people decided they wanted to see more girls in the impoverished African nation recieve an education. Mr Miwanda is the director of Christian aid organisation International Needs Uganda which offers education, development and income enhancement projects throughout the country. He told the congregation many of the children in his school were orphaned due to the AIDS epidemic sweeping the country and spoke about the cost of an education, which was beyond the reach of many people. Rather than waiting for adults to consider

ways of supporting the cause, the young people organised a roundtable to look at fundraising initiatives they could undertake to help Mr Miwanda’s efforts. Adults were co-opted to offer advice but it has been a project driven by the young people. One of those initiatives has been a five cent drive on a Sunday morning when the young people collect spare change from congregation members prior to the regular offering. This initiative has become so popular that some members come armed with loose change collected during the week. Some weeks more than $30 is collected. These weekly collections have been bolstered by the takings from a church garage sale which garnered another $200, taking their total collection to date to more than $500. The young people are currently deciding, in consultation with Mr Miwanda, how the money could be used best as well as looking at ways to provide ongoing support. Grade 10 student Emma Webb is a driving force behind the group. She is keen to see Mr Miwanda explain his vision on a video

which could be used to encourage other local church congregations in Southern Tasmania to become involved. Emma said she was touched by the struggles young people in Uganda – particularly girls encountered just to get an education. “I don’t enjoy school sometimes but I have never complained about learning and many young people (there) do not even get that opportunity,” she said. Church member Bev Gibson said she was proud at how the young people had sought to make a difference to the lives of girls in Uganda. “They are the ones who are leading this and we, the adults, are happy to support them.” The young people’s efforts have also won the admiration of Kingston minister Colin Gurteen. “It is really gratifying to see the enthusiasm and the way they have been thinking about their faith and putting it into action,” Mr Gurteen said. “Being part of the Christian community is not just thinking about taking action but it is also about actually doing something.”


Beauty for brokenness, hope for despair Y’know, wood-workers witness wonders every week. A distressed piece of timber can be transformed into a thing of beauty with the right care and effort. So it is with people. A gift to Share is “kindly treatment”, to quote the religious scholar. It will help transform the lives of people who are experiencing tough times and it will give them hope. “Beauty for brokenness, hope for despair” are the opening words of a powerful hymn written by Graham Kendrick. It includes this arresting prayer: “God of the poor, friend of the meek, give us compassion we pray”. And here is another line: “change our love from a spark to a flame”. Share is an example of God’s faith and compassion in action. It is a way by which you and I can support a wide variety of programs of hope throughout Victoria and Tasmania. Will you join my wife and me in a commitment to the future of Share? A gift in your Will to Share is a particularly powerful way of caring for your neighbours and a proven way of sowing seeds of hope both now and into the future. Please join us and pledge a gift that costs you nothing now to the critical work Share will always support and let us sow seeds of hope together. Blessings galore,

“Volunteering was how I learnt about the many different UnitingCare programs Share supports”, says Rosemary. “My children had grown up and I wanted a new challenge. I saw an advertisement for a voluntary administrative assistant’s position which sounded just the thing – so I applied. “What an impact that had! Through my time there, the work of Share became much more personal to my husband, Ray, and me, as I witnessed directly the role Share has in responding to the greatest needs in our community”.

Reverend Dr Warren Bartlett OAM Patron of Share’s Seeds of Hope Benefactors Club Former Moderator of the Synod 1994-1997

If homelessness is a major issue in a region, then Share will fund a program that addresses that specific need. If youth marginalisation and truancy becomes a problem then Share will support a specialised program that will provide young people with skills, encouragement and strong role models. If unemployment is threatening families, then Share will make sure emergency relief is available. Rosemary continued: “Ray and I have been donating to Share for many years. We know that Share is a well-run organisation. So recently we decided to name Share as one of the beneficiaries of our Wills. Our adult children are fully aware of our intentions and they know that our desire to leave the world a better place is core to our Christian faith.”

A GIFT IN YOUR WILL TO SHARE IS AN EXAMPLE OF GOD’S LOVE AND COMPASSION IN ACTION I have already included a gift to Share in my Will I intend to include a gift to Share in my Will I am considering leaving a gift to Share in my Will

A step-by-step guide to leaving a gift to Share in your Will

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Please send this form to: Planned Giving Manager, Share, PO Box 24154, Melbourne, Vic, 3001 For more information call 1800 668 426 or visit


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We understand that the topic of Wills and bequests is a very sensitive one. In making such a personal decision about this matter we encourage you to consider the needs of your family and loved ones first, and to discuss your wishes with them.


AUSTRALIA’S only openly gay imam says that religious leaders with progressive views on sexuality need to speak up to save young lives. “The frustration is when we keep silent about it as religious leaders,” Nur Warsame said. Mr Warsame personally knows of four young Muslims that identified as LGBTI who have self-harmed. Mr Warsame, who will be a speaker at the Queenscliff Uniting Church’s Sacred Edge festival in March, runs the Marhaba support group for Islamic LGBT people. The group meets regularly at venues around Melbourne and invites people to contact them through a Twitter account and by email. “It’s thankfully growing, the numbers are





when it came to family and community and so forth, it made me find a way of reconciling my faith with my sexuality.” Since coming out Mr Warsame said he has received some threats but also a lot of private support. “I have had the reputation even prior to coming out of being a respected imam. I still am a respected imam, so the people I meet who have known me in my previous role are quite respectful but sometimes they wouldn’t publicise their support,” he said. “They say ‘we support what you are doing’ but just leave it at that. “Other imams who are not happy with the position I have decided to stand on, they say ‘how can he call himself an imam?’ But my existence and my presence and my track record mollifies their doubts.” Unlike some Christian denominations, Islam does not have a central authority to remove clerical titles or excommunicate. “Once you are an imam or a person who has memorised the Quran, these are titles that no one can take from you,” Mr Warsame said. He argues that the hard line stance against homosexuality only recently gained ascendancy over the Islamic world, primarily due to the spread of the doctrines of Wahhabism, which has been mainly exported from Saudi Arabia underpinned by oil money. “But the history of Islam is that Islam always related to the time in which it existed,” Mr Warsame said.

“Only now the last few hundred years is where we have this one rigid interpretation of the Quran and it’s coming from one particular region but it has dominated unfortunately the majority of the Muslim world.” The young Muslims Mr Warsame meets in the support group tend to have two responses to having their sexuality condemned. “We have people who have been so traumatised by other religious leaders and community leaders and family members that they want nothing to do with religion,” he said. “And then there are some who have had to give into the pressures of leading a double life.” Mr Warsame cites the case of one young man he recently talked to who has a wife and two children. “How I advise individuals like that, and there are several of them within our group both male and female, is that is not an authentic life,” Mr Warsame said. “It is not a life of a true Muslim to sentence four people to a life of imprisonment because of other people dictating how you should lead your life. “I would say to them that we don’t have a middle man between us and God, we have a direct line, so why would you allow your imams, your parents, your community, your cultural beliefs to come between you and tell you this is something that God is not unhappy with or is an abomination?”



growing almost on a weekly basis,” Mr Warsame said. “We even have people who have visited me from New Zealand and Fiji and from around the South Pacific.” Mr Warsame was born into a Sunni Muslim family in Somalia and lived in Egypt and Canada before settling in Melbourne. For many years he struggled with his sexuality, believing it was a sin. He even married and had a daughter. At one despairing stage he attempted suicide. “I was never one who rejected the faith, which a lot of youth suffer from,” he said. “The faith was very important to me, the Quran and its commentaries were always something that in many ways provided a lot of healing in a very stormy lifetime.” Mr Warsame has memorised the Quran in Arabic and is also trained in providing commentary and interpretation. He said this background helped him realise that what he had been told, even from childhood, was wrong. “After my divorce 2006 I reread the Quran and certain commentaries that dated further back in history than the contemporary ones that we read in universities,” Mr Warsame said. “I reached a point where I realised most of the books of commentary I had been reading were conveying an incorrect interpretation of the Quran. “I separated the interpretations by certain individuals from what the actual scriptures’ core messages were. At a very difficult time,


Coming out and speaking out in Islam


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Is there a person you identify as a leader within this Synod? The Nominating Committee for the next Moderator of the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania invites nominations from members of the Uniting Church.

Lenten Oering 2017 The gift of time spent in the company of God The gift of self-reflection The gift of reaching out to our neighbours

When Synod meets in September 2017 its members will choose a Moderator-elect to take office when the current Moderator, Rev Sharon Hollis, completes her term in May 2019. Both lay and ordained members of the Uniting Church are eligible to serve as Moderator for a three-year full-time term. A statement on the Role of the Moderator and the Nomination Form are available from the Synod website or by request from the Convenor of the Nominating Committee, Dr Jill Tabart on Email: or M: 0418 562 181. Nominations close on Friday 31 March 2017. Please send the form (signed by two nominators) to Dr Jill Tabart at 137/283 Spring Street, Melbourne, VIC, 3000, or email to

By giving a special Lenten Offering you will be helping meet the real needs of people in our local and global communities, and sharing the love of God. Pick up a donation envelope at your church or call 1800 668 426.



Profile Mr Warsame said different faiths could assist each other in building a more tolerant attitude to sexuality. “One of the ways of building bridges is to help people who are still lagging behind,” he said. “One of the best ways of learning from each other is facilitating platforms where other imams and other religious leaders can come out and support the youth because the youth are suffering.” Mr Warsame has received financial help from the Anglican Church to run Marhaba, which previously he has funded out of his own “limited income”. If he can raise more money Mr Warsame aims to provide safe houses and drop-in centres to welcome and protect young LGBTI Muslims. The annual Sacred Edge festival explores issues of faith, diversity, sustainability, wellbeing and social justice. Featured speakers and artists will also include media personality Julie McCrossin, refugee and hip-hop poet Abe Nouk as well as Indigenous film-maker and activist Richard Franklin.

The Sacred Edge – Spirituality in Diversity festival will be held at Queenscliff Uniting Church from 5-7 May. Go to and click on the Sacred Edge link.

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Profile Breakfast club PENNY MULVEY

EARLIER this year, visitors to Melbourne have expressed concern about the increasing numbers of homeless either sleeping rough or begging on city streets. The issue erupted on the eve of the Australian Open, as tourists were confronted by a homeless camp at Flinders Street Station. Media outlets reported that people were witnessing drug use and felt unsafe walking past the camp. Ultimately, the Melbourne City Council, in concert with Victoria Police, moved the camp, leading to violent scuffles. In the wake of that event, the CEOs of 36 Victorian homelessness, housing and social service organisations, including Wesley Mission Victoria, issued a public letter condemning the vilification of people sleeping rough. Undeterred, the Melbourne City Council voted to ban homeless people from

John McDonald


camping in the city. It is currently receiving submissions on the new law before a final decision is made this month. The state government has also promised that a rough-sleeping strategy will be developed. Tony Nicholson, the executive director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, has been appointed to head up this strategy. Mr Nicholson is in agreement with the signatories of the public letter, that those on the streets are likely to have no other option due to lack of public housing and the rising cost of renting. He is also investigating whether the lack of a coherent approach is adding to the problem. Numerous agencies are providing free meals and a range of other services to the CBD homeless. Is this drawing people to the city? While the capital of Australia is a much smaller city than Melbourne, in Canberra it appears the various agencies and services talk to each other and provide individually tailored referrals. The UnitingCare Canberra City’s Early Morning Centre (EMC) enables its homeless guests to access a range of services by just walking through its front door. The day begins at the Early Morning Centre with hot breakfast. Guests are served scrambled eggs one day, pancakes the next. Cereal, tea and coffee are available. When finished, guests quietly leave to make room for others. The environment is friendly, dignified and honouring of each and every person. Situated on busy Northbourne Avenue in the heart of Civic. The EMC has been serving the homeless Monday to Friday, since 2005. Breakfast is served from 7.30 to 8.30. The Centre then closes its doors for 30 minutes to clean up before it reopens as a drop in centre, offering a range of essential services for guests – internet access; a hot shower; laundry facilities; newspapers to read; mail collection and a range of referral services. The majority of guests to the EMC are male and aged over 30. EMC manager John McDonald has coordinated the service delivery of the Centre for the past eight years. With quiet authority he unobtrusively makes someone a coffee or hot chocolate, intervenes in a mild disturbance or hands out a food pack. Of all the jobs John has had over his working life, he said this is the most fulfilling. When asked what motivates him, John’s response is powerful in its simplicity. “I love the people,” John said. “I always think ‘but for the grace of God, there go I’. We’re only one accident away from needing a service like this. “Rent arrears or a marital break-up, a brain twist or an addiction. Whatever it is, basically we are only one accident, one misfortune away, and I’m always mindful of that.” Tuesdays at EMC are particularly busy. Dave from Centrelink arrives at 10am to sort out individual guests’ benefits. The sheet Blu-Tacked to the door of the meeting room already has a long list of names, all waiting for a confidential conversation. Casually dressed, Dave blends in. He has been coming to the EMC for a long time and has the trust of the guests. Zeke describes him as ‘a top bloke’. Zeke is a regular at EMC. Canberra-born and raised, Zeke has been homeless for some time. He has five children he does not see and he knows that until he can be more

reliable this situation will not change. He is good humoured, chatty and grateful for EMC. “Most of us would be screwed if we didn’t have this place,” he volunteered. In one corner of the main room are two computers, both in use, which will shortly be linked up to the NBN. These screens provide a lifeline to families, often the only contact many of the guests have with their loved ones. Café-style tables fill the room and, in another corner, a representative from OneLink sits, with a sign in front, ready to provide housing advice. Another semiregular visitor arrives and sets up his cardboard shingle, announcing Street Law, and a few people make their way to speak with him. Lockers fill one wall of the room, providing a safe place for special belongings. Gently rising above the good-humoured hum is the theme song of Sesame Street – another guest has borrowed the EMC’s guitar and is adding his personal flavour to the ambiance of the space. Whilst the EMC focuses on the provision of food, an agreement with a local op shop provides guests with vouchers to renew their wardrobe every six months. It also has a memorandum of understanding with a local dental surgery, and will send guests for a check-up, a clean or more serious surgery. The Parliament House hairdresser pops over to the EMC every six weeks to offer free haircuts. When the EMC first opened its doors in 2005, the Management Committee (comprising members of the Canberra City Uniting Church) was very clear on its objectives – to address some of the urgent daily needs of the homeless in Canberra, not through case management, but through service delivery. EMC treasurer, Graeme Lowe, says the church wanted to offer something into the community services area, and its research highlighted homelessness as a significant issue. Mr Lowe explained that the chief minister of the ACT had an interest in ‘community inclusion’ and the initial grant awarded to Canberra City UC came under that descriptor. When the EMC first opened its doors, it was a much smaller endeavour, offering breakfast and a mail service. Over time, and with further significant funding from the ACT government, the EMC has continued to evolve, offering more services to its guests. “What the guests appreciate is that they are treated like normal human beings,” Mr Lowe said. “We deliberately chose the term ‘guests’ to indicate that they are not clients in the traditional sense. “Nevertheless, we operate within a framework that they have to comply with the processes we are using, and so on.” The EMC has very few paid staff, but two people are engaged for a few hours each week to run a coffee cart out the front of the EMC during breakfast. This was a very deliberate decision by the committee, to help literally ‘open doors’ to their guests. “There are people who cannot come inside the café space,” Mr Lowe explained. “It’s just something that terrifies them, to be sitting down at a table with another person. This is all scary stuff for some people who come. “They start at the coffee cart and might just get a coffee and walk away. Then they start talking with other people who are there

and progress to coming inside the centre. And, you know, it’s possible to evolve from there. “When they are comfortable in the space you can have a conversation, ‘did you think about talking to Centrelink about this?, or do you need some legal advice?’ “It’s not formal case management, but there is certainly an interest in what people’s needs are, and making access to them.” In October, Chris Stokman, the long-term director of the EMC died of cancer. Chris had been the advocate and initiator behind most of the partnerships and funding. An unstoppable force, Chris bent the ear of politicians, local businesses and other service providers. She found people to run art classes, provide medical support, and give financial advice. Care Financial teaches guests how to budget, negotiate with electricity providers and other skills necessary to survive in a monetary society. A special memorial service for Chris was held at the EMC, and many guests attended to farewell a much-loved ‘family member’. Graeme acknowledges that Chris’s shoes will be hard to fill, as she was so connected across all parts of community. “To get parliamentarians who want to stand up in Federal Parliament and make statements about Chris was a surprise to even us.” Graeme loves the way the EMC can transform the lives not just of guests, but the many volunteers, visitors or service providers. “People who get involved see that this is something that is worthwhile. If you have no connection with those who are homeless or struggling, it’s easy to put them in a category and blame them for their circumstances,” he says. “People say, ‘oh well, just push your way out of it and get on with it’. But there are some who won’t, and sometimes can’t, really occupy a house. They can’t manage being in that sort of enclosed space. “There are many things that need to be worked on before you can just put someone into a nice one-bedroom apartment. Really that’s the connection. That’s what makes it worth doing.” Maybe Tony Nicholson will look at this model as he works on a rough sleeping strategy for Melbourne’s CBD. What is central to the problem of homelessness is exactly that, no home. In the CEOs’ public letter, they wrote “Like you and me, what people who are homeless want is a safe, affordable and, most importantly, permanent place to call home ... until something is done about the national housing crisis that underpins this problem, we are simply bailing water on a sinking boat.” OneLink in Canberra is key to providing a coordinated support to that city’s homeless. Its website states: “OneLink can talk to you about housing options, including emergency accommodation. OneLink can provide information about public housing, community housing, private rental and other options, and about what assistance might be available for you to secure a tenancy.” Its main purpose is to provide information and easy access to support services in the ACT. Is such a service scalable? Could OneLink become the blueprint for other governments and local councils as they search for solutions to complex social problems? For further information about Onelink, CROSSLIGHT - MARCH 17


Yours to keep with this month’s Crosslight! Your March Cro Crosslight arrivess with the gift of a bookmark. Your bookmark can ca be collected where whe here re you y normally pick up p yo your Crosslight. The colourful bookmark kmark features the Synod’s ynod’s Vision and Mission Principles p and Statements of Intent. We hope these hese words inspire ins re you ou to explore the renewing work of o God’s Spirit in your own context and in the context conttext of your gathered communities. If you would like extras, a limited d supply is available by contacting g


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Making compassion real ALEXANDER BAKER

STRAIGHT off the red-eye flight from Manila to Nairobi, my colleague Alexandra and I were greeted by possibly the biggest smile in Africa, and not just because it stood sevenfoot-high off the ground. Rev Tut Ngoth is the deputy director of the Presbyterian Relief and Development Association (PRDA) and a key player in the peacemaker program in South Sudan. Born and raised in the rural southern districts of Sudan, Tut is a member of the generation of South Sudanese who fought for independence from Sudan. He saw this dream become a reality in 2011 after more than 30 years. But celebrations were short lived. Civil violence ripped through the country’s core in 2013 and the reverberations are still being felt today. We were in Kenya to document through film and still images the peacemaking project coordinated by the PRDA in conjunction with UnitingWorld. The program promotes reconciliation, peace and hope for the future, but we were unable to even enter South Sudan due to the conflict. After a week in Nairobi, sitting down to interview Tut was like having a cuppa with an old friend. He told us about UnitingWorld’s co-sponsored program, the fruit that is already being borne, and shared his personal story. We heard the heartbreaking story of attacks on the Nile Theological College, the destruction of the Presbyterian Church’s National Compound in Malakal, and the innocently loss of life by women, children, men and pastors caught in the cross fire between government and rebel forces. The most moving part of his story was not the graphic talk of violence, but Tut’s faith, hope, love and his unshakeable belief in the future. It’s funny how hard it is for the human mind to process or understand confronting stories at the moment they’re told. During the interview, we were both so focused on making sure the technical equipment was working correctly, and making sure Tut’s children weren’t going to walk into the shot, that we didn’t quite process everything we heard. It wasn’t until we began editing the footage two weeks later, sitting in a hotel room in Nanjing, China, late on a very cold evening, that we began to comprehend the true significance of Tut’s story. The heartbreaking honesty in Tut’s deep, yet soft voice. His humility and trust. At the time we knew we were hearing a unique personal account of South Sudan’s history and an enthusiastic perspective for the future, but it struck both of us that night that no matter how much we see and hear these stories of sorrow and despair, we are often never touched by them unless we meet a person face-to-face. Daily we are bombarded with shocking images and footage of violence, famine and war. Many of us have subconsciously developed a filter that blocks our God-given compassion, preventing it from flowing from our hearts to others. Only when we sense this barricade, and take action to remove it, can we make progress towards compassion once again. The ability to forgive, reconcile, and to harness the powerful trait of hope is the way forward to peace for the people South Sudan, according to Tut, and he is certainly testimony to that. Beginning 1 March, Lent is a time to reflect on our lives as Christian changemakers as we share Jesus’ journey to the cross and beyond to new life. The full interview we captured with Tut is available on UnitingWorld’s Lent Event website, along with others that take you beyond the barriers to compassion. I invite you to come and meet the people who are truly living the way of Jesus in China, South Sudan, Papua New Guinea and India. They will challenge you to give up something from your everyday life, donating the money to support them in their ministry. This is how we make compassion real – by not only hearing the stories, but by taking action together to bring about change. Alexander Baker is a volunteer and filmmaker with UnitingWorld. For more information go to: and follow the links.








ModSquad speakers at Yurora 17

IT IS not often that you encounter more than one Uniting Church moderator at a time, so meeting four plus one former moderator led me to consider a collective noun to describe such a group. I discarded ‘doctrine of ’, apparently the collective noun for doctors. That didn’t seem to capture the key role of our moderators. What about ‘a faith of ’? It would be interesting to know what led to a group of merchants being described in such a manner. But then I stumbled across the collective noun for writers, and, apart from the lack of alliteration, the descriptor seems very fitting, and so I write to tell of my special encounter with a wisdom of moderators at Yurora 17. The Uniting Church in Australia currently has four female moderators and a female president-elect. In their diversity these women capture the modern face of the Uniting Church. The longest serving moderator, Rev Myung Hwa Park of the NSW/ACT synod, is Korean. Rev Thresi (pronounced Tracey) Mauboy Wohangara, moderator of the Northern synod, is Indonesian. Rev Sue Ellis from South Australia is a country woman who was ordained later in life and Rev Sharon Hollis of VicTas, felt God’s call as a 21-year-old. Dr Deidre Palmer, former SA moderator and president elect, is a lay person who is probably more qualified than many ordained clergy. Dr Palmer has a Master of Religious Education, a Master of Social Work and a Doctor of Philosophy in Religious Education and Theology. She has taught at a number of academic institutions both in Australia and overseas. When Sharon told me that all five would

be sharing a house together while they attended Yurora 17 at NSW’s Stanwell Tops Conference Centre, my journalistic brain went into overdrive. Who wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall for such a momentous event? Never one for being backward in coming forward, I asked Sharon whether I could gatecrash their accommodation for a night, and also attend the ModSquad panel. This was an evening event at Yurora 17 where the four moderators were going to share their wisdom on women in leadership. Thankfully none of these wonderful women protested the idea, so a quick flight to Sydney, an hour’s drive to Stanwell Tops, and I was there … my first experience of Yurora, otherwise known as the National Christian Youth Convention or NCYC, a Uniting Church institution. For those who have never been, I am not the one to explain it to you. Thankfully I ran into a VicTas stalwart of NCYCs, Lorraine Threlfall of the North East Victoria presbytery, who has been escorting groups of young people to NCYCs for more years than she would want to remember. Lorraine manages logistics, pastoral care and, as a camp mum, has taken several generations of youth on coach trips to NCYC destinations all over the country. The NE Vic crew even went by bus to Perth when it was held there. A group of 40 attended this year, including a few ring-ins from other presbyteries. Some of these would no longer be in the youth category but they went as volunteers, helpers, cooks and bottle washers. A shared meal is one way of ensuring none of the group feels isolated or overwhelmed. Jeanette is the cook and has been preparing

meals for the youth of this presbytery for many years. A portable kitchen, towed by the coach, was set up in a magnificent shady spot looking over the Pacific Ocean. Trestle tables and benches nestled under the soaring gums and it was hard to imagine a more inviting place to fellowship with others. The Uniting Church is renowned for its volunteers and Yurora was no exception. A volunteer under a small marquee at the conference centre entrance greeted those arriving; several more were in the welcome tent; others took on roles as chaplains, swimming pool attendants, session managers, hearders of youth, supervisors, carers and people who were just there, ready if needed. Two of the moderators were in that category, while the other two were part of the chaplains’ roster. A space was set aside for quiet conversation, meditation and to talk with a chaplain if there was anything of concern or of joy that a delegate might want to sound out with a wise head. My particular interest in attending the ModSquad panel and hanging out with the moderators and president-elect was to observe female leadership in action. Statistics show that female leadership is still in the minority in general society. Issues of the glass ceiling, sexual harassment, family violence, gender bias, lower pay for equal work and, in some countries, legally sanctioned abuse of women, continue to be widespread. International Women’s Day, 8 March, is as important today as when it was first established in the early part of the 20th century. My first observation spending time with the moderators was that one size definitely does not fit all. Myung Hwa radiates serenity. She has a beautiful kind face, is thoughtful and

generous even though she claims to be like a duck at times, paddling madly beneath the surface. Sue is open about her life story, a great talker, with a big heart and a prayerful disposition. Thresi is both thoughtful and reflective but also enthusiastic and driven. She always wanted to see the photos I had taken and expressed great appreciation for them. Deidre is a bundle of energy. Her passion for big issues and her ability to cut to the chase; her desire to learn from others and clearly model Christian leadership are evident in all she says and does. Sharon I know best of all. The youngest of the moderators, Sharon has a wonderful sense of the ridiculous, is articulate and honest and continually affirms others for their contribution.

“I don’t pray for an opportu ready when the opportunity

All five have a great love of the Uniting Church, God and a commitment to prayerfully studying God’s word as a guiding force in their lives. They also possess a willingness to share their own vulnerability and struggles. As the four moderators opened up about some of the challenges thrown at them along their journey, I wondered whether four male moderators would be so selfdeprecating and so willing to provide practical tips about living leadership. The Uniting Church has a strong

VicTas moderator Sharon Hollis with president-elect Deidre Palmer



Feature commitment to shared leadership – men and women bring different gifts and graces, and we all benefit when both are nurtured and raised up. During the panel discussion, each moderator was asked to share a little about themselves and what they understood the role of moderator to be. Sharon said she loved being a moderator, describing it as the most fun she has had. She acknowledged there was some tough stuff in amongst it, including meeting with people who have been damaged by the Church, but she saw that as an opportunity to be vulnerable with others. “You have to know what you think about suffering,” the VicTas moderator said. “People are looking for God in suffering and as a leader you need to understand

unity but pray that I will be y comes.”

that “Jesus entered into human life through suffering.” Myung Hwa told a fascinating story of her long association with the Uniting Church and its predecessor Presbyterian Church. The Australian Presbyterian Church sent 78 missionaries to Korea before the liberation of Korea from Japanese colonial rule, and another 48 in the years after 1945. Sisters Dr Helen Mackenzie and Catherine Mackenzie, both born in Korea, established the Il Sin Hospital on behalf of the Australian Presbyterian Church, with

a focus on education. The two sisters trained nurses as midwives and doctors as specialist obstetricians and gynaecologists. Myung Hwa explained that her mother had suffered a couple of miscarriages, and her Buddhist friends urged her to go to this hospital for help. As she looks back on her birth in a Christian hospital and her conversion as an 18-year-old, Myung Hwa wonders at the passage in Jeremiah 1:5: “I called you before you were born in your mother’s womb.” Another moderator reflected on what the Mackenzie sisters might have felt if they had been aware that a tiny baby girl born in that hospital would become a future leader of the Uniting Church in Australia. However, as Myung Hwa said, nothing surprises God. “God has planned, God has prepared everything in my life,” the NSW/ACT moderator said. “God uses the small to share the big.” She urged the young audience to consider discerning God’s will through biblical study. A ‘shepherd’ is how Myung Hwa described the moderator role. “The shepherd is just a humble person who considered the animal’s life more important than their own,” she said. Sue Ellis’s story speaks to those who have never felt quite good enough. Trained as a teacher, Sue married and had four children, but her husband struggled with family life and spent a lot of time travelling for his work. One time he just did not come home. She was left a single mum, trying to juggle everything. However, Sue is a typical country person – she is a do-er. Whilst she had some awareness of God, she was not a Christian. However, the Sunday school at the local church was in danger of closing down so she offered to be the

Myunh and Thresi enjoy each other’s company at their Airbnb house.

teacher. This meant she started reading the Bible to prepare for classes. Then she talked with other women and they decided to form a Bible study group. Sue was enveloped by the kindness of the church women who offered their friendship, help and love. It was because of this she was drawn more and more into the heart of God. As Sue said, “I was being formed by the church, but I was willing to participate.” The big blockage in Sue’s life has been a constant feeling of being second best. It was only as she began to experience the magnificence of God’s love that she started to believe in her own worthiness. Thresi undertook her initial theological training in Indonesia and was ordained as a Minister of the Word in the GMIT (Evangelical Church of West Timor) church in Soe West Timor in 1992. Three years later she moved to Darwin to be with her husband, and initially learnt English watching Sesame Street and the Wiggles with her young son Liusem. The invitation extended to Thresi to consider offering for moderator was an absolute bolt out of the blue, but her guiding motto in life is “I don’t pray for an opportunity but pray that I will be ready when the opportunity comes”. Thresi’s key leadership tip for the delegates was ‘be who you are’. She reminded the group of Jesus’s words: “I come to serve, not to be served.” The constant wisdom on display demonstrated why each of these women had been selected for leadership roles by their respective synods. Sue had three tips: 1. Know Jesus. It is his life that is in us. 2. Know yourself. Know who you are and know yourself. God has chosen you. You are not here by accident. 3. Know your church. Know what the church values. It values men and women in leadership together. And then she threw in some provocative words, “God indeed may have breasts,”. Sharon encouraged the audience to be reflective about the future of the Uniting Church, and reminded us that it’s about trying stuff. “Make mistakes, but make sure you learn from them,” she said “Mistakes are too costly, so don’t waste them by not learning from them.” Myung Hwa said as a leader it is important to know when to pray and understanding the importance of prayer. She gently spoke of the added difficulties which come up as a non-Anglo leader. While she didn’t want

to dwell on some of the blockages she has encountered, such as rudeness and failure to recognise her role, she did say that being culturally different gives her an added perspective. She broadened my understanding of theology when she said “the Word became flesh – that is a cross-cultural experience”. She and Thresi were in agreement about the important role cross-cultural leaders play in teaching the church to appreciate and value difference. The moderators said the future of the UCA was not just in their hands. “We are all the church,” they said in different ways. Sue said that we are called in this time of change to look to where the love is in the world and connect ourselves to that love. Sharon urged us to get to know our church history. “This is not the first time the Church has been pressed and in difficulty,” she said. “Let’s not get too panicked because that is when we don’t see God at work.” Sharon said that she was invited to consider putting her name forward as moderator during the most personally difficult time in her life. Her partner Michael had died by suicide in 2013. “Tough stuff happens to us,” Sharon said. “God is with us in that and we have to accept the reality of it. As part of dealing with the struggles and demands, it is important to know when to replenish and what gives you life. “This will be different for everyone.” In private the moderators talked with passion about the impact feminist theology had on their faith journey. They shared travel tips, including trying to find clothes that need little ironing, how to bring fresh energy to sermons by telling of stories from different congregations, the power of photographs and utilising multimedia where possible. Sharing a house seemed a special gift in amongst a busy schedule where there isn’t always time for the ‘off ’ button. The overall vibe of the house was one of gentleness, shared wonder, humour and humility. The five women also have a shared optimism about the Uniting Church’s future even if they cannot predict what the church will look like in 10 years’ time. The young people at Yurora were urged to be bold and to remember that they are part of a hopeful faith. As Sharon reminded Yurora participants: “The Church is in good hands, because it is in the hands of God.”

Sue Ellis (SA), Sharon Hollis (VICTAS), Myung Hwa Park (NSW/ACT), Thresi Mauboy Wohangara (NT), Deidre Palmer



Celebrating 40 years Pioneer leader in a time of great change NIGEL TAPP

Dr Jill Tabart and Dr Deidre Palmer

THE Uniting Church achieved two significant goals in the mid-’90s. One was the adoption of consensus decisionmaking as the official model for meeting procedures. The other was the apology to Aboriginal people. And both occurred during the three-year presidency of Dr Jill Tabart, the first woman to be appointed to the position. Dr Tabart’s installation in 1994 was another step in the Church’s journey of recognising and promoting the leadership skills of women. Since then very few Australian churches – with the exception of the Society of Friends (Quakers) – have had a female head at a national level. Dr Tabart admits that her appointment ‘raised eyebrows’ among some of the Church’s partners. But she also knew it was a source of important symbolism at an ecumenical level for many women. The Sisters of Mercy were so thrilled to see a woman leading a church that they gave Dr Tabart pride of place at the Australian welcome ceremony for Pope John Paul II in 1995. Dr Tabart’s period in office was a significant time for the Church. It included the adoption of consensus decision-making as well as the apology to Aborigines “for all those wrongs done knowingly and unknowingly by the Church”. She recalls entering her first business session of the 1994 Assembly still not knowing whether the consensus model, designed by a task group, would be accepted. She had to prepare to chair the meeting under the new system or the previous model. 16

Fortunately, consensus was adopted by the first business session and Dr Tabart was able to begin its implementation, which she classes as one of the high points of her presidency. “I was passionate about it,” she said. “It is based on Christian principles; it was wonderful and made sense.” Two decades later, Dr Tabart believes that the consensus model is not being used to its best effect across the entire church. “There needs to be more equipping of people coming into leadership. At Assembly level, I believe it is used effectively, but Synods tend to vary and it is more of a challenge for presbyteries and congregations. This is probably partly due to the rapid turnover of people in leadership positions.’’ The Covenanting Statement is recognised throughout the Church as one of its most important – and perhaps fundamental – achievements. It came 14 years before the Australian government said “Sorry” and at a time when no other Church in the nation had openly acknowledged the failings in its relationship with Indigenous people. To this day, reconciliation between First and Second Peoples remains a subject very few churches have adequately addressed. Dr Tabart’s experience working with respected Tasmanian Aboriginal elder Auntie Ida West meant she was well placed to lead the Church’s efforts. She acknowledges that the UCA’s achievement in seeking a fair and just reconciliation between First and Second Peoples probably went a little unnoticed by church members.

“Jill has lived out the gospel in every aspect of her life, including her work as a medical practitioner” - Deidre Palmer

While she is pleased with the way the Church engages with First and Second Peoples in the youth sphere, Dr Tabart believes lessons need to be learnt as engagement moves forward. The current president-elect of the Uniting Church and former South Australian moderator Dr Deidre Palmer will become the first woman to serve in the role since Dr Tabart. She said she admired all Dr Tabart had contributed to the Uniting Church. Dr Palmer said she plans to call on Dr Tabart as her installation at the Assembly gathering in Melbourne next year approaches, just as she had sought her counsel around the process of consensus decision making prior to stepping into the moderator’s role. She said Dr Tabart’s election to the presidency was a defining event in her own spiritual journey. “I had worked with the Methodist Conference and the Synod and had been very much shaped by the Uniting Church’s

affirmation of women’s leadership,” Dr Palmer said. “Jill’s election was a continuation of that ongoing trajectory for women in the Church.” She said Dr Tabart was not only inspiring as a woman but also as a person living out her Christian vocation. “Jill has lived out the Gospel in every aspect of her life, including her work as a medical practitioner,’’ she said. In a profile for the Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Australia, Nikki Henningham said Dr Tabart was a role model to Christian women seeking leadership roles at a time when feminist church women were making great gains. “She regards her opportunities to lead in the Uniting Church as ‘a special privilege’ especially because she believes her own calling ‘was never to ordination but to medicine’,” Henningham wrote. “But she was obviously called to be a leader in the church and she is proud to have had the chance. ‘If it has benefited others’, she says, ‘then I am glad’.’’ CROSSLIGHT - MARCH 17

Vision and Mission A helping hand

The story of Alan Stafford and the Uniting Church Emergency Fencing Team came to my attention via a copy of an article in the Benalla Ensign last month. It included news that Alan, a long-time member of Benalla Uniting Church, had just received an Order of Australia Medal in the recent Australia Day Honours list “for service to the community of Benalla, and to bushfire recovery projects”. I had so many questions for Alan. I sensed in the story so many of the hopes of the Vision and Mission Principles of the Synod, so I headed up the Hume Highway to Benalla to meet him on his farm about 10 kilometres out of town. I asked him how, following the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, the fencing idea started. “After church, a few of us were having a chat in the carpark,” Alan said. “In this simple way, some ex-farmers began a passionate idea to help. They knew a few things, and one of those things was how to build fences.” Slowly but surely, the idea became reality. Over the ensuing years Alan led an increasingly wellequipped team of volunteers throughout central Victoria

from Wandong to Buxton, from Boho to Corryong. Alan would be the first to say the fencing team started with just normal folk responding to a need. In this humble beginning was a true sense of being driven by compassion. These farmers knew what it meant to suffer loss from bushfires. Together, they simply responded to the need in their context. The plan was simply farmers reaching out to farmers. From the beginning, Alan constantly formed partnerships with others – both within the church and the wider community. The initial small group solicited help from the presbytery that, as it turned out, had a Share grant to help in bushfire recovery. Further relationships formed with Uniting Church Chaplaincy responses through Rev David Howie and others. Word got around to other neighbouring congregations. Relationships were formed beyond the church with groups such as Blaze Aid operating out of the Kilmore region, where lessons were learnt in organisation and resourcing. Links developed with disaster response agencies, Landcare groups and community groups like Rotary. As things progressed and the work developed, somewhat unexpected surprises and challenges emerged that were profound. Mending fences, mending lives The work involved volunteers sharing time with farming families who were doing it tough. As we spoke, Alan became emotional as he tried to help me understand the significance of conversations that happened over morning teas. Sometimes it would take days before hurting and confused landowners could tentatively share their tough feelings. Time and again a ministry of presence had a healing effect. A heart of compassion is a powerful healing force.

Alan Stafford

Community building Kindness begets kindness and builds bridges. The presence of the team would often bring neighbours together – neighbours who previously did not really know each other. The impact of the fires, soothed by the compassionate presence of the team, brought people out of their private worlds to necessarily depend upon one another. Farmers who were isolated in their post-fire grief were linked in friendship and support with others. As a result, communities were renewed and hope found good soil from which to spout new life. Determination in the struggles Alan was quick to say that it had not always been a smooth road. From a church perspective, the initiative was challenging ‘the system’. The church had not done this sort of thing before. Who was responsible? How to manage donations and money? What about risks and safety issues? On a more personal level, the volunteers weren’t trained to cope with grieving and frustrated farmers. And the area of need was expanding across presbytery boundaries. Alan was determined: don’t lose focus, keep things simple, organise well, resource well, make decisions promptly, follow through on your word. His resolute motto was: “Do it right and do it well”. As a result, from time to time, Alan was not the most popular man in some people’s eyes. Starting something new always seems to tread on someone’s toes. Standing up for justice Alan and the team learned from affected landowners about the added concerns of exploitation and bureaucratic processes. Alan suspects that some tradespeople and service providers did not always treat those needing help well. And, in some instances, their ethics were indeed questionable. A Alan is a big man (I’m six foot and he ttowers over me) and he knows how to sstand up for himself. There was many a time tim when he stood up for the people ti he was helping. From his stories, Alan suggests with a smile that: “the threat of media involvement often resulted in a more helpful response”.


Humility in service Alan is quick to say how much all this has meant to him. He is deeply humbled by the experience and insists he has received so much more than he has given. He has made many new friends and it has made a difference to his own outlook on life. Yet Alan also knows that he has brought his own particular contribution to the project. He has offered his gifts – farming skills, a tough determination, contacts from his working life, experience in community involvement, and (as he demonstrated to me personally) “a weird sense of humour”. Benalla Uniting Church has embraced this wonderful outreach. It is now their mission too. It reaches out beyond their immediate local town context. They are ready to touch more lives when the next inevitable bushfire comes. For me this story is powerful because it presents a lived example of the Synod’s Vision and Mission Principles. In this story we can see ordinary people (Alan is quick to agree on that) participating in the extraordinary mission of God’s love for the world. When I asked Alan about the faith aspect, he preferred to simply point upwards as he struggled for the right words. To quote Alan: “I believe … there has been a greater power involved in what we’ve been doing”. … following Christ from the church carpark to a burnt-out farm. … seeking the wonder of community, the power of compassion and the tough stand for justice. … pursuing God’s mission with so many surprising partners. Now that’s a story! David Withers Strategic Framework Minister

I’m sure there are many more stories – even if different types of stories – unfolding in your part of the world. Please contact me at: to share your story.


Letters Unclear reflection

Dorothy McNeill Williamstown, VIC

(Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima), but a later development of a completely different ‘walk-away-safe’ technology. By the way, the US had one of these running back in the 1960s before closing it for political reasons. And what was the reason? You can’t make bombs with this technology! (And nuclear waste can be recycled and used with only a very small quantity of low-level waste remaining.) Perhaps your readers might like to check things out for themselves. Here is technology that can solve many problems for which the Church is most concerned, especially for the poor in the developing world. I’ve sorted out some information that may be checked via this interactive PDF media/ShouldYouReallyBeAlarmed.pdf. Once you wrap your mind around this you might reach the conclusion that I have: God is a lot, lot smarter than we mere mortals think!

God’s power

Michael Spencer, Burwood, VIC

THERE are times when I hesitate to take Crosslight home because I cannot understand a lot of what is written. The sentences are often so long that I have to go back to the beginning to try and get the gist of its meaning. What has finally caused me to write is in the November issue’s ‘Pilgrim Reflection.’ The article starts “Is there any theology that does not have a context? Is there any theology which can avoid a hermeneutic of suspicion? Clearly the answer is ‘no’.” If a person does not know what ‘hermeneutics’ and ‘contextual theology’ (used 11 times) means, the whole ‘Reflection’ is meaningless. Please use simple language or is Crosslight only for theologians?

I WOULD like to respond to the letter entitled ‘God’s coal’ by Colin Kent (February Crosslight). Mr Kent expresses the fear that, without reliance on brown coal from the Latrobe Valley, industry will fail because power supply from wind and solar is not constant. Mr Kent fails to recognise that continuing reliance on fossil-fuelled power supply has not and will not save our industry. Alternatively, renewable energy technologies are a growth industry. There is no proposal to shut down coalfired power immediately, but we do need an orderly transition to benign 21st century technologies if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. The issue of intermittent supply of power is simply a technical challenge that is being addressed with the capability of our Godgiven creativity and intelligence. Soon, technical advances will allow for storage and delivery of reliable baseload power derived from renewable resources. In the past, we thought that asbestos and tobacco were beneficial, but now we understand that these commodities, like coal, are not good for us or our planet. God has also given us intelligence and discretion to choose alternatives that are not destructive. Julie Rosewarne Foster Ellinbank, VIC I READ the letter from Colin Kent, Latrobe Valley (Crosslight, February) and his concerns about the possible demise of the brown coal power generation. I thought I should alert both Mr Kent and Crosslight to some new material now commenced production which can, among its attributes, capture so-called ‘greenhouse’ gases (about which so many people are concerned) and thereby reduce the ‘carbon [sic] emissions’ from the thermal power stations to zero. Unlike expensive and futile ‘carbon capture and storage’, the use of this material as a filter in exhaust flues will produce something useful: a natural fertiliser. And then there is the real solution to producing clean, cheap, reliable and safe electricity: modern nuclear fission. No – not uranium-fuelled light water reactors being used in present old nuclear power stations, with the accident risks 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. 18

Inequity in education I AGREE with Bryan Long that it is shocking that Australia has the most inequitable education system in the developed world (Crosslight, November 2016). Like Bryan, I believe that the Gonski reforms held out the best opportunity in decades to address many of these inequities and I share his disappointment that these reforms were not well supported by Australian churches and religious schools. The Uniting Church in Australia has had a strong record of speaking up for those who are the most vulnerable and marginalised in our society. At present over 730,000 Australian children live in poverty. Many go to school hungry each day. The vast majority of these disadvantaged, atrisk children and young people attend poorly funded and under resourced government schools in low socio economic suburbs and regions around our nation. Education is one of the most important ways of helping people living in poverty build lives that enable them to have all their needs met. It is therefore essential that government schools receive all the staff and resources they need so that they can properly provide their students with the opportunity to earn incomes well above the poverty line and participate fully in the workforce and the economy. It would be wonderful if the UCA and all schools and colleges that are based on a Christian ethos prioritised and spoke up for the educational needs of the poorest students in our society. Rev Robert Van Zetten Highton VIC

Call for memories IT gives me pleasure to announce the research and writing of the history of Prahran Mission, 1946 to 2016. The publication will appear in 2017 in a book format, with a launch date to be announced in due course. We respectfully request information from those with former ties to Prahran Mission, particularly prior to 1990. This could include photographs, publications, letters, flyers, reports

or, perhaps most valuably, personal recollections. We make this appeal to former staff, volunteers, donors, clients and members of congregations who forged links with the Mission. As readers may be aware, Prahran Mission was part of the old Prahran Methodist circuit and the wider Methodist community was a staunch supporter of its activities. This continued under the banner of the Uniting Church. Prahran Mission’s work – childcare, material aid, low-cost dining, Meals On Wheels, mental health, aged care, youth programs and others – has been a feature of inner-city Melbourne over many decades. This is especially around Prahran, Windsor and South Yarra, but more latterly as far afield as Mount Waverley and Cranbourne. It is a rich history, stretching back to humble post-war beginnings through to the present, ever-changing welfare landscape. The book will cover the organisation’s development, its people, programs, leadership, church ties, challenges and achievements. Any material / memories will be gratefully received at E: or P: (03) 9692 9500 Elliot Cartledge Prahran Mission, VIC I AM writing the history of the football clubs that used to play in Auburn, Melbourne such as the Hawthorn Amateurs/Districts/Citizens and Auburn FC. I am also including a short history of the South Hawthorn Presbyterian FC, AKA South Hawthorn United. This club was formed by South Hawthorn Presbyterian Church on Tooronga Rd. Any memories of this club or even of the church to provide context, would be appreciated. Please contact James Nicolas on 0407511057 or James Nicolas via email

Pension pain IN refuting my claim (December Crosslight) that the savage cuts to the pensions “will destroy the retirement plans of hundreds of thousands of the present and future retirees”, David Stannard (February) asserted “ in fact the 10 per cent of pensioners affected can end up living on a similar dollar amount as they were before.” David’s statement that affected pensioners “can supplement their pension reduction from their investments” and “once these pensioners have used their investments down to the applicable level, they can then qualify again for the full pension” glosses over the long-term effects of the savage change to the assets test. Until 31 December, a single home-owner pensioner with total assets of $542,500 (comprising personal assets of $55,092 and investments of $487,408) was receiving a pension of $9,798 per annum and interest from a government guaranteed bank Retirement Account of $10,337, providing a total income of $20,135 pa. On 1 January the pension was cancelled leaving the pensioner with only the $10,337 interest as income. A full pension is payable when the total assets are reduced to $209,000 (including investments of $153,908) so, by spending $333,500 this pensioner then qualifies for the $22,804 per annum full pension. The bank interest on the $153,908 is just $2834 (Centrelink deems it to be earning $4264)

so the pensioner then has a total income of $25,638 pa. – $5513 pa more income but without the security of the $333,500 nestegg. The same increase in the pension is obtainable immediately by spending the $333,500 on home improvements, holidays and gambling, but not by making large gifts to support charities, churches, family members or friends. The change has destroyed the long-held belief of saving for a rainy day and will do nothing to sustain our welfare system into the future. Robert W Parry FCA Yarrambat VIC

Rose-coloured editorial I HAVE been concerned for some time at an apparent reluctance of Crosslight to take a clear position on what may be perceived by some as ‘sensitive’ or ‘controversial’ matters and believe that many among your readership would appreciate you being more forthcoming. This concern was somewhat vindicated by the statement in your editorial to the November edition that “Crosslight seeks not to denigrate other denominations or faiths”. Such a policy sounds very gracious and commendably tolerant but in my opinion is in danger of drifting into one of ‘all gods are equal’ (Mammon?), ‘being nice to everyone’ and of viewing the world through rosecoloured glasses. I believe a good number of your readers would appreciate a sharper, more incisive reporting of existing /potential problems threatening the good order of our communities. However defined, if a religion, denomination, ideology or government policy is seen as a detriment to our society, let’s hear about it – call a spade a spade and avoid the stifling /limiting of alternative views. While recognising that care regarding what is put into print must be exercised, I believe there must be room for your journal to take, promulgate and defend positions – particularly in regard to aforesaid other religions and government policies, as you have done in the past in relation to such identified problems as those caused by the people trafficking etc. Issues currently crying out for some stronger treatment by an independent journal such as yours I believe to be samesex marriage, safe schools (particularly that human sexuality is a matter of personal choice rather than our biological cell structure), changing of gender on birth certificates, abortion and euthanasia. A summary of questions likely to arise in personal discussions with neighbours / friends /family on SSM as drafted by the Anglican Diocese of Sydney recently would be helpful to many of your readers. I was heartened to read the centrespread article in December Crosslight reporting on the AGM of the Assembly of Confessing Congregations. The fact that the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart and the Anglican Bishop of Tasmania were invited visitors at the conference as well as our own President was pleasing and testament to the ecumenicity and credibility of that group. I look forward to reading of outcomes arising from your closer examination of these and other vexed issues as foreshadowed in your November editorial. Dennis Litchfield Mount Waverley, VIC. CROSSLIGHT - MARCH 17

People Art with heart ART lovers, architecture enthusiasts and aspiring artists will all find inspiration at this year’s Uniting AgeWell Strathdon Community Art Exhibition. Celebrating its 14th year, the Forest Hill exhibition contributes to Melbourne’s love affair with arts and culture. The exhibition features multi-award winning artist Jo Reitze as guest judge and internationally renowned artists Pamela Irving – whose works feature in some of Melbourne’s most iconic public spaces – and It Hao Pheh as guest artists. Organisers say it will inspire and challenge our view of the world. As well as exhibiting his work, It Hao Pheh will share some of his vast knowledge of art during a free demonstration on the afternoon of Saturday, 25 March. It Hao is recognised for his ability to produce a vivid representation of the world with architecturally-inspired, water coloured artworks. He said the beauty of

art is its ability to tell a story and evolve over time. “A lot of my earlier work captures the political and socio-economic times we live in,” he said. “However, since converting to Christianity, I now draw my inspiration from God’s creations. “I believe we are all given specific skills and talents and it is our responsibility to use them and share them with the world.” This year’s exhibition will also feature a young artist category, open to artists between the ages of 17 and 21. The exhibition will kick off with an Opening Night Cocktail Party on Thursday, 23 March. All artworks are available for purchase with net profit going towards the Strathdon Community’s seniors’ lifestyle program. For more information visit

Candidates’ Tasmanian retreat CANDIDATES at Pilgrim Theological College and faculty staff spent five days in Tasmania last month experiencing ministry and the life of the Church in the island state. It was the first field trip of its kind arranged with a presbytery. Head of College Rev Dr Jenny Byrnes said it was a golden opportunity for candidates to imagine themselves in a ministry setting outside of metropolitan Melbourne, where many of the congregational field placements typically occur. The candidates were guests at Tasmanian churches and also attended the 18 February Presbytery of Tasmania meeting at Kingston. Candidates were billeted with church families on the Saturday night before being involved in Sunday worship services. Local ministers also travelled with the group in Tasmania and acted as mentors. Dr Byrnes said the Tasmanian trip had offered real benefits for both the candidates and the church in Tasmania.

“I would hope that it has proven enjoyable and informative for church members to see who their candidates are and to be involved in their education,” she said. Synod liaison minister Carol Bennett said the immersion was an ideal opportunity to provide students with an insight into ministry outside of metropolitan Melbourne. “We certainly hope it has helped open the students’ minds to perhaps considering placements in Tasmania and other rural areas following the completion of their studies,” Ms Bennett said. She praised Dr Byrnes for driving the initiative. Candidates also visited the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress’s (UAICC) Leprena facility, in the state’s south, where they were shown the community building work being undertaken. It is a formal requirement that candidates develop an understanding and engage with the Church’s commitment to the Covenant and the preamble to the Church’s constitution. Last year candidates had a three-day engagement at the UAICC’s Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre, near Geelong.

Students and staff undertake some cultural learning with members of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community

Sprent Miles ahead in lay preaching WHEN it comes to lay preachers, Sprent Shalom Uniting Church is Miles ahead of all others. After all, three generations of the Miles family have preached from the pulpit of the North-West Tasmania rural church since the end of World War II. For the last 50 years, Keeton Miles has stood where his father, Gordon, previously led worship. Keeton’s daughter, Bronwyn, is also a regular lay preacher. The family’s lay preaching goes back a further generation with Keeton’s grandfather, George, operating on the Mole Creek Methodist circuit for more than half a century. But it is not only as preachers that the family is well known within the region. Keeton’s wife, Beth, is a church organist, a role which was ‘passed down’ from her grandmother, Mildred Scott, to her mother, Sheila Haberle, and through Beth to Bronwyn as well. Keeton remembers the town of Ulverstone having 13 local churches and congregations when he first arrived with his parents and family in 1946. Now, just two churches remain. He still preaches about seven times a quarter and enjoys it. “One needs to be enthusiastic and enjoy working for the Lord,” he said. However, Keeton admitted that even

Rev Grahame Abrahams (left) presents Keeton Miles with his service certificate

after so many years the ‘busyness’ of life sometimes made preparation for Sunday mornings a little difficult. “There are some weeks it is a bit harder than others because of work commitments and sometimes I will be sitting down at 6pm or 7pm on a Saturday night preparing, although I have thought about the message during the week. “I always read the lectionary and it is very rare that after a couple of readings the message doesn’t come.” Keeton was one of three lay preachers to be recognised by the Presbytery of Tasmania for achieving significant milestones last year. Ivan Badcock also reached his 50th year and Bob Humphries 40 years.

Taking a stand at Midsumma Festival Uniting AgeWell was a colourful presence at this year’s Midsumma Festival, one of Australia’s biggest LGBTI events. A stand decorated with rainbow doves and balloons promoted UnitingAgeWell’s inclusive aged care services at the Midsumma opening picnic and carnival. The event attracted more than 100,000 people to the lawns of Alexandra Gardens in Melbourne. Chair of Uniting AgeWell’s LGBTI Working Group, Vicky Jacques, said the Midsumma Festival was a fantastic opportunity for the agency to show that it is a diverse and LGBTI-friendly organisation. “It was a great day with many people visiting our stand and learning about our services,” Vicky said. “It highlighted our LGBTI-friendly and inclusive practices and approach to staff and clients.”

Visitors to the Uniting AgeWell stand learnt about the broad range of services provided by the organisation, and the recognition those services had received from the LGBTI community with a Dorothies Award last year. Hundreds of people completed a survey about Uniting AgeWell and aged care, which Ms Jacques said would provide valuable insights for the organisation to better cater for LGBTI clients. Ms Jacques said connecting with the broader LGBTI community through the Midsumma Festival would bring benefits for the agency’s employees and the wider community by building awareness and fostering inclusion. “Uniting AgeWell continues to work towards gaining Rainbow Tick accreditation for providing safe and inclusive services for people in the LGBTI community,” she said. “We look forward to retuning to the Midsumma opening event next year, with an even bigger stand.”

(L-R) Uniting AgeWell’s Lee Martin, Carol Fountain, Rev Judy Angwin and Sue Wood





THIS book has two sections. The first explores what the Bible says about slavery and how that can inform a Christian response to modern-day trafficking of people. The second focuses on trafficking of people, mainly women and children, for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Marion Carson notes that, while “no priest or minister is standing in the pulpit and giving biblical justifications for slavery”, throughout biblical literature slavery is accepted as the norm – nowhere is there a direct prohibition against it. Reviewing slavery in the New Testament, Carson concludes that Jesus came to redeem the world and set the captives free. He taught that the values of God’s kingdom are the opposite of power, wealth and status. Thus Christians should stand against modern slavery and human trafficking. Carson provides a fascinating history of the emergence of opposition to slavery in the late 1600s among Quakers in the Englishspeaking world. This spread to other Christian denominations in the 1700s in Britain and the US. However, here she reveals the Anglocentric nature of her biblical analysis, with only passing mention of the successful anti-slavery movement in Catholic France in the late 1700s. She does briefly consider the theological understanding of African slaves themselves. One chapter reviews social and church attitudes to prostitution/sex work over time, including the debate among feminists over whether prostitution is a legitimate career choice or another form of exploitation of women. Carson is concerned that moralistic Christians do not add to the stigmatisation of women trafficked into sex work as such a response contributes to their exploitation. The book does not provide much actual information about modern human trafficking, or explore different forms of human trafficking around the world. The lived experience of those trafficked is discussed at an abstract level. This book is for a reader interested in a thorough exploration of how the Biblical text is relevant to issues of modern slavery, including sex trafficking.

Talking about sex

Call for unity




HOMOSEXUALITY commonly draws out strident views. Oppositional positions seem to be the norm; dialogue is often elusive. The editor notes this is not a ‘Christian’ versus ‘non-Christian’ debate: it is a discussion within the church. Seeking to encourage deep engagement, evangelical publisher Zondervan asked two scholars to present an ‘affirming’ case for marriage equality and two a ‘traditional’ view. Elsewhere, the editor says, the “question of homosexuality defies simple answers … I refuse to give thin answers to thick questions …” These scholars do the same. Two of the authors were new to me. Knowing little about intersexuality, the contribution of theologian Megan DeFranza’s work in this area intrigued me. On the opposing side, Baptist Stephen R Holmes sees no room for same-sex marriage and, with US evangelical Wesley Hill (a self-identifying gay man), perceives celibacy as the only same-sex Christian option. The book is detailed, careful, and carefilled. The authors know their arguments affect real people. Each brings valuable perspectives and engages respectfully and thoroughly with others’ views. Bill Loader’s contribution is built on years of research and many publications about ancient views on sexuality, particularly in the New Testament. Whatever position readers bring, I believe this book is worth the trouble and it challenged me a lot. It needs to be read as a whole, so that all of the discussion enriches one’s response. Rev Dr Ian Tozer is the deputy general secretary of the Uniting Church WA Available at: RRP $16.99



PETER LEITHART’S book The End of Protestantism is not a lament for the decline of Western Christianity or a pessimistic prediction, but Leithart’s hope for the dismantling of denominationalism and the unification of the global Christian church. It is, as he admits, a rather utopian hope. In fact, the history of the past 500 years suggests that denominations aren’t going to disappear any time soon, any more than narcissistic American celebrities are about to disappear from our television screens. He rightly states that division has lessened the church’s ability, especially in the US, to confront American injustice and military adventuring. In his effort to describe what a unified church will look like, he says that we must all learn from each other, from the expression of ideas that might be different from our own. But then he falls back into what members of denominations often do, and what sects do in extreme – tell people what they must believe to be ‘in’. He has his own particular ideas about what defines Christianity. According to the author, the meaning of the presence in the Lord’s Supper is negotiable, but sexual ethics are not. Even though Leithart calls the church to be more prophetic, apparently the more liberal churches have been wasting their time on environmental concerns. He thinks, alarmingly, we should all wear white robes in church (think of the dry cleaning bills!). The trouble is, as he states early in the book, it is hard for Christians to even agree on fundamentals when doctrine and morality is a focus instead of simply Christlike service to others. In a global, unified church, who decides? Leithart’s call for unity is worthy, and food-for-thought, endorsed by no less a theologian than Stanley Hauerwas, but it highlights the conflict inside an organisation propelled by the Spirit but populated by flawed human beings who constantly find ways to disagree with each other.

LOOSELY based on James Bowen’s 2012 autobiography, A Street Cat Named Bob, this movie is about the relationship between a homeless man and a cat. Bowen (brilliantly played by Luke Treadaway) is a recovering heroin addict who moves into assisted accommodation. There he is befriended by a ginger street cat, whom he names Bob (Bob plays himself – he really is an amazing cat). Bob, an angel with four legs and fur, is the reason James busks and, later, sells The Big Issue because James now has someone to look after. This is also the reason that he finally gets ‘clean’, going through the hell of detoxing. A number of reviews have called the film ‘feel-good’ ‘sentimental’ or ‘heartwarming’. There were elements of this, but the issues it covers are gritty and graphic. I think it warrants an ‘M’ rating rather than its PG status, and would warn against taking children to see it. While you can focus purely on the inspiring individual story of how Bob effectively rescues James, the wider ramifications of what you see in the film are disturbing. James is living in sheltered accommodation when Bob arrives. While there is violence on the streets during the day, he has a safe haven at night, unlike the majority of the homeless and their animal companions. James is a gentle character; he doesn’t mistreat Bob, or ‘use’ Bob purely to bring in more money. Bob also gets to stay in the flat when James senses his reluctance to go outside and thus the cat gets some respite from street life. Sadly many animals are not so lucky. Pets of the Homeless is doing a great job of helping look after the animals on Melbourne streets, so support them if you can. Also when you next encounter a homeless person or someone selling The Big Issue, smile, or acknowledge their presence, whether they have a pet or not.

Nick Mattiske writes on books at

Rev Barbara Allen is a spirituality and creation project worker with the synod In cinemas now

Available from Brazos Press: RRP: $21.99

Available from RRP: $17.90




Leading the way REVIEW BY MARGARET REESON BOOK | OUR PRINCIPLE OF SEX EQUALITY: THE ORDINATION OF WOMEN IN THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH IN AUSTRALIA 1927-1977 | JULIA PITMAN FORTY years after the inauguration of Uniting Church in Australia, it feels natural in 2017 that women are moderators in four UCA synods and a woman is presidentelect. But those of us who have lived long enough to witness many of the changes in placing women in leadership know that this has never been inevitable. Julia Pitman’s book tells our story and much more. Don’t be put off by the weighty title. This is the story of Christian women who have

worked for change and have reshaped the nature of what would become the Uniting Church of today. The book’s framework is the role of the Congregational Church in opening up the acceptance of the ordination of women in Australia. It explores the reasons why Congregationalism, as the smallest of the three denominations that formed the UCA, was able to achieve what many other denominations have found impossible or unacceptable. A useful chapter outlines the Australian context for Congregationalism. Although there were precedents in England and the United States, the ordination of the very gifted Winifred Kiek in June 1927 was the first clerical appointment of a woman in Australia of any denomination. Decades before the ordination of Kiek, women were active in their Congregational Church. An interesting chapter explores their prophetic role. Despite being excluded from the formal decision-making bodies of their church, lay women served in and supported mission at home and overseas. They spoke out through bodies such as Women’s Christian Temperance Union on issues such as suffrage, maternal and child health, gender equality and international peace. As with their Methodist and Presbyterian sisters, their busy organisations ran parallel to the male preserve of church councils but their wisdom was not always heard more widely. Pitman also raises questions about times when women’s influence was not always

beneficial, such as the separation of Aboriginal children from their mothers. The story is always more complex than at first glance. The chapter covering the decades of debate about the ordination of women makes thought-provoking reading. The views for and against, the experience of other denominations and other churches globally; the voices of gifted lay women with a strong sense of call to ministry and those who opposed it; this is often a painful story. Even in the Congregational Church, only 15 women were ordained over the 50 years prior to the inauguration of the Uniting Church in Australia in 1977. Women with high academic achievements and those with long experience as missionaries often struggled for acceptance because few congregations were ready to receive an ordained woman as their minister. The frustrating experiences of those who attempted to walk this path are outlined. The question is asked: was this a matter of justice or of theology? Julia Pitman concludes ‘In the eyes of the Uniting Church, the ordination of women becomes a test case of the wholeness of the Gospel for the church catholic’. It is helpful to be reminded, among other things, that the issue of the status of women had the potential to derail the movement toward church union, both in the 1930s and the 1970s. Congregational women and their leadership feared that their opportunities for full participation could be curtailed if the prevailing Methodist and Presbyterian patterns continued into

Knocking religion with gusto MUSICAL | THE BOOK OF MORMON | PRINCESS THEATRE


Margaret Reeson is a former moderator of the Synod of NSW and ACT. Available at: RRP $39.95

With emphasis on the rude. Similarly, The Book of Mormon’s choreography, production and sound design are mesmerising, at once lampooning more straight-laced musical theatre fare and simultaneously exalting in its traditions. Without ruining The Book of Mormon’s many narrative and musical surprises, rest assured you’ll bear witness to:


RELIGIOUS satire has existed for millennia, pre-dating Christianity itself. From the work of Greek playwright Aristophanes – circa 400BC – through to last year’s ribald Seth Rogen animated comedy Sausage Party, the tradition of art questioning belief is fundamental to humanity’s ongoing spiritual evolution. In his 2003 book A Serrated Edge: A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire, theologian Douglas Wilson reminds us that “satire is a kind of preaching … Satire treats the foibles of sinners with a less than perfect tenderness”. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, of South Park notoriety, have ribbed religion since their early animated short, 1992’s Jesus versus Frosty. The duo could certainly be accused of “less than perfect tenderness” when it comes to their wide-ranging satirical targets. No cow is too sacred for these equal opportunity provocateurs – race, sexuality, popular culture and religion are all fair game, with everyone from bleeding hearts to conservative hard-liners squarely in their sights. The Book of Mormon – developed by Parker and Stone with Grammy-winning Avenue Q songwriter Robert Lopez – debuted

a uniting church. Vigorous advocacy and practical steps for affirmative action were needed to make real change possible. The story of growth and decline of a range of organisations led by women over the decades makes interesting reading. The women’s liberation movement influenced, empowered or irritated women. Younger women were less likely to be attracted to traditional women’s groups. Denominational and ecumenical groups provided platforms for change in church and society. Congregational women who had developed skills in leadership and advocacy through these groups in the 1960s and ’70s were prominent in the new Uniting Church at a time when doubters feared that women would lack experience to contribute to key decision-making church bodies. Integrated bodies rather than parallel organisations were the goal. At the end of this book is a series of brief biographies of the 15 Congregational women ordained prior to Church Union in 1977. Readers are introduced to a very diverse and ‘human’ group of women. Academically gifted or less so, with support of their families or strong opposition by them, influenced by feminist thinking or disturbed by it; there was no single generic ‘woman minister’ then or now.

Digital illustration by Garth Jones

on Broadway in 2011 to astonishing and ongoing success. With the story of two trainee Mormon missionaries – ambitious, benignly ruthless Elder Price (Canadian Ryan Bondy channelling Trump offspring Eric) and dorky, lonely Elder Cunningham (Broadway production transplant AJ Holmes) – The Book of Mormon continues the South Park creators’ career-long obsession with profane parody, the overblown tropes of musical theatre and ever-present scatological provocation. The Book of Mormon follows Elders Price and Cunningham’s unexpected two-year deployment to Uganda. Confronted with Third World realities – AIDS, ruthless warlords, female genital mutilation, extreme poverty – the duo of innocent Latter-Day Saints discover these issues are

not easily resolved with homilies or rituals. Drawing upon the extravagant staging, religious motifs and rock opera excesses of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat (1968) and Jesus Christ Superstar (1971), The Book of Mormon also expands upon themes explored in Monty Python’s notoriously banned movie Life of Brian (1978). Melbourne’s Princess Theatre plays host to the debut Southern Hemisphere staging of The Book of Mormon. Showcasing an ensemble equal parts local and international, those familiar with the Broadway cast recording will be pleased to hear that all of the show’s rousing anthems, pin-drop balladry, fist-pumping reprises and riff-driven rock tunes are presented in exuberantly rude health.

• Takeaway coffee cups engaged in Busby Berkeley-style dance numbers amidst crimson hellscapes • Pastel, Norman Rockwell inspired reenactments of Latter Day Saint founder Joseph Smith discovering the Golden Plates, the basis of Smith’s Book of Mormon, in New York (circa 1823) • A raunchy, Disney-inspired showstopper that will leave you gasping (with laughter or outrage). Admittedly, that’s barely scratching the surface of Parker and Stone’s latest subversive paean to the musical theatre form, another gleeful example of these naughty little boys’ scorched earth, defiantly politically incorrect stage and screen output. As Douglas Wilson reminds us, “satire pervades Scripture”. The Book of Mormon, with a wicked gleam in its eye, challenges us to open ourselves to Parker and Stone’s parodic fable and its confronting reflections on the role of mainstream religion in an increasingly troubled world. The Book of Mormon is showing now.


Pilgrim Reflection New reality of reconciliation

Language carries layers of meaning and shapes our imaginations. ‘Ash Wednesday’ in Australia calls to mind the bushfire season. We are attuned to the attendant media images of potential destruction. The force of fire, wind and heat was used by the First Peoples to cultivate the land, opening seedpods and prompting new growth. For the Aboriginal peoples, the power of fire was creative rather than destructive, generating spaces that attracted new life. In the Northern Hemisphere, Ash Wednesday falls at the end of winter leading into spring. The Old English name for spring itself was lenct, echoing the lengthening of days, giving us the name of the church’s season of Lent. The 40 days of Lent lead towards the transformation of Easter and the new life of the resurrection. These days are set aside for re-orientation – literally for turning again towards the light of the sun. It is also a season of reconciliation. ‘Reconciliation’ has become a political and cultural term, calling for a new relationship between First and Second Peoples. It is worth remembering that at its core, reconciliation is a deeply theological term. In his 2002 book Theopolitical Imagination: discovering liturgy as a political act in an age of global consumerism, William Cavanaugh shows that politics is primarily a “practice of the imagination”. He points to the commitment to ideas that is involved for ordinary citizens in the political processes of holding an election, or going to war. Cavanaugh warns that the prevailing stories supporting political realities often distort the Christian narrative. He is interested in unmasking the false mythology (the quasi-theology) of contemporary politics to free the church to engage on theological ground. This call to reclaim the Christian


theological imagination goes further than finding a voice for ‘public theology’. Rather than providing a pious commentary on the ways of the world, believers are called to enact an alternative, to become “communities of solidarity and resistance”. Language and ritual are two related elements that forge the new imagination required for these communities. The early Christian community was careful about language. In relation to the concepts of ‘public’ and ‘private’ for example, and the widely accepted dichotomy between them, Scripture shows a re-negotiation. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul uses both the language of the home and of the public place to describe believers, telling them they are both citizens (sympolitai) with the saints and simultaneously members of the household (oikeioi) of God. The early community did not describe itself in terms of a guild or association or a group with particular interests, but as the whole people. They went beyond understandings of empire or nation-state. Instead, they chose the term ekklesia meaning the assembly, the entire gathering of people. In this assembly those normally excluded from citizenship and consigned to the household (women, children, slaves) had full membership through baptism, powerfully reinforced through the life of the community, including the Eucharist. How do we, as Christians today, do the hard political work to disrupt the existing narratives of power and enable conversations in this new theologically charged language? Cavanaugh is not alone in pointing straight to the Eucharist as the ongoing resource that enables a different imagination of space and time, shifting believers towards a distinct new reality. Going further than the shared meals that constitute the bonds of family and community, the ritual of prayer that is

the Eucharist constitutes the church into the reality of the body of Christ, a mutual community of “solidarity and resistance”, in which boundaries collapse, including the boundaries of time and space. This brings us again to Lent, to the season of reconciliation. In the prayer of every Eucharist, believers are (in James Alison’s helpful phrase) ‘tilted towards’ a reality where reconciliation already exists, where there are no boundaries between earth and heaven. Eucharist draws us into what the Orthodox theologian John Zizioulas famously calls a ‘memory of the future’ where love already defines reality. Often in the unashamedly bloody iconography of European tradition, the Cross stands for ‘God’s punishment’ of human sinfulness borne by Jesus in our place. The language of ‘sacrifice’ and ‘atonement’ can seem to confirm this. The self-giving love of the Cross gets lost in popular understanding. As theologians in every generation made clear, however, the emphasis throughout should have been on radical Grace: on the forgiveness that breaks out of the cycle of revenge. This is the theological imperative that transforms human imagination and gives us a new story to tell. The reconciliation of Easter’s Resurrection is linked absolutely to our understanding of Christmas and the Incarnation. If Jesus is the Christ, truly as much God as God is, and also as fully human as we are, then the Cross and Resurrection are not God’s punishment. Rather the eyes of faith see that, in Jesus, God as God’s-self steps freely into the deepest experience of humiliation. On the Cross, God-with-us chooses to suffer the full brunt of desolation and powerlessness without divine magic. This is not to model the value of suffering as an end in itself, but to “change the game”. Freely suffering the

worst that humanity can inflict, Jesus broke the cycle of retribution and defined a new reality. Outside physical time, participation in the cosmic narrative of the Eucharist binds believers to that alternative way of being. In this reality, injustice cannot be ignored, precisely because the hope for transformation is secure and guaranteed in the forgiveness of the crucified and risen Christ. This perspective informed Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s campaign against apartheid in South Africa as well as his work as chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1995-1998). “If our worship is authentic and relevant,” he challenges in a 1985 article, “it prepares us for combat with the forces of evil, the principalities and powers. It prepares us to be involved where God’s children are hurt, where they spend most of their lives ... Jesus refused to remain on the mountain top of the transfiguration. He came down into the valley of human need and misunderstanding.” As the lectionary readings take us from the mountain top to the valley of Jesus’ ministry and on to the Cross and Resurrection, we are learning a language of sacrament where all threats are nothing, and love defines no boundaries.

Dr Katharine Massam Co-ordinator of Studies – Church History Pilgrim Theological College CROSSLIGHT - MARCH 17

Opinion Space for grace in sexuality debate WILLIAM LOADER

IN November last year I was invited by the Evangelical Theological Association to present a paper at their annual conference in San Antonio on same-sex relations. I was one of a team of four, brought together by Zondervan Publishing House to write a book, which has since been published: Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church. I was on the LGBTI affirming side with Megan deFranza, a theologian, who has written extensively on intersex people. On the other side were Wesley Hill, another New Testament scholar, and Stephen Holmes, a theologian. We had met the year before and made a great team. We shared mutual respect and affection, which shows in our book and showed at the conference. The trend in conservative circles in recent years has been to argue that Paul is only concerned with people’s actions, not their orientation. So it is OK to be gay, as long as one does not act it out. Wesley Hill makes the point that this is a change from earlier positions, which saw being gay as either a state of sin or as having a pathology and therefore needing some kind of reversion therapy to bring oneself back to normal. He knew from personal experience why this fails and causes so much unnecessary suffering. In recent years more people have come out in the open about their sexual orientation. Many prominent leaders in church and society are gay and are highly respected members of the community. This has made coming to terms with what Scripture says so important. My research on attitudes towards sexuality in the world of the New Testament and early Judaism reaches more conservative conclusions. Samesex relations was one of the areas where Jews differentiated themselves from the world around them. The creation stories in Genesis affirmed that God made people male and female, not anything else, and the laws of Leviticus forbad lying with a man as you do with a woman. Read within this context it is highly unlikely that Paul objected only to the act in the few verses in which he, too, depicts same sex relations as a sign of the pagan world’s depravity. In fact, he begins and ends his comments by focusing on the mind, clearly understanding not just the act but also the orientation as a sign of sin. So my historical interpretation fits more with the conservative position which Wesley and others want to abandon. My plea has been that we take the Scripture seriously and not try to explain it away. There have been many other attempts to do so from left and right. Is Paul talking only about pederasty? No, because he refers to mutual desire. Is he concerned only with excessive passion? No, but also with its direction. Is he only referring to such behaviour in religious

cults? No, because his argument is psychological, applicable to all. Does Paul see being gay a result of Adam and Eve’s sin, a disability to be lived with? No, for he traces it to people’s perverted understanding of God, that perversion leading to theirs. It is better to hear what Paul said and how he was likely to have meant it. Only when we do so can we then deal with the question: what do we do? For some the answer is clear: same-sex orientation is a sinful or pathological state and such people should be supported with forgiveness and therapy. The problem is that for too many people Paul’s analysis does not fit. Are we being unfair to expect Paul to have been aware

of all the possible variations of this phenomenon? Certainly most of what he and his fellow Jews knew about was what went on in wild parties. The Leviticus prohibitions are also clearly targeting perverse behaviour, which they place alongside having sex with animals. What if there really are genuinely gay people? Gospel values mean we need to address each new situation not with rigid laws but with firm principles that include flexibility to adapt. Adaptation to new understandings mean we now have a different understanding from the biblical writers on many things, including the age of the universe, the origin of humankind, animals and plants, and much more. More importantly we have had to apply biblical values to new and changed situations and reset priorities. This has belonged to the DNA of Christian faith from the beginning. Jesus gave priority to some commandments above others and faced criticism because of it. More radically, the early church came to the conclusion that it would not insist on following the biblical commandment that all non Jews joining God’s people should be circumcised. That evoked division within the church. We have had similar situations in handling the ordination of women, the liberation of slaves, and matters such as divorce. The solution is not to conform to the latest trends but to engage the options critically in the light of the central tenets of the Gospel. If there really are gay people and they are not all of the kind Paul writes about, then we need to show them the same level of acceptance and expectation as we do heterosexual people. That, of course, includes accepting marriage among them. If there really are no genuinely gay people but only some with a disability or perversion, then our response will be very different. Following the conference Stephen Holmes wrote a piece for his Baptist teaching colleagues affirming that to be a good Baptist means being a community of faith where genuinely held different viewpoints can co-exist. He could have written the same for the Uniting Church. “Space for Grace” is a helpful slogan generated by our UCA multicultural colleagues. I experienced this in my team of authors. My hope is that love will find a way to make this possible among all of us. Rev William Loader is a minister in the Uniting Church and Emeritus Professor FAHA at Murdoch University, Western Australia

DOWN 1. Wisdom 2. Congregationalism 3. Satire 4. Yurora 5. Chaplains 6. OneLink 9. Bob 12. Midsumma 13. Prahran 14. Tabart 15. Consensus 16. Fences Answer to ‘this month in crosslight’ crossword on page 23 MARCH 17 - CROSSLIGHT


Placements CURRENT AND PENDING PLACEMENT VACANCIES AS AT 20 FEBRUARY 2017 PRESBYTERY OF GIPPSLAND The Lakes Parish** PRESBYTERY OF LODDON MALLEE Barham – Wakool – Moulamein (0.25) (P) Quambatook Cooperating Parish (0.25)** Sunraysia (UCOS) (0.5) (P) Tyrrell Parish (0.6) (P) PRESBYTERY OF NORTH EAST VICTORIA Alpine Regional Resource Ministry** Seymour Community Pastor (P) Upper Murray (Corryong, Walwa) (0.5) (P) PRESBYTERY OF PORT PHILLIP EAST Beaumaris (0.6) (P) Frankston (High St)** Korean Church of Melbourne – Koreanspeaking minister Mount Waverley (St John’s) PRESBYTERY OF PORT PHILLIP WEST Lorne Cooperating Parish (0.5)** PRESBYTERY OF TASMANIA Ulverstone – Sprent (three-year term) (P) Kingston (Rowallan Park) (P) South Esk (P) PRESBYTERY OF WESTERN VIC Nil

PRESBYTERY OF YARRA YARRA Ashburton Croydon North – Gifford Village (0.5) (P) Melbourne (St Michael’s) SYNOD Executive Offer – Mission and Capacity Building Unit** Hopkins Correctional Centre and Langi Kal Kal Prison Chaplaincy (0.4) (18 month term) (P) Loddon and Middleton Prisons Chaplain (0.25) (18 month term) (P) ** These placements have not yet lodged a profile with the Placements Committee, therefore they are not yet in conversation with any minister. There is no guarantee that the placement will be listed within the next month. (P) These placements are listed as also being suitable for a pastor. A person may offer to serve the church in an approved placement through a written application to the synod. Further information on these vacancies may be obtained from the Secretary of the Placements Committee: Ms Isabel Thomas Dobson. Email: Formal expressions of interest should be put in writing to Isabel.



Sani Vaeluaga, Altona Meadows - Laverton commenced 1 February 2017

Wendie Wilkie (Lay) retired as Presbytery of North East Victoria, Presbytery Minister Mission and Education on 28 February 2017

Jason Kioa, Dandenong (Trinity) and Lewe Tolu Vakalou to commence 1 May 2017 Peter Gador-Whyte, Essendon (St John’s) to commence 1 June 2017

RETIREMENTS Robert Humphreys, Coburg (Victoria Street) to retire on 18 August 2017

CHAPLAIN TO MONASH UNIVERSITY PENINSULA CAMPUS Applications are invited for this five-year half-time position, which is an outreach from High Street Uniting Church Frankston. Details available from the church office. Phone 03 9783 3400, or Email Applications close 27 March 2017.

WRITE IT RIGHT WORKSHOP TO HELP YOU WRITE HISTORY SATURDAY 25 MARCH 10am - 3pm Synod Archives Centre, 54 Serrell Street, Malvern East, Melway Map 68K2 Want to write about the life of your church, family, or local area? Leading church historians will share their resources and knowledge to assist anyone with an interest in writing a local history. Lunch provided @ $10. For enquiries and to RSVP phone M: 0427 812 606 or Email: Sponsored by the Uniting Church Historical Society 24

COMING EVENTS SCOTSGLEN SINGERS SEEKING ACCOMPANIST Glen Waverley Uniting Church Hall, cnr Kingsway and Bogong Ave. The Scotsglen Singers are a community group of female singers up to 25 in number looking for an accompanist. They practice on Thursdays from 1.30pm to 3.30pm during each school term at the Glen Waverley UCA Hall, and sing for the elderly at local aged care facilities about 3 times a month. The Scotsglen Singers have just celebrated 51 years of singing together and raising money for different charities. Anyone who would like to know more about the position please phone Margaret Foyster on M: 0420 956 261. 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 EASTER IN ART 7.30PM – 9PM, WEDNESDAYS 15 AND 29 MARCH North Balwyn Uniting Church, 17- 23 Duggan Street, North Balwyn. Christina Rowntree will lead a series of two Lenten studies comparing the Shape of Suffering, the Stasis of Death and the Leap of Resurrection in historical and contemporary artworks, inviting conversation and participation. Christina is the artfull faith co-ordinator at the Centre for Theology and Ministry. For more information please ring the office on P: 03 9857 8412. INDOOR GARAGE SALE AND CLOTHING CLEARANCE 9AM – 1PM, SATURDAY, 18 MARCH Springvale Uniting Church, Balmoral and Albert Avenue, Springvale. Indoor garage sale and clothing clearance, with all clothing in hall 50 cents an item. Includes morning tea / lunch, household items, Op Shop bargains, homemade cakes, gifts, jewellery, toys, and lots more. GROVEDALE’S BIGGEST & BEST BOOK SALE, GROVEDALE UNITING CHURCH 1PM – 4PM, FRIDAY 17 MARCH and 10AM – 4PM, SATURDAY 18 MARCH Grovedale Uniting Church, cnr Reserve Road and Torquay Road, Grovedale. Thousands of books from 50 cents including fiction, memoirs, sport, cooking, gardening, old & collectible, reference, art, science, literature, royalty, children’s & young adult and magazines. Entry is by gold coin donation. YOUNG ADULTS TRANSFORM CONFERENCE 17 – 19 MARCH 2017 The next UCA young adults Transform Conference will be held from 17–19 March on the theme “Empires, Evil, and Evangelism: thinking about discipleship and mission with the Book of Revelation.” For more info go to:

READING THE BIBLE AGAIN AND THIS TIME AS METAPHOR 1.30PM, THURSDAY 23 MARCH Western Heights Uniting Church, Douglass Street, Herne Hill, Geelong. Australian scholar Rev John Smith will present and lead a discussion based on his new book ‘Honest to GOoD: Discerning the Sacred in the Secular’. For further information, please contact Geoff Naylor on M: 0409 740 539. RETREAT DAY – WHAT IS YOUR QUEST? 10AM – 3PM, FRIDAY 24 MARCH Habitat Hawthorn, 2 Minona Street, Hawthorn. A long engaging search for something is often described as a quest. Sometimes people are given a quest, other times a quest emerges from a deep longing or sense of restlessness. A spiritual quest involves actively searching for meaning, purpose, self-awareness or relationship with God. This retreat creates time and space to reflect on quests you’ve undertaken in the past and listen for the new quest on which you might be beckoned in 2017. For more information, contact the Habitat office on P: 03 9819 2844. WRITE IT RIGHT: WORKSHOP TO HELP YOU WRITE HISTORY 10AM - 3PM, SATURDAY 25 MARCH Synod Archives Centre, 54 Serrell Street, Malvern East. Want to write about the life of your church, family or local area? Leading church historians will share their resources and knowledge to assist anyone with an interest in writing a local history. Lunch provided for $10. Sponsored by the Uniting Church Historical Society. For enquiries and to RSVP phone M: 0427 812 606 or E: ASYLUM SEEKERS SUPPORT GROUP FUNDRAISER - HELPING HOUSE ASYLUM SEEKERS 2.30PM, SUNDAY 26 MARCH Camberwell Uniting Church, 314 Camberwell Road, Camberwell. A pleasant Sunday afternoon comprising a musical program with The Melbourne Singers Inc. and high tea. Conductor Ian F Lowe, accompanist Hanford Lam, soloists Chloe Harris – soprano (2016 recipient of ‘The Melbourne Singers Janet Perkins Vocal Scholarship’), and Barry Fry – baritone and compere. Cost is $25. “TED TALK” WITH A DIFFERENCE: An Evening with Ted Baillieu 8PM, THURSDAY 30 MARCH Auburn Uniting Church Hall, Hepburn Street, Hawthorn. Ted Baillieu, formerly premier of Victoria and MP for Hawthorn, will chat to Bruce Macrae, director of music, Auburn Uniting Church. Bruce will invite Ted to reminisce about his life, pick his favourite pieces of music and explain the reasons behind his choice. Wine, tea, coffee and snacks will be served. All funds raised go towards the restoration of the heritage-listed Auburn Uniting Church Tower. Tickets are available online via They are $28 for adults, $23 for concession/seniors and $18 for member of the Friends, ($2 more per ticket price on the door). Enquiries: Elizabeth Bethune, P: 03 9818 2726. CROSSLIGHT - MARCH 17

Notices HOT CROSS BUN MORNING TEA AT THE HUB 10AM – 12NOON, THURSDAY 30 MARCH Glen Waverley Uniting Church, corner Bogong Avenue and Kingsway. Come along to The Hub and enjoy a hot cross bun with a cuppa. Bring your family and friends, all ages welcome. All donations to The Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal. For information and group bookings, P: 03 9560 3580. 125th ANNIVERSARY, ST CUTHBERT’S, LORNE 10AM, SUNDAY, 23 APRIL 2017 St Cuthbert’s Church, Mountjoy Parade, Lorne. Celebrate 1892-2017, 125 years of witness to the community. Join us in a service of praise and thanksgiving at St Cuthbert’s Church. Please RSVP (for catering purposes) to Pauline & David Walker on P: 03 5289 1569. SCOTCH UNITING CHURCH 175TH ANNIVERSARY 2PM, SUNDAY 7 MAY 2017 Scots Uniting Church,1702 Sydney Road, Campbellfield. The Scots Uniting Church will celebrate 175 years of continuous worship on the site with a Thanksgiving service. Moderator Rev Sharon Hollis will be the guest preacher. For more information contact Val Williams on P: 03 9357 8551 or Jocie Virthisel on P: 9309 1062 or M: 0419 668 884.

UNITING CLINICAL PASTORAL EDUCATION INTENSIVE SUPERVISED PASTORAL EDUCATION UNIT 20 JUNE to 30 AUGUST 2017 Peer group sessions will run on consecutive Tuesday/Wednesdays. Applications are welcome from staff, volunteers, lay and ordained persons and students. Interviews will be on Tuesday, 11 April. Applications close 31 March 2017. For more information contact Andy Calder, Centre Director, Uniting CPE – The John Paver Centre, P: 03 9251 5489 or E: Or refer to for more details of program components. 175th ANNIVERSARY WESLEY CHURCH - UCA GEELONG CITY PARISH 22 OCTOBER 2017 Wesley Church, 100 Yarra Street, Geelong, celebrates its 175th anniversary on 22 October 2017. This coincides with 40 years of being a parish in the Uniting Church in Australia. The celebrations includes a service of worship and thanksgiving, a shared lunch and activities throughout the day. Present and former parishioners are welcome as we give thanks to God for the long and faithful Christian witness in the City of Greater Geelong. We welcome all who have been part of this congregation especially over the last 40 years and during the period of ‘Worship in the Round’. Enquiries – P: 03 5229 8866 or E:

WANTED OFFICE ADMIN AND HELPERS: WEST PAPUA SELFDETERMINATION GROUP We are a small group working to assist the suffering people of West Papua on their journey to self-determination. We draw inspiration from the faith, hope and courage of the West Papuan people. We need volunteers for various office admin roles, bookkeeping, fundraising, hospitality, and awareness raising. This is most rewarding teamwork. Come and visit our lovely office at 211/838 Collins Street, Docklands. For more information call Faye on P: 03 9049 9590 or M. 0402 853 147.

CLASSIFIEDS AUSTRALIAN HYMN BOOKS DONATION: Bright Uniting Church has 75 AHB hymn books to donate to a church or group able to make use of them. Contact David on E: CALOUNDRA: Sunshine Coast, Queensland: Beachside units, from $400/ wk. For details contact Ray P: 0427 990 161 or E: CAPE WOOLAMAI: Summerhays Cottage. Sleeps three. Tranquil garden. Stroll to beach. Discount for UCA members. Ring Doug or Ina M: 0403 133 710.

GRAMPIANS WORSHIP: When visiting the Grampians, join the Pomonal Community Uniting Church congregation for worship each Sunday at 10am. LORNE: Spacious apartment, breathtaking ocean view, open fire, peaceful, secluded, affordable. P: 03 5289 2698. QUALIFIED CHRISTIAN PAINTER: handyman, interior/exterior work, available outer eastern suburbs. P: 03 9725 6417. 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. TWO BEDROOM INDEPENDENT LIVING UNITS (OVER 55’S): St Andrew’s Close, Stratford. P: 03 5144 7777. WANTED TO BUY: Antiques, second hand/retro furniture, bric a brac and collectables. Single items or whole house lots. Genuine buyer. Contact Kevin M: 0408 969 920. OVERHEAD PROJECTOR WORD SHEETS AVAILABLE: Various overhead projector sheets including songs from Australian Hymnbook, some from Methodist, Together in Song, Scripture In Song, Praise and Worship, are available if needed. Contact Diena Jenson on E:



Wesley Uniting Church Box Hill is seeking an experienced organist to play the heritage registered 1877 Henry Willis pipe organ for 10am Worship Services and any additional services. Remuneration is in accordance with the recommendations of the Society of Organists (Victoria) Inc.

Expressions of interest are invited for a Minister of the Word (1.0) to join a diverse ministry team that includes a full-time deacon and lay leaders. Strategic emphases for this position in a central city congregation: • creative worship of three Sunday morning and two weekday services • pastoral care and faith development of the congregation • public liturgical celebrations, especially a “church for the city” activities • relationships with the Chinese (SA) Christian congregation at Pilgrim • Pilgrim’s three-year vision and mission priorities (see below) For more information see or contact Rev Diane Bury for copies of congregation profile and supporting documents. Please send inquiries and expressions of interest (marked private and confidential) to Rev Diane Bury, Synod Office, PO Box 2145 Adelaide 5001, or email:, or Phone: (08) 8236 4254 by 14 March 2017.

Applications close on 30 April 2017. Please send applications to 2-6 Oxford Street, Box Hill, 3128. For further details contact John Maynard on M: 0419 902 927.

The Bible is true and can be trusted! Scientist, Dr Gary Baxter provides clear and compelling evidence, based on scientific, archaeological and textual studies, for the reliability and integrity of the Bible. A Defence of the Bible is published in large-format paperback, consisting of 186 full color pages with 196 imagess and 584 footnotes. Where to buy? uy? RRP: $9.95 ➢ Koorongg In store, or online at

➢ Word Online at au

We are called by God to be a prophetic witness in the city of Adelaide so that new life and vitality will be generated in our city and its people. We celebrate in our unity and diversity, our shared beliefs and past experiences, and value worship, teaching, creativity and justice.


You can be kept informed on biblical apologetics by going to Gary’s website: and subscribing to his fortnightly blog. 25

Moderator’s column Living our mission

FORTY years ago, the inaugural Assembly of the Uniting Church issued a Statement to the Nation. This statement outlines the Uniting Church’s desire to be involved in “social and national affairs”. The Church engages with our neighbours worldwide but particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. The statement commits the Uniting Church to basic Christian values of the “importance of every human being”, “the need for integrity in public life” and “a concern for the welfare of the whole human race”. Because of these principles, we as a church will work to end injustice, to protect the environment, challenge greed in the face of the growing gap between the rich and the poor and be concerned for the rights of future generations. The Uniting Church at its inauguration made these commitments because our first allegiance is to God and God’s prophetic, justice-seeking, life-restoring way. Because we owe God our first loyalty, we will seek to be loyal to this commitment even when it brings us into conflict with others. Eleven years later, in the bicentennial year of European settlement, the Assembly issued a second Statement to the Nation. This statement addressed what was by then a glaring omission in the first Statement to the Nation – the dispossession, injustice and disadvantage First Peoples have suffered since their land was occupied. The statement commits us to stand together in seeking truth, justice and action for First Peoples. These two statements articulate something very important about the vocation and identity of the Uniting Church. They affirm that we seek to live together with our neighbours and communities and to be engaged citizens of our nation. They call us to live alongside others of diverse faiths and cultures, seeking their wellbeing as an expression of the wellbeing we have from knowing we are loved by God. As with any vocation, we need to live into this one. Wishful thinking does not create a just, welcoming community, nation or world. Rather it requires

thoughtful, engaged participation. These two statements to the nation remind us that we are called by the Gospel and by the Uniting Church to engage with our neighbourhoods, communities, governments and the world and to seek their welfare. The statements to the nation arise from and reflect the theology of the Basis of Union. The Basis of Union (para 3) states that reconciling ministry of Christ is at the heart of our self-understanding. Our mission is found in being a fellowship of reconciliation willing to give of ourselves and our resources to live in ways that reconcile humanity to the earth and nations to each other. To live as a church shaped by the commitments of the Basis of Union and the Statements to the Nation is not always easy. Justice is illusive. At times our nation seems to be becoming meaner, more racist, less welcoming. Our activism and advocacy for peace, justice and care of creation often seem to achieve little. We can become downhearted. The Basis of Union reminds us we are not left alone in the pilgrimage of discipleship. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit, the promise that Christ constantly renews the church, and the sacraments to sustain us (para 9). We have the gift of hope from God who is with us so that we might give ourselves again and again to the work of living for others in pursuit of a kinder, fairer world. And we have the promise that God will bring all things to completion at the end of time. God’s reign will come. The arc of history is bending towards God’s ways. While the Statement to the Nation has been influential for many individual members of the Uniting Church, it is essentially a communal statement. It serves as a constant reminder to the Uniting Church that one of its charisms is to be a church standing alongside the poor, victims of injustice and the suffering earth. Fulfilling this vocation cannot be left to the Assembly or to synod staff. It needs

to be reflected on and lived into by every congregation and faith community. It is core to who we are as people reconciled to God through the self-giving love of Jesus Christ. I am so grateful for the wisdom of the first and fifth Assemblies in laying out a vision of Christian discipleship that takes seriously the world and its suffering and commits us to be engaged in justiceseeking, peace-making and communitybuilding as expressions of our faith. As we move towards the 40th anniversary of union and the first Statement to the Nation, I invite us all to consider how we might live even more fully into these Statements as an expression of our commitment to follow Christ. How might we take this anniversary year as an invitation to recommit to go forward in God’s self-giving love? What might your congregation or community of faith gift to the local community? What would it mean to live and act for the welfare of those you live among? How might this gift bear witness to the love of God and reconciling ministry of Jesus Christ?

Sharon Hollis Moderator

The main celebrations in this synod for the 40th anniversary will be an intercultural celebration on 3 June and at the service to open the Synod meeting on 8 September. More details soon. Everyone is invited to participate in the Assembly’s 40 days of prayer for renewal (

Upcoming events of interest 64th Blake Art Prize Exhibition 7 April – 26 May 2017


Kinross Arts Centre, 603 Toorak Rd, Toorak We invite you to explore the exhibition of Australia’s premier awards for spiritual art.

Sponsored by UCA Funds Management and the Centre for Theology & Ministry

Not-for-profit Post Budget Breakfast 16 May 2017, 7.30 a.m. – 9.00 a.m. Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club 489 Glenferrie Road, Kooyong

Exhibition: 7 April – 26 May 2017 Australia & ‘The Divine Image’ Symposium: 11 - 13 May 2017

Learn what the budgets mean to the not-forprofit sector from a panel of industry experts.

Toorak Uniting Church is offering two bursaries to regional Victorians to view the exhibition and attend the symposium from 11 – 13 May (includes travel to Melbourne, accommodation and registration).

To register or for more information > > 1800 996 888 CEN0317v2


For more information please contact Rev Dr Christopher Page: E: or M: 0417 506 338 CROSSLIGHT - MARCH 17

Giving is living

Holy God, Guide us to live together in peace and harmony May we be architects of your love Finding unity amidst our diversity Empower us to celebrate our differences And recognise that we are all human beings, created in your image We ask this through Christ our Lord Amen

A group of travellers visited India last year as a part of a Uniting Journeys tour. During the tour, Pam Pilkington (right) was offered a blessing in a traditional Gaddi ceremony by Kshama Devi (left).The participants also witnessed the work of the Church of North India and their women’s health program for Dalits in Amritsar. The Dalit people fall outside the hierarchical caste system and are among the poorest communities in India. Because of the stigma attached to their status, they face extreme discrimination and are often prohibited from full participation in Indian society. The Church of North India seeks to overcome this inequality through mobile health clinics that provide counselling, hygiene education and ante and post-natal care. The synod’s Giving is Living program encourages congregations to embrace a spirit of giving. A number of resources, including monthly pew sheets and prayers, are available on the synod website. These resources are designed to enrich congregations’ understanding of the relationship between their weekly offering and God’s mission in the Church. Visit: to access them.

Crossword This month in Crosslight For the cluey reader COMPILED BY LYNDA NEL ACROSS 5. Not always a ‘trendy’ pursuit 7. Number of years ago for inaugural UCA Assembly 8. Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress’s (UAICC) facility in Tasmania’s south 10. A renewable energy technology 11. Venue for Uniting AgeWell Community Art Exhibition 17. Christian Publishing House 18. The branch of knowledge that deals with interpretation, especially of the Bible 19. First church to oppose slavery in the English-speaking world DOWN 1. A collective noun for a group of UC moderators 2. The smallest of the three denominations that formed the UCA 3. Art questioning belief 4. National Christian Youth Convention 5. Volunteer their time during emergencies 6. Providing information about housing 9. A street cat 12. Festival, one of Australia’s biggest LGBTI events 13. A Mission once part of a Methodist circuit 14. Dr, and first woman appointed to role of President in UCA 15. UCA decision-making model 16. Mending them Answer to ‘this month in crosslight’ crossword on page 23



Synod Snaps

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” - Dorothea Lange

Wendouree Uniting Church celebrated Australia Day with a breakfast and service. Ron Hutchinson is pictured here cooking snags for the visitors.

Cornish College was awarded ‘School of the Year’ as part of the Backpack Bed for Homeless Australia Day 2017 awards. School chaplain Jarrod Davies coordinates the Cornish College’s Winter Sleep Out program and is pictured here with Year 12 student Emily.

Love was in the air at the synod centre as staff joined in a Valentine’s Daythemed morning tea hosted by the General Secretary.

Wendouree senior citizens enjoy breakfast.

Induction of Rev Sani Vaeluaga into the Lara and Altona Meadows/Laverton Uniting Churches.

Induction service of Rev Kevin Kim into the Trinity Brighton Congregation. The service was led by Rev Fee Morrison, deputy chair of Port Phillip East Presbytery.

Crosslight March 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 March 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...