Crosslight No. 292 October 2018
Iconic journey An angel on board Page 2 Mental region
Ready to serve
Lessons of loss P19
The life and legacy of liturgist and poet Bruce Prewer
Searching for hope in post-war Sri Lanka
A US evangelical ethicist breaks ranks on LGBTI
Letters - 16 Moderator’s column - 19 Notices - 24 to 25 Reviews - 26
The Angel of the Tram by Alex Safran
The Angel of the Tram
Communications & Media Services
ICONS are written, not painted – this indicates to me that they should tell a religious story. My icon, which I completed as a student of the Uniting Church Icon Schools and features on this month’s Crosslight cover and in full in the image above, is based on the old story of the prince who meets a beggar. Does the prince help the beggar (who is an angel in disguise) and is thus rewarded by God or does he ignore him and suffer a miserable life? There is a Jewish tradition that while God is everywhere, he is most accessible in Jerusalem, and in particular at the site of the biblical Temple. About 25 years ago I was retrenched, and took the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the last remnant of the Temple in Jerusalem – the Western Wall. At the Wall I made a simple request, “Dear God, please help me to find another job.” A few weeks later, I arrive home on a Friday and collapse on the bed when the phone rings. Could I teach accounting for a term at a TAFE college – starting Monday morning? I begin to teach and during term get
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.
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invited to another job interview. On the last day of term I’m told that I have that job – starting the following Monday morning. At the end of the first day of my new job I wander down to the tram stop to catch the northbound tram. I am stopped from boarding by the passenger in front who is jabbering at the driver. The passenger looks like a homeless person, with a rough beard and unkempt hair. The driver does not understand what he is saying, and when I ask if I can help it becomes apparent that he wants the southbound tram. I point him to the tram stop on the other side of the road. He turns to me, eyes blazing, raises his arm and says loudly: “Thank you. God will reward you.” On the next day the general manager calls me to his office and tells me I am getting a raise. Was I rewarded like Abraham and Sarah in the Old Testament who were hospitable to their visitors, who were in fact angels? The figure of the angel in my icon is based on traditional images of John the Baptist who, like today’s people
experiencing homelessness, slept rough. Helping those in need is a large part of the UCA’s mission and in this issue of Crosslight you can read on page 6 about the extraordinary free lunch program Nobucks. The story of my icon revolves around work and the future of employment is the subject of a feature in this month’s Crosslight on pages 22 to 23. John Bottomley also calls on us not to exclude God from the world of work on page 21. Mental Health Week is from the 7 to 13 October and Crosslight investigates the state of mental health services in regional areas on pages 14-15. Moderator Sharon Hollis also shares a very personal and powerful reflection on page 19 on the death of her partner who suffered depression. My icon and the work of other Icon Schools participants are on display as part of the ‘Visions of the Invisible’ exhibition Centre for Theology and Mission in Parkville until 26 October.
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Alex Safran is a member of the ecumenical Wellspring Centre.
Editor - David Southwell Graphic Designer - Mirna Leonita Communications Officer - Tim Lam Advertising Co-ordinator - Jacqui Kairu Graphic Designer and Print Services - Carl Rainer Digital Technology Officer - Graham Holtshausen
Following the moral compass
Robyn Whitaker, Jason Goroncy, Brendan Byrne, Derek McDougall, Daniel Farnsworth, Claire Dawe and Susan Malthouse-Law
THE new Synod Ethics Committee has met to consider the Uniting Church’s response to voluntary assisted dying. Last November, Victoria became the first state in Australia to legalise voluntary assisted dying, with the law coming into effect in June next year. The VicTas synod currently does not have a position on voluntary assisted dying. At the September meeting, the committee considered three potential responses to the new legislation. The first was that the Uniting Church refuses or conscientiously objects to the legislation and does not implement it in any of its facilities. Alternatively, the church wholeheartedly embraces the legislation and strives to make it available as widely as possible. The third option was that the Uniting Church does not take a single official
position and allows agencies, institutions and individual practitioners to determine their own response. Ethics committee member Rev Dr Robyn Whitaker said the committee’s work involved identifying the “messy and complicated” theological issues that arose from these responses. “We need to affirm as Christians that all life is valuable no matter how capable or active someone is or what state they find themselves in,” Robyn said. “At the same time, we need to balance that with the Christian belief in the resurrection – that death itself is not something to be feared and avoided at all costs and how we best care for people in a loving manner.” The committee meets once a month and liaises with the synod’s Justice and International Mission cluster.
Last year, JIM invited congregation members to submit their views on voluntary assisted dying. The synod has also engaged Dr Jessica Hateley-Browne from the Centre for Evidence and Implementation to undertake a research project on the church’s response to the legislation. The consultation will involve a number of church bodies, including the Synod Ethics Committee, Uniting AgeWell, Uniting VicTas, Pilgrim Theological College and the Assembly Standing Committee. Synod Ethics Committee chair Claire Dawe said the committee wouldn’t just be focusing on voluntary assisted dying. “We also look ahead to see what other ethical issues are coming up and be ahead of the game,” she said. The previous bioethics committee focused primarily on biomedical issues,
such as abortion, cloning and IVF. Robyn said the brief of the new synod ethics committee was much broader. “We’re specifically called an ethics committee, which means other environmental concerns might be on the agenda,” she said. “It can include climate change, economic issues and all sorts of ethical issues in our world. “We hope to offer a fairly regularly column in Crosslight that will offer an ethical reflection or thought to foster wider conversation in the church.”
Daniel Farnsworth, Derek McDougall, Robyn Whitaker, Jason Goroncy, Brendan Byrne, Susan Malthouse-Law, Claire Dawe and Chris Dalton are the members of the Synod Ethics Committee.
Crosslight wins gold CROSSLIGHT took home three awards at the 2018 Australasian Religious Press Association conference in Brisbane. The annual awards, presented on 7 September, recognised excellence in religious journalism and publishing in Australia and New Zealand. Rev Swee-Ann Koh’s article on racism in the church (Crosslight April 2018) was awarded gold for Best Opinion/Editorial, with the judges commending the piece for its willingness to engage with a timely and difficult topic. “Koh writes as one who has himself experienced racist attitudes within his congregation. This is a first-class editorial,” the judges said. The Crosslight team won silver for Best Social Media Campaign for its work on the Synod 2017 meeting. Communications officer Tim Lam introduced a number of initiatives at the event, including a NewsBot that delivered breaking news to users’ Facebook messenger inbox and Facebook live streaming. This is the second successive year the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania’s
OCTOBER 18 - CROSSLIGHT
communications team has been recognised in this category, following a gold award last year. The bronze award for Best News Story went to David Southwell for his piece ‘Moderator urges minister to let Sheryil stay’ (Crosslight September 2017). “Without becoming overly sentimental the story details the effects of an Indian family’s efforts to avoid the deportation of the family’s aged mother and disabled sister, and the appeal by Moderator Sharon Hollis on their behalf,” the judges said. Uniting Church publications from other synods were also recognised. QLD synod’s Journey won gold for Best News Story and gold for Best Profile Story, NSW/ACT’s Insights won silver for Best Column and bronze for Best Social Media Campaign, and SA’s New Times won silver for Best Original Illustration. The Salvation Army’s in-house magazine, Others, was awarded Publication of the Year. The top prize of the night, the 2018 Gutenberg Award, went to New Zealand Baptist’s The Citation.
Crosslight editor David Southwell (right) with ARPA judge John Harrison
Bairnsdale UC hosts its family of firies
UCA aged care welcomes royal commission
LAST month, Glenaladale CFA members parked their trucks outside and wore their Sunday best “yellows” to Bairnsdale Uniting Church as they thanked the congregation for “adopting”them. Over the past two years, the Bairnsdale congregation has donated a parcel of land in Glenaladale to the CFA, along with $1500 for equipment for a new truck. Bairnsdale minister Rev Jeff Dart blessed the new CFA truck and equipment, and offered prayers for the members in preparation for the coming fire season. Capt Rick O’Haire said during the special service that the CFA’s relationship with the church was “like being adopted”.
UNITING AgeWell has joined with UnitingCare Australia and Aged and Community Services Australia in welcoming the government’s royal commission into the aged care sector. This follows last month’s Four Corners report on the treatment of the elderly in residential care centres. The investigation revealed widespread neglect, sub-standard food and overworked staff in aged care homes throughout Australia. “Uniting AgeWell welcomes the federal government’s announcement of a royal commission into the aged care sector in Australia,” a Uniting AgeWell spokesperson said. “We look forward to contributing to the development of the commission’s terms of reference.” The royal commission will focus on the quality of care provided to people in residential and home aged care, including young people with disabilities. UnitingCare Australia national director Claerwen Little said Uniting Church agencies are committed to
Further prayers were offered by Bairnsdale UC chairperson Marilyn Cassidy for all emergency services. There were also prayers offered for rain and drought relief. After the service, everyone enjoyed a delicious morning tea prepared by the Bairnsdale Uniting Church. Both parties, the “adopted” firies and the members of the church said they look forward to an ongoing relationship with further spiritual support. In 2015, the congregation decided to donate 607sqm block of land adjacent to the site of the existing CFA building for only the cost of transfer title.
ensuring the safety of all people in their residential aged care centres. “As an organisation, we are proud of our history in aged care and the contribution that our services have made in communities over many decades,” she said. “We stand by the quality of the services that we provide and welcome action to ensure all older people share the broader community expectations of quality, choice and control in their lives. “Australia has an ageing population, and we believe that we are seeing a shift in aspirations and expectations in the Australian community which needs to be addressed.” Aged and Community Services Australia, the peak body for not-for-profit aged care providers, said the royal commission is an opportunity to shape the future of the sector. “We want the Royal Commission to focus on the root cause and critical issues facing aged care,” an ACSA spokesperson said. “This will give us the foundation to deliver on public expectations in the future.”
Representatives from Glenaladale CFA with Bairnsdale Uniting Church members
Check out these changes to Safe Church Training! If you are one of the 2,550 or so people in the Synod of Vic/Tas who has undertaken Safe Church Training (SCT), you are making our church a safer place for children. Thank you! Originally, the Culture of Safety Unit said training updates would be needed every two years. It is now clear that three-yearly updates will keep your skills and information fresh. Please take note of what you need to do, using this information:
WHAT AND WHEN
Trained since July 2017
SCT refresher after 3 years
Trained before July 2017 (manual with a blue cover)
Basic SCT by end of July 2019
New leader – lay or ordained – and no SCT since starting
Basic SCT as soon as possible
All future leaders
Basic SCT before starting or as soon as possible
SCT refresher every 3 years whilst in leadership
If you are not sure when you did SCT, please check with your congregation. Check out the website for answers to frequently asked questions: https://ucavictas.org.au/keepingchildrensafe/
On behalf of the children of Victoria and Tasmania, thank you for taking steps to keep them safe.
CROSSLIGHT - OCTOBER 18
Recipe for endurance IN an age of celebrity chefs performing impossibly elaborate TV culinary feats and social media’s mania for purely photogenic food, the popularity of Australia’s longest continuously published cookbook demonstrates the basics of good home cookery never go out of fashion. The PWMU Cookbook, now in its fifth edition, has been in print since 1904 and shows no signs of slowing, with a new drive to encourage UCA congregations to use it for mission fundraising. There are also plans to give it a new dedicated website. PWMU Cookbook Committee secretary Pam Grant said the book “trundles along quietly” but keeps selling. “The people buying it are those starting out as basic cooks who want to make good quality wholesome home-cooked meals,” she said. “It’s for people who don’t want the big glitzy named cookbook with a celebrity chef on the front, where you pay $60 and have it as a lovely coffee table book or one that you display on your shelves to show off what you’ve got. “They want a practical book that they can
pull out when they want to make a white sauce. It’s a utility book that you keep in your kitchen drawer or cupboard and used every second or third day to make bits and pieces.” Pam gave an example of a friend who had recently bought the cookbook after becoming a widower. “His wife had done the cooking and he had to go back to basics,” she said. At the other end of the age spectrum, it is still a tradition, especially in rural areas, to give the cookbook to young adults moving out of home. Those attending the 15th Assembly meeting at Box Hill Town Hall in July got to tuck into some of the tried and true crowd-pleasers from The PWMU Cookbook during a special morning tea. “The scones went down a treat,” Pam said. “Members of the Assembly said they thought it was a generous gift on our behalf and they felt really welcomed because of that. “Even the younger people enjoyed eating the older-style cakes and biscuits, which was quite interesting.” While the PWMU Cookbook has only had five editions (defined as having 20 per cent of new content) it has had numerous
reprints and each one of those has had additions or alterations. Some of the reprints have been major ones, such as the version that made the change to metric measurements, where every recipe had to be tested again. The book has also followed the trends of dietary advice, such as when salt was declared public health enemy No.1. “One reprint took out all salt but then they realised this was an error because it changed the flavour of too many recipes,” Pam said. “So they did a correction and put salt back in slightly reduced rather than eliminated altogether.” Over the years, there have also been new sections on international food, reflecting the multicultural influence on Australian kitchens. PMWU stands for Presbyterian Women’s Missionary Union and, following the formation of the UCA, cookbook royalties have been split between the Presbyterian and Uniting Churches. Representatives from each denomination make up the
cookbook’s committee. Pam said committee members remembered very strongly the purpose of the book was to fund mission. To this end the cookbook is being offered to congregations for $15 a copy and they can then sell it for up to $29.95. The profits made can be used to fund mission activities. “This has a two-fold benefit with the composite churches getting the royalties from the wholesale of the books and then the congregations getting the benefit of raising money from selling copies for their local mission program,” Pam said.
To find out more, contact PWMU Cookbook Committee Secretary Pam Grant at email@example.com.
Here are some popular PMWU recipes:
LEMON OR ORANGE SLICE
Ingredients: • ½ cup (125g) butter • 250 g sweet biscuits, crushed • ½ x 395 g condensed milk • 1 cup (90g) desiccated coconut • Grated rind of 1 lemon or orange • Lemon or orange icing (see below) • Extra coconut
Ingredients: • ½ cup (125g) butter • ¾ cup (190g) sugar • 2 eggs • 2 cups (300g) plain flour • 2 teaspoons baking powder • Jam
Method: • • • •
Melt butter and add rest of ingredients. Spread evenly in a greased 28 x 18 cm slice tin. When set, ice with lemon or orange icing and sprinkle with coconut. Cut into fingers.
Method: Preheat oven to moderate • (180ºC). • Cream butter and sugar together, adds effs one at a time, beating well. • Add sifted flour and baking powder. Mix well. Roll into small balls, place on greased tray, press hole in centre and place a little jam in the hole. • Bake for 15 minutes.
LEMON OR ORANGE ICING Ingredients: • 1½ cups (270g) icing sugar • Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon or orange • 2 teaspoons butter, melted Method: • Put sugar, rind and juice in bowl. • Stir until lumps are removed and a thick cream is formed. • Stir in butter and pour over cake.
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Recipes reproduced with permission PWMU Cookbook Committee and Hachette Australia; September 2018.
Eating for a song at Nobucks FOR the past 11 years Nobucks has been offering a free lunch with no strings attached to anyone who comes into the Wesley Centre in Hobart but recently diners have been enjoying some musical accompaniment as well. Nobucks coordinator and founder Suzanne Vincent said the program, which serves all-comers with a three-course lunch Mondays to Thursdays and hosts barbecues on Fridays, adhere strongly to its ‘three Ps philosophy’. “We don’t preach, we don’t pry and we don’t presume,” she said. “We only know about them what they wish to divulge to us.” However, as people come to share meals they may feel more comfortable in revealing more of themselves. “We’ve got one young chap, or I call him young, he’s just started coming in recently,” Suzanne said. “I don’t know very much about him. He said five years ago he became a Christian. He plays piano beautifully, so he goes off into the hall every day to do that. “Then a woman has picked up on that and she goes in and sings with him. Things like that happen.” Nobucks, which started out as a dropin centre providing just tea, coffee and biscuits, typically feeds about 40 people a day, but can do up to 80. The program has been financially supported by the Wesley Uniting Church congregation along with a bequest and some government money. Recently the governance of Nobucks and the ownership of the Wesley Centre was passed to Uniting Tasmania. “By joining forces with Nobucks, we are able to expand this great free meal service so that many more vulnerable people have access to fresh, healthy food in a safe and inclusive environment,” Uniting Tasmania executive officer Jeremy Pettet said.
Synod Liaison Minister Rohan Pryor also welcomed Uniting Tasmania’s involvement. “Nobucks is a story of genuine good news for those in need,” Rohan said. “We are right behind this great no-cost meal ministry and believe it will flourish with Uniting’s support and guidance.” Suzanne said people came to Nobucks for varied reasons. “There are some who are very much in material need and there are others who are not in need of money or food, they are in need of company,” she said. “We have some regulars that you wonder where they are if they don’t come. Others might come in certain days or intermittently.” For Suzanne, who is a retired TAFE teacher – in computers rather than hospitality – running Nobucks is close to a full-time job. She cooks on Wednesdays and twice a week collects the produce from a foodbank as well as making regular pick-ups at two bakeries who donate bread and other pastries. Suzanne also organises the other volunteers, who are both church and non-church members, to have two cooks and one kitchen helper rostered on for each lunch. “It cannot be done without the volunteers, who are very generous of what they give of their time,” Suzanne said. “It’s a huge commitment to become a volunteer at Nobucks.” Suzanne said she was as committed to the program as ever and was proud of what it had delivered every day for so many years. “It was said at one stage that we are the blueprint for any other congregation who would want to do the same, they would need to come and talk to us to see how it is done,” she said.
Volunteers Alice, Heather, Adge in the Nobucks kitchen with Suzanne Vincent (right) 6
Music for a Warming World peformance with Simon Kerr on guitar
A sound response to climate change PORTARLINGTON St Andrew’s Uniting Church is calling on the combined power of music and visual art to educate and inspire people about the threat of climate change. On 28 October, the church in Geelong will host the Music for a Warming World multimedia concert from 2.30pm–4pm. Lead performer Simon Kerr said the presentation was designed to deeply engage audiences in a complex subject. “The immersive impact of music and visuals is unique,” he said. “We try to tap into what people can relate to. We are not giving a lecture and want to be entertaining. People immerse themselves a bit like going to movies. “We offer something different because music opens the heart in different ways, opens your emotions and, coupled with the evocative images, people have all sorts of responses to what they see on the screen.” Simon was inspired to write the show when he was employed as a lecturer teaching environmental policy at a New Zealand university. “It just struck me very strongly when I started reading the science that we are in trouble,” he said. “And we’re in trouble in a unique way that’s unlike most problems. We will probably get on top of it if we have time, but we don’t have time at our fingertips. “We absolutely have the capacity to reduce climate change’s impact. “Unfortunately in Australia we are doing very little, particularly at a political level, to drive down our emissions. “I feel a sense of strong moral imperative to do what I can to make us what I call ‘climate conscious’. It is probably the most serious issue we collectively face.” While the show goes into the science of climate change and meditates on the resultant changes and loss, Simon insists
it is not intended to depress. “Negative stories don’t work. We always end the last section of the show on hope,” he said. “We talk a lot about the renewable revolution and some of the amazing developments that are happening that not everyone is across yet. We try to inject a lot of hope and optimism through that.” Simon said faith communities, such as St Andrew’s, had an important role to play. “We’re very keen on working with faith communities because they are actual communities,” he said. “Many of the people who come to the show are already committed to mitigating climate change, but this injects some energy and fire into them. It takes weary bones and reinvigorates them.” The show is being brought to St Andrew’s Portarlington by the congregation’s Justice Ministry Team. “Our members urged us to bring the presentation to Portarlington, as it was an event not to be missed that had an important message for everyone about our responsibilities around climate change issues,” team convenor Joy Porter said. “As Christians, we have a responsibility to do all we can to care for God’s creation.” Before the concert, the Justice Ministry Team will lead Sunday morning services at Portarlington and Drysdale Uniting Churches on the theme of climate change. Mark Zirnsak, from the synod’s Justice and International Mission Cluster, will preach at these services. Music for a Warming World is on at St Andrew’s Uniting Church in Portalington, October 28, 2.30pm-4pm. Suggested donation is $15 followed by afternoon tea. To book tickets ring Barry Ruler on (03) 5259 3304.
St Andrew’s Portalington Uniting Church Justice Ministry Team CROSSLIGHT - OCTOBER 18
Finding goodness among the godless HOSPITAL chaplain Joe Sehee recently gave a talk to a warm-hearted group who meet on a Sunday morning, reflect on serious life issues, sing and share food. They also have definite beliefs about God, specifically that there isn’t one. Joe, who is a member of the Humanist Society of Victoria (HSV), addressed the Sunday Assembly, a self-proclaimed “godless” group who meet monthly in Richmond about providing hospital chaplaincy for those identifying as nonreligious. This month he will again be the special guest of a warm-hearted group who meet on Sunday mornings, but this time it is at Heathmont Uniting Church as part of their “Dialogue with other voices” series. Heathmont supply minister Rev Dr Paul Tonson said the church greatly benefits by talking to adherents of different faiths but also those with no faith. “Joe’s voluntary efforts as chaplain at Caufield Hospital illustrate the altruism of the HSV,” Paul said. “The HSV also holds a Sunday morning session that focuses upon a range of social justice issues and letter writing, similar to the work of Uniting Church people advocating for justice.” Paul said his engagement with ‘godless’ societies in Melbourne had been a rich and educational experience. “Most stunning for me personally was the invitation from a friend Andrew in the
Progressive Atheist group,” he said. “He invited me to join a support visit to the Broadmeadows immigration facility on behalf of a Bangladeshi blogger, whose life is in danger if he is returned home.”
“I explained to Andrew that his invitation was really getting under my skin, because of the Matthew gospel story of the sheep, those who act righteously and inherit God’s kingdom, and the goats who are cast away.”
Joe Sehee and his labrador friend
“It has been ages since I ever visited someone in prison. Will the atheists enter heaven ahead of a Uniting Church minister?” A colleague of Paul’s coined the term “interbelief ” to represent the wider cooperation in which humanist/godless societies contribute their wisdom and energies alongside faith groups. Heathmont UC is engaged in such interbelief dialogue. Last month, the church hosted Fr Greg Reynolds, of Inclusive Catholics, and Sherene Hassan, of the Islamic Museum of Australia in Thornbury. “Our conversations with other voices demonstrate the hospitality we offer to all other people and to their beliefs,” Paul said. “On both sides, we move away from argument and point-scoring towards mutual listening, discussing ethics and spirituality, and sharing common action. “Christians can learn much from those of other beliefs about what is at the heart of following the Way of Jesus. “We cannot be fruitful in our faith if we only ever talk among ourselves.” Joe Sehee, a volunteer chaplain with the Humanist Society of Victoria, will be the guest at Heathmont Uniting Church from 10am on Sunday 7 October. See the Community Notices section of Crosslight for details of more “Dialogues with other voices” conversations.
Two decades of listening FOR 20 years the Listening Lounge in Corio Central Shopping Centre has welcomed people in to relax, meet friends, have a chat or a deep heart-to-heart. Last month, about 35 people gathered to celebrate the two-decade anniversary. Joining Listening Lounge members and volunteers for the party were Port Philip West Presbytery representives. Speakers included Corio Central centre manager Russell Yelland and John McCarthy, who helped found the Lounge and only recently retired after nearly 20 years of volunteer service. The Listening Lounge operates from 11am-3pm Monday to Thursday on the upper level of Corio Central. Corio-Norlane Uniting Church minister Rev Peter Jewell, who is the paid Lounge coordinator and pastoral care provider, said that typically up to 20 people come into the space each day. “We are basically open to anyone and everyone,” Mr Jewell said. “Sometimes it’s what gets people out in the morning - particularly people who are single and those who live alone, it gives them a place and people to engage with. “A number of people have told me over the years they have felt depressed, but pushing themselves to get out and meet people has really helped.” The Lounge offers tea, coffee, biscuits and toast at lunchtime. “People are free to donate or bring in food to share, so it has that community feel of OCTOBER 18 - CROSSLIGHT
Tracey, Peter Jewell, Ricky, Linda and Matt celebrate the Lounge’s 20th birthday
people being able to sit together, talk with and listen to each other,” Peter said. He said there were people who had been coming to the Lounge since it started. “We’ve got a number who call the Listening Lounge their community or space,” Peter said. “Those people support each other. There’s those regulars where we know this person comes in on this day and this person comes in on that day.” The shopping centre provides the Listening Lounge venue free of charge, while Port Phillip West Presbytery covers other costs. There are two volunteers rostered on each day along with Peter.
Peter said his and the volunteers’ main role was to serve and listen. “We don’t actually offer professional counselling, but we can talk with people and refer them to different organisations if there are different needs that come up,” he said. Volunteers must agree to guidelines and a mission statement, but otherwise can come from a wide range of backgrounds. “We have volunteers from all different walks of life, a few different churches and a number from the broader community,” Peter said. “It’s a really good mix.” Peter, who referred to himself as the Lounge’s “God person”, said that although the Lounge’s purpose was not to bring
people to church, some visitors had attended Christmas dinner and other events at his congregation. “As a church it’s building on connections to community, so we can be there for the community,” he said. “If Lounge members happen to come to church as well that’s good, but if we can make an impact in people’s lives that’s what we want.” If you wish to know more, would like to volunteer or support the Listening Lounge, contact co-ordinator Rev Peter Jewell on: 5275 5807 or 0419 165473 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. 7
Machinery of death TIM LAM A MELBOURNE pastor who was present at the executions of Bali Nine ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran warns it is only a matter of time before another Australian faces the death penalty. When Sukamaran’s last clemency plea was rejected, he chose Bayside Church pastor Christie Buckingham to be the official witness to his execution. Christie, who offered pastoral support inside Kerobokan prison where the Bali Nine members were jailed, recalled Sukamaran’s final words as he faced the Indonesian firing squad. “Myu decided that he wanted to forgive the people who were tying him to the pole and those who were about to shoot him,” she said. “He called out ‘Lord, bless Indonesia’. Then he said ‘Jesus, I trust in you’ .” As the firing squad prepared their bullets, the eight inmates started to sing Bless the Lord. They were midway through the second verse when the sound of gunfire echoed across the field. “There was singing and then there was silence,” Christie said. “And instantly, as the Bible says, they were ‘absent from the body, present with the Lord’. They had gone from a hellish place to a heavenly place out of all that torture.” Having worked with drug addicts in Melbourne, Christie initially felt little sympathy for the Bali Nine members when they were first arrested in 2005. But when a friend and fellow pastor introduced her to Chan and Sukamaran at Kerobokan prison six years later, she developed a different impression. “Andrew was a total larrikin. He always talked, had a smile on his face and a cheeky laugh,” she said. “On the other hand, Myu was very gentle and serious, but also had a fun side to him. He astounded me with his kindness,
compassion, love and grace, even to the very end.” During their decade behind bars, Chan and Sukamaran mentored other inmates, with the prison governor praising them as models of rehabilitation. Chan led church services inside the prison and eventually became an ordained pastor, while Sukamaran found his calling as an artist. Christie said the two men wanted to stay alive so they could continue to support their fellow inmates and help turn other lives around. “They were extraordinary young men and it was such a waste for them to be killed,” she said. “Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he had a war against drugs – well, he killed two of
Christie Buckingham with Myuran Sukamaran’s paintings of himself and Andrew Chan
his best weapons.” Christie said research consistently showed the death penalty was not a deterrent. “What I experienced on the night Andrew and Myu were killed was the machinery of death,” she said. “It was a bloodlust, a desire for blame. As human beings, we want scapegoats. It came down to power and ultimate power should lie not in the hands of a man or in the government.” Last month, the Australian government launched a new strategy for the abolition of the death penalty. Currently, more than 200,000
people are on death row worldwide. “From a humanitarian perspective, killing people, even if they have killed other people, is not right,” Christie said. “From a faith perspective, we’re to love our neighbours as ourselves. Our neighbouring countries – Japan, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Malaysia and Singapore – all still have the death penalty.” Christie warned that Australians remained at risk in those countries. “We have 316,000 Australians travelling to Japan, 492,720 to Thailand and more than a million going to Indonesia every year,” she said. “When you do the maths, you see that people going into their territories are in jeopardy and it’s only a matter of time until someone will be arrested. “But they should not be executed for their crimes because the death penalty is irreversible.” Ahead of World Day Against the Death Penalty on 10 October, Christie is calling Australians to join the movement to abolish capital punishment. There will be nationwide screenings of Guilty, a documentary depicting the final 72 hours of Sukamaran’s life. “Those screenings will send a message to the United Nations, who are on the precipice of considering voting for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty,” Christie said. Before his execution, Sukamaran asked her to make a vow to continue fighting against the death penalty. “As people of faith, we should never consider another execution because Christ’s execution was the supreme sacrifice for the sins of the world – past, present and future,” Christie said.
Students take the lead AWAY from their normal teachers and textbooks it was the students’ turn to set the agenda at a schools’ justice day held earlier this month. Over 90 year 9 and 10 students from six schools associated with the Uniting Church gathered at Methodist Ladies College on 4 September to take part in student-led workshops around the theme “When Action Meets Compassion, Lives Change”. The participating schools were Aitken College, Cornish College, Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School, MLC, St Leonard’s College, and Kingswood College. Kingswood year 9 students Grace McElholum, Ashneeta Kapadia and Hayden McElholum called the student-led day one of their “highlights of the year”.
“We have had the chance to meet up with people from other schools, and share our views on different current issues we are passionate about,” the group wrote in a reflection. The students said the workshops “opened our eyes to all the injustices that are going on in the world, especially our nation, and how raising awareness of even a small issue can make a huge difference”. “We got to learn about causes other schools were interested in, heavily based on recycling and what rubbish is doing to our planet,” the group wrote. Students were inspired to take action, including sending postcards to Environment Minister Melissa Price sharing their views on the Adani mine. Schools project worker Sarah Lockwood
said it was a day of “provocation and passion”. Along with the environmental issues raised, there was passionate debate about
Grace McElholum, Kapadia Ashneeta, Tom Corbett Davies, James Brownley, Fleur Jackson, Hayden McElholum
refugees along with careful conversations and advice around issues surrounding mental health and happiness. “It was incredibly inspiring to see students working collaboratively and creatively to lead the conversation for change,” she said. “These students are examining their own privilege, and challenging us all to think about the ethical choices we make on a daily basis.” Justice and International Mission cluster campaign organiser Denisse Sandoval partnered with Sarah to organise the day. “It was uplifting to hear such passion for social justice from 15 and 16 year olds, and very impressive,” Denisse said. “I hope their passion for justice continues as they enter university.”
CROSSLIGHT - OCTOBER 18
True evangelist and Australian psalmist REV STAN CLARKE Minister at Sunbury Uniting Church
Rev Bruce Prewer 28 April 1931 to 11 September 2018
REV Bruce Prewer is remembered as a nationally recognised poet and liturgist who gave Christianity a distinctly Australian voice. Following a protracted illness Bruce passed away surrounded by family in Sunbury, Victoria, on 11 September. Born in 1931, the youngest of four children, Bruce’s early years were spent at Dilston, in Tasmania. He credited reading the daily paper during an extended hospital stay caused by rheumatic fever with opening his mind to the world beyond Dilston. His experience of fire and brimstone preachers engendered in the young Bruce a hatred of religion. He made up his mind that he wanted nothing to do with their God. He leaned towards agnosticism in his teens, continuing to attend worship with his parents, enjoying the pipe organ playing and smorgasbord of hymns in the
Methodist hymn book. That there were pretty girls in the junior choir didn’t escape his notice either. Yet it was a time of deep discontent for Bruce. In March 1949, he attended an evangelical rally and gave his life to Jesus. Bruce described this as the big turning point in his life and “the smartest thing I ever did”. Only a few months later, during worship service he had a mystical “auditory” experience of being called to ministry. After a year at Otira College in 1950 the “church fathers” decided to fast-track him into the ministry. In 1955, he was posted as probationary minister to King Island, and was given permission to marry Marie Goldsmith, which he said was the “second smartest thing I ever did”. In March 1957, he was ordained at Wesley Church in Melbourne and posted to Wynyard, Tasmania, where he began to experiment with different styles of worship. Having rearranged the church set-up, he introduced informal talk-back evening services, singing rock music and AfricanAmerican spirituals. The often infamous Truth magazine did an article portraying Bruce as a young rebel breaking the old traditions. Following a posting at Glenorchy in Hobart, Bruce was granted his desire to move back to Victoria to be closer to family. He was posted to Mt Waverley, High St Road. At this time he was first diagnosed with the depression that affected him his whole adult life. While travelling overseas Bruce encountered the art of Norwegian sculptor Gustav Viegland, particularly his celebration of ordinary people. This helped Bruce see his country and culture from an outside perspective. Viegland inspired Bruce to get on with some of his own down-to-earth Aussie poetry. Bruce’s proficiency as a poet is well known in Australian churches. His first book, Australian Psalms, became a religious best-seller.
Among other works to follow were: Brief Prayers for Busy People, Kakadu Reflections, The Boomerang Bender, Prayers for Aussie Kids, My Best Mate, More Australian Psalms, Australian Prayers, Australians at Prayer, Prayers for the Twenty-first Century, and Beyond Words: reflections on the Gospel of Luke. His final book, Faith’s Last Hurrah!, went to press just months before his death. For over six years Bruce served in ministry at North Essendon, which was a significant and productive period of his life. Bruce was among those who helped pioneer “field placements” for candidates in training for the ministry, providing supervised, hands on, in-parish learning. Commencing ministry at Adelaide’s Pilgrim Church in 1981, he withdrew from wider church involvements to focus on being a pastor, counsellor, preacher and worship enabler. He became enamoured with the wilderness beauty of the Flinders Ranges. The abundant wildlife and the prehistoric story of the Aborigines in Kakadu National Park featured in his writings.
Once more feeling the tug of family back in Victoria, Bruce moved to St Andrews, Bendigo, in 1989. This time of ministry was curtailed two years later when his chronic depression brought his general health to breaking point. When his health improved he resumed writing, and developed his website of lectionary/worship resources. He wrote steadily until his health again declined. Bruce described himself as a “theological mongrel”, “a wandering child of God who has been found,” not sitting comfortably in any school of theological thought. He saw himself as a true evangelist, someone with some very Good News that he wanted others to experience. While Bruce thought his words were “pathetically inadequate”, many have found those words enriching and inspiring in their own encounter with Jesus. Bruce is survived by his wife, Marie Joyce, sons David and Martin and daughter Chris, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
I BELIEVE I NEED A SHEPHERD By Bruce Prewer I believe I need a shepherd. Because I am sometimes timid and other times overconfident, because I often don’t know the best path yet pretend I do, because I rush into dead ends or lead others into hazardous places, because my brightest ideas are seamed with darkness, because the things I crave may not be what is good for me, I need a shepherd. I believe in Jesus, the best possible shepherd; his wisdom leads me to the optimum opportunities, his word comforts me when I’m anxious or afraid, his arm steadies me when I feel weary and heavy-laden, his wounded body displays the cost of my rescue, I believe in Jesus, the best possible shepherd. I believe that I do not find him but he finds me, that I under his care by virtue of sheer grace, the love he gives me is to be shared with others, that he treasures my name and prepares a place for me, that his fold transfixes earth and heaven. I trust Jesus, the good shepherd.
Reprinted with permission of the Prewer family
Bruce Prewer with his wife, Marie Joyce, sons David and Martin and daughter Chris OCTOBER 18 - CROSSLIGHT
Above and beyond TIM LAM
Lucas Taylor and Matt Cutler get ready for their next podcast episode
AN allegedly lop-sided table tennis rivalry led two Uniting Church ministers to partner in an innovative project to connect Christians who feel marginalised from traditional church communities. Manningham Uniting Church minister Rev Lucas Taylor and Tecoma Uniting Church minister Rev Matt Cutler established Beyondering in 2015, but the history of the project traces back to their time at theological college. “Back then, I would be well on top in a table tennis battle against Lucas,” Matt said. “We’d pause and one of us would throw up a question about faith or theology and we’d bounce that idea back-and-forth.” Those conversations continued over the years as Lucas and Matt entered into ministry. They eventually started the Beyondering podcast to connect people within and outside the church who share their interest in spirituality. The podcast has featured prominent biblical scholars and theologians, including Walter Breugermann, John Shelby Spong and Diana Butler-Bass. Beyondering has since expanded to include film nights, interfaith dinners and an online book club called ‘Book, Line and Thinker’. “Our society is finding community in ways that don’t necessarily require physical gatherings anymore,” Lucas said. “Social media allows all of us to find a tribe no matter how niche it is, so that’s where younger generations tend to go to look for like-minded souls. “Beyondering is a collaborative project and we see ourselves as co-creators with the wide dispersed community that is emerging.” Matt said churches had historically 10
struggled to be a safe space for people to have conversations about taboo topics, such as the relationship between religion and sexuality and why God allows suffering. He recalled one Beyondering listener who felt discouraged from asking questions about God in her congregation. “Whenever she vulnerably tried to explore those questions, she found that bizarrely the very place that was her life – her church – was not the place she could bring those up,” he said. “She wasn’t on the fringe of her community because she was against their beliefs – she was for this idea of a God that was bigger and deeper than those around her could encourage. “With Beyondering, we hope there are other voices you can join with or hear that resonate with you.” Matt identified the church’s reluctance to evolve its language as a reason why young people felt disengaged from traditional church gatherings. But he believes that young people still yearn for in-depth conversations about faith and spirituality. “On the whole, the church has struggled to speak about complex issues with the nuance and rigor it requires,” he said. “Younger generations realise that and if something doesn’t offer the required depth, that’s going to cause them to look someplace else.” The church may no longer be at the centre of Australian society, but Lucas said this presents fresh opportunities for Christians to find their voice. “We’re a marginalised voice, but I don’t think that’s something we should fear,” he said. “We can discover a new life for ourselves
“Young people have got their own hopes and dreams, so let’s release that and let it catch fire.”
in that space. The podcast is one way we can engage with ideas in the public space. “We can connect with people at a time that they choose – they can listen to us on the train or in the shower. They can even listen to us in somebody else’s church!” Lucas believes young people are often feeling excluded from the church. “Parts of the church are still preoccupied with their own decline in numbers,” he said. “Because of that, there’s largely a lack of listening to young people – how they want to live their lives and the wisdom emerging from them.
“Young people don’t want to just carry around the hopes and dreams of their parents. They’ve got their own hopes and dreams, so let’s release that and let it catch fire.” Matt urged the church to become “question-askers” rather than “answergivers”. This means learning alongside young people rather than enforcing a rigid set of rules that stifles their curiosity. “We’ve failed to honour and validate the questions of young people and instead tried to answer them,” Matt said. “In doing so we shut down their sense of enquiry and disempowered them by saying the authorities give you the answer. “Jesus was asked 183 questions, but only answered three directly. He more commonly offered parables, another question or a story. “The church needs to recover what the first followers were about – Jesus as a way of life rather than a system of beliefs.” With Christmas approaching, Beyondering has created a series of “theologicallythoughtful” cards for the season. The cards are original artwork and some have been inspired by guests of the Beyondering podcast. “They have sometimes subtle, sometimes challenging or thought-provoking messages,” Lucas said. “Christmas is a radical message and when we just send clichéd cards that you open and throw in the bin, the bigger message is being lost. “So our tagline for these cards is ‘it’s the thought that counts’.” Visit beyondering.com.au to listen to the podcast and purchase the Christmas cards. CROSSLIGHT - OCTOBER 18
Pioneering spirit still going strong WANDIN Seville Uniting Church’s big year of celebration has been a real family affair and that is set to continue. Later this month, a special morning service will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Christian worship at Wandin, on the eastern fringes of Melbourne. The service will be followed by an afternoon event called “Making History” when speakers from the region’s pioneer families will tell their stories. “Many locals have an interest in this pioneers’ church as their families helped establish it after they moved to Wandin to set up their farms,” Wandin Seville UC chairperson Jenny Arms said. There have already been a number of anniversary events. In August, the church held a ‘Music to Your Ears’ weekend, which included a family bush dance. The dance floor saw plenty of action as the 70 people attending showed off their moves to the tunes of Australian bush band Eat Ya Greens. “The young children especially enjoyed the event,” Jenny said.
The next morning the church hosted its annual Hymnfest, with a local choir and soloist on hand to help the congregation belt out the all old favourites. At the service, Fred Gaudion was presented with a gift on his retirement after playing the organ at Wandin Seville for 68 years. “Fred’s family is one our pioneer families in Wandin,” Jenny said. “Members of his family have been involved in music for the church all this time.” The first event for the 150th anniversary year was a Pioneer Harvest Thanksgiving Service held in March. “It was a combined parish service where church members from Yarra Glen and Healesville joined Wandin Seville to celebrate all things green and growing in our valley,” Jenny said. “There was a wonderful display of fruit and vegetables. After the worship service, members bought items such as tomatoes, apples, lettuce, cherries, peaches, eggs, herbs and flowers. “All the money went to Healesville Inter-
The grown ups try to keep up with Elena Frost
Church Community Care Inc (HICCI) at Healesville and the excess produce also went to HICCI for distribution to families in need.” In May, the church hosted a Gardening Spectacular with classes in flowerarranging, talks on landscape garden design, the sowing, buying and selling of plants as well as a session exploring and understanding a labyrinth as a part a spiritual journey.
“Of course, part of our hospitality to all visitors was a delicious Devonshire tea,” Jenny said. Moderator Sharon Hollis will be the guest speaker for the 150th anniversary service at Wandin Seville Uniting Church on 21 October. “Everyone is invited to worship followed by lunch,” Jenny said. “Come and join us to celebrate 150 years of faithful service to our Lord and God at Wandin.”
PRESBYTERY OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Director of Education and Formation
Fred Gaudion and Rev Harold Taylor
The Presbytery of WA is seeking to appoint a person to this key position who will provide leadership in the achievement of our core purpose of creating “a culture in which formation for discipleship and leadership is prized, appreciated and accessible and seeks to build an informed and integrated learning community directed to the mission of God.” The Director will be responsible for co-ordinating Lay Education, Continuing Education for Ministry, and will be Principal of Perth Theological Hall. The successful applicant will have a sound knowledge of the theology, polity and ethos of the Uniting Church, familiarity with contemporary congregational life and ministry, a commitment to education for discipleship and formation for missional leadership, experience in adult education and the ability to enthuse others and to communicate within a wide range of contexts. To view the Position Description and selection criteria please go to, ŚƚƚƉƐ͗ͬͬƵŶŝƚŝŶŐĐŚƵƌĐŚǁĂ͘ŽƌŐ͘ĂƵͬĐĂƌĞĞƌƐͬŵŝŶŝƐƚƌǇͲǀĂĐĂŶĐŝĞƐͬ This full time position is available from 1 January 2019. Kindly submit your expression of Interest (together with your profile/resume) to Monica Pettersen / Andrew Liepins at email@example.com Applications close on 31 October 2018.
Valmae Gaudion (centre) arranging flowers
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From jail cell to justice advocate DEB BENNETT
NOW that he happily serves as a Uniting Church minister in the Victorian border town of Wodonga, Rev Berlin Guerrero could be forgiven for turning his back on the country where he was jailed and tortured for 15 months. However, the plight of those living in his homeland of the Philippines the country he was forced to flee, is never far from Berlin’s thoughts. “I am always in contact with ministers and church officials, and people’s organisations in the Philippines,” he said. “I receive regular updates on the economic and political situation, especially on human rights, the socio-economic condition of the people and their actions to defend their rights and advance their political struggle to achieve genuine freedom and democracy.” As one of the provisional workshop leaders at this year’s Justice and International Mission conference, Berlin knows first-hand how difficult it can be to stand up for issues you believe in. From his early student days, Berlin – who was a pastor with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines – worked with those seeking to end oppression and give a voice to the voiceless. On 27 May 2007, Berlin attended the memorial service for a friend assassinated a year earlier. As he and his family were leaving the church, a white van with the number plates removed pulled up in front of their motorised tricycle. Armed men placed a bag over Berlin’s head and abducted him. The men also robbed his wife Mylene, taking her bag, mobile phone, laptop and the money collected in the church service. Berlin was taken to an unknown location and tortured. His captors forced him to give them his computer password. They wiped off all his church, school and personal files and replaced them with incriminating files. At first, authorities denied Berlin had been abducted. He was then taken to Camp platoon Garcia, Cavite Provincial Police Office and placed under arrest, with charges of murder and sedition. For the next 15 months, Berlin was held on these trumped up charges. Members of the Uniting Church were among many human rights activists who campaigned for his release. Although the charges were eventually dropped, Berlin and his family knew he was not safe. He was offered sanctuary in Australia, where he worked with the synod’s JIM unit while studying for ordination as a Uniting Church minister. Unfortunately the Philippines is still fraught with political corruption and repression of those who challenge the ruling elite. Extrajudicial killings, abductions and torture are common. According to Asia Human Rights Watch, these activities “specifically target leftleaning political activists, human rights defenders (and) members of the clergy”. Since Rodrigo Duterte’s election in 2016 it is estimated that as many as 12,000 people
have been killed in the president’s “war on drugs”. Duterte campaigned on a law and order platform, promising to “kill all of you who make the lives of Filipinos miserable” in order to “solve drugs, criminality, and corruption in three to six months”. “The Duterte regime has become a new dictatorship comparable to Marcos,” Berlin said. “His campaign against illegal drugs has resulted in thousands of killings, mostly of ordinary urban poor dwellers. “The political persecution of human rights activists and defenders continues. Executions of leaders of peoples’ organisations and the militarisation of indigenous peoples’ villages has intensified. “The recent International People’s Tribunal held in Belgium found the Duterte US-backed regime guilty of attacks on people’s rights and sovereignty.” Duterte has also increased surveillance on human rights activists within the Philippines, with hundreds of lawyers, NGO workers and activists accused of being members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army. The CPP and NPA are considered terrorist organisations in the Philippines. Berlin and his family continue to campaign for the rights of the marginalised. He hopes the UCA will continue to follow the lead of the synod’s social justice campaigner Jill Ruzbacky, who sadly passed away earlier this year. “The best way for us as a church is to develop a church-to-church partnership that supports and helps develop a peopleto-people solidarity,” Berlin said.
“A good example is the mission and ministry of Sister Particia Fox, that has found its place and relevance in the people’s suffering and struggles in the Philippines. “This is the same spirit which filled Jill Ruzbacky’s heart and endeared her to the Filipino church and the people the church seeks to serve. “We have a suffering yet struggling neighbour in the Filipino people. Let us find ways we can express our love, which is Christ’s love, to them.”
The JIM Conference will be held on Saturday 27 October at the Centre of Theology and Ministry, Parkville. Berlin Guerrero’s workshop will go ahead if there are sufficient participants. For more information contact Ann Byrne on (03) 9340 8815 or email: ann.byrne@ victas.uca.org.au. To register online please go to: https://ucavt.goregister.com.au/
SWell Conference 2018 Connecting with Presence Friday 12th – Sunday 14th October 2018
For those longing for ecological, communal and spiritual connection. Swell provides a welcoming community where you will experience healing, befriend your true-self, discover clarity of purpose and begin to awaken with abundant life through Presence. The 2018 SWell conference welcomes guest speaker and facilitator Rod Pattenden who explores our human calling to attend to Presence. Venue: SWell Centre, 2 Minona St, Hawthorn, VIC, 3122 Early Bird (3-day): $195 (before 25 Sept) www.swellcentre.com www.trybooking.com/XMJU
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Changing course into a storm TIM LAM WHEN American theologian Rev Dr David Gushee called for full inclusion of LGBTI people in his 2014 book Changing Our Mind, the response from the mainstream evangelical community was brutally swift. Within days of the book’s publication, universities and seminaries – including one in Australia – withdrew speaking invitations. This is despite David being one of the world’s leading Christian ethicists. He is currently director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University, Georgia, USA. For the first 27 years of his ministry, he preached that LGBTI relationships “fall outside the will of God”. “I had previously taught what might be called a compassionate traditional view,” David said. “I ruled out the possibility of LGBTI relationships while refusing to support contemptuous attitudes towards LGBTI people.” In Changing Our Mind, David detailed how his position on samesex relationships shifted through his encounters with LGBTI people. The coming out as lesbian by his youngest sister in 2008 further solidified in his mind the imperative to make churches a safe space for LGBTI Christians. “Knowing LGBTI Christian people, especially after moving to Atlanta in 2007, led me to a place of doubting the rightness of the traditional view,” David said. “I then entered into a period of study and reflection which I worked through in my book. In the end, my mind had changed decisively.” Following the release of Changing Our Mind, David was bombarded with a deluge of angry letters, emails and social media messages. His critics labelled him a heretic,
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accusing him of betraying traditional biblical teachings and surrendering to secular culture. “The reaction has been very negative from much of mainstream evangelical Christians,” David said. “But I have found huge receptivity from LGBTI people raised in evangelical churches and from many of their family members and friends. “I’m confident that there is a very sympathetic, silent minority of evangelicals who do not feel that they can publically change their positions.” David believes it is not the Bible itself, but fundamentalist interpretations of six or seven passages that have led to the church’s traditional stance against samegender relationships. He said the church had historically framed LGBTI debates as a sexual ethics issue when it should be understood from a human rights perspective. “I have responded by engaging those six or seven passages in new ways and by suggesting that other passages centering on love, justice, mercy and dignity for all people are the more relevant passages,” he said. According to Public Religion Research, 70 per cent of American millennials believe the church’s stance on LGBTI issues is alienating young people. “American evangelicals are now known for their conservative politics and rejection of LGBTI people and their relations,” David said. “This is turning off vast numbers of Americans, especially those under the age of 35. Evangelicals used to be known much more for their message of the love of Jesus. “It would be good if they could be known for that again.” It is not just David’s stance on LGBTI relationships that has put him at odds with the mainstream evangelical Christian community.
His positions on climate change, torture, human rights, Muslim immigration and his vocal opposition against Donald Trump have also irked many of his evangelical colleagues. In the months leading up to the 2016 US election, David drafted a statement from Christian leaders confessing resistance to Trump as a “Christian obligation”. “It is amazing to see how strong white evangelical support for President Trump continues to be despite everything that has unfolded in the last two years,” David said. “I think that the main reason for this support is that his enemies are evangelical enemies: the liberal media, liberal academics, and liberal politicians. “Of course, this is a terrible reason for Christians to support a politician, but it is at least part of what is going on.” David has a word of warning for American evangelicals who continue to offer unqualified support to the US President. “History will not look kindly on the moral surrender of evangelicals to Donald Trump,” he said. Dr David Gushee will deliver the JD Northey lecture on ‘Christian ethics in the public sphere’ at the Centre for Theology and Ministry on 11 October. Register at https://pilgrim.edu.au/events/jd-northeylecture-christian-ethics-in-the-public-sphere/ He will also be the keynote speaker at the Equal Voices conference, held at Darebin Arts Centre on 13-14 October. Register at https://equalvoices.org.au/conference/
Mind f ields DEB BENNETT
WHEN Samantha’s* brother stopped coming home she felt a mixture of relief that her family could be normal again and guilt that she hoped he would never be found. “I felt guilty about that for a long time. I actually tried to convince myself that Rob had gone to live with our dad interstate,” Samantha said. “Now I can see that, as a teenager, all I wanted was not to be different, I wanted a normal life.” A number of years earlier, Samantha and her family had moved to a regional town in central Victoria after her parents’ marriage broke up. “My brother Rob* was just a normal country kid; he played footy, wagged school and wanted to join the police force,” Samantha said. “When he was about 16 he started to change. He withdrew from the family, but I think Mum thought that was a normal part of growing up. “Then he stopped hanging out with his friends. He stopped playing footy and spent a lot of time in his room. He even stopped eating with us and refused to come to family events.” As time went on, Rob’s family realised they were dealing with more than teenage angst, and turned to their local GP for advice. He recommended a psychological evaluation. “Mum thought there was no way Rob would agree to go, but he did. I think
he was relieved that at last whatever was wrong with him would be ‘fixed’,” Samantha said. To get the evaluation, the family needed to take Rob to a neighbouring city, an hour’s drive from the family’s home. In this respect Rob’s family were relatively fortunate because in many regional areas, GP clinics and local hospitals are the only places offering services for people experiencing mental health issues. A recent study by the National Rural Health Alliance found there were four psychiatrists for every 100,000 people in regional areas. In major cities, the ratio is 13 psychiatrists for every 100,000. In June this year, the Victorian Council of Social Services provided a submission to a Senate inquiry into the accessibility and quality of mental health services in rural and remote Australia. The report stated that although Victorians living in rural areas experienced mental health issues at a similar rate to people living in the city, they were much less likely to access support. Mental health care professionals have told VCOSS it is not uncommon for people experiencing mental stress and expressing suicidal thoughts to be turned away from their local hospital. Family members dealing with a loved one say that often their only option is to call the police. Those who are admitted to hospital are
often discharged without social support or community care. Some patients in rural areas don’t even have access to transport back to their homes. Of those who do receive support, the services are often provided by professionals with less training than their city counterparts. Michelle MacGillivray is the program manager of Lifeline Ballarat and takes calls from people in crisis throughout Australia. The advice Michelle gives will depend on the location of the caller. “Dealing with somebody who is on an isolated farm is a very different situation from somebody who is calling from Perth or Melbourne,” Michelle said. “It is much more challenging working with people seeking help from rural areas because there is a lack of on-the-ground services. “Even when you have located those services you have the added factors like transport. In many rural areas there is no public transport. So, while the service they want to access might only be 20 minutes away, getting there is a real problem.” This shortage of services means that not only do people in regional and rural areas wait longer to access services, professionals often charge higher fees, so shutting out people on lower incomes. Government moves to help rural areas cope with the stress of the ongoing drought have highlighted the need for mental health services throughout regional Australia. While health professionals have
“It is much more challenging working with people seeking help from rural areas because there is a lack of on-the-ground services.”
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welcomed funding to address the immediate need of those impacted by the drought, such short-term funding will have little impact on day-to-day service provision in rural communities. This is particularly true in Victoria which, according to professionals, lags behind other states in mental health funding despite a boost in the last state budget. Mental Health Victoria, a not-for-profit peak body representing mental health services, has stated that Victorian mental health services have been “chronically underfunded for more than a decade”. “Access to specialist mental health services in this state sits at 39 per cent under the national average, and the number of beds is well below the average of comparable states,” a spokeperson for MHV said. “Over the past four years, the number of emergency department mental health admissions has jumped by 19 per cent to more than 52,000 per year – that is one admission every 10 minutes – with an increasing burden being carried by police and ambulance services.” Many experts say that increased funding alone isn’t enough; it is imperative that money is targeted where it is needed most. Professor Graham Meadows, senior research fellow Joanne Enticott, and Sebastian Rosenberg from the ANU argued in an article published by The Conversation in June that while spending in mental health might have increased, it isn’t reaching the people most in need. Using data obtained through Medicare rebates, the authors found that funding allocation has a major impact on mental health in rural areas. “Overall, living in regional and remote Australia doesn’t seem to mean you’re more likely to have clinical anxiety or depression. “But you are much less likely to get to consult “Further investment with a clinical psychologist to is needed not only in help you with the bricks and mortar but condition if you live in a regional in services delivered or remote area,” in the community to they wrote. MHV chair prevent people getting Damian Ferrie into crisis.” said that while the Victorian government’s investment in hospital beds and emergency crisis hubs was important, more thought should be given to prevention. “Further investment is needed not only in bricks and mortar, but in services delivered in the community to prevent people getting into crisis. These services are inexpensive and are proven to reduce hospital
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admission rates,” he said. Increased funding also doesn’t necessarily address some of the problems of attracting well-trained health professionals to rural communities. These issues include limited opportunities for professional development and support as well as family concerns, such as access to high quality education for children, spousal employment and housing. In the case of Samantha’s brother Rob, as a vulnerable 16-year-old he found it difficult to establish trust with health professionals because of the large turnover in staff. “Mum said that sometimes there would be a new person each time she took him, and the whole time they were trying new medications and trying to work out what would work for him,” Samantha said “Sometimes they would even give a completely different diagnosis of his illness. Drugs that work on one person might have a totally different effect on another person, and just giving medication without counselling and proper support can actually make things worse.” After about a year Rob refused to travel with his mother to his appointments. He had stopped attending school and spent more time away from his family, either in his room or out of the house for days at a time. “The first few times he didn’t come home, Mum rang around all of his friends from school, but most of them hadn’t seen him in months,” Samantha said. “One time she rang the police who found him and brought him back. “He was so angry, I remember him screaming and punching a hole through his bedroom door. My little sister and I hid in the bathroom, listening to hear whether he had hurt Mum.” Over the next few years, Samantha said her family came to fear Rob. He would alternate between spending days on end in his room, or days away from home, often returning angry. The outbursts became more common, with holes punched in walls and windows broken. He was drinking heavily and began using drugs, issues which made it more difficult for the family to find support for him. The VCOSS report to the Senate inquiry found that although mental health issues often go hand-in-hand with alcohol and other drug abuse many organisations will not treat substance addiction if the person has a diagnosed mental health condition, and vice versa. “Mum tried everything to get help for Rob, but most of the services were over an hour away, and there was no way she could force Rob to get in the car, never mind attending counselling,” Samantha said. “In the end she bought an old caravan and Rob lived in the backyard for a while.”
Samantha’s experience highlights the ripple effect mental health can have on others. “I never brought friends home to my house,” she said. “I remember feeling bad that I would always go to sleepovers “I think Rob with friends but really thought that never invited them to mine.” once he asked for Being in a small help he would be community meant the family ‘cured’ and feel were aware that normal again.” others probably knew what was happening, but people didn’t want to interfere. Samantha said the contrast with the support given to a local family whose mother was diagnosed with cancer highlighted the stigma associated with mental illness. “People probably thought they were doing the right thing by not saying anything, but perhaps things would have been different if someone had offered support or even someone to talk to,” she said. “It’s very complicated, even though Mum was looking for help, in lots of ways I think she was trying to keep what was happening hidden.” Samantha said the four-year age gap between her and her brother meant they were not really close. As a teenager she only knew him as a ‘trouble-maker’ who caused heartache for their mother and, as his behaviour became more erratic, she began to fear him. It is only with the benefit of hindsight that she can blame the illness, not the person. “The more I learn about mental illness, the more I realise how devastating it is for the person experiencing it,” she said. “I think Rob really thought that once he asked for help he would be ‘cured’ and feel normal again. When that didn’t happen, it must have been awful for him.” Samantha hasn’t seen her brother for nearly 10 years. Throughout that time he has contacted his parents asking for money, and a few years ago he was arrested and jailed for breaking and entering. When reports of homeless people are on the news Samantha knows her mum studies the faces, still looking for her son. “My experience with my brother has led me to wanting to work in mental health, particularly with those close to the person,” Samantha said. “After what we have been through as a family, I know how important community support is, not just for the person with the illness, but for those who love them.” *Names have been changed
Letters Belief and myth WE read with “interest” Noel Lodge’s letter (August Crosslight) on fundamental truths. With all due respect, we find it hard to accept much of the “fundamental” doctrines of any religion. Christian fundamentalist doctrines go back to the concept of Adam and Eve and the “fall of man” by Eve eating the forbidden fruit and therefore damning humanity in about 4550BC. In reality, the story of Adam and Eve and creation is a myth, it is as valid and believable as Aboriginal Dreamtime legends (and no disrespect to them). Both, along with legends of numerous other cultures, are primitive mankind’s attempt to explain the mystery of creation. The fall of mankind and our imperfections prompted such luminaries as St Augustine to come up with the doctrine of Original Sin and how we cannot reach that perfection without the redeeming blood of Jesus. We have all sat through many sermons in the last 70 years where the preacher has railed on about what sinners we are and our foulness and unacceptability in the eyes of God. Many told us we can only be saved by being “washed in the blood of Jesus”. Sermons have also preached warning of the “horrors of Hell” which have been lucidly depicted in medieval art works. Jesus in the gospels fought against temple blood sacrifices. We cannot accept such doctrines. Without the
fall there is no need for atonement. We are made with imperfections, Jesus acknowledged this and showed compassion to all and taught that we should be compassionate and love our neighbour. If we live this way we can find the “Kingdom of God” in living a happy and contented life. If our faith is based on impossibilities of virgin birth, miracles, atonement and raising the dead it is on very shaky ground. Our faith should be our guide in how we live with each other and treat others. Bill Norquay On behalf of the Glen Waverley Uniting Church Friday Discussion Group
Enough talk MY letter to you on the 10 July seems to have raised some eyebrows from Greg James and Rev Rod Peppiatt, his minister from Launceston. I am not disputing that we may hold different ideas and have different approaches to the problems of the Uniting Church as it stands. These differences are what make us a solid enterprise when this is acknowledged and applied. It strengthens our community to see that such differing attitudes are and can be accepted. My comment about not liking the decisions or attitudes a minister makes was to suggest that if someone is not prepared to go along with the decisions
in that specific congregation then they have every right to move to another congregation where they can accept and agree the points of view propounded. My statement about the Assembly still applies. They ask for ‘reports’ from the various synods and other working groups and table them for discussion. This discussion will take place until the next Assembly. The Assembly will then, after prayerful discussion, put the idea or proposal forward for action in the synods and with other stakeholders. The Uniting Church is dying. We need action now. What that action is, is for younger people than I to say, but if we hang about waiting for discussion at Assembly we will wait forever. And as I quoted previously, the years of the MSR Review in Victoria has propped up the status quo for quite a few more years. We are not in a good state of health just in the Uniting Church and need to start a movement to get some change through the ‘carpet mob’ of head offices, synods, presbyteries and standing committees. Alexander Drysdale Lyndhurst, Vic
YEARS ago, anyone who had a physical disability and needed care was immediately put into institutions and thus
2018 Growing Peaceful Communities Saturday 27 October, 2018
Centre for Theology and Ministry 29 College Crescent, Parkville equipping Leadership for Mission Justice & International Mission
Sarah Nankervis, Mt Eliza, Vic
Justice & International Mission Conference
taken away from their friends/families. Once they were placed there it was hard for them to leave and have a normal life. Today, institutions still exist but they are not called this anymore. They are called supported residential, community housing, group housing, care facilities and rooming houses. How can it be that people can integrate children into schools, but not fully allow them to do likewise in society? There are integration aids for schools, but as soon as children with a disability reach about 16 years of age they are often placed in a sheltered workshop or similar. Those who are put in some form of group or community housing for disabilities are segregated/separated. How is it possible that these people can have fulfilling and full lives when they cannot have meaningful relationships? All of their decisions are made for them. Their voice is not fully heard. It is not always best to shield and shelter people with disabilities. They need to be able to live, make mistakes and go through experiences like everyone else.
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. Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
SPEAKERS INCLUDE: ■ Zione Walker-Nthenda: Lawyer, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist ■ Rob Hulls: Director, Centre for Innovative Justice ■ Sean Winter: Head of Pilgrim Theological College ■ Inspector Mark Nichols:Victoria Police ■ Wendy Austin: Family Violence Prevention Advocate, Consultant
PROPOSED WORKSHOPS COULD INCLUDE:
1 2 3 4
Addressing the role of alcohol businesses in driving up family violence – Victorian Alcohol Policy Coalition Addressing the role pokie venues play in driving up family violence – Alliance for Gambling Reform How should the church respond to the problem of family violence? Privatised Risk – Ensuring the protection of people with disabilities in marketised support services – Mark Zirnsak
5 6 7 8
Youth Justice Reform that works – Jesuit Social Services
How does the vision of a ‘just and sustainable peace’ relate to Australia as a multicultural, multi-faith society? Emeritus Professor Joseph Camilleri.
Responding to the Mass Murderer: Duterte in the Philippines: Rev. Berlin Guerrero What can be done to assist Rohingya refugees? Building Peaceful Communities in Victoria – what can we do about the intersection between marginalised communities and violence?
For more information contact Ann Byrne on (03) 9340 8815 or email: email@example.com For online registration please go to: https://ucavt. goregister.com.au/jimconvention/registration/rego 0084
CROSSLIGHT - OCTOBER 18
Why white is more than skin deep SEAN WINTER
MONDAY night is half-price movie night and the other week I walked down to see the latest film by director Spike Lee BlackKklansman. It tells the (true) story of Ron Stallworth, a young African American police officer who in 1973 managed to infiltrate the local branch of the Klu Klux Klan. To pull this off Stallworth needed to do two things. He never showed up at a Klan meeting (he sends a white, Jewish colleague in his place), and he needed to speak in two dialects. At one point in the movie Stallworth boasts: “I can speak the King’s English, and I can talk jive”. In a phone conversation with David Duke (who would later become the Grand Wizard of the KKK and supported Donald Trump’s presidential campaign), the issue of language or, more accurately, of pronunciation comes up. “I can always tell when I am talking to a Negro”, Duke says, “[but] I can tell that you’re a pure, Aryan white man by the way you pronounce certain words”. For the audience, the joke is that they can see Stallworth, complete with dark skin and wide afro. But the deeper point is more serious. In so many of our communities, whether they are countries or churches, the only chance of belonging is if you speak the language in a way that those in charge can understand.
It is often stated that we belong to a multicultural church, and that Australia is a multicultural society. What is less often seen or stated is that within this cultural diversity there is one culture that is not like the rest. I am talking about being ‘white’. This isn’t just about skin colour. To be white is to belong to, or to associate with, a particular history and a way of seeing the world that views everything and everyone else as ‘different from us’. It is to think that cultural diversity is what happens when ‘we’ need to work out how to live with ‘them’, the people who aren’t like us. To be white is to divide humanity into categories of race and culture in a way that assumes our culture, history, and language to be somehow normative, which, of course, renders everything else a form of deviance. We – no, let me make this personal – I have learned to see the world this way because of a particular history. In that history, some people created the category of ‘race’ as a way of justifying taking land and destroying life and culture that belonged to other people. The result of that history is that we expect others to speak our language in a way that we can understand. To be white is to occupy a privileged
position in a world created by colonialism and invasion. Ta-Nehisi Coates makes the point in his exquisite and powerful letter to his teenage son, Between the World and Me: “…race is the child of racism, not the father … Difference in hue and hair is old. But the belief in the preeminence of hue and hair, the notion that these factors can correctly organise a society and that they signify deeper attributes, which are indelible — this is the new idea at the heart of these new people who have been brought up hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully, to believe that they are white.” Now, there is a whole body of thinking, reflection, writing, and scholarship that lies behind a statement like that. But for me those words function as a constant personal reminder. I have been raised ‘hopelessly, tragically, deceitfully’ to believe that I am white, and it affects everything. I can no more escape it than I can crawl out of my own skin. “Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy towards some and broader scepticism toward others,” Coates writes. I am guilty of such racism, and should acknowledge it. I should also work to understand how it shapes my view of the world and my relationships with others in ways that harm. And where possible, I
should do the hard work of changing my attitudes, behaviour, and expectations. The implications of this for the UCA and for Australian society are also far-reaching. In all our celebration of multicultural diversity we aren’t as attentive as we should be to questions of power, and the past and present realities of the racism that is endemic within and beyond the church. Too often our talk of welcome and hospitality is genuine, but that disguises our reluctance to do anything more than expect other people to speak in a way that we can understand. There is also a good deal of theological work to be done, unpicking the ways in which we have painted and preached and interpreted and lived the gospel in various shades of white.
Sean Winter is head of Pilgrim Theological College and director of Education and Formation for Leadership.
A scene from BlackKklansman 18
CROSSLIGHT - OCTOBER 18
Christ and St Menas By Annette Packett
St Clare of Assisi By Margaret Harper
Mandylion By Margaret Harper
Catherine of Siena By Peter Blackwood
In this issue’s editorial Alex Safran tells the story that inspired his icon which forms part of the ‘Visions of the Invisible’ exhibition being staged at the Centre of Theology and Mission in Parkville until 26 October. Here is some of the other work by the students of the Uniting Church School of Icons.
Everybody has a story
THE LITTLE THINGS MARGARET GAMBOLD It's the little things that matter in this lifetime that we lead. It's the noticing of others in their desperate hours of need. It's the hesitating wisely if we're getting in the way, but soothing with a contact when their lives have gone astray. It's the little things that matter when we find someone afraid. A smile or kindly greeting may just brighten up their day. It's the meeting them with caring and a little bit of sun, when the day is at its darkest and their instinct is to run. It's the little things that matter, things we normally might doubt, at the unexpected moments, when there's no-one else about. It's the sharing, loving kindnesses that make a rough road smooth It's our willingness to listen, offering deeds and words to soothe. It's the little things that matter in our hearts and in our minds, when we hear but p'raps don't listen to the troubles others find. It's when time and stillness matter in the midst of life's full days, when we need to turn and walk a step in someone else's pain.
PLEASE send us your stories. They can be in the form of poems, comics, creative writing or artwork such as kids’ drawings, culinary art, graphic design, photography, digital illustration, sculptures, pottery, paintings and sketches. If English isn’t your first language, or you are unsure of how to start, please contact us at Crosslight for a chat. Email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
OCTOBER 18 - CROSSLIGHT
It's the things that alter patterns on this troubled mortal plain when plans are naught and what we thought are not our lot today. All the detours down new pathways that we didn't plan to see as the little things like caring change our lives and who we'll be. It's God's plan for us to care about the little things He sends, to test our understandings, and to use the gifts He lends. We are workers in His Kingdom and we have a task so large to care about the little things, this special job our charge.
Please don’t tell me how I feel SHARON HOLLIS
Michael and Sharon
WHEN I thought about writing this column to tie in with Mental Health Week (7-13 October) I had planned to write a general column about mental health and the church. But the general column didn’t come because this is not just a broad issue for me – it’s personal and it’s personal in a particular way. My beloved partner Michael died by suicide almost five years ago, the result of a major depressive episode. Even though I’ve been fairly public about how Michael died there is still a nervousness in saying this out loud because of the stigma attached to mental illness and the particular stigmatisation of death by suicide. As someone who lives with the grief of having a loved one die by suicide here are some things I want people to know about how it is for me. I offer this as my truth, aware others who have been on this journey will not see it exactly the same. I offer my truth in the hope it builds understanding and compassion.
Michael was loved I’ve noticed when a public person dies by suicide what follows are a flood of social media and blog posts from people who had never met the person, saying things like: “If only I’d met them and told them how much I loved/
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admired them they might not have died.”. This is said in a well-meaning way, but behind it, is an assumption that everyone who dies by suicide is unloved. While this may be true for some it is not true for most. People who die by suicide are loved partners, parents, children, siblings, aunts, uncles and friends. And they are loving partners, parents, children, siblings, aunts, uncle and friends. Among the many cruelties of mental illness, particularly depression, is the way it robs the person suffering of the capacity to receive love, to feel love, to value themselves and their capacities. This incapacity doesn’t mean they aren’t loved, it doesn’t mean they aren’t part of communities of care. Please don’t assume I didn’t fiercely love Michael, or that he didn’t love me. The same goes for my daughters, his family and his friends.
Michael’s life is not defined by his death There is so much more to Michael than how he died. He was a partner, a father, a friend. He was a records manager and Anglican priest. He loved to go running and make art. He enjoyed English comedies and cricket. None of us should be defined by the worst decision we make or how we die and this is true for people who die by suicide.
What you think I’m feeling is probably not what I’m feeling Before you’ve been close to death by suicide you make assumptions about how those in that situation are feeling. You are probably wrong. I have experienced a range of emotions – aching loss, frustration, sadness, anger, despair, support, love and kindness. But each time someone has tried to tell me how I’m feeling they’ve been wrong. What they are telling me about is their emotions, not mine. It’s fine that different people have different responses to death by suicide. I would urge you though not to impose your emotional response on to those closest to death. Listen to them, honour what they are feeling, sit with them in the silence when there are no words for the enormity. Allow them the range of feelings they have.
Grief after suicide is complex and long lasting All significant grief is painful and slow. The grief after the death of someone you love by suicide is particularly long and complex. There is all the “normal” grief to work through plus the trauma that follows a suicide. You have to process a whole range of questions, emotions and thoughts. Things like ‘could I have prevented the
death?’, ‘was I to blame?’, ‘what more could I have done?’ It took me over three years not to feel my grief in a raw, cry-most-days way. Five years on, I feel like I’m only just emerging from the tunnel of grief such that it doesn’t consume me most days.
I don’t believe in “closure” Michael will always be part of my life. I won’t ever have closure. One of the challenges after the death of anyone you love is how do you renegotiate your relationship with them so that you don’t sever the tie while also accepting that they have died. This renegotiation happens around how you will mark important days like birthdays, anniversaries and holiday seasons, such as Christmas and Easter. It includes how the dead person will be present in your home, how you will include them in conversation and how their memory and legacy will continue to be part of ongoing life. Sharon Hollis is the moderator of the Victoria and Tasmania synod.
If you or someone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Fading dream of a new Sri Lanka DEVANANDAN ANANDARAJAN
A gathering of dispossessed people who live in makeshift homes
IN 2016 I wrote my hope for Sri Lanka. At that time it seemed a space for democracy had been opened after the civil war and with the present government coming to power in 2015, backed by the overwhelming support of minorities. These minorities (Tamils, Muslims, Burghers and others) realised that if they could band together they could change the course of politics or at least impact who gets elected. There was a greater sense of belonging, which had eroded under the previous majority Sinhalese regime. The national anthem could be sung in Tamil again. Drawing inspiration from Martin Luther King Jr I wrote that my dream was “that one day the Government of Sri Lanka will say sorry to the minorities for the discriminatory policies that marginalised them in their own country”. “That one day all those who have suffered will receive justice. That one day those who have inflicted pain will truly repent and be sorry for their deeds.” Sadly, as I learnt last month during the Ecumenical Network for Sri Lanka meeting of ministers in Colombo, that day seems much further away. One minister said “Even God is helpless” and I believe he was expressing the general feeling of his community. Every two years the network meets to visit places of need and discuss how the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka, which members of our church partner with, can meet the challenges facing a postwar nation. On our visit to the Anuradhapura district we met with the farmers at Rajangana who are fighting a battle with the local council and government authorities to safeguard their water resources. The government planned to use the Rajangana tank, which was built for farming use, for drinking water.
The farmers agitated and organised public demonstrations. This protest was met with arrests and intimidation by the security forces. But their relentless protest actions made the government suspend their plan. During Sri Lanka’s civil war one of the minorities grievously affected was the Muslim community. They were sometimes forced to leave their land within 24 hours by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a militant group that was controlling a major part of north and east. In the Mannar region they were allowed to take a meagre sum of cash, but had to leave behind all their belongings. It was nearly 20 years later, after the conflict ended, that they returned to resettle their land.
the unearthing of skeletal remains in a mass grave. These findings are not uncommon. In Vavuniya, we met with the parents of children who disappeared. They told stories of children forcefully taken by the LTTE and the government security forces. The parents, most of them women, have been staging a demonstration for nearly 550 days to highlight their plight and to appeal to the local and international communities to help find their children. There were tears, frustration and anger as they spoke. One of the mothers posed us the question: “How would you feel if your child went missing even for a short time? We have been searching for our children for the last nine years.” Many believe their children are alive,
“How would you feel if your child went missing even for a short time? We have been searching for our children for the last nine years.” Their land boundaries had to be redrawn. They had to rebuild their houses, schools and mosques, but are struggling with irrigation as water resources are scarce. There was an overwhelming feeling that the government has let all the minorities down. This was very evident in the meeting we had with the citizens’ committee. There was frustration and anger expressed against all Sri Lankan governments since independence for the violence unleased on the Tamils, which some described as nothing short of “genocide”. They expressed the view that the present government had done nothing to address the grievances of the Tamil people. While we were in Mannar we discovered
working in hidden military camps. Some claimed they have spoken directly with the president but no information or help has come forth. A Muslim representative group from Mullaitivu also spoke to us about the resistance and hatred they are experiencing from Tamils after going back to settle in lands where they were driven out. They lamented that the local government was being unhelpful and that were unable to understand the animosity shown to them by people they had lived with before. As I listened to the many stories of conflict, struggle and pain I reflected on the statement made by the minister about God being helpless.
I thought of those who have seen their children being taken by force, thrown into the military truck by government forces or conscripted to take up arms by the LTTE. There are also those whose lands have been occupied by the military, meaning they are unable to return. Some have camped opposite their house living under makeshift shelters under trees to look out at their occupied former home. I was asking: “Where is God in all this?” What theology can help to prompt communities to reflect on their role in the chaos? What theology can help to engage with the helplessness of the individual and communities? Can the Carpenter from Nazareth, convicted as a criminal, stripped of all his belongings, abandoned by his closest friends, forsaken by God whom he called father and hanging on the cross utterly helpless offer a theology that would empower the powerless? Even though the guns have ceased, Sri Lankans have seen the brunt of war. Many have lost loved ones. There is a very high probability that many of those who are searching for their children may never find them. But I saw something remarkable happen. Mothers, sisters and wives, who in a conservative society are considered the weaker sex to be protected by males, have gathered to demand the government help find the missing children. They are willing to walk the hard mile meeting with NGOs, local and foreign officials and organisations to highlight their pain. They feel they have nothing to lose. Their experience of helplessness has given them a power to continue whatever the outcome may be. My hope and prayer now for Sri Lanka is that their powerlessness is channelled in such life-giving ways so that in the midst of hopelessness they become symbols of hope.
CROSSLIGHT - OCTOBER 18
Don’t screen God out of the workplace JOHN BOTTOMLEY
“Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured.”(Heb13:13) THIS text preached by Rev Dr Davis McCaughey at my ministry exit valedictory service in 1972 still resonates with me. In my first placement at outer suburban Knox, there were times I indeed felt “outside the city gate” as the writer of Hebrews called Christ’s followers to be. But it was only when I left congregational ministry in 1984 to work as a researcher for dockyard trade unions on workplace health and safety that I more fully understood what it meant to minister outside the camp. There I discovered that the arena of paid work was a world away from the priorities and concerns of the church in which I grew up and was formed for ministry. These days the divide between the church and the world of work seems even greater. I find it most painful that the synod’s Major Strategic Review, rather than grasping the strategic and theological importance of work for discerning God’s presence in our world, has exacerbated this divide. The MSR advised recreating the synod’s structure around one new entity to focus on capacity-building of leaders for mission, and a second (perhaps secondary?) entity that focuses on the “hard” measurable realities of money, property and insurance risk. This separation of the synod’s business and mission spheres pre-dates church union, but has sadly remained unnoticed until recently. OCTOBER 18 - CROSSLIGHT
Now the synod has physically and visibly separated its mission and business entities through the relocation of mission units to the Centre for Theology and Ministry. The synod appears to have happily accepted the MSR’s trust in the prevailing post-Enlightenment worldview that creates a divide between public, scientifically verifiable “facts” that are “true”, while relegating beliefs, values and emotions to private and personal choice. This separation of the “material” from the “spiritual” is neither major nor strategic. In the world of modern work, faith in God is largely excluded from workplaces, whereas in the UCA, the reverse should be true. However, calling the church’s work ‘God’s mission’ does not make it so, especially when the fruit of our reorganisation further fragments the wholeness of the church’s life and mission. It is the contribution of business acumen to mission planning that is too often relegated to outsider status, leaving little opportunity for mutual discernment until it is too late. The absurdity of this paradox struck me at a recent seminar sponsored by UCA Funds Management to report on their struggles with the ethical issues arising from the banking royal commission’s exposure of unethical and potentially criminal behaviour in the financial sector. A bare handful of UCA members were present to hear a substantial presentation on a complex ethical dilemma.
Financial services staff were raising significant ethical questions facing our church and nation, while equipping Leadership for Mission staff were nowhere to be seen or heard. We are a sadly divided house. Our church’s captivity to religion being relegated to the private sphere allows the public demise of ethical work practices in national corporate life to flourish. Neither church nor nation trust in God’s governance of our whole lives, private and public. And our rejection of God’s word for our world of work is now near terminal. The synod has been captive to this idolatry of a Godless world of work for decades. By the time we faced the chaos of Acacia College and “Uniting our Future”, the synod’s
“These days, the divide between the church and the world of work seems even greater.”
default response was firmly established. Call in consultants. The pattern rarely varied. We act on consultants’ advice from organisational development and management, then later add we have “discerned” our “new” mission and baptise it with after-the-fact theological jargon. Consultants’ solutions typically strengthen the centralisation of synod power and control, which appears to weaken members’ faith. So does our faith have nothing to offer in times of personal and corporate crisis? Hebrews calls Christ’s followers to eschew the answers offered by the city’s powers and go to Christ in his suffering outside the city gate. Sadly the MSR did not heed that call. Rather its worldly advice has embedded the synod in the very idolatry that robs the public world of work of God’s lifegiving Spirit. It is no wonder the UCA witnesses so little to the crises of people’s working lives or corporate malfeasance.
John Bottomley is a Uniting Church minister, consults through his own business, Transforming Work, and shares in caring for his elderly mother. John is a member of the Centre for Research in Religion and Social Policy Committee and author of Hard Work Never Killed Anybody: how the idolisation of work sustains this deadly lie. 21
Going rate BARRY GITTINS
The full-time permanent job is rapidly disappearing. FOR the first recorded time less than half of all working Australians (49.97 per cent) have full-time jobs with leave entitlements. The “casual” full-time workforce (those without leave entitlements) grew by 38 per cent between 2009 and 2017, while part-time work comprises 31.7 per cent of employees – also a new high. Demographer and social researcher Mark McCrindle predicts the job market will increasingly feature “precarious, insecure, contingent work; the gig economy – any work that doesn’t have consistent hours and entitlements”. “We live in a time of contracts, casual work, freelance options, with no set hours and no social supports, such as sick leave, holiday pay and superannuation” he says. This is especially the reality for younger workers, with only 38.9 per cent of them having a full-time job, down from 42.5 per cent in 2012. A Senate inquiry into the future of work, which wrapped up last month, expressed great concern over what it saw as an erosion of working pay and conditions. “Casual work, labour hire, sham
contracting, the gig economy … are forms of work which in certain guises reduce workers’ rights and protections, and often deny workers access to basic rights and conditions that workers and unions have fought,” the inquiry’s final report said. The committee’s report, Hope is not a strategy – our shared responsibility for the future, recommended that industrial relations regulations, provisions and protections be extended to the casual workforce with some contractors, such as Uber drivers, reclassified as employees. In its submission to the inquiry UnitingCare cited a 2005 seminar paper on the rise of casual work authored by academics Robyn May, Iain Campbell and John Burgess. “It is clear that casual workers in general are far more vulnerable to practices such as summary dismissal, variation in hours and schedules, arbitrary treatment and underpayment,” the paper stated. The proliferation of casual work was recently denounced by the leader of the Anglican church in Britain, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. “The gig economy, zero-hours contracts, are nothing new,” he declared. “It is simply the reincarnation of an ancient evil.”
However, not everyone has found the new world of work so diabolical. Writer and editor Anita Coia went through three redundancies while working for large corporations, including the National Australia Bank. She decided to start her own company, Red Pepper Communications, and says this decision changed her life for the better.
CROSSLIGHT - OCTOBER 18
“The big benefit for me was the flexibility to do what I wanted, when I wanted, and have more leverage in the relationship with the client,” Anita says. “When you are an employee, everything is stacked in the favour of the employer. There’s not so much flexibility, and that’s a transaction you agree to, as they are paying you for your efforts. “Working for myself, I had a little more power in the relationship.” However, Anita says there is also more pressure to remain viable. “Especially these days, there are more people working in the gig economy,” she says. “Competition is a bit fiercer for work, and employers have more choices at their disposal. When you are working for yourself, there are a lot more overheads involved.” Before she was married, Anita found it easier to support herself, but she says that “things started to get complicated when I had children” and still had to “keep the work coming in”. “That’s not an issue until suddenly your spare time is not spare; when your ‘free’ hours are reduced with children or with sick relatives,” she says. Anita also has a mixed report on her job satisfaction and enjoyment. “As an employee in a large company you are more removed from the output,” she says. “There is more camaraderie as an employee, but you are also a cog in the machine. When you are working directly with clients, however, it is a lot more of an immediate relationship. “The flipside is that if you are ‘fly in, fly out’, then you miss the teamwork aspect of life.” Mark McCrindle says the social aspect of the traditional workplace is often underappreciated. “Going to work gives us a place of belonging, of inclusion and affirmation,” he says. “The impact of work in our lives is growing, as the workplace is increasingly becoming a place of social wellbeing: we used to know and interact with our neighbours and our extended families.
OCTOBER 18 - CROSSLIGHT
“We used to volunteer in greater numbers, and have ‘church families’. That’s increasingly not the case.” Mark goes even further: “Work is not just employment; it is a key part of the human experience. Working is an essential part of being human. “It’s always been important for our identity, our self-image, and for being able to pay the bills. “But going to work it is now more of a sociological cornerstone; a key part of our overall communication. The workplace has become a key portal of the modern human experience. “It is a place of both professional and personal connection. The workplace breaches the age gap, and keeps us in a learning mindset.” Losing a job can feel like losing an identity, but it may also eventually provide freedom to grow and explore. For Jim Pratchett (not his real name) the gig economy is proving a necessary stepping stone to reinventing himself both as an employee and as a person. Jim was working for a large multi-national when they offered him a large redundancy as part of a corporate restructure. He grabbed it and had some time off. With his recognised skillsets and a good attitude Jim expected that finding another job would not be too much of a problem. Jim was diagnosed, wrongly as it turned out, with having depression. However, he managed to be successfully re-deployed interstate with another multinational, only to find the geographical and emotional distance from his children and family to be even more debilitating than his medical condition. A sharp economic downturn, with plummeting coal prices, again saw Jim unemployed. As a contractor, he says he was “last person on, first person off ”. “My work was valued, but I was expendable,” he said. Jim went “home”, pursuing brain scans, blood tests, and answers. He eventually found out years later that
a severe lack of B12 had been resulting in oxygen deprivation, fatigue and incapacity. The diagnoses led to regular B12 injections that, when combined with being reunited with his kids, helped him re-enter the workforce in a casual job. Jim says he is prepared to do a boring and unfulfilling job until he can obtain more meaningful work. To this end he is studying a BA in behavioural studies. Whether it is meaningful or not, some believe that automation and machines with artificial intelligence (AI) will eventually supplant most human employees. Management consultants McKinsey predict the imminent loss of 800 million jobs worldwide through this process. Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Facebook inventor Mark Zuckerberg and Virgin mogul Richard Branson have argued a basic universal income will be necessary for most to survived in a post-work world. This type of scheme, already trialled in Finland and elsewhere, would see governments give people a guaranteed regular living “wage”. A world where needs are met without needing to work might evoke biblical comparisons with the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve were “free to eat from any tree in the garden” (Gen 2:15, NIV).
However, it would be wrong to suppose that even before the unfortunate incident with the apple Adam and Eve had no vocation because Genesis also states God placed them there “to work it and take care of it” (Gen 2: 16). In the first book of the Bible the act of creation itself is described as a type of work, which God rests from on the seventh day. This is perhaps reflected in the etymology of the word “work”, which comesfrom Old English/Mercian and Proto-Germanic tongues and the sense to “exert creative power; be a creator”. Rev Dr Gordon Preece, Director of the University of Divinity’s Centre for Research in Religion and Social Policy, says that “there is creativity in many, many fields of activity; many workers engage in craft, in some sense”. “Work is relational, communal – an experience that connects you with others. Then there is also the aesthetic, creative level, whereby work’s not just a means to an end, but an end or aspect of life in itself,” Gordon says. ‘If we are spending long hours in the workplace, as many of us do, then we do well to look for how we can work with God in that experience.” Gordon cites John Calvin and Martin Luther on the spirtual importance of work. “They related the concept of calling, or vocation, to work, without being precious,” Gordons ays. “Luther spoke of blacksmiths labouring in their smithies surrounded by their tools and bellows, being told by their tools to ‘use me to love and serve your neighbour’. “We can adapt that picture to our technological tools, even those Artificially Intelligent tools.” Gordon says the ultimate interpretation of work is that “life itself is a work in progress, and employment/vocation is not excluded. “If we choose to live life to give glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31), through every part of our lives, then we need to see work as part of that picture,” he says.
Placements CURRENT AND PENDING PLACEMENT VACANCIES AS AT 20 SEPTEMBER 2018 PRESBYTERY OF GIPPSLAND Lakes Entrance (0.6) (C) (P) Trafalgar (*) Drouin-Bunyip Parish (*) Maffra - Heyfield (*) Morwell – Yallourn (*) Mission Resourcing Minister – PeM (C) PRESBYTERY OF LODDON MALLEE Central Mallee Cooperating Parish (0.5) and Tyrrell Parish (0.5) (C) (P) Presbytery Minister - Generalist – Southern Region (C) Castlemaine District (C) PRESBYTERY OF NORTH EAST VICTORIA Presbytery Minister, Liaison and Education (0.5) (C) (P) Kyabram Parish p/t (*) Seymour Parish (*) PRESBYTERY OF PORT PHILLIP EAST Chadstone – Melbourne Fijian UC (*) Chelsea, Carrum and Edithvale (C) Hampton Park (C) Mount Martha (0.8) (C) Monash & Mulgrave (C) Noble Park (0.5) (C) Presbytery Minister - Team Leader (C) (P) Presbytery Minister – Church Development (C) (P) Westernport Parish (C) PRESBYTERY OF PORT PHILLIP WEST Aitken College Chaplain (C) Essendon North (0.5 – 0.7) (C) (P) Presbytery Minister (C) (P) Brunswick – Children, Youth and Young Adults (*) Footscray (*) Sunshine Congregation and Mental Health Chaplaincy (*)
Hobart (Wesley) IIM (C) (P) Launceston North (*) Presbytery Minister – Mission Development (C) (P) PRESBYTERY OF WESTERN VIC Henty Region – Surrey Cluster (P) (C) Lake Bolac Cluster – Hopkins Correctional Facility (*) Presbytery Minister, Pastoral Leadership and Education (C) (P) Presbytery Minister, Administration (C) (P) Ararat IIM (*) Ballarat Central (*) Ballarat South (C) Horsham and District (*) PRESBYTERY OF YARRA YARRA Banyule Network – Pastoral Care and Discipleship (C) Glen Iris Road (C) Heathmont (*) Ringwood (C) Deepdene (*) Presbytery Minister (*) SYNOD Intergenerational Ministry – Young Adults (C) (P) (C) Current - may be in conversation (*) Pending - profile expected soon. Ministers available for placement may express interest in a particular placement. (P) Suitable for pastor. A lay person wishing to be considered must lodge an Expression of Interest. Enquiries and completed Expressions of Interest forms to: Rev Sue Withers Secretary, Placements Committee Email: email@example.com Expressions of Interest forms are available at: www.victas.uca.org.au
PRESBYTERY OF TASMANIA Derwent Cluster (Glenorchy and Claremont) (0.6) (C) (P)
COMING EVENTS UNITING AGEWELL STRATHDON COMMUNITY SEEKING VOLUNTEERS SUNDAYS Uniting AgeWell Strathdon, 17 Jolimont Rd, Forest Hill. Uniting AgeWell Strathdon is seeking volunteers to assist with its church service on Sundays. Volunteers will take up the collection, do Bible readings and have fellowship with the residents. For more information, contact Leah Rose on (03) 9845 3111 or firstname.lastname@example.org DIALOGUE WITH OTHER VOICES OCT-NOV 2018 Heathmont Uniting Church, 89 Canterbury Rd, Heathmont. During his supply ministry, Rev Dr Paul Tonson will engage with voices of other beliefs. Our guests will be Joe Sehee, volunteer chaplain with the Humanist Society of Victoria (7 October) and Alice Carr, of the Progressive Atheists (28 October). Paul is biblical, evangelical and progressive in presenting the Christian faith in contemporary thought forms. For updated details, call (03) 9729 4452. HEIDELBERG DROP-IN CENTRE CELEBRATING 40 YEARS 11 OCTOBER AND 10AM TEA FOR 11AM SERVICE, SUNDAY 14 OCTOBER 187 Burgundy St, Heidelberg. Everyone is most welcome to join us on one or both occasions. To receive an invitation, email: email@example.com GRAND FETE - GLEN WAVERLEY UNITING CHURCH 8.30AM – 2PM, 20 OCTOBER Glen Waverley Uniting Church, cnr Kingsway and Bogong Ave, Glen Waverley. Lots of stalls, food and entertainment, trash ‘n’ treasure, pre-loved books and clothes, craft, cakes, plants and a silent auction. Your donations are most welcome but please do not bring them to the church until the week of the fete. All proceeds support our church’s outreach projects. For further information call (03) 9560 3580.
SWELL CONFERENCE - PRESENCE 12- 14 OCTOBER SWell Centre, 2 Minona St, Hawthorn. A fresh expression of being ‘church’ with those who connect spiritually with the Source, and know about resting into Presence, but would not particularly want to spend time singing hymns and listening to sermons in a church. We welcome guest speaker and facilitator Rev Rod Pattenden, who explores our human calling to attend to Presence. We also welcome SWell practitioners who will create spaces for companionship, connection and cultivating Presence. Come and participate in this brilliant event. Register at https://www.trybooking.com/XMJU 150th ANNIVERSARY - WANDIN SEVILLE UNITING CHURCH 10AM, 21 OCTOBER Wandin Seville Uniting Church, cnr Beenak and Hunter Rd, Wandin North. Rev Sharon Hollis, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania Moderator, will preach at the service. Lunch will be served at 1pm and speakers will discuss the history of local families. Afternoon tea will also be served. A PLEASANT SUNDAY AFTERNOON 2.30PM, 21 OCTOBER St Thomas’ Uniting Church, cnr Rayfield and Dianne Ave, Craigieburn. Come and enjoy a wonderful afternoon of entertainment and a Pleasant Sunday Afternoon. $5 entry. All welcome. Contact Narelle on 0433 740 161. SENIORS MORNING TEA AT THE HUB SUPPORTING RESEARCH INTO MOTOR NEURONE DISEASE 10AM – NOON, 25 OCTOBER Glen Waverley Uniting Church, cnr Bogong Ave and Kingsway. Come along to The Hub and enjoy a delicious morning tea as we celebrate and thank our seniors for all the help they give in our community. Bring your family and friends. All donations go towards research into motor neurone disease. For information and group bookings, telephone (03) 9560 3580.
MINISTRY MOVES CALLS AND APPOINTMENTS FINALISED Suzie Castle, to commence at Surf Coast on 1 November 2018
CONCLUSIONS Annaliese Hallam, MLC Chaplaincy concluded on 29 June 2018
Banyule Network of Uniting Churches Clinical Pastoral Education Centre Pastoral Care in the Midst of Change and Transition 4 February to 2 December 2019 This CPE Centre is offering an innovative and fully accredited part time program of Clinical Pastoral Education in 2019. Successful applicants will be engaged in 200 hours of actual pastoral care with members of congregations experiencing change during a building for mission program. Education days are scheduled on Mondays. Further information is available at: http://banyulenetwork.unitingchurch.org.au/cpe or by contacting Jennifer Gibbons 0418 318 589 l Jgibbons1942@bigpond.com
JOB OPPORTUNITY MANAGER - KINROSS ARTS CENTRE Toorak Uniting Church is seeking an experienced arts manager to lead Kinross Arts Centre - a major venue for outreach through the arts. Located on the grounds of TUC, Kinross Arts Centre features a gallery, seven artist studios, commercial cafe and garden courtyard. The Manager will oversee program and audience development, facility management, tenancies and outreach initiatives with the guidance of the Uniting Arts Toorak Committee of Management. This is a great opportunity to make an impact in community and arts arenas. 0.8 EFT. Flexible work hours negotiable; some After Hours work required. Commencing November 2018. Enquiries: E firstname.lastname@example.org T 0422 228 416
CROSSLIGHT - OCTOBER 18
Notices SERVICE OF RELEASE FOR REV CHRIS MENEILLY 10AM, 28 OCTOBER Southern Mornington Peninsula UC, 6 Murray Anderson Rd, Rosebud. ‘VOLUNTARY ASSISTED DYING – CONFLICTS AND DILEMMAS’ PANEL DISCUSSION 3PM – 5PM, 28 OCTOBER Ewing Memorial Centre of Stonnington Uniting Church, cnr Burke Rd and Coppin St, Malvern East. Chaired by Dr Chris Page. Panellists include Dr Mark Zirnsak, Rev Lauren Mosso and Dr Nick Carr. MIND BODY SPIRIT SERVICE 5.30 – 7.30PM, SUNDAY 28 OCTOBER North Balwyn Uniting Church, 17-21 Duggan St, Balwyn North. Rev Anneke Oppewal, minister of religion and qualified clinical hypnotherapist and psychotherapist will discuss anxiety and its many guises, including how it affects our lives and how we might find ways to bend our minds towards a more helpful way of living with it. To be followed by soup and a short service of reflective worship. Find out more at www.nbuc.org.au. ANNUAL GATHERING OF RETIRED MINISTERS AND SPOUSES 10.30AM – 2.30PM, TUESDAY 30 OCTOBER 2018 Glen Waverley Uniting Church, cnr Bogong Ave & Kingsway, Glen Waverley.
All retired ministers of the UCA, their spouses, deaconesses, and ministers’ widows and widowers are invited to the annual gathering. Morning tea at 10.30am, worship with the Moderator Sharon Hollis preaching, and an update from Mercer Australia regarding the Beneficiary Fund before lunch. Cost is $25. To RSVP by Monday 15 October, contact Emma Gordon on P: (03) 9251 5476 or E: email@example.com. Please provide your name, mailing address, email and phone number to ensure that our contact details are correct. FIFTH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT AND EXCELSIS CHORAL DEBUT 7.30PM, 2 NOVEMBER Elizabeth Murdoch Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre, Corner Southbank Blvd and Sturt St. Join Excelsis, Melbourne’s most dynamic church choir, at their Melbourne Recital Centre debut. Excelsis will present a program featuring genres the choir has become renowned for, including African chant and song, spirituals and gospel music. Come along for a fun, inspiring and entertaining night of beautiful choral music. Tickets: A reserve $55/45 and B reserve $35/25. For bookings visit www.melbournerecital.com.au or phone (03) 9699 3333. MEDITATION AND HEALING RETREAT – CAMPS FARTHEST OUT 1-4 NOVEMBER Pallotti College, Millgrove. Camps Farthest Out invites you to a
retreat with speaker Frank Daniels (retired Salvation Army Officer). Open yourself to God and his love, deepen your relationship with him, enjoy fellowship and share with other Christians. Register by 5 October for an early bird discount. Registrations close 19 October. Enquiries to Jan on 0407 507 313. Registration brochures from Harry Box at firstname.lastname@example.org SAFE CHURCH TRAINING – SOUTH EASTERN REGION 7:30PM-9:30PM, 1 NOVEMBER, 2PM-4PM, 10 NOVEMBER Ormond Uniting Church, Corner of North Rd & Booran Rd, Ormond. Safe Church Training will run for two sessions during November, maximum of 80 people per session. All employees and volunteers within the Uniting Church are required to attend Safe Church Training. Tea, coffee and biscuits will be available. Registrations will open on 8 October and close on 28 October, or when full. For information or bookings contact (03) 9578 1553 or email@example.com
CLASSIFIEDS NEW INTERPRETER BIBLE SET AVAILABLE: 12 large books from GenesisRevelations are being given away for collection at Sunbury. Contact Robert, P: 03 9744 5688
CAPE WOOLAMAI, PHILLIP ISLAND: Summerhays Cottage. Sleeps three. Tranquil garden. Stroll to beach. Discount for UCA members. www.summerhayscottage.com.au. Ring Doug or Ina on 0401 177 775. HYMN BOOKS AVAILABLE: Due to closure, North Dandenong Uniting Church has hymn books available – 50 Uniting in Worship Book 1, 90 Australian Hymn Books, 30 Sing Alleluia books and 30 Scripture in Song Book 1. Postage only payable. For more details, contact Sue Lyons on 0438 821 889. LORNE: Spacious apartment, breathtaking ocean view, open fire, peaceful, secluded, affordable. P: (03) 5289 2698. SENIORS’ SPECIAL: Enjoy a break in luxury surroundings. Three days and three nights, dinner, bed and breakfast for $450 per couple (including GST). Call Jindivick Gardens on (03) 5628 5319. CHOIR ROBES AVAILABLE: North Balwyn UC has 20+ choir robes in good condition (burgundy colour) to give to another congregation or choir. Contact the office Wednesday-Friday on (03) 9857 8412. WANTED TO BUY: Antiques, secondhand/retro furniture, bric-a-brac and collectables. Single items or whole house lots. Genuine buyer. Contact Kevin on 0408 969 920.
ABOUT THE INTERGENERATIONAL MINISTRY POSITION
POSITIONS VACANT New opportunities at equipping Leadership for Mission Expressions of interest for lay or ordained people are invited for the following two Full Time positions: • Intergenerational Ministry - Young Adults (placement) • 6RFLDO-XVWLFH2I¿FHU About us The new equipping Leadership for Mission Unit assists presbyteries, congregations and individuals in their missional leadership and practices. The Priorities, Focus and Advocacy stream leads, resources, encourages and promotes the strategic priorities, areas of focus and justice work of the Synod. UCA workplace ethos and values As an employer, we express the ethos of Christianity to love one another, to live justly and to seek the reconciliation and renewal of all creation by respecting ourselves and all whom we serve and employ. Our workplace values justice, inclusion, compassion, shared leadership, respect, integrity, wise stewardship and innovation.
equipping Leadership for Mission
Working with the Priorities, Focus and Advocacy team, you will • Nurture intergenerational ministry within the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania, with a primary focus on ministry and mission by and with young adults. • Encourage and build young adult networks and communities within the Synod, including partnerships with the Intercultural Ministry Forum, and the Next Gen community. • Provide resources and programs to enhance young adults’ capacities for engagement in leadership, mission, justice and discipleship, in collaboration with presbyteries and congregations. • Work to strengthen the Church’s understanding and theology for contextually appropriate ministry and mission by and in partnership with young adults. To apply, contact Nigel Hanscamp, Director – Priority, Focus and Advocacy at eLM E: firstname.lastname@example.org M: 0438 732 226 ABOUT THE SOCIAL JUSTICE OFFICER POSITION Working with the Justice and International Mission (JIM) team within eLM, you will • Engage younger generations across a range of social justice issues. • Contribute to campaigns that embody the Christian hope for a more just society and a sustainable environment. • Maintain up-to-date knowledge of social justice, human rights, international mission issues and contribute to relevant policy development. • Work cooperatively with ecumenical and community groups as well as presbyteries and congregations to advance justice outcomes aligned with the Church’s mission. To apply, go to https://ucavictas.mercury.com.au For further information contact email@example.com Applications for both positions close 5pm, 15 October.
OCTOBER 18 - CROSSLIGHT
First impressions Brief encounters
REVIEW BY NICK MATTISKE
REVIEW BY NICK MATTISKE
REVIEW BY ALAN RAY
REVIEW BY ALAN RAY
BOOK | ROYAL BOOKS AND HOLY BONES: ESSAYS IN MEDIEVAL CHRISTIANITY | EAMON DUFFY
BOOK | RATTLING SPEARS: A HISTORY OF INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIAN ART | IAN MCLEAN
BOOK | AND HE TALKS WITH ME | AL MEWETT
BOOK | TO BE A PILGRIM: A REFLECTIVE GUIDE TO THE HOLY LAND | BRADLY BILLINGS
EAMON Duffy writes that Christianity is a material religion, and it’s this theme that connects this collection of assorted essays and reviews. Christ was made man, and Christians believe in the resurrection of the body. In the medieval era, the sense of the material infused with the spiritual manifested itself in enthusiasm for saints’ bones, shrines, pilgrimages, sculpture, as well as gilded and richly illustrated books. Although a strength of the Reformation was to find that much of this medieval piety was superstition, it was not a stretch to still see power in objects. Even in relics, “some of them possibly even genuine” Duffy suggests sardonically, and, of course, in the Eucharist. Medieval people lived in an often harsh world, with death and decay more immediately present than in our Western society. The miraculous transformation of matter, be it in the Eucharist, the resurrection of the body after death, or the power of a saint’s bones, reassured people that God was in control. Institutions, buildings, liturgies and sacred objects were all figures of permanence and that made them spiritual insurance policies. Even though the medieval church had insisted that all this pointed directly to God, practice didn’t always match theory. The laity were often dazzled and fixated on “sacred bling” (Duffy’s words). This extended to the Bible itself, which was available only in Latin and often recited like a magical incantation. That made it an object of superstitious power, rather than the didactic and devotional tool it would become. Duffy writes, almost with a shrug, that religious fashions change. This may give the impression that medieval people were not that different to our own fickle selves. While Duffy’s impressive grasp of the complexity and richness of medieval Christian practice gives us insight, it also conveys the unsettling sense that much of the vast history of Christianity is foreign to our own contemporary experience.
CONTEMPORARY Indigenous art is one of the great modern art movements. Central and northern Australian Indigenous art in particular has mesmerised art buyers and gallery goers with its colour, rhythm, freshness and closeness to country. But it is not without ambiguities. While it is not entirely new and mines a rich vein of traditional design that was sustained over thousands of years in rock art, body painting and sacred objects, it is also often an art form adapted to Western tastes and influenced by Western ideas. In Rattling Spears, Ian McLean emphasises Indigenous art as a cross-cultural endeavour, from the moment Aborigines noticed white sails on the horizon, and especially after colonisation. But cross-cultural movements work both ways. Westerners have had to learn to look in a different way at Indigenous art, to appreciate an alternative to the European landscape tradition, and to understand the relation of Indigenous art to ceremony. McLean suggests that only after Western art theorists began embracing the abstract and performative aspects have they been able to appreciate Indigenous art as more than anthropological curiosity. While Westerners are often attracted to the aesthetics, from the beginning of ‘contact’ art with William Barak and others, through the pioneering Papunya movement of the 1970s, art was a way for Indigenous people to keep culture alive. Desert art has become spectacularly successful in doing so, yet is safely remote for most Australians. Urban Indigenous art, on the other hand, remains radically critical of white, mainstream society, a conscience-pricking thorn in the side of Australian culture. Christianity’s part in colonisation is an interesting thread in the book. Christians were often protective of Indigenous people and culture, against more general colonial attitudes of paternalism, neglect or outright hostility. And many Indigenous people embraced Christianity as a ‘fulfilment’ of traditional ways, a further sign of adaptability and continuing cross-cultural exchange.
WHAT an unusual publication. The title gives us a clue. Readers of a certain age, including this reviewer, may recognise the lyrics crooned by Elvis Presley: “And he walks with me and he talks with me/and he tells me I am his own/and the joy we share as we tarry there/none other has ever known.” This is an eclectic collection of short stories about well-known figures such as Flynn of the Inland, General Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, Mark Twain and others, which gives an insight into aspects of their faith. Do not expect saintly biographies or pious journeys of the soul. There is no deep theology or exegesis of texts. The vignettes of these historical figures illustrate the personal relationship each has with God and underscores the lyrics of the title, which also includes the lines: “I come to the garden alone/and the voice I hear falling on my ear/ the Son of God discloses.” Mewett has an interesting background. After being a Methodist minister for 25 years, including time with the Wesley Mission in Sydney, he became an executive in the commercial world. Drawing on his background, I imagine the author used many of these pithy anecdotes at business prayer breakfasts or to enliven his addresses when he worked as an assistant to Wesley Mission superintendent Rev Alan Walker. The book finishes with the story of Mark Twain, who received an invitation to meet the Kaiser. Twain’s daughter exclaimed that because he had met almost everyone else, “there won’t be anybody left for you to be acquainted with but God”. Mewett sums up his beliefs in the last sentence where he notes: “An invitation to be acquainted with God - that is in the hands of each of us.” The assurance, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13: 5) could be the sub-title for this series of reflections.
THE stony plateau of Bethlehem, the calm expanse of Galilee and the smells and bustle of Jerusalem are all evoked in this book. Reading it we can either be an armchair pilgrim or use it as a guide for a real visit to the Holy Land to follow Jesus’s journeyings from birth to resurrection. Bradly Billings, a Melbourne Anglican bishop, who labels Israel as the Land of the Holy One, provides maps, photos and meditations as an aid to our reflections. There is also practical travel advice. Following Mark’s gospel narrative, the author has shaped this guide from Bethlehem and Nazareth via the Jordan and Galilee, finishing in Jerusalem. Each chapter references the relevant Biblical passage and includes the reflections of theologians or well-known hymns which capture the atmosphere in poetic language. So often we ignore the context of the New Testament landscape. Perhaps we miss the impact of the original message when we are surrounded by robed choirs, vested clergy and our well-dressed neighbours amongst the stained glass and comfortable interiors of our churches. Seeing the actual locations brings a fresh perspective to the message. Billings poignantly describes the beatitude found near the sea of Galilee and the scene of the transfiguration on Mt Tabor as locations where we are afforded a glimpse and a foretaste of the glory of God breaking in from heaven. Many churches contain screens on which an image could be projected of the location of the Gospel reading. This would stimulate reflection of the relevance of the place where the events occurred. We often describe ourselves as a pilgrim people always following the way of the Cross. Most religious traditions practise pilgrimages to their holy places and they were once common for Christians. This excellent volume reminds us that we should always walk, at least metaphorically, in the footsteps of our Lord and thus be reminded of our roots in the faith.
Available from Bloomsbury, RRP $40
Available from New South Books, RRP $40
Available from Morning Star Publishing, RRP $21
Available from Morning Star Publishing, RRP: $21
CROSSLIGHT - OCTOBER 18
Social media round-up
Facebook: Messy Church Science at St John’s, Essendon
Podcast: Bradon French gets ready for season 2 of the Work Experience podcast
Facebook: Chaplain Rev Ray McCluskey at Monash University’s R U OK? Day event
Instagram: Light projection at Toorak Uniting Church
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Going the distance CROSSLIGHT will go a long way to find new readers, even 2336km. That’s the distance a parcel of the September issue of Crosslight travelled from Melbourne to new subscriber, the Norfolk Island Uniting Church. Norfolk Island Uniting Church treasurer Barbara Elliot said the congregation is small, but very active. “Our church participates and functions within a small community of approximately 2000 residents,” Barbara said. “Our congregation is small, with approximately 18 regulars. Visitors each week to Norfolk Island help ‘swell’ our numbers to 25 or so weekly.” “We do not have a permanent minister and instead welcome retired pastors who come for two or three months, live in the manse and provide ministry functions to the parish and the Norfolk Island community.” The congregation maintains a church, church hall and runs an op shop. “The buildings are very well maintained and equipped - in a beautiful ‘Norfolk’ style and service the community well,” Barbara said. OCTOBER 18 - CROSSLIGHT
Norfolk Island Uniting church member enjoy recent editions of Crosslight
“The op shop maintains our financial base for us and provides income for mission both on and off Norfolk Island.” The congregation hosts an “All Nations Church” from the Fijian community and the church hall is used as a combined churches kids’ club venue. Norfolk Island UC has a colourful history having been founded by Alfred
Phelps, an American Methodist who came ashore in 1879 to recover from an injury sustained while working as a cook aboard a whaling ship. In the early days there was some tension with the predominantly Anglican locals, who once locked the Methodist congregation in their own church. Perhaps reflecting its American founder
the church has a thanksgiving service every November. It might be remote but Ms Elliot said island life means enjoying “a sub-tropical climate and beautiful sea-scapes wherever you look”. Also, of course, there is some good reading to be had.
“ WH E N YOU PH OTOGRA PH A FA C E . . . YOU PH OTOGRA PH T H E S OU L B E H I ND I T.” —Jean-Luc Godard
The hard-working members of the Melba College Chaplaincy Committee baked up a storm for the annual high tea, held at Croydon North Uniting Church. The event raised funds to support a chaplain at Melba College, the local secondary school.
The Day for Girls East Gippsland group works closely with Bairnsdale Uniting Church to provide hygiene kits for women in developing countries. Group deputy leader and quality controller Merle McRae (right) packed some of the completed kits.
A new installation outside St John’s Elsternwick highlights the federal government’s rejection of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The Stawell Uniting Church donated money from their recent art exhibition to two local primary schools. Principal Robyn Jones received a cheque from Stawell Uniting Church member Julie Andrew, with new chaplain Michael Lewis looking on.
Stawell Uniting Church celebrated the confirmation of five members, including an adult immersion baptism. Each person gave a testimony of their faith journey and was welcomed into the congregation with joy and thanksgiving.