No. 286 April 2018
Students discover the power of small change and poetic words
Three members of the synod community talk about what Easter means to them
Sacred Edge speaker Sumaya Harare talks about self-acceptance
Pilgrim Theological College graduates celebrate an award service with a strong message
Regulars Why toddlers are both seen and heard at Clarence Uniting Church
Peter, Paul and Mary feature in our reviews of Easter holiday movies
Letters - 16 Moderator’s column - 19 People - 20 Notices - 24 to 25 Reviews - 26
Editorial THIS month Crosslight welcomes Matt Julius, a student at Pilgrim Theological College, a barista at a Uniting Church-run café, and a novice preacher.
God’s grace in all contexts
Selfie time with Matt Julius and his wife Natalie
OCCASIONALLY I sit back and reflect on just how patently ridiculous Easter is. The Christian claim is that a first century Jew wandered around preaching salvation, and enacted God’s love in bloody execution.
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Perhaps more intriguingly, this bloodied execution is not understood as the end of the story. Somehow the story goes on. Somehow this Jesus who died on the cross confronts us with a word of greeting: chairete! You can see the moment reflected on this month’s cover in an icon painted by Peter Blackwood, who also answers a few questions about the work and his commitment to the artistic form of icons on page 20. How we interpret this greeting from a crucified Messiah is varied, as this month’s centre page feature of three Easter reflections shows us. It is as if we are presented with a set of questions, and rarely a set of clear answers. As we seek to respond to the ongoing greeting of the crucified Messiah we seek ways to explore a new and renewed life. This new and renewed life embraces people 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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beyond the narrow confines of cultures; it impacts how we relate to our peers, it engages families, and it leads us to pursue justice and care for everyone. Crosslight’s new regular family section (pages 12-13) aims to show how this renewing life inspires ministries across generations and cultures. Old and new methods can be used to spread the message of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. We explore church signage (page 22), as well as modern digital means of communication, in the new round-up of social media on page 27. However, for those of us too young to remember a church placed in the centre of social life, the ongoing outworking of the Easter message is strange. It no longer fits neatly into the cultural assumptions many have grown up with. What is often seen as a change, for those of us too young to
remember, is simply the way things are. Despite the very real difficulties the church faces, we are in some ways fortunate that the church no longer occupies a central place in society. The church and its message have become strange again. As the church becomes strange, perhaps we can better appreciate how remarkable it is that the story of Easter continues to unfold. Those of us who occupy the younger demographic in the church have opted in to the life of the church (society has moved past church as a default from which we “opt-out”). We are challenged to take seriously how faith touches us personally, and so are driven to telling our own stories of faith, and hearing the stories of others. Recalling the beginnings of the Uniting Church, we are brought into encounter with Christ’s strange way. And the strangeness greets us.
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News Airport West off to flying start DAVID SOUTHWELL
Worshippers at the dedication service
Going fourth on Sundays
APRIL 18 - CROSSLIGHT
FOR moderator Sharon Hollis the dedication of the Airport West Uniting Church was something of a homecoming. Ms Hollis grew up attending the church that was previously on the site but it’s unlikely she ever entered that building in such an emphatic fashion as she did the new one. Following an introductory prayer and acknowledgment of the First Peoples Ms Hollis ceremonially knocked on the doors three times before declaring them open. Later she unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion. “May this new suite of buildings be a sign to you of God’s goodness, a source of blessing to you and this community of Airport West and beyond,” Ms Hollis said during her address to the approximately 280 in attendance, one of whom was her mother. The service included the induction of a new minister for the congregation Rev Judy Rigby. Rev Bruce Watson performed the induction service along with congregational representatives. Ms Rigby said she was returning to ministry after a period away from it and had found that God had a great surprise for her. “I love being back in the church,” Ms Rigby said. “People respond positively to my ministry. I’ve still got gifts to share and something to say.” Construction on the new church began in April last year. The project came out of the 2011 amalgamation of the St Mark’s Keilor East, St Philip’s Airport West and Avondale Heights congregations. The Keilor East site was sold and the proceeds used to build
NECESSITY is the mother of invention, which is why on Sunday morning you might find Tallangatta Uniting Church members looking for gifts in an op shop rather than seated in pews for a traditional worship service. Tallangatta member Carmyl Winkler said that when the small congregation in north east Victoria suddenly found itself without a minister last year they were forced to rethink the way they did church. ”The first thing that happens is that you realise how much the minister has been responsible for, especially the obvious leading of worship services,” Ms Winkler said. “Over the last six months, we have made a preaching plan which includes retired ministers, lay preachers, congregational members, community group leaders and joining with the Anglicans.” The congregation also decided that the fourth Sunday of the month would be an informal gathering known as ‘Sharing on Sunday’. Typically, Sharing on Sunday sees attendees seated in a circle, where they might stand or stay seated for hymns. The session often involves activities and invites discussion. “Sometimes it is a challenge, even a threat, to leave the back pew and sit on a front chair around the communion table,” Ms Winkler said. “Nevertheless I’m sure we get to know each other better once we take the plunge and do it. We look forward to new ‘Sharing’ this year.” One Sharing on Sunday was held at a local farm and included a Frontier Services barbecue. On another occasion
The new Airport West Uniting Church building
the new Airport West church, with the previous worship centre being demolished. “The new building is designed to facilitate regeneration strategies, including alternative worship styles and to provide more opportunities for interaction with the local community,” Airport West church council chair Ken Baker said. The congregation already runs a number of outreach programs such as Creative Living, Chat and Chew, Men’s Fellowship, Cancer Support and Friendship Groups. As planning and construction went ahead new mission ideas emerged such
as a cafe centre. “The congregation looks forward to welcoming new members and meeting the needs of people within its community, with great excitement and thanksgiving,” Mr Baker said. “The building has been designed so that it can be extended. It would be wonderful if that extension became necessary.” The weekend after the opening service Airport West hosted a community open day with a free sausage sizzle and children’s activities.
Sharing on Sunday in the Tallangatta op shop
the congregation met at the local op shop where they were encouraged to buy a small gift for someone else. The congregation also showed their willingness to improvise in the leadup to Christmas when the Sunday of the Nativity Play clashed with a local swimming carnival. This meant that children weren’t available to play some of the roles, so adults stepped in to be Mary, Joseph, the innkeeper and family.
However, there was a scene-stealing exception in the cast. “One delightful addition was a fouryear-old angel complete with wings,” Ms Winkler said. “The play was a great success. A few days later, we went up to the long-term care wing of the hospital and had a service. “We performed the play a second time, which was a big hit.”
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News Call for support after disasters
A UNITING Church minister in southwest Victoria said her local community is helping families get back on their feet following the devastating bushfires that ravaged the region. Bushfires ripped through parts of regional Victoria during March, destroying 18 homes along with hundreds of livestock.
Watch and act alerts and emergency warnings were issued for 40 towns across the state as hot weather and strong winds fanned a number of blazes near Camperdown, Warrnambool and Hamilton. Rev Dr Mele Fakahua-Ratcliffe, minister at Terang, Cobden and Timboon Uniting Churches, said local church ministers are
planning to meet together to assess how they can respond to the most pressing needs in the community. “Cobden, Terang, Timboon and Camperdown were all affected by the fire as well as the little hamlets near these centres,” Dr Fakahua-Ratcliffe said. “We have an op shop in Cobden, and they are distributing donated goods from the church hall as well as the op shop.” The Cobden Uniting Church Op Shop has been overwhelmed with donations from the community in recent days. Their hall has also received clothes, food, toiletries, sanitary products, water, pet food, linen and toys. “I visited one of our farm people affected and the insurance company also visited them. I also attended a town hall meeting in Terang,” Dr Fakahua-Ratcliffe said. “The main need I hear apart from those who lost their houses was the nearest opportunity to bury the perished stock as soon as possible, getting the insurance paperwork done, seeking financial help from the government and setting up the milking sheds.” Moderator Sharon Hollis has offered the following prayer for the communities
Child safety applies to everyone
ALL synod staff will be required to complete safe church training over a fiveweek period ending in April. Safe church educator Josh Tuhipa-Turner said the training is only a part of what the church is doing to make sure children are welcomed and protected in all its environments and activities. “Our commitment to making the synod child safe is absolute,” he said. “Part of that is holding synod operations to the same high standards we are asking and requiring of congregational-appointed leaders and volunteers.
“We have made significant steps forward on both the congregational and operational sides of the synod, and it’s concrete evidence of us experiencing cultural changes that will continue to be an enriching and life giving aspect of our work.” Mr Tuhipa-Turner said the training sessions have so far been well received by staff. “The response has been positive and the conversations highly relevant and constructive,” he said. One outcome has been that the training has encouraged and equipped units to
Church looks to future with new committees
“The two new committees have several Standing Committee members who can report directly back to their colleagues, plus we’ve been able to appoint people from across the church who bring the particular professional gifts and skills we seek.” Mr Clarke said the new committees will act to strengthen the Standing Committee. “The Standing Committee can really get its teeth around the strategic overview now and become more positive and forward-looking rather than simply reactive,” he said. Rev Graeme Harrison, chair of the new Ministry and Mission Committee, agrees. “The new committees can focus on the detail and that should create more space for the Standing Committee to dream and to ask the big questions like what are the key issues for the 21st century church in relating to the community,” Mr Harrison said. “We can help Standing Committee to be proactive about bringing positive change to the church according to the strategies the church has agreed to, and being intentional and prayerful about it.” Mr Harrison said the Ministry and Mission Committee has experienced and new voices that are drawn from a
SYNOD’S new governance committees have set themselves a mission to provide the support and advice that will allow the church to take a positive approach and “journey into new frontiers”. The newly formed Mission and Ministry Committee and the Property and Operations Committee have already met twice this year, plus there has been an orientation session for three new subcommittees – Finance, Audit and Risk Management. Rev Stan Clarke is the chair of the Property and Operations Committee and believes the new governance structure will provide a wider range of expertise to support the church’s decision-making. “Previously we had one governance committee – Synod Standing Committee – which is a fully elected body so you cannot guarantee that you get the full mix of skills to cover off the range of activities the church has to address,” he said. APRIL 18 - CROSSLIGHT
affected by the bushfires: Loving, tender God, We pray for those whose lives have been ravaged by bushfires. For comfort in their sorrow For courage to face tomorrow For support on the journey of rebuilding Loving, tender God, May they know your constant presence May they be sustained in Your hope May they be held in Your mercy. Amen UCA President Stuart McMillan has asked church members to give generously to communities impacted by the bushfires in Victoria and NSW and by the cyclone in Darwin. “I ask all Uniting Church members to support our appeals as they can, which go to support ministry in disaster-affected communities,” Mr McMillan said. Donate to the National Disaster Relief Fund to fund disaster recovery chaplaincy and support programs for families affected by the bushfires in Victoria and NSW and Cyclone Marcus in Darwin. https://assembly.uca.org.au/nationaldisaster-relief-fund/
think about how Child Safe Training applies to their work even if they have minimal contact with children. “Uniting AgeWell is a good example,” Mr Tuhipa-Turner said. “Staff have started considering how they can apply standards to the services they provide to ensure it is safe, and more importantly, enriching to the elderly person and the visiting child.” Synod operations staff are also required to adhere to a Code of Conduct, obtain positive Working with Children Checks and adhere to reporting requirements.
Mark Lawrence, Sunny Chen, Matt Julius and Anna Harrison.
range of perspectives including rural, congregational, presbytery, justice, new and renewing ministry, theology, and intercultural. “We have the energy and freshness to bring different ideas but also enough friction to generate a few sparks,” he said. “I think groups work better when they’re not all thinking the same way.” Rev Dr Sunny Chen is serving on the Ministry and Mission Committee and said
he is already enjoying the new challenges. “This is a good way forward,” he said. “We have an opportunity to carry out a sharper missional focus of church that can help to facilitate our many diverse communities.” Dr Chen said that people have moved on from seeing church as the centre of community and society and he hoped that the new committees would help the church “journey into new frontiers.” 5
News Small congregation’s big impact DAVID SOUTHWELL
A SMALL congregation in East Gippsland is reaching out across the oceans to improve the health and wellbeing of women in the South Pacific islands. In March, two members of Johnsonville Uniting Church, which has an average attendance of about eight to 10 at its fortnightly services, travelled to the Solomon Islands to provide education and training in women’s health. Johnsonville members Wendy Flahive and her sister Gill Trudinger partnered with a representative of SewAid to teach local women sewing skills. All three took over a sewing machine. Ms Flahive and and Ms Trudinger trained women from partner churches in Noro, located in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands, in how to run courses on women’s and reproductive health. The aim was that, once trained, they will pass that knowledge onto at least 12 other women and girls in their communities. “These things run on shoe-string budgets but they actually get to a lot of people,” said Johnsonville UC chairperson Peter Flahive, who is Wendy’s husband. “I think it’s bang for buck, the amount of money that goes into it is not that great but what comes out of it at the other end is really, really good.” The SewAid volunteer taught women how to make reusable sanitary hygiene kits, which were offered to local schools and community groups. “The average teenage girl spends about two years out of school due to menstrual problems in developing
countries,” Mr Flahive said. “Once they get the kit and they learn to reuse and clean these products their outcomes jump significantly.” Along with other women’s health practices, such as pelvic floor exercises to help with bladder control, Ms Flahive and Trudinger tackled thorny issues such as human trafficking and sexual relations within marriage. “A lot of it is around consent,” Ms Flahive said. “Sex within marriage without consent is rape. This is something the church finds very confronting, the very traditional churches we partner with.” Ms Flahive said that in talking about such traditionally taboo topics, it is very helpful to have appropriate, culturally-tailored visual aids such as posters and pamphlets. “What I need money for is the resources,” Ms Flahive said. Despite not having a minister – their services use podcasts from Glen Waverley Uniting Church in Melbourne – the Johnsonville congregation is determined to continue its ambitious mission work. Recently, Ms Flahive and Ms Trudinger travelled to the Vanuatu archipelago to deliver training in women’s health and gender issues. That trip was supported by the nearby Bairnsdale Uniting Church, through a Lenten grant for the Days with Girls program. It again partnered with SewAid, who sent volunteer teachers and materials. If you are interested in helping with Johnsonville’s Pacific Island ministry please contact Ms Flahive on 0418 517 900.
Poetic harmony A homeless woman The money I gave to her Made her smile today BUYING lunch in the centre of Melbourne with just $5 to spend might seem to be merely an exercise in thrift and ingenuity. But a Kingswood College student added another dimension by giving change she had left over to a woman sleeping rough on the streets before sitting down to chat with her. The student was one of 94 Kingswood College year 10s who had spent the morning listening to spoken word artist Manal Younus, who shared her poetry to demonstrate the power of words in shaping the stories that people tell about themselves and others. The synod office in central Melbourne hosted the students in March to celebrate Harmony Day, which is also known as the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The theme of the Kingswood event was “There is no way to peace; peace is the way”. Ms Younus, who came to Australia as a refugee from Eritrea at age three, asked students to think about what made them who they are and write poetry about a time that formed their self-identities. They were also asked to think about the unfavourable assumptions that have been made about them and the negative assumptions they have made about others. For the lunch break, as well as being challenged to buy their meal for only $5, students were asked to observe what was happening to them and around them, by slowing down and noticing examples of harmony and disharmony. When the students returned they formed groups to share their experience through storytelling, dramatisation or poetry. Out of this emerged the above haiku about the homeless woman and another contribution about awareness:
Walking through the street Aware of your surroundings Make way for others The Harmony Day event was a collaboration between Kingswood College, synod schools project worker Sarah Lockwood and interfaith community development officer April Robinson. “It was powerful to spend a day with students thinking about how they might be part of creating a better world.” Ms Lockwood said.
Manal Younus talking to Kingswood College students
CROSSLIGHT - APRIL 18
News Port Fairy church weaves a welcoming tapestry JULIE PERRIN
THE Port Fairy Folk Festival is a muchloved community event with many attendees returning year after year to enjoy a range of music, comedy, spoken word, workshops and craft stalls. This year the Port Fairy Uniting Church offered a special Sunday worship during the March weekend with local singers and musicians performing Sacred Tapestry – Songs of Carole King. Singers from churches in Warrnambool and Allansford had rehearsed over several weeks, accompanied by a small group of instrumentalists led by Hopkins Region minister Rev Geoff Barker on the piano. For the Sunday the church was filled to capacity with locals and festival-goers spilling into the entry porch and sitting in the aisles. The concept was that it was not so much a concert as an occasion where people were invited to join in. The song list included You’ve got a Friend, Beautiful and Way over Yonder. Mr Barker wove commentary throughout the service that noted connections and divergences of Carole King’s lyrics with the Christian story. He affirmed the songwriter’s invitation to make a bigger life and quoted the now famous story of King carrying a sign in a protest march which read ‘one small voice’. Mr Barker said the notion of standing up even with one small voice “sits alongside Christian understandings of speaking for the oppressed and overlooked”. An invitation to participate in communion was extended to everyone.
Packed house at Port Fairy Uniting Church
“If you are a follower of Jesus, or just curious about him, or would like to grow in the values he taught, you are welcome to join in,” Mr Barker said. During the passing of the peace, a selfprofessed atheist remarked: “I only came here because I love Carole King’s music, but I’ll go away and I’ll be thinking about what the minister said.” Two members of the singing group, Milly Morrow and her daughter Barbara, said
they were very pleased at how warmly the audience had received the music and the impact it appeared to have. “It is great to hear Geoff ’s commentary on the songs, he makes faith come alive,” Mrs Morrow said. Julie Burch, who had travelled from Warrnambool to be part of the congregation, was equally delighted. “This enlivens and enriches the community, it gives people heart.”
Launching a study series of six booklets T Exploring the Vision study series of six booklets The is now available The series assists small groups explore key elements of the Synod’s Vision. 9LÅLJ[PUN[OLWHZZPVUHUKPUZWPYH[PVUVMWLVWSLMYVTHJYVZZ[OL:`UVK[OL^VYKZ VM[OL=PZPVUHYLYPJO^P[OTLHUPUNPTHNLY`HUKW\YWVZL , ,HJOZ[\K`PZKLZPNULK[V[HRLHWWYV_PTH[LS` TPU\[LZ@V\JHU\ZL[OLZLYPLZ H HZYLZV\YJLZHKKPUNV[OLYPKLHZHUKZOHYPUNSLHKLYZOPW[VLUOHUJL`V\YNYV\W»Z L_WLYPLUJL WLYPLUJL Witth leaders from across the Synod contributing, the series comprises: Study 1-VSSV^PUN*OYPZ[
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All these booklets can be downloaded from: https://ucavictas.o https://ucavictas.org.au/visionandmission/studies and church leaders will receive copies in the mail ail this month. Explore more of this website to also discover posters in many languages, s, booklets exploring the Synod’s focus and priorities, videos to spark conversations an and discussion stories.
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APRIL 18 - CROSSLIGHT
Following Christ, walking together as First and Second Peoples, seeking community, compassion and justice for all creation
News Vietnam veteran to proudly lead his first march
Investing on the principle
AT just 22, Able Seaman Robert Filmer spent his time diving into murky waters in search of bombs placed under ships by enemy forces. Robert had the immense responsibility of dismantling those bombs between 1965 and 1966 during the Vietnam War. Originally a butcher from Sydneyâ€™s eastern suburbs, Robert followed his cousinâ€™s footsteps and joined the Navy to become a shipâ€™s diver. â€œI did an induction course at Rushcutters Bay in Sydney, and they taught me to dive there,â€? he said. â€œWe were trained to look for bombs in all conditions, even at night time.â€? Robert spent 82 days at sea on HMAS Sydney putting his life on the line to protect his comrades. Now aged 75, Robert is living at Uniting AgeWellâ€™s Noble Park Community with his wife, Pam.
BANKS need to recognise that providing credit for gambling harms not just individual gamblers but also vulnerable people connected to them, a forum on consumer finance and ethical investing heard. The hour-and-a-half Ethical Consulting Group (ECG) session in late February brought together UCA Funds Management staff and synod representatives at 130 Little Collins St. Expert stakeholders and investors also attended in person or participated online. Outgoing UCA Funds Management CEO Michael Walsh told participants that he wanted banks to acknowledge some basic principles when credit cards are being used to rack up huge online gambling debts. â€œItâ€™s not peopleâ€™s own money, itâ€™s a line of credit. Itâ€™s one thing to use your money itâ€™s another thing to rely on credit as you are doubling up the problem,â€? Mr Walsh said. â€œThe banks have got monitoring systems where they know people are gambling, particularly now that thereâ€™s such a drift to online gambling, theyâ€™ve got those transactions on their statements.â€? â€œThey could really sort this out. Australia is such a gambling nation and we are really exacerbating this problem by providing credit for this move from traditional forms of gambling to online gambling.â€? Financial Counselling Australia director of policy and campaigning Lauren Levin said getting ethical investor CEO support from organisations like UCA Funds Management had been â€œa gamechangerâ€? in dealing with the big four banks and other credit providers. She said the argument used that it was an individualâ€™s right to place a bet in the online gambling area often translated to â€œItâ€™s a manâ€™s right to place a bet if he wantsâ€?.
In an initiative by the RSL Victoria, RACV Victoria and Uniting AgeWell, Robert will this year lead the Anzac Day parade in vehicles with other veterans through Melbourne to the Shrine of Remembrance. Significantly, it will be the first time Robert has participated in the parade. â€œIn the 50 years I have known him he hasnâ€™t marched,â€? Pam said. â€œHe got the letter inviting him to be in the parade and I think he has been proud of his service ever since. â€œI think he deserved it for what he did.â€? Uniting AgeWell supports many veterans who have served Australia at home and overseas. The aged care organisation commemorates the service of these men and women on Anzac Day with their own events and services at sites across Victoria and Tasmania.
Robert Filmer, Vietnam War veteran
â€œThe flipside of almost every person that I see who has lost everything is that their partner is a victim of financial abuse,â€? she said. Women married to people with gambling issues are often subjected to financial abuse where household money is gambled away without their consent or knowledge. â€œItâ€™s tragic for a woman to find out one day that, after decades of working and joint lives, she is left with a broken relationship and a bare bank account,â€? Ms Levin said. â€œWe know of people who thought they had paid off their mortgage or almost paid off their mortgage and they find out that one partner has been allowed to draw that down and thatâ€™s hundreds of thousands of dollars.â€? James Cook, director of investments for UCA Funds Management, believes that it is important to continue engaging directly with the banks on gambling issues in 2018. â€œThe banks have a social obligation to step in and review their policies surrounding credit card use for gambling,â€? he said. â€œAs Lauren illustrated, it creates a debt cycle for problem gamblers and the impacts on families can be extensive. â€œAlthough our engagement with the banks has been encouraging, we are yet to see significant action towards preventing credit cards to be used in this way or measures put in place. As such, we will continue this focus in 2018.â€? With a royal commission into the financial sector underway, the forum agreed that now is the time to press banks to be responsible lenders and to look for regulation that would cover the big four and second tier lenders. â€œIt is an opportunity for everyone involved in the sector to review what has to date been standard practice of providing credit to vulnerable customers,â€? Mr Cook said. â€œCurrent outcomes place families, communities and individuals at risk, so we remain hopeful that banks will take on the initiative themselves to present community orientated good practice.â€? ECG participants also discussed prospective laws to protect those using socalled payday lenders, as well as examining a case study of a new consumer finance company, Afterpay, and whether it meets ethical standards of investment.
Hereâ€™s to the hats you wear in life Congratulations to the 19 Pilgrim Theological College students who graduated from the University of Divinity in March. Could this be you next year? Semester 2 at Pilgrim starts on 30 July. Hereâ€™s what is on the horizon for your V^ULUYPJOTLU[VY[VM\Y[OLY`V\Y[LY[PHY`X\HSPĂ„JH[PVUZ :[\K`Ă„STMLTPUPZTZL_\HSP[`5L^;LZ[HTLU[.YLLRWVZ[TVKLYUPZTOLYTLUL\[PJHS [OLVY`,\YVWLHUHUK(\Z[YHSPHUHY[7YV[LZ[HU[PZTLHYSPLZ[*OYPZ[PHU[P`H\[OLU[PJSLHKLYZOPW [OLVSVNPJHSQ\Z[PJLHUJPLU[TPUVYP[`*OYPZ[PHUJVTT\UP[PLZW\ISPJ[Y\[OJSPTH[LJOHUNL JOPSKYLUÂťZZWPYP[\HSKL]LSVWTLU[[OLHY[VMZ[VY`[LSSPUNTPZZPVUWYHJ[PJL[VKH`WHZ[VYHS WYHJ[PJLVYKHPULKHUKSH`SLHKLYZOPWHUKSVHKZTVYL 0U[LUZP]LJV\YZLZY\UTVZ[TVU[OZPUJS\KPUN9LHKPUNHUK0U[LYWYL[PUN0ZHPHO(WYPS HUK:L_.LUKLY *OYPZ[PHU+VJ[YPUL(WYPS[OPZTVU[O Visit PILGRIM.EDU.AU or call us on (03) 9340 8800 so we can tailor study that works for you and your lifestyle.
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CROSSLIGHT - APRIL 18
Manningham Uniting ready for next chapter TIM LAM
AS Manningham Uniting Church marked the closure of one of its church sites, the congregation is already planning ahead for the next part of their ‘grand adventure’. In mid-March, congregation members from all four Manningham UC sites gathered together for the final service at the Anderson Creek Road church in Doncaster East. More than 200 people attended the thanksgiving service, which was part of a weekend of activities to commemorate the closure of the 30-year-old church. Manningham Uniting Church minister Rev Lucas Taylor said it was a time to share past memories while looking towards the future. “There was grief and nostalgia, but also a strong sense of moving forward,” he said. “We were celebrating and reflecting on the reason that the church site was established in the first place 30 years ago. “But now is the right time for that particular season to conclude and we move
on to the next grand adventure.” In 2012, the Andersons Creek Road church (then known as Doncaster East Uniting Church) joined with other Uniting Churches in Doncaster, Templestowe and Box Hill North to form Manningham Uniting Church. Since that time different styles of worship have been held at designated sites or alternated between church centres. Mr Taylor said the multi-site church model means congregation members can foster a sense of community that goes beyond a single church building. “Over the last five years there’s been a real breaking down of ‘my site’ and ‘your site’. All of the sites belong to all of the people,” he said. “Those people who five years ago just identified with the Anderson Creek Road site are now strongly affiliated with all of the remaining sites. “So we were very deliberate in involving not just former Andersons Creek Road
people in the leadership and participation at the service. It was a whole-ofManningham event.” During this time of transition, the congregation has appointed a transition ministry coordinator, Scott Leslie, to offer pastoral support to church members. Mr Leslie’s role involves having conversations with members struggling with the changes, while also offering encouragement and inspiration for the journey ahead. “I’m trying to meet with people and work with them about their feelings and what their future decision will be,” Mr Leslie said. “Some people are less keen and quite sad that the church is closing. But there are people who are also excited about future developments. “A lot of people said to me that they made a lot of good friends over the last two years and got to know people from different sites and joined new groups and found new possibilities.”
Manningham is the second congregation to participate in the synod’s Asset Strategy Program (ASP). The pilot was trialled at Banyule Network of Uniting Churches. Manningham Uniting Church elder Ruth Hodges said the program is designed for churches that are amalgamating to help them determine how to deliver their mission objectives and maintain financial sustainability. “We are a shining example of how this is working well,” Ms Hodges said. “The big thing we did five years ago was that all our different sites came under one church council. So we have a central council, which was a big move.” The next chapter in Manningham Uniting Church is the redevelopment of their Templestowe church to create a community and worship centre. Planning is underway and the congregation is hopeful that construction will commence before the end of the year.
Celebrating Easter at St Michael’s Uniting Church A NOT SO HEROIC PARADE
WAY OF THE CROSS MELBOURNE WALK
GOOD FRIDAY A TRAGIC HERO
AN HEROIC CALL TO ADVENTURE
Palm Sunday Service. Those attending are invited to bring branches and greenary to be placed on the chancel. Music: Zoe Wallace (Cello)
Join us for the Way of the Cross, an ecumenical devotion, with St Michael’s and Melbourne City Churches in Action. A detailed itinerary at www.stmichaels.org.au.
A somber Good Friday service of remembrance with lights and lessons. Music: The St Michael’s Singers
Easter Sunday Service full of celebration with The Academy of St Michael’s, St Michael’s Brass and The St Michael’s Singers.
Address by Rev Ric Holland 10am, Sunday 25 March
St Michael’s Doors open from 11am, Friday 30 March
Address by Rev Ric Holland 5pm, Friday 30 March
Address by Rev Ric Holland 10am, Sunday 1 April
St Michael’s Uniting Church 120 C OLLI N S S T ME LB OU R N E - W W W. S TMI C H A E LS . OR G. A U
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Profile Sumaya Harare and loving who you are CAROLYN TATE
NEXT month Sumaya Harare makes her first appearance as a guest speaker at Sacred Edge, a festival of arts, music, justice and spirituality hosted by the Queenscliff Uniting Church. From an early age Sumaya Harare was acutely aware of being different. “At the age of seven, I arrived in Melbourne with my three brothers and parents as refugees from Somalia,” Sumaya said. “The only English I knew was from Sesame Street, and I was nervous to be in a place where no one looked like me.” Going to school heightened the fear of not fitting in. “The school I went to was predominantly white,” she said. “It was hard to make friends as I was too different in my classmates’ eyes.” Sumaya felt particularly self-conscious about her physical differences from the other children, particularly hating her hair and size of her forehead. “Up until mid-2015 I was using a chemical relaxer to keep my hair straight… and [I] was very insecure about my forehead,” she said. However, she eventually learned to love those aspects of herself. “I’ve come to the realisation that I can either spend my life hating it or embracing it. Either way, it’s here to stay,” she said. It wasn’t just her appearance that made Sumaya feel out-of-place but also her religious and cultural background. “I went through high school where I wanted to be in a relationship like my friends were in, where I wanted to go clubbing and drink,” she said. “But these are all things that conflict with my [Muslim] religious values. “Alcohol is banned in Islam and so are physical relationships before marriage. These are things I wanted to remain true to… but I also wanted to do what all my friends were doing.” Sumaya is proud that she stuck to her beliefs while still finding a way to socialise. “In the process of staying true to my values, I still had some great experiences with my friends without having to do things that make me feel guilty later on,” she said. Sumaya’s mother Mariam Issa is a well-known community advisor and public speaker who shares her experiences as a refugee. On occasions, Sumaya accompanied her mother to speaking events to take photographs. “I told my story to a few people who suggested I too become a speaker as my story would benefit a lot of young women,” Sumaya said. However, addressing an audience was definitely out of her comfort zone. “It was definitely not something I ever saw myself doing,” Sumaya said. “Growing up, I was a major introvert. Public speaking made me extremely anxious.” Sumaya, however, was not going to let that stop her and now gives regular addresses to young women about finding a way to feel accepted without losing what is personally important. “Don’t try to change for the world, but make the world accept you for the wonderful being you are,” she said. Certainly Sumaya understands how difficult the teen years can be. “I know it can feel like you’re in a bad place, but try to focus on the good, even if it’s small,” she said. “Most of all, don’t bottle things up. I made that mistake and went into a dark place. Talk to someone about what is going on.”
Mariam Issa and Sumaya
Sumaya as a child
Sumaya encourages young women to focus on the positive. “Have a day where you spoil yourself because you deserve to be spoilt,” she said. “Find your talent and spend your time excelling at it.” Sumaya said society’s pressures on young women to look a certain way need to change, and she encourages women to focus on what they love about themselves. “Even when I was going through it all, the one thing I never hated about myself was my eyes,” she said. “I was always told they were too big or that I looked like I had bug eyes but for some reason, I always loved my eyes.” Sumaya shares her message of selfacceptance and compassion via her YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/sumayaharare) and Instagram page (@sumayaharare). She is excited about speaking at the Sacred Edge Festival this year. “I look forward to sharing my story on what it was like coming to a new country and entering school without speaking the language properly, the challenges I faced and how I overcame them,” she said.
Sacred Edge runs from 4-6 May. For more information visit www.unitingqueenscliff.org.au or call 5258 2854
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Profile Standing up for a jest cause DAVID SOUTHWELL A STAND-UP comedian might expect Christian audiences to be more forgiving, but that’s not been Hannah Boland’s experience. Hannah is a comedian who performs “clean” material for both secular and Christian audiences, but finds the latter group harder to please. “It’s a lot tougher in the Christian context because people’s definition of what is clean and acceptable is a lot more stringent than it is in the secular industry,” she said. “The sad truth is that there are so many topics that seem to be completely off limits no matter how well and with whatever good humour you broach them. “That to me is the real tragedy; that it is so easy to offend people and particularly in the Christian context.” Although Ms Boland does not swear in her act, she says that the Bible might surprise some in this regard. “There are many instances of vulgarity and even some swearing in the Bible. If it was any other book it would be banned from many of our Christian bookstores,” she said. “Vulgarity is actually a very effective tool and it is used time and time again in the Bible and sometimes it is used even in the context of humour.”
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Hannah will be appearing in the Squeaky Clean Comedy Roadshow during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. The four comedians and one MC on the program will perform material that is considered clean for an adult general audience, which makes it stand out from the other 500 or so acts being staged for the festival. “If people get put off going to see a comedy show, particularly at the Comedy Festival, because so much of it is fi lth, we encourage them to give this one a try,” Hannah said. “We have very high expectations of the comedians who perform; that there is no swearing of any kind, there is no racism, there’s no vilification or slander, there’s no discrimination. “It is a real challenge to write clean material because you have to be a lot cleverer, you have to have really good ideas that stand on their own; you can’t rely on throwaway vulgarities to get the laughs.” The Squeaky Clean Comedy Roadshow is being staged by the non-profit Candlelight Productions company, whose mission statement is to bring “salt and light” to the entertainment industry. This means treating artists and production crews with “grace, generosity and compassion” in an industry often known for exploitation and abuse, as the #MeToo campaign has highlighted even in the upper echelons of Hollywood. “The heart of what the company is about is based very much on the Christian ethos,” Hannah said.
“It is very much to put people first. We want to be living examples in an industry that so desperately needs it.” Hannah said a supportive and positive creative environment was something audiences picked up on. “One of the comments that comes back is that when they step into the venue, the way they are treated by our team just feels different,” she said.
The Squeaky Clean Comedy Roadshow will support mental health organisation beyondblue. Show dates and locations: 6 April at Whitehorse Centre, Nunawading 7 April at Mahon Theatre, Ringwood 13 and 14 April at National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Tickets: squeakycleancomedy.com.au
Family Play and pray with Toddler Church ANN PERRIN
TODDLER Church arose as we at Hobart’s Clarence Uniting Church attempted to find ways of including the under fours who are at worship on any given Sunday. We can have up to eight in that age group attending. We made a commitment to keep them involved because one of our new guiding values is all-age worship. Bellerive has a worshipping community where the youngest person is 10 months old and the oldest is in their nineties. At first the children’s area was at the back of the church and connecting with our youngest members was difficult as we fell into the usual pattern of calling them to come down the front, a difficult task for two-year-olds. The first question we asked was how can we encourage children to know that they have a place in our church? We used an idea from ministerial colleague Avril Hannah-Jones in Victoria who had cushions made for the children in her congregation so they knew they had a place in the worship space. We began by inviting the children to come up to the front for our gathering time and claim their cushion, each labelled with their name. Some also collect the cushions for younger members who are
Putting children first TIM LAM
CHILDREN have been pushed to the margins of the church for too long, according to an expert on children’s spirituality. Dr Vivienne Mountain is a member of St Leonard’s Uniting Church Brighton and lectures at the University of Divinity on the nurture and spiritual guidance of children. “A lot of churches want the kids to be kept
Bella gets busy at Toddler Church
not old enough to get their own. This helps reinforce that children have an important place with us in church worship. Quickly we discovered that we needed a larger corridor so that there was a free flow of movement through the church, and children did not feel they were relegated to the back. We cleared a third of the chairs from part of the worship space so that they could come down the front easily, and worship leaders could move more freely and engage with everyone directly.
We have conversations with the children about the noisy times in church and they move and dance with percussion instruments during our singing. We also tell them about the quiet times when we talk with God. There is always a children’s song and children’s prayer. Jan, a member of our congregation who worked in family day care for 25 years, has been invaluable in shaping Toddler Church. She arranges lectionary-based activities for the toddlers based around
quiet and not get in the way of the ‘real people’ doing God work,” Dr Mountain said. “But children are a part of the church.” Dr Mountain’s new handbook Building Emotional Health and Wellbeing: A Pastoral Handbook for Ministry with Children and their Families acknowledges and argues for the central place of children in the life of the church. The booklet covers a number of topics on child wellbeing including child theology, healthy development, trauma and transition, disability inclusion and caring for the carer. Dr Mountain said the booklet is designed as a resource for children and families ministry leaders, youth leaders, pastors, chaplains and counsellors.
“I’ve written it particularly for those people in the church who are working with children,” she said. “They’ve been kind of sidelined by the church for too long; they’re not ministers or big theologian people, so often they are there to babysit kids.” One of Dr Mountain’s motivations for writing the book was the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which exposed the inadequate safety and care for children by religious organisations. “If you put Jesus’ teaching side-by-side with the Royal Commission, you’d think we’re not following him at all,” she said. “I think a lot of people have left the church over this.” Dr Mountain was involved in establishing the first graduate certificate in children and families ministry in Australia, which is offered by Pilgrim Theological College and Stirling Theological College. Her handbook combines theology with psychology so that people involved in children and families ministry can provide well-informed pastoral care for children. “You see a lot of people who have a heart for children, but my belief is that the heart is not good enough,” she said. “You need to have informed understanding of the psychology of grief and trauma, transition and all the things that happen to kids. This book is a first step.”
three very broad themes of ‘God loves us’, ‘Jesus is our friend’ and ‘we look like God’. There are up to three activities presented during our worship service. We have appropriately-sized tables, no chairs, a sand tray for Old Testament stories and a water bath. There is also a table with a sheet over it and this has become our ‘story cave’ retreat area for times when the toddlers get a bit raucous, and they do. I feel blessed to be part of a worshipping community who demonstrates patience and strives to make sure our youngest members feel welcome and included. It doesn’t always work but we are beginning to recognise the ministry that their presence brings Sunday by Sunday. The joy we collectively feel when the nativity is noticed by one of the Toddler Church members for the first time, the children’s work now displayed on the walls or decorating our Christmas tree, the happy noise made in response to a psalm or song or a reading. We have also been reminded of the gift of patience. We have not really thought of anything new but gleaned ideas from Messy Church, Godly Play and research that is leading our church back to valuing our commitment to all-age worship. We have just put these ideas together in a way that is becoming organic to who we are as the Clarence UC, Bellerive. We are looking forward to Easter when the word is ‘surprise’ – our surprise is that the tomb is empty. What better way is there to demonstrate that than smashing the largest hollow Easter egg I can find to celebrate Easter Day! Ann Perrin is minister of Clarence Uniting Church
The handbook has also been distributed at a number of children and families ministry conferences around Australia, including Generations in Victoria, Invigor8 in South Australia and Ignite in Queensland. The book’s distribution has been funded by a number of organisations, including the Centre for Theology and Ministry, the Lutheran Church, the Victorian Children’s Ministry Network, the Christian Playgroup Network, Stirling Theological College and St Leonard’s Uniting Church. “The Uniting Church has been great. They were the first ones to get on board,” Dr Mountain said. Synod intergenerational (children and families) coordinator Chris Barnett said he is excited to be involved in this ecumenical project. “The vision is to distribute it to as many people as possible involved in children and families ministry as a resource and a gift to thank them for their work,” he said. “We are also having conversations in regards to funding and distribution with other denominations and organisations.” The next phase of the project is to publish it as a free e-book along with an interactive website that can host additional resources. If you wish to receive a free copy of Building Emotional Health and Wellbeing: A Pastoral Handbook for Ministry with Children and their Families, contact Chris Barnett at email@example.com.
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Family Camp comes up trumps again THE Labour Day long weekend is traditionally a time for Uniting Church families to come together for the social justice family camp. More than 80 participants gathered at Pallotti College country retreat last month as young people aged from four to 21 enjoyed a weekend of worship, interactive games and marshmallows with their families. Cath James, one of the organisers, said there is always a strong sense of fellowship at the camp. “It’s great to just talk to other families in similar positions and support each other in trying to live in a faithful way that is conscious of the world we live in, and trying to be just and ethical in doing that,” Cath said. “My kids are like so many of the participants – they have friends at family camp they don’t have in a normal church context, so it’s a way of them feeling a sense of belonging in the church. “The kids really look forward to being and worshipping together.” The social justice family camp was initiated in 2011 by a group of Uniting Church parents. Many of them attended the youth ministry unit camps 20 years ago and wanted their children to experience the same sense of
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community they enjoyed growing up. In previous years, the camps focused on a specific social justice issue such as the environment, peace or refugees. This year’s camp had a broader focus on how families can pursue social justice together. Two special guests from America – Mark and Lisa Scandrette – joined the families to guide them on their reflection. Mark and Lisa are co-founders of ReIMAGINE: A Center for Integral Christian Practice. The couple host retreats, workshops and projects to help people apply spiritual wisdom to their everyday life. During the weekend, Mark and Lisa led group exercises on creating a thriving family culture that reflects the way of Jesus. The children also reflected on the stories that shaped their lives. One example was
The Hero’s Journey, a narrative framework popularised by Joseph Campbell. In The Hero’s Journey, the protagonist embarks on an adventure and after overcoming adversity, returns home transformed. It forms the backbone of many iconic pop culture stories, including Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter books. “All of them follow this basic pattern of storytelling and so we analysed that in our own lives and our faith journey,” Cath said. In what has become an annual tradition, a group of budding filmmakers created a video that captured the camp’s theme. This year, their video imagined what a family meeting would be like in the Trump household. Cath said the US President has become
something of an in-joke amongst the social justice family camp group ever since his election victory in 2016. “Before Donald Trump became president, they made a film predicting that he would get in, so they thought it was kind of prophetic!” she explained. “So there’s been a Donald Trump theme through each of the video stories since.” For Cath, the most rewarding part of family camp is watching the children mature over the years. “We’ve watched these kids grow up from when they were just entering high schools to now doing year 12,” she said. “I had a really strong sense at this year’s camp of having watched the kids grow and thinking that I have had a part in a person’s life and in their development, which is lovely.”
Cross paths Three Easter reflections Crosslight invited three members of the synod’s community across Victoria and Tasmania to share what Easter means to them.
The foolishness of the Cross ROD PEPPIATT ONE of the things I value about this time of year in Launceston is the way the Uniting Church “does” Easter together. In Holy Week and across the Easter weekend there is a spirit of collaboration and shared experience that I find very engaging, and often profound. In recent years each night in Holy Week has included an act of worship. These range from the sombre beauty of Tenebrae (the “service of shadows”) to “Messy Maundy”, and embrace both traditional and contemporary expressions of worship and reflection on the gospel stories. Each night is also held in a different church centre. Good Friday is a combined act of remembrance. The congregations then worship in their own centres on Easter Day, with unifying activities such as common liturgy, and our Easter candles of brokenness and new life. UCA people are also involved in the Launceston Palm Sunday Justice Walk and Easter Festival. Several weeks ago the ministers of Launceston North Parish, South Esk Parish, and Pilgrim Congregation met to plan our worship events: an enjoyable and productive time that left me thinking we’d made a good start, and didn’t need to panic about this year’s Holy Week. What I remember most from the meeting though was a colleague’s comment that Easter Day this year is on April Fool’s Day. I’d noticed this but hadn’t gone any further than thinking “that could be interesting”. My colleague, however, had begun to do some thinking about ‘the foolishness of the cross’. At the time of writing this reflection, we’re not yet at Easter, so I don’t know where this might lead us in terms of a worship theme. But it certainly has me thinking once more about the striking contrast between the way of GOD glimpsed in Jesus, and the way of ‘Empire’: be it Rome, Washington, Damascus, Canberra, or wherever. In his wonderful book The Divine Dance, Richard Rohr puts it like this: “On a cross, we find this man who has given his whole life to heal suffering become a victim of suffering himself. Instead of being a torturer, a murderer, a tyrant, or an oppressor, Jesus shares in the victimisation of humanity: and it’s here that even Jesus experiences his own resurrection. He neither plays the victim nor creates victims. This lays the third path of redemptive suffering before history and eternity. Jesus himself dies and is reborn in this transformative space.” (SPCK, 2016) Jesus died standing up to the religious, civil, and military empire of his day, because that’s where he saw his calling (Luke 4:16-21, echoing Isaiah 61). He took all the brutality thrown at him, and responded with grace and compassion (“Son, here is your mother”, 14
“Father, forgive them…”), and with faith: “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.” His death, I believe, was the logical conclusion of a life which refused to be silenced about the love and compassion of GOD for all people. It is a love and life which rattled the cages of power and challenged the way of “That’s just how it is, and how we like it”. A life and death of sacrificial self-giving in GOD’s name. And in resurrection, I believe GOD said a resounding “YES” to that life, that love, that compassion, and that way. No doubt foolish according to the standards and values of ‘empire’, but profoundly important for people like me who want to believe that ‘empire’ isn’t all there is. I wondered how to finish this reflection, before realising that it’s not my story to finish. Death and resurrection goes on, and so does the sacred life and love of GOD “in whom we live and move and have our being”. And I give thanks! Rod Peppiatt lives in Launceston and loves it. He also loves being a husband and dad, and follows the way of Jesus as faithfully as he can. Rod is minister at Pilgrim Uniting Church in Launceston (pronounced lon-sess-tn).
What Easter means to me CARLYNNE NUNN WHEN I was a younger woman, Easter was a time of awe. A time of staring intently at the cross and of straining to feel an appropriate response, of listening to the Easter stories again and again and trying earnestly to really understand them. It was striving to feel guilty enough, or thankful enough. I don’t remember being with people really, or talking it over, or celebrating much, just forcing myself to go over again and again the pain, the weight, the thorns and the nails. I felt small and separate and determined to be as grateful for Jesus’ sacrifice as possible and to know what it really meant. There was such a distance between us, him on the cross and me, and this didn’t seem odd because, of course, I was a sinner. It’s only recently that I’ve realised the cross is a picture of the closest God has come to us all. What grabs me these days is not that I caused the sufferings on the cross, but that the more I read or learn or think about these things, the more I am pressed up against the gritty, flesh-encased, blood and sweat-coated humanity of Jesus. CROSSLIGHT - APRIL 18
My humanity is fairly apparent to me. I am a very, very fallible woman, possessed of many irritating habits – hopefully a few charming ones too – and an unshakable penchant for disliking the case I have come in. And I am a part of a tradition that has an unfortunate history of disliking the humanity of people. But Christianity’s key act is to remember again and again in thought, word and deed, the capture and wrongful imprisonment, humiliation, torture and death of a man. That God, in the person of Jesus, walked in skin, stubbed his toe presumably, got irritated with his mates, felt lonely and was as broken as a person can be, means a great deal to me these days, a part of which is that I am never really alone. Being a candidate equals a bunch of things, including often being tired and treating the Centre for Theology and Ministry building as if it’s a communal lounge room. And it means we’re a part of a group. We study with others and learn how to be a community, readying ourselves for our vocations amongst the body of Christ. And this is as it should be, because we are not, I am not, blessed and freed by Jesus to simply go on staring, separate and small at the cross, wondering how we stuffed up again. We are freed into a community of salvation. We know the story doesn’t end with the cross; Sunday is coming. The resurrection event says to me and to all of us who would shrink ourselves into the spotlight of our own guilt: “you are magnificent”, and at the same time: “you are not the point of this story”. In this strange act something has snapped and everything has changed and we no longer have to be walking towards death, or wholly consumed with how broken we are, or convinced we are the heroes in our story. In this strange act a body was made whole, as we believe ours will be made whole, and this is a beautiful and holy and oddly now, a human thing. And in this strange act comes, not just wholeness for our aching bones and bruised hearts, but wholeness for all of us and all creation, and in this, finally, I think I know what it really means. Carlynne is a candidate for minister of the word, currently in her exit year at Pilgrim Theological College. She comes from a few places- Brunswick UC by way of Adelaide- and is having a blast studying theology, preaching here-and-there and wandering the CTM building, wondering if she should get another coffee.
Suffering and hope under the light of the operating table TUPE IOELU RECENTLY, I had the best sleep of my life during two hours of knee surgery. I lost consciousness when anaesthetic took control of my entire being. I slept with no memories, no dreams, no hopes and no physical pain at all. I woke feeling soothed and relaxed and wished this could be an ongoing reality. But instead, I realised that sometimes what feels good is not real and we can only dream of what we don’t have. This level of peace is what we are striving to conceive in our everyday life within the light of consciousness. We are on a journey which requires the balance of both work and rest APRIL 18- CROSSLIGHT
for good health. My hospital experience informed me that we cannot possibly get to that level of rest without medical assistance. The smell of medicines in the ward generated thoughts about how medication appears to provide solutions for many problems. When you are in pain, they give you pain control tablets. When you find it hard to sleep at night, they give you sleeping pills. I wondered whether death is any different from the deep sleep experience that occurred during my operation. If so, why are we scared of death? It is our common goal as Christians to go to heaven, but at the same time we don’t want to die. Don’t we all fear death, I wondered. Is death painful? If anaesthetic could take control of my whole being, I wondered if we expect medication to help us bypass all pain and suffering. Was there a time in your life when you went through difficult times, and asked yourself questions such as where is God? Why me? I have so much pain and God is not helping. My surgery happened in the light of the Lent season leading up to Easter, the time to reflect on the suffering of Christ. I thought of my own journey and those whom I was called to minister to. I am privileged to say that funeral ministry has been the highlight of my placement during the last five years in the Horsham district. I was surprised to find myself conducting two to three funerals a week at times. Losing a loved one is an intense pain that it is real and no medication can take that pain away. At least, in conducting a funeral we can hope to offer something. In the same week as my knee surgery, the lectionary offered a reading from the Gospel of Mark Chapter 8: “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering… be killed, and after three days rise again.” Without complicating the message of the Gospel, it is simply about God sharing our pain and our suffering through the person of Jesus Christ. The season of Lent and Easter unfolds God’s promise that we can find comfort in the light of hope, offered through understanding that God is not denying our pain or just simply watching our suffering. This is the most imaginative hope that humanity can have; when we know we are in partnership with Christ through our gifts and graces to bring peace to our neighbours and discover hope out of grief and suffering. I know what it’s like to lose a father, but I have no idea what it’s like to lose a child or a partner. We can come to know that we are not alone by sharing our pain with each other. There are no words that can take away the pain of death, but our calling is to struggle and wrestle together in our suffering, and to reimagine new hope beyond the walls of despair. Pain and suffering are the most real experiences that we can have but there is joy in knowing that we are not alone. Christ is with us. Tupe Ioelu is a minister in placement in the Horsham district of western Victoria. Together with his wife and two teenage children, they have been enjoying the experience of country ministry and the welcoming community life that makes them feel part of the region. 15
Every person has a story to tell AT Crosslight, we know that many of our readers encounter faith and spirituality in the everyday. It could be something as simple as the joy of walking your dog in the evenings, or something as profound as holding your first grandchild in your arms. It might be a moment when you experienced faith in a different way or questioned your beliefs. In each edition, we invite readers to send through reflections in the form of poems, threaded tweets, comics, creative writing or images of 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. This month Geoff Serpell tells how he cares for a small patch of God’s creation and we hear about Spiro the Sparrow’s church adventure courtesy of Wendy Ratawa.
‘Twas Mulga Geoff from ‘Gambie Lake……. GEOFF SERPELL
ONE of the treasured things in our family home at Sandringham 70 years ago was a small piece of mulga wood on the mantelpiece with an inscription stating “Life is but a day at longest, but it is a grand opportunity”. Our family has tried to live up to that in that we generally let nothing or nobody dissuade us from a course of action we feel is worthwhile. That piece of mulga wood is long gone, along with millions of trees around the world, needlessly destroyed for dubious agriculture, new suburbs, producing palm oil, or a variety of other moneymaking reasons. Trees are the lungs of our earth, purifying the air, storing carbon in the wood, and providing habitat for near extinct animals and birds. Geography was one of the few subjects I did at Hampton High School which fired me up. A couple of class field trips showed me the destruction of good land by erosion. Years later, my youngest son Andrew had a hobby of collecting seed from roadside locations around country Victoria, planting them in plastic tubes in our backyard. When ready, he planted the seedlings back on people’s properties with an organisation called TreeProject. Janice and I are blessed to have three grandsons and one granddaughter. I figured that owning our bit of country and revegetating it with Andrew’s seedlings would be a good message to plant in young minds. So in 2002 I acquired 100 acres at the back of the Nagambie Lake. The land title had a covenant with Trust for Nature,
Geoff Serpell (standing) with son Andrew as they enjoy a break with volunteers at the 2017 planting day
stating that the owner would not profit from the land and would be responsible to nurture flora and fauna, and preserve native habitat. I paid $55,500 to Trust for Nature for the pleasure of ownership, finding later that the site was donated by Merle Stewart, the daughter of a sheep farmer for the purpose of securing the future of the hundreds of red ironbark and grey box trees, some centuries old. Looking back over the past 16 years, I am grateful for the extended family endeavours. We have erected a large shed to facilitate our planting activities, including solar power and cooking with gas and tank water. Around the property, several tanks adding up to 10,000 litres
hold water for the seedlings. Many a time we spend a night or two just chilling out, though there is always a project available along with a BBQ dinner and time to sit around the camp fire yarning and singing. A glass of Tabilk red certainly assists harmony. Several government grants towards the cost of fencing, planting and provision of nesting boxes clearly indicate that what we have achieved is recognised as worthwhile. One may ask how healthy is the world that we and future generations live in? What can we do as individuals and in local communities to improve the health of our planet, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat?
While a significant number of world leaders try to agree to cut back on pollutants such as burning coal, what can you and I do in our small corner of our God-given world to make a statement? Can we reduce our waste of discarded clothes and unwanted food and lower our consumption of commodities to what is needed rather than what we want? Maybe we can be more discerning about the source of the products we acquire, having more regard for the production workers, their conditions of employment, and worker exploitation that exists in some countries. Next time we consider an overseas holiday, maybe we should be more concerned with how our destination countries stand in the eyes of the world. Are they demonstrating fairness to their less privileged, how cooperative is their government in battling pollution and global warming? Planting our own vegetables, shrubs and trees, and using a china mug instead of a so-called plastic disposable container for the daily coffee, are ways we can all be an example to our offspring. Hopefully, they may notice and learn from our actions. God has given us a wonderful place to live our lives. By fulfilling our deepest desires, let us not lose the opportunity in our small corner of the world to pass on a better place than the one we found. We can make a difference and discover the joys of living simply. The values the mulga wood taught us 70 years ago – to live life as a grand opportunity – live on in my family today.
CROSSLIGHT - APRIL 18
Every person has a story to tell Spiro the sparrow WENDY RATAWA THEY say I’m an ordinary Australian garden sparrow but I know I am more. I may be tiny, but I am feisty and fly where my cousins don’t dare to roam. This is my adventure last Sunday. My cousins and I mainly live in a melaleuca tree in the cemetery, where we hop about. We can’t walk like a heron although we fly as high as a phone tower, but not in the same league as the gigantic eagle. Well, the other day I ventured into a church as the door was open. In the chapel I was attracted by a coloured window with a bird in it, then a bright lantern and a white box up in the ceiling to sit on. Big humans came into
the chapel and there was music and talking. I really got frightened when I saw a large black eagle but then I realised it was only a picture on the wall. As a man praised eagles soaring into the sky, I showed off, flitting from corner to corner in the ceiling. Look! I can fly too. When the people said the Lord’s
Prayer, I chirruped as loud as I could then stopped with the Amen. When I saw bread on a table I was tempted to dive down and take some until I realised that this was serious business for the people in the church, so I refrained. Then it was over. The people left, except for one young girl who decided it was time I left too. She had a small black box in her hand which she fiddled with. Suddenly I heard my cousins calling me with twitters, so I followed the young girl out
the chapel double doors, through the narthex and into the sunshine. There were no sparrows there at all! The girl had tricked me. Something to do with her little black box. An iPhone I heard a person say. (There was a sparrow in the East Geelong Uniting Church and Ebony, a teenage girl, helped it escape after our morning worship service. Rev Peter Greenwood was preaching about eagles so I was intrigued by the comparison of the little bird inside the church – Wendy Ratawa)
Letters Network provider AS a retired minister who worked in rural areas, I am wondering why Victoria doesn’t now have a Rural Ministry Network. Maybe 15 or 20 years ago there was such a network which enabled those working in rural areas (ordained and lay) to meet together and share problems and helpful possibilities with one another. Where is such mutual support across the synod available now? There are such networks operating in other states and in other countries, in fact the International Rural Churches Association is meeting in New Zealand in April. Do we have anyone attending? In 2000 I attended such a meeting in the USA (as a private individual) and saw how valuable such interfaith support could be. Please, what are we doing? In Christ’s service, Rev Bill Clark Ballarat Lake Bolac Parish
DNA test IN the Letters section of the March Crosslight we were reminded, “…good ecumenical relationships with other Christians is known to be in the DNA of the Uniting Church.” While this may be true of the early vision of our church, I am less certain of our ability to make that claim today when the Uniting Church seems to be increasingly absent from many public inter-church initiatives. While I’m sure our church will promote and APRIL 18 - CROSSLIGHT
participate in the Palm Sunday Walk for refugees this Easter, I would like to think it will be just as ecumenical in publicly supporting and promoting the Franklin Graham meetings in Etihad Stadium planned for November later this year. An ideal opportunity for the Uniting Church to be seen as alive and proactive in today’s market place.
communities of this important question of faith and overriding values in our health and aged care facilities. I am comforted by the words of Lamentations 3: 22 & 23. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Rev Ted Curnow Langwarrin
Alan Ray Mont Albert
Over The fence
THERE is now an opportunity in Victoria to incorporate a “values directive” in an advance care plan which would include the values a person would like to be taken into account when they no longer are able to make medical decisions about their care. The Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act which enshrines advance care directives into law came into operation on 12 March 2018. This new legislation prompts Christians and their caregivers to reflect on this profound question. It is particularly relevant for people with progressive cognitive impairment conditions such as dementia. It raises such questions as how we honour God through our illness and what are our spiritual values at these confronting times. The church too is challenged afresh by this legislation to consider how to meet those spiritual needs of members of their congregations who cannot make decisions for themselves, as well as for the needs of their caregivers. It is an opportunity for Christian leaders to remind our secular
HOW many of us are hemmed in by fences of our own making? You know, the type of self-created barrier that says there’s nothing over the other side that you will need or anything that will do you any good. So you stay within the confines of your perceived comfort and self-sufficiency. So it is with people who are happy with ‘Jesus the good example’ and feel that should be the limit. Anything beyond the fence is abhorrent or as necessary as a third spare tyre. Jesus the God is on the other side. Both confronting and logic-defying is the message that he loved you so very much that he allowed himself to be literally ripped to pieces by a scourge and crucified unto death so you can find your way home. Here’s where people would put on gloves, pick up the message with a pair of tweezers and put it under the microscope. Here’s where the fences get pushed higher by hubris (who needs this redemption thing anyway?). Easter is an uncomfortable reminder God Incarnate went through the savagery of his sentence and death even though he knew rejection and unbelief
awaits. That’s Truth and Grace in action. Some quarters, perhaps, desperate to be seen to be championing ‘politically correct’ agendas promulgate the suggestion that the message of the Cross offends; it makes people feel unnecessarily ‘indebted’. But everyone knows you can accept it or walk away. It’s our choice. That’s how much He loves us. The Cross never shackles or condemns. The Cross frees and frees so totally – if you’ll only let it. It tells you: you can rest, your battle is over. Jesus has won it for you at Calvary. The Cross is a living message of unparalleled love and resurrection power – if you’ll only let it. Place your faith on it and it becomes your ark when you don’t know how to swim, your fortress when you need unassailable ground. This Easter, why not take a chance and cross that fence. Warning: If you do, you might just end up changing your mind about many things the world has taught you. Kimmy Fam Skipton St Uniting Church Ballarat
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.
Pilgrim Reflection The things that matter
Tecuci, Romania - July 24, 2015: Saint Paul Painting In Saint George Cathedral Of Tecuci City.
THERE is a phrase from one of Paul’s letters that has stuck in my mind recently, not least as I take up a new role within the synod. The role title I have been given is long (Director of Education and Formation for Leadership and Head of Pilgrim Theological College, no easy acronym there!), so it’s kind of helpful to have a few words that provide some focus to my work. In sharing the phrase with you, we need to go on a bit of an exegetical journey, so bear with me for a few sentences. It is pretty clear that the apostle Paul thought that love was important. You only need to attend a wedding or two to encounter his celebration of the centrality, the abiding nature, of love (1 Corinthians 13). If the message of Easter is about anything, it is about the way that God’s love ultimate triumphs over every hostile, unjust, death-dealing power. If the church is going to exist at all, it can only respond to and live out that love in every aspect of its life (see Romans 13:8–10). But in his letter to the Philippians Paul writes that love is directly related not only to what we do but to how we think and believe. He prays for the church in these words: ‘I pray that your love will bring growth in your knowledge and understanding’ (Philippians 1:9). That is my translation of what it says. It is a 18
better translation than most you will read, because it makes it clear that what Paul wants for the church at Philippi is growth in knowledge and understanding. Paul doesn’t want love to grow, not here at least. He wants the love that already exists to ‘enhance our capacity’ (to use the language of strategic reviews and position descriptions) for perception and insight. Love is just assumed to be present in the church. But love (both God’s love for us and our love for God, each other, and the world) is supposed to produce certain ways of understanding God, ourselves, and our world. Love educates us, and directs us towards the truth. This means Paul imagines a church that is learning to (and this is the phrase that has stuck with me) ‘identify the things that matter’ (Philippians 1:10 – again my translation). In Paul’s world, the quest for ‘the things that matter’ was familiar in some philosophical circles. The basic idea is that while there are all sorts of things that it might be useful to know, and all sorts of possible opportunities for learning, we should be focusing on the things that matter. And of course, that can’t be everything, because if everything matters equally then there is a sense in which nothing matters at all. So the work of education in the church,
whether it happens in the Bible study group or the theological college classroom, isn’t about learning the latest thing, or the most urgent thing, or the popular thing. We are invited to identify the important things, and to go deeper and deeper into our knowledge and understanding of them. In a world where the church faces any number of demands, we need to learn the skills of discernment. In a culture that thrives on distraction, we should be learning how to concentrate. In a time of change and transition, the challenge is to establish priorities that don’t just reflect the changing times, but that take us deeper into what really counts; the ‘things that matter’. Easter is about as good a time as any to ask these kinds of questions. The Roman historian Tacitus once wrote that “sub Tiberio quies” (under the reign of Tiberius, it was quiet). And so it would have looked to anyone who was walking around Jerusalem during the Feast of Passover around the year 30. Another criminal executed. Another group of women wailing and lamenting. Another group of religious weirdos making rash and unprovable claims about their leader. These things are distractions at best, ridiculous and dangerous at worst. There are much more important things to talk about.
Or perhaps not. The church only exists, and only lives by love for God and neighbour, because of those events. ‘Christ died’… that matters. ‘God raised Jesus from the dead’… that matters. ‘In Christ God was reconciling the world to Godself ’… that matters. If those things don’t matter, then let’s get on with finding what does, and stop wasting our time trying to be the people who love, and understand, and tell that good news. If they do matter, then it’s only right that we let our love provoke us to deeper and deeper levels of knowledge and understanding. That is where our focus should be, and where our priorities lie.
Sean Winter Director of Education and Formation for Leadership and Head of Pilgrim Theological College CROSSLIGHT - APRIL 18
Three blessings SHARON HOLLIS ONE of the most constant sources of comfort, encouragement and challenge in my prayer life over the last few years has been blessings written by Jan Richardson. As I have journeyed through Lent and begun to reflect on Easter I have turned once again to Jan to guide and shelter me. One meaning of the word blessing is the favour of God. When we are blessed we encounter the mystery of God’s love, justice and mercy poured out. If we open ourselves up to the blessing and the source of the blessing we are drawn into the heart of the One who blesses. We also talk of blessing as worship to God, a turning back to the giver of the gift in love and praise. Blessings are also something we bestow on others as prayer that they too might be drawn more deeply into the mystery of God who blesses the world over and over. Some dictionary definitions suggest because a blessing is the favour of God it leads to happiness. This is to misunderstand God’s blessing. As Jan Richardson says “the most profound blessings we will ever know are those that meet us in the place of our deepest loss and inspire us to choose to live again”. I offer you three snippets from Jan’s blessings and my reflections on them with hope that you might find blessing for the journey of faith. APRIL 18 - CROSSLIGHT
BELOVED IS WHERE WE BEGIN
THE MAGDALENE’S BLESSING
If you would enter into the wilderness, do not begin without a blessing. Do not leave without hearing who you are: Beloved, named by the One who has travelled this path before you.
This day let all stand still in silence, in sorrow.
All you need to remember is how it sounded when you stood in the place of death and heard the living call your name.
This blessing, written for the first Sunday of Lent, reminds us as we journey as people of faith we are beloved of God. Before we turn to God, God has already turned to us and called us beloved. Before we trod the path of faith Jesus trod it and called us beloved. We do nothing to earn this love, it is a gift of grace. Nothing can happen that separates us from God’s love no matter how hard or long the wilderness. But nothing can take away the blessing of being beloved. The story of God from end to beginning and beginning to end echoes this deep truth: all of creation and each one of us is beloved.
Sun and moon be still. Earth be still...... ...Let the ground gape in stunned lamentation.
Grief, loss and death so often leave us stunned and inarticulate. In the face of a life ending we are often unable to put words to the deep, body-shattering grief. It pierces our hearts. This blessing reminds us that the death of the Word, who called creation into being, has Earth-shattering and Earth-silencing consequences. The creation is called to silence in the face of Jesus’ death. The call to the whole Earth to stand still in the face of Jesus’ death reminds us that the blessing of God is for all creation. In the face of the death of the Saviour of Creation all of Earth laments. The death of Jesus not only overcomes the alienation between God and humanity, it also promises healing for the Earth. It invites us to receive the blessings of creation and to be agents of blessings for the Earth.
Grief-stricken Mary Magdalene hears her name called and in that intimate moment of having one’s name spoken she begins to move from mourning to joy, death to life, despair to hope. The joy of Easter Day is not that death, suffering, sin and injustice are forgotten. Rather it is that the Crucified One calls us to life, in the midst of these things. Life comes when our name is called by the One who loved us even unto the grave. We know that all the forces of death and destruction will not overcome us because God’s love was not defeated by death. Life comes when our name is called beloved. That we are beloved by God is enough. That is blessing. These blessings are from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons by Jan Richardson, Wanton Gospeller Press, 2015. You can also find more of Jan’s work at janrichardson.com and paintedprayerbook.com.
People Degrees of inspiration GRADUATING Pilgrim Theological College students welcomed the strong theme of female ministry and leadership that emerged as they collected their qualifications during a University of Divinity award service held at St Michael’s Uniting Church in central Melbourne. Heather Hon and Fiona Bottcher were among the 19 Pilgrim students conferred awards during the 16 March service that featured a graduation address by author and journalist Julia Baird. Dr Baird spoke on the harmful effects of the doctrine of male headship, a subject she has covered in depth. Fiona, who received a Graduate Diploma in Theology, said the address was prophetic and honest. “I am actually thrilled the University of Divinity secured her,” she said. “I just thought that was such a wonderful reflection of where we are as a church, to be
able to say yes ‘these are the kind of words we are looking for’.” Heather, who also received a Graduate Diploma in Theology, said the contribution of moderator Sharon Hollis was equally inspiring. “I loved the fact that Sharon Hollis did some of the liturgy and that was saying something about who we are as a church because obviously not every church has women in leadership,” Ms Hon said. Both Heather and Fiona said there was a great collegiate feel among the Pilgrim people who attended the service, with both students and some who teach at the college receiving awards. “I was actually struck by how many people, my fellow students and the staff, put time aside to congratulate us,” Fiona said. “It took me by surprise how much of a lovely confirmation and celebration of community it was.” Fiona, who attends Brunswick Uniting Church, is in the second year of formation to become a deacon, which is an outwardfacing ministry. She sees her calling as ministering
Heather Hon and Fiona Bottcher
to those with mental health issues or disability, the economically disadvantaged and especially women who often bear the brunt in those circumstances. “I am very drawn towards marginalised communities; a lot of that has to do with being the mother of an intellectually disabled son, I think,” she said.
Heather, who attends Glen Waverley Uniting Church, is in the final year of her formation to be a minister of the word. “I’m feeling really excited about it, aware that it’s a huge responsibility and more so than when I entered the formation process,” Heather said.
Peter Blackwood Q&A
PETER Blackwood painted the icon that appears on this month’s front cover. He is the coordinator of the Uniting Church Icon Schools, a retired UCA minister and former synod associate general secretary. We asked Peter a few questions about the cover image and his passion for painting icons. Tell us about the icon you created for Crosslight’s cover. It’s called Appearing of Christ to the myrrh bearers, based on the incident described in Matthew 28:9, which is traditionally called ‘Chairete’ – Greek for greeting. The text reads ‘Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him’. (NRSV) How was the artwork done? It is painted in egg tempera on a pine panel 28 x 43mm. How long did it take? I thought about this icon over a few days, looking through my collection of icon books and trying sketches. Once I started work on the panel, it took me three days. How long have you been painting icons? Since 2003. I studied under Rob Gallacher, the founder of the Uniting Church Icon Schools. I have also been taught by Philip Davydov and Olga Shalamova, iconographers from St Petersburg who conduct teaching workshops in Russia, Canada, USA, Italy, and Melbourne. What first drew your interest to painting icons? I bought a book on painting icons by Solrunn Nes and started to dabble with acrylic. When I heard of the monthly Saturday Uniting Church Icon Schools I joined. It took a year to paint the first icon in egg tempera. (Some insist that we write icons. The Greek for ‘paint’ and ‘write’ is the same word so I am comfortable using either term.) What keeps you doing it? Being part of a community of artists keeps interest alive and provides mutual 20
support and learning opportunities. When I approached retirement I was asked to help teach. That privilege and responsibility spurred me on to learn more and paint more. How many icons you done? Crosslight’s cover is my 101st. Has your work been widely seen? My icons have been exhibited at the Centre for Theology and Ministry, the Australian Catholic University, Victor Harbor and Tarrawarra Abbey. I have sold 20 works. Photos of my work have been published on the front cover of a number of editions of With Love to the World, including the current Lent/Easter edition. Tell us a bit about the Icon Schools? The Uniting Church Icon Schools have day classes at the Auburn Uniting Church on the first Saturday, Monday and Wednesday of each month. The classes include instruction and worship. Each class has between 12 and 15 members. At present there are six artists painting their first icons. What sort of people get involved? Our members are all ages, all denominations, all ranges of artistic experience, from many ethnic origins, and mostly women. Do you teach icon painting outside the Icon Schools classes? I have conducted painting workshops at a variety of places and produced teaching videos which you can find on YouTube. Aren’t you something of an icon yourself in the VicTas synod? Yes – flat, wooden and strangely stylised. You also might think I have been hanging around for centuries.
Icon painting in progress
CROSSLIGHT - APRIL 18
Opinion Economy of death WES CAMPBELL
THE recently announced plans by the federal government to increase military exports and industry must be read as the latest step toward a militarised Australian economy. This has already been demonstrated in the choice to build submarines, buy air fighters, host military bases and exercises, and to participate in Middle East warfare. There is real danger here because militarised economies develop their own momentum towards war-making. The carnage of the past century served to confirm this view. In his 1985 book Blood and Iron: Breath of Life or Weapons of Death (1985) renowned Australian physicist, educator
and science communicator Dr Peter Mason documented how powerful interests, particularly the Krupp steelmakers, fuelled the armaments industry in both Britain and Germany, leading to the millions dead in the First World War. This confirms German philosopher Immanuel Kantâ€™s observation that those who manufacture weapons are preparing to fight the next war. Blithely, politicians say we need have no concerns, because military armaments would only be sold to countries who share Australiaâ€™s high ethical standards. How absurd is this? There can be no reassurance that limits will be placed on military plans and weapons. The nations that fought the First World War were self-confessed Christian nations. And their enemies were, of course, only to be killed in the name of higher religious and ethical standards! Sadly, this rationale is regularly repeated, as in the shock and awe of Iraq and the subsequent war in the Middle East.
In our highly militarised world we must find a path away from economies which continue the manufacture of death. Lures, such as advertisements for the Army Reserve, and promises of skills for young people in the military forces, do not help. But they do serve to remind us of the world wars of the past century, and the acts of terror exercised daily, which demand that we persuade all governments, industry and young people alike, to give up our dangerous attachment to war preparation. Instead of binding our economy to military production and offering employment in military activities to our young, why not develop an Australian economy that is truly productive, committed imaginatively to peace? Furthermore, as followers of Jesus do we have any other choice than to be peacemakers? I have drafted the following declaration that I hope people will find useful as they continue to work as peacemakers: As we prepare for the Anzac Day centenary of the â€˜war to end all warsâ€™ we gather to lament the profound cost of war and to attend to Jesus Christâ€™s call to peace. On this day, as those called by Jesus Christ, we declare that we refuse to take up weapons in the practice of war. We will not
kill any other human being. We call upon our fellow Australians, who commemorate the cost of war on this Anzac Day, to cease to prepare for war by the production and use of weapons. Called by Jesus Christ to be a maker of peace, I therefore sign this declaration. I declare a conscientious objection to any military service. I join with all creatures, human and other living beings, to seek to live by the prophetic vision of peace for all. Wes Campbell is a retired Uniting Church minister, theologian and painter in oils and acrylics. His artworks were featured in Transfiguration: An Exhibition, which was staged in the Phee Broadway Theatre in Castlemaine from 4 February to 28 March. Transfiguration: An Exhibition was a response to a key Christian narrative traditionally observed on the 6th of August, as Transfiguration. The 6th of August, 1945, is also remembered as the date of the atomic destruction of Hiroshima.
There will be an ecumenical Prayers for Peace service on Anzac Day at St Paulâ€™s Cathedral at 11am.
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APRIL 18 - CROSSLIGHT
Feature Show us a sign JULIE PERRIN
WHILE churches are increasingly using the internet and social media to communicate with the wider community, the traditional message board in front of the building remains a steadfast favourite. Most famously the message board at Gosford Anglican church in NSW has attracted international attention for carrying challenging questions and social comment. In a similar fashion, the Mountview Uniting Church message board in Melbourne’s outer east is referred to as the “roadside pulpit” and its reach extends a lot further than Mitcham. Following the violent death of detained Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati on Manus Island the Mountview message board read: “Jesus and Reza: two refugees killed by government policy”. This provoked a hostile reaction from a Queensland talkback radio host as well as prompting thousands of responses and views on social media. Mountview minister Rev Brendan Byrne
said the church’s signs have a clear purpose. “They are to make people think critically about what’s going on and to ask, ‘Am I OK with this kind of society?’” he said. “It’s in line with the scriptural tradition of prophetic critique.” While Brendan takes responsibility for each sign’s wording, he has strong backing from the church council. He said that community response is largely positive and people will make contact and say, “I’ve noticed the signs”. However, Brendan knows the messages do not always sit comfortably with either some in the wider community or within the Uniting Church. One message about tax cuts for the rich resulted in complaints from UCA members that his views were “communist”. Brendan is unrepentant. “I will stop posting provocative messages, when politicians and others start treating the most helpless among us with dignity and respect,” he said. At Hampton Park Uniting Church in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, the
congregation has a noticeboard they use to regularly advertise programs and events. Minister Rev Mat Harry regards it as one part of a jigsaw puzzle of notices and announcements that lets the surrounding community know the church is active, organised and involved in the neighbourhood. The outdoor message board is changed every fortnight and will occasionally have a play on words, but the church does not do this lightly. “It is never about just putting up a witty sign and expecting people to come,” Mat said. The Hampton church is also active on social media posting twice a day on Facebook. “We post a schedule of announcements and updates for the community garden, playgroup, youth group, community lunches and other events,” Mat said. “People know that we are not just sitting back.” When she began in ministry 10 years ago, Richmond Uniting Church minister Rev Dr Sally Douglas was not disposed to using signage or social media to communicate in
Synod Ethics hics Committee C – Expressions of Interest Inte Expressions of interest are invited for membership of the newly-formed Synod Ethics Committee. The Committee’s purpose is to provide a means by which the Church can address contemporary ethical issues from the perspective of faith and theology. Its responsibilities include: - identifying priority issues that need addressing at any particular time in the life of the Church; - SPHPZPUN^P[O[OL:`UVK»Z:VJPHS1\Z[PJLZ[Hќ[VLUZ\YLJVVYKPUH[PVUPU addressing current ethical issues; and - advising the Moderator and Synod Standing Committee regarding ethics matters with which the Church is involved. Contact Clare Boyd-Macrae P: 03 9251 5210 or E: email@example.com for the Committee’s Terms of Reference and further information.
Expressions of interest close Friday 9 April 2018.
CROSSLIGHT - APRIL 18
the public space. She has changed her mind. Richmond Uniting Church is in a high volume traffic area in inner Melbourne and a combination of banner signage, posters, plus a website and Facebook presence have brought connections Sally would never have anticipated. “I now realise the first place people look for a church is through websites – it’s imperative that we have up-to-date websites and communicate clearly who we are and what we believe,” Sally said. The communication used by the Richmond congregation varies from the invitation to chalk prayers onto the church steps, to posters advertising Beer and Carols events or simply inviting conversation. A recent sign read: “If you are interested in questions about life, Jesus, the Bible, the Divine, Christianity, faith and doubt and you do not want easy answers or lectures but you do want authentic conversation, maybe come along to Richmond Uniting.” According to Sally, people have arrived at worship saying: “I saw the posters and I’ve
been reading about you online. Or they say ‘I have never been to church before – or not in years. I finally decided to come’. ” Sally has come to regard the public face of the banners, posters and invitational fliers as an important part of ministry. “With many so-called ‘Christian’ voices that are judgmental in the public sphere, we need to tell people where we come from in the Uniting Church,” she said. “This is a core way of proclaiming the gospel; it is not just an extra thing on the side.” Sally views the banners as more significant than simply a way to capture attention. “We are creating a space to engage with and go deeper into the scandalous way of Jesus,” she said. One of the first banners at Richmond UC read “Church – but not as you know it”. It went up in 2015 and featured a rainbow of threads passing through the eye of a needle. The banner had to be remade after it was slashed during the marriage equality debate, but the vandalism provoked a tidal wave of
POSITIONS VACANT NT T AT BRUNSWICK UNITIING C CH HUR RC CH H Brunswick Uniting is an outw twar twar ard d lo ookin okin ok ng C Ch hririist s ia st ian n community in the heart of Melb lbou ourn rn ne’ e’ss in inne n r nort ne north. no rth. h. We strive to be an inclusive com ommu m nityy, ever evverr growing in faith, and working fo f r jju ust stic ic ce, e pea e ce e @MCQDBNMBHKH@SHNM 6D@QDKNN NJH JHM HMF SNjK NjKKKKSG SGQD Q D QN QNKDR KDR KD R Children and Families Work ker, Yo out u h Wo Worrk ker ke er and d Student Support Workerr. Th hese po posi sitititio si ons ca on an ei eith ther th er be performed as two part tim me ro ole les, s, orr on ne co comb mbin ned d position. The successful candidate/s wilil ha h ve e exp xper erie ienc nce e iin n ministering with children, tee een nage nage na gers rs and d the heiir fam mililie ies, ie s s, and young adults. The Chilildr drren e and d Fam mililie iess Wo W rk rker position will focus on the the heol olo ogical nou urirish shme ment nt off ou ourr younger members through di dire rec ct lea eade ders rshi hip, hi p, vol o un unte t er te co-ordination, pastora al care e and nd bro roade er com er ommu muni mu nity ni ty engagement, the Youth Work ker wililll co c -ord din inat ate e yo out u h grro ou upss (junior and senior high school ol), ), and d Stu t de en ntt Sup uppo port rt Wor o ke ker wi w llll facilitate the Brunswick Uniting ng g Studentt Hou ou usse e Com omm mu uni u nity ty. For more information visitt our web ebsiite www.brunswick.unitingchurch.org.au brunswick.unitingc , and contact Minister off th the e Wo W rd d Rev. ev. Ia an Fe erg gus uson (04 0 3 38 8 547 47 842, 42 42 firstname.lastname@example.org) or Chi hild ld dre r n & Yout uth h Co Comm mmit m tte te Ch tee hai a r, r Anita Brown-Major (0424 03 034 4 09 96). )
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support from local community groups and thousands of people around Australia. When Rev Ian Ferguson arrived at Brunswick Uniting Church, also in inner Melbourne, early in 2013, there was a sign across the doorway-sized window that faces Sydney Road. A few words written in a large font on poster paper simply declared, “Jesus was a refugee”. Ian says that in the last five years he has heard from people in many different places who have remarked, “I saw that sign in your window.” In 2017 an installation in the church’s Sydney Road window provoked an even greater and overwhelmingly positive response. At Ian’s instigation and with church council backing, a sign advocating a yes vote for the marriage equality plebiscite was placed in the window with rainbow cloths flowing from the cross. Ian spoke to the congregation and they were strongly supportive of the sign. “We understand the love of God for the
whole world to be a love that reconciles, that does not judge or condemn,” he said. While some people outside the congregation contacted the church to say they were bewildered or angered, one particularly memorable response came from Ellen, a passer-by on a tram who wrote to the church via their website. Travelling home on the tram today, the ‘yes’ sign caught my eye in your church window. I have a Pentecostal background, although I’d be hesitant to say that I still have a faith now, at 30, as a gay woman who has only recently come out. [My] eyes fell on the remarkably simple, and utterly striking ‘display’ of the cross of Christ, standing over a rainbow of material. That installation, sparked a little idea that perhaps, Christ himself, is OK with who I am. Thank you to whoever made that installation, to whoever is in your leadership teams – I suspect I’ll look back on this moment as a rather pivotal one.
PRESBYTERY PRESBY BY YT RY OF WESTERN AUSTRA YTERY AUSTRALIA RA ALIA
Presbytery Pre Pr res esby byt ytteryy Mi yte Min Minister inis iste te er -Ed -Education Edu duca cati tio ion and Tr Tra Training rain inin ing The Presbytery of WA is seeking to appoint a person to join the newly forming Education Team whose purpose is to achieve “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 successful applicant will have proven ability in adult education and vocational training, a commitment to education for discipleship and formation for missional leadership, the ability to enthuse others and to communicate within a wide range of contexts. This full time position will take a lead role in the development of VET education for lay ministries and congregational leaders within the Presbytery. To see the Position Description and Selection Criteria go to unitingchurchwa.org.au/careers/ministry-vacancies/ Applications with resume to be sent to email@example.com by 27 April.
Placements CURRENT AND PENDING PLACEMENT VACANCIES AS AT 22 MARCH 2018 PRESBYTERY OF GIPPSLAND Drouin – Bunyip Parish (*) Lakes Entrance (0.6) (P) (C)
PRESBYTERY OF WESTERN VIC Henty Region – Surrey Cluster (P) (C) Kaniva – Serviceton (P) (C)
PRESBYTERY OF LODDON MALLEE Central Mallee Cooperating Parish (0.5) and Tyrrell Parish (0.5) (P) (C)
PRESBYTERY OF YARRA YARRA Banyule Network – Ministry Team Leader (C) Banyule Network – Pastoral Care and Discipleship (C) Croydon and Croydon North (P) (C) Joongang (0.4) (C) Presbytery Minister (*) Ringwood (C)
PRESBYTERY OF NORTH EAST VICTORIA Nil PRESBYTERY OF PORT PHILLIP EAST Beaumaris (0.6) (P) (C) Cranbourne (5 year term) (P) (C) PRESBYTERY OF PORT PHILLIP WEST East Geelong (C) Essendon North (*) Geelong (Wesley) (C) Gladstone Park (0.5) (P) (C) Newtown (St David’s) (C) Surf Coast (P) (C) PRESBYTERY OF TASMANIA West Coast Patrol (*)
(C) Current - may be in conversation (*) Pending - profile expected soon. Ministers available for placement may express interest in a particular placement. (P) Suitable for pastor. A lay person wishing to be considered must lodge an Expression of Interest. Enquiries and written Expressions of Interest to: Ms Isabel Thomas Dobson Secretary, Placements Committee Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. org.au
MINISTRY MOVES CALLS AND APPOINTMENTS FINALISED Bradon French (Lay), Intergenerational Ministry – Youth to commence on 30 April 2018 Mat Harry (Deacon), New and Renewing Communities to commence 12 June 2018
RETIREMENTS Gay Loftus (Deacon), Northern Rivers Parish to retire on 30 September 2018 John Haig (OD), Mornington (St Marks) to retire 31 December 2018 Glenys Gill, Euroa to retire on 31 January 2019
Fran Barber, Continuing Education and Leadership Development to commence 1 July 2018 Michele Lees, Echuca – Moama to commence 1 July 2018 Claire Dawe, Manningham – Children, Young People and Families to commence 1 July 2018
Notices COMING EVENTS READING THE CREED BACKWARDS: THE SHAPE AND DIRECTION OF CHRISTIAN FAITH A new small group study, Reading the Creed backwards: The shape and direction of Christian faith, is available for download from Illuminating Faith. The Nicene and Apostles’ Creed are important elements of Christian tradition. These studies are intended as a ‘prelude’ to saying the Creed, looking at the structure of the Creed as a whole and considering Christian confession as less a matter of content than as a matter of style. Also available, The Lord’s Prayer – Prayer for those who can no longer pray. See www.marktheevangelist.unitingchurch. org.au/category/illuminating-faith/ FAITH’S LAST HURRAH! BY BRUCE D. PREWER During his many years of ministry, Rev Bruce Prewer has written many books of prayers, poems and reflections which have been used extensively by worship leaders in Australia and overseas. Bruce recently released a new book entitled Faith’s Last Hurrah. This book, as well as four other titles that are still in print, are available for sale via Sunbury UC where Bruce is a member. Contact Helen Hall at E: email@example.com or on M: 0407 506 507, who will email book information and costs. UNITING HERITAGE SERVICES REUNION FOR PAST RESIDENTS OF METHODIST CHILDREN’S HOME AND ORANA Uniting Church agencies have been providing out-of-home care services for children for over a century. The Uniting Heritage Service exists to support those individuals (and their families) who spent some or all of their childhood in care, and who are seeking records and other information about their time in care. The Heritage Service is planning a reunion for past residents of the Methodist Children’s Home and Orana. Any past residents or family members interested in attending the reunion, or anyone seeking more information, are welcome to contact Catriona Milne, Manager, Uniting Heritage Service, on P: (03) 8644 1531 or E: firstname.lastname@example.org. ALL-AGE CAMP, CAMPS FARTHEST OUT (CFO) THURSDAY, 12 TO SUNDAY, 15 APRIL ‘Burnside’ Anglesea, Victoria. CFO is a time for people of all ages to come together for learning and sharing, giving and receiving. There are quiet times alone and times of group fellowship. It is a nondenominational camp. The theme is ‘My Life in Christ; Jesus my Life Saver!’ Come and have fun! Enquiries to Jan Thwaites M: 0407 507 313. For a registration brochure, email Harry Box on e: harryb01 @optusnet.com. Registrations close Monday, 26 March.
TREBLE TONES INC., LADIES CHOIR AVAILABLE FOR FUNDRAISERS Would you like to hold a fundraiser for your organisation/outreach? Treble Tones Inc., a ladies choir, is available to perform at such occasions. Two and three-part works performed by the choir encompass folksongs and ballads, light classical, sacred and music theatre genres. A one-hour performance includes ensemble and solo songs, instrumental solos, humorous readings and/or recitations. Fees are $100 for weekday afternoon programs, $120 for evening or weekend programs, or longer programs by arrangement. For further information contact Sylvia Giles (booking secretary) on P: (03) 9544 8546 or Lorraine Pollard (musical director) on P: (03) 9807 5936. THE GREAT WAR THROUGH AN AUSTRALIAN ARTIST’S EYES – ARTHUR STREETON PAINTS THE WESTERN FRONT 7.30PM FOR 8PM, THURSDAY 19 APRIL Auburn Uniting Church Hall, Hepburn Street, Hawthorn. Julie Dodds-Streeton will present an illustrated talk based on her research of the renowned Australian artist Sir Arthur Streeton’s experience as a war artist in the Great War. Arthur Streeton was her late husband’s grandfather. For tickets go to www.trybooking.com/UENM ($23-33 online) or available at the door. All funds raised go towards the restoration of the heritage-listed Auburn Uniting Church Tower. For enquiries phone Elizabeth Bethune on P: 03 9818 2726. See www.auburntowerfriends.org.au. DEMENTIA AWARENESS SEMINAR 1.30PM, 27 APRIL St John’s Uniting Church, Mt Waverley. St John’s Mt Waverley UC Church in Society Committee is presenting its next dementia seminar. Kate Teggelove, a registered music therapist and research fellow with the University of Melbourne, will discuss the Remini-Sing study, exploring the effects of therapeutic group singing for community dwelling people with dementia, and their caregivers. This study is in conjunction with Uniting Agewell. There will be time for people to share their church’s plans on supporting those in their congregations living with dementia. Afternoon tea will be served. All are welcome. For more details please contact Margery Kennett on P: (03) 9807 4084 or e: email@example.com. PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIAN NETWORK OF VICTORIA EVENT 7PM, FRIDAY 27 APRIL Ewing Memorial Centre of Stonnington Uniting Church, cnr Burke Rd and Coppin St, Malvern East. Michael Morwood will speak on ‘A new template for Christian prayer.’ For more details contact Anne Sinclair on M: 0411 097 531.
Interested in Volunteering to assist Frontier Services in the high country? A small team of volunteers is needed to undertake basic maintenance and painting of the Frontier Services Manse at Swifts Creek from 10 – 13 April or from 16 – 20 April. For further information please contact: Lindsay Oates on M: 0408 343 531.
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Notices FAIR TRADE FAITH CONFERENCE NSW 27 – 29 APRIL Queanbeyan Uniting Church Centre, 13 Rutledge Street, Queanbeyan, NSW. Learn more about fair trade and how it connects with your faith, meet and share with others. The inaugural Fair Trade Faith Conference features guest speakers including Dr Jonathan Cornford, Manna Gum Ministry; Rev Scott Higgins, Christian educator, writer and consultant; Dr Keith Suter, global futurist and Rev John Martin, fair trade advocate. Register now at allthenashes.wixsite.com/ fairtradefaith CLOSURE SERVICE FOR PLEASANT STREET UNITING CHURCH, BALLARAT 1.30PM, SUNDAY 29 APRIL Pleasant St Uniting Church, 56A Pleasant Street South, Newington. After 157 years of continuous service, a closing service for the Pleasant Street UC will be held on 29 April. The service will be one of commemoration and thanksgiving as we acknowledge the dedication of those past and present who have served this church and congregation faithfully at this site. Afternoon tea will be provided. All those who have had any association with this congregation are warmly invited to attend. Please RSVP to Margaret Bennett on P: (03) 5332 3028. BOX HILL METHODIST YOUTH FELLOWSHIP REUNION 2PM – 5PM, SATURDAY 19 MAY Manningham Uniting Church, 147 Woodhouse Grove, Box Hill North. Former members are invited to the celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Methodist Youth Fellowship to be held at the Manningham Uniting Church. Please bring a plate of food to share and any memorabilia you may have. RSVP to Lance /Sue Harvey on P: (03) 9725 8298; Bev Atkinson (Allingham) on M. 0407 338 314 or Marg Hammon on P: (03) 9955 4532 by 12 May.
MAROONDAH SINGERS - AN ‘EXTRA SPECIAL’ 50 YEAR CELEBRATION 9.30AM, SUNDAY 20 MAY Mountview Uniting Church Mitcham, cnr Maroondah Highway & Doncaster East Rd, Mitcham. Fifty years ago, the then Mitcham Methodist and Presbyterian Congregations took up joint occupancy of their new buildings – Mountview Church Mitcham, preceding Union by about ten years. Coincidently, a large, significant community choir was formed the same week and found accommodation in this new suite of buildings. They are still here. To celebrate this ‘coming together’, the Maroondah Singers will join the Uniting congregation at the 9:30am worship service on 20 May. All are welcome at this great service of praise in music, especially past congregation and choir members. For more information phone John Williams on P: (03) 9874 3957.
PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIAN NETWORK OF VICTORIA EVENT 3PM, SUNDAY 27 MAY Ewing Memorial Centre of Stonnington Uniting Church, cnr Burke Rd and Coppin St, Malvern East. Coralie Ling will speak on ‘Eco feminism contribution to the Christian message in the light of climate change.’ For more details contact Anne Sinclair on M: 0411 097 531.
CALOUNDRA: Sunshine Coast, Queensland: Beachside units, from $400/wk. For details contact Ray P: 0427 990 161 or E: rayandjean@ hotmail.com.
SOMERS CAMP 3 – 7 JULY Port Philip East Presbytery. Uniting Church children and youth camp for grade 3 to year 9 in the first week of the winter school holidays. The camp is in its 61st year and is now one of the largest children and youth camps in Australia. Leadership training is open to any young people engaged in ministry. Details can be found at www.somerscamp.com.au.
GRAMPIANS WORSHIP: When visiting The Grampians, join the Pomonal Community Uniting Church congregation for worship each Sunday at 10am.
AUSTRALIA’S BIGGEST MORNING TEA AT THE HUB 10AM – 12NOON, THURSDAY 24 MAY Glen Waverley Uniting Church, cnr Bogong Avenue and Kingsway. Australia’s biggest morning tea at the Hub, in support of The Cancer Council, Victoria. Come along to The Hub and enjoy a delicious morning tea. Bring your family and friends, all ages welcome. All donations to the Cancer Council Victoria. For information and group bookings, P: (03) 9560 3580.
COME AND VISIT THE HUB 10AM – 2PM TUESDAYS/ THURSDAYS, 10AM – 12NOON, WEDNESDAYS Glen Waverley UC, cnr Kingsway and Bogong Avenue, Glen Waverley. The Hub is a welcoming and friendly meeting place for people needing company, a cuppa and a biscuit to relax in a busy day or to practise speaking in English in an informal setting. The Hub is open Tuesday and Thursday 10am 2pm, and Wednesday 10am - 12noon. People of all ages are welcome. For information phone P: (03) 9560 3580.
WESTERN WOMEN’S RETREAT 25 – 27 MAY Norval, Halls Gap. The Western Women’s Retreat, (formerly known as Murtoa Parish Ladies Camp), is celebrating its 40th anniversary in May. The weekend is an opportunity for women of all denominations to share their faith and engender understanding with prayer, learning, love, laughter and fun. On this special occasion we warmly welcome past attendees for a grand reunion. For information and bookings contact Judy Gawith on P: (03) 5385 2470 or Fran Robinson on e: firstname.lastname@example.org
GROUNDSWELL 7PM, FIRST SUNDAY OF THE MONTH Habitat Hawthorn, 2 Minona Street, Hawthorn. Groundswell is a monthly inter-spiritual gathering. We draw upon our rich human history of spiritual journeys to experience the sacred together. We look at all spirituality in the light of the archetypal patterns in our lives and engage in practical transformative experiences. For more information, visit the Habitat website www.habitatforspirituality.org.au Enquiries to Elizabeth Bethune on P: (03) 9818 2726.
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 M: 0401 177 775.
LIVE AND WORK ON THE BEAUTIFUL SUNSHINE COAST: Apartment and management rights of an accommodation resort for sale. Email: email@example.com. LORNE: Spacious apartment, breath-taking ocean view, open fire, peaceful, secluded, affordable. P: (03) 5289 2698. SENIORS’ SPECIAL: Enjoy a break in luxury surroundings. Three days and three nights, dinner, bed and breakfast for $450 per couple (including GST). Jindivick Gardens. P: (03) 5628 5319. SOUTH GIPPSLAND WORSHIP: When visiting South Gippsland you are invited to join the Mirboo North Uniting Church congregation for worship at 10am each Sunday. Contact Lynne Oates on P: (03) 5668 1621. WANTED TO BUY: Antiques, second-hand/ retro furniture, bric-a-brac and collectables. Single items or whole house lots. Genuine buyer. Contact Kevin P: 0408 969 920.
Upcoming events of interest Funeral Fund Information Session Tuesday 24 April 2018, 10.30 a.m. Synod building (Room G3), 130 Little Collins Street Learn about the features and benefits of the Funeral Fund. See www.ucafunds.com.au/FF for more information and disclaimer.
Not-for-profit Post Budget Breakfast
Exciting ministry positions available ƕChildren & Family Ministry Co-ordinator ƕYouth & Young Adult Ministry Co-ordinator This could be a full-time position or two part-time positions. Position descriptions available at www.stleonards.org.au. Applications to: Secretary St. Leonard’s Church Council, 2 Wolseley Grove, Brighton VIC 3186, or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Initial inquiries can be directed to Rev Kim Cain on M: 0419 373 123
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17 May 2018 Kooyong Tennis Club, Kooyong A post-budget analysis (Federal and State) of funding and policy changes, trends for the not-for-profit sector and how this could impact organisations. Charity and Church leaders and managers encouraged to attend.
To register or for more information > www.ucafunds.com.au/events > 1800 996 888 CEN0318v1
Asking the big questions
REVIEW BY NICK MATTISKE
FILM | PETER RABBIT | PG
REVIEW BY DAVID SOUTHWELL
There’s something about Mary
Test of faith REVIEW BY TIM LAM FILM | PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST | M
REVIEW BY TIM LAM BOOK | A LITTLE HISTORY OF RELIGION | RICHARD HOLLOWAY THE ‘Little History’ series is aimed at a younger audience or those wanting a layperson’s introduction to a subject. In this title, Richard Holloway, a one-time bishop who is something of a sceptic, aims to foster critical thinking about religion rather than blind acceptance. So while his book is about what religious people say, the author also advises questioning the traditional beliefs and stories. For example, he asks of the Moses story, was there really a burning bush? Or did Moses simply hear voices in his head? Further, was there really a Moses at all? Is this just a story, as some people claim about the Garden of Eden, that tells us not what happened, but what people believe about themselves and their history, and how they understand the world? If this is so, it neither disproves God nor renders religion meaningless, of course. Holloway’s emphasis is that religions originate in the human mind and are responses to questions about origins and destinations. Primarily the author poses two questions: Is there something or someone controlling the universe and the lives of human beings, and what happens to us when we die? Interestingly, the Israelites, at least in the early stages of their ‘religion’, were concerned with the former but not the latter question. Jesus put it differently, saying that what happens to us after we die is already begun on Earth with the ‘kingdom’ he inaugurated. Typically, Holloway has impatience for rigidity in religion. He links orthodoxy to closed minds and notes that positive developments in religion often start off as heresies. This is true, but he notices that heresy can create even more rigid splinter groups (cults) and whacky ideas, so we might also be thankful for the more mainstream religious traditions that guard against the self-serving voices in our heads. Available from: Yale University Press RRP: $26
FILM | MARY MAGDALENE | M UNDOUBTEDLY for many parents and grandparents considering holiday movie entertainment/time-out the most important metric is how long a film will keep the kids quiet and in their seats. Peter Rabbit kept my three-year-old and four-year-old hushed for the first half hour and mostly sitting still until roughly the hour mark. As an adaptation the film is determinedly modern with lifelike animated rabbits and other creatures interacting with human actors. There are, however, a few nods towards the beautiful water colour images from Beatrix Potter’s books that are traditionally synonymous with the characters. The story also starts in familiar fashion with Peter Rabbit (cockily voiced by James Corden) leading vegetable garden raiding parties comprising his sisters Flopsy (Margot Robbie who doubles as film narrator), Mopsy and Cottontail plus cousin Benjamin. The garden belongs to Mr McGregor, the gruff farmer who killed Peter’s dad. Just as it seems Peter will suffer a similar fate at the hands of Mr McGregor, the old man dies from a heart attack. The farm is inherited by his nephew Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson), an uptight shop assistant working in the toy section of Harrods Store in London. Thus the conflict is renewed between Peter Rabbit’s family and the McGregors, with the complication that Thomas begins to fall in love with Bea (Rose Byrne), the kind-hearted next door artist who protects and nurtures the rabbits. Rated PG, the movie contains a fair bit of cartoon-style violence inflicted on real actors, which made me uncomfortable but was met with squeals of delight from the kids. Along with slapstick, the film has plenty of knowing nods and jokes for adults, some a bit questionable. The film’s early frenetic pace was enough to transfix my kids but their interest waned whenever there were more humans and fewer rabbits on screen. In fairness, most of the older kids in the audience seemed happy enough to keep bounding along with this next-gen Peter Rabbit for the 95-minute duration.
MARY Magdalene is arguably one of the most enigmatic characters in the Gospels. She has taken on numerous roles in the popular imagination: a penitent prostitute, the first to witness the resurrected Christ, even the wife of Jesus according to Dan Brown. The new Mary Magdalene film from Garth Davis, the Australian director of Lion, has been marketed as the ‘untold story of Mary Magdalene’. The titular character, played by Rooney Mara, is a quiet but determined young woman who rebels against the patriarchal norms of her day. When she refuses to marry a man chosen by her brother, she is accused of bringing shame to her family. After she encounters a ‘teacher’ named Jesus of Nazareth, Mary decides to join him to spread his message of love and inclusion. But even amongst Jesus’ apostles, she is treated with suspicion because of her gender. The decision to cast Rooney Mara as Mary Magdalene may prove controversial given Hollywood’s tendency to ‘white-wash’ historical characters. Equally divisive may be Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of Jesus as a scruffy, lethargic Messiah with an unmistakable American accent. His unconventional interpretation of Christ bears a stronger resemblance to a new age spiritual guru than the traditionally depicted Son of God. This latest interpretation of the Mary Magdalene story seems particularly relevant with the rise of the #MeToo movement. The film is a strong critique of the patriarchal religious structures that have historically silenced the voice of women in the church. Mary’s courage in speaking out against misogynistic male authorities inspires the women she encounters to challenge gender roles that hinder them from growing closer to God. Mary Magdalene is a beautifully shot film, although the lack of dramatic tension and the meandering pace may test the patience of viewers. Nevertheless, it is a timely retelling of the Passion story through the eyes of a character who has been rejected, maligned and possibly greatly misunderstood throughout history.
PAUL is one of the most significant figures in Christian history, so it is surprising there has yet to be a major Hollywood production about his life. Paul, Apostle of Christ details the final days of Paul (James Faulkner, Game of Thrones) as he awaits his execution. Thirty years after the death of Jesus, the underground church movement in Rome is in a precarious position. The small, tight-knit Christian community struggles to survive in the face of relentless persecution from Emperor Nero. Christians are burnt alive at the stake and used as human ‘torches’ to light the city at night. At great risk to his own life, Luke the Evangelist (Jim Caviezel, The Passion of the Christ) ventures into Rome to visit Paul, who is held captive in Nero’s darkest prison cell. Luke vows to transcribe and smuggle out Paul’s letters to the growing community of Christian believers outside Rome. The decision to set the film in the final days of Paul’s life is a bold choice given that the apostle is best known for his conversion on the road to Damascus. But this film is not just Paul’s story; it is also the tale of the persecuted Christians who cling steadfastly to their faith in almost unimaginable circumstances. Paul, Apostle of Christ may not be as visually impressive as this Easter’s other religious film Mary Magdalene, but it has a more coherent narrative and stronger character arcs. All the major characters in the film experience a crisis of faith. Some struggle with Jesus’ radical call to love their enemies, which includes the Roman oppressors. Others are forced to confront the heartbreaking prospect of leaving their homes behind and becoming refugees. Despite the grim and violent tone of the movie, Paul, Apostle of Christ ultimately conveys a message of hope. The real heroes are not always ones who topple empires, but those who keep on loving in a world where hatred seems to flourish. Paul, Apostle of Christ was released in cinemas on 29 March.
Mary Magdalene was released in cinemas on 22 March.
Peter Rabbit was released in cinemas on 22 March.
CROSSLIGHT - APRIL 18
Social media round-up THIS new Crosslight feature will show you what’s been happening on our social media channels over the past month. Don’t forget to follow our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages to stay informed, connected and up-to-date with the church. We also share new stories on the Crosslight website (crosslight.org.au). Stories you may have missed this month: • How a university in Bethlehem is offering safety and security to students in the Holy Land. https://crosslight.org.au/2018/03/13/oasis-of-peace-behind-the-wall/ •
Our most read online story: Marlee’s deciding moment
Most ‘liked’ Facebook post: Dorothy Gordon
Why Australia is still 10 years behind in closing the health and equality gap between First and Second Peoples. https://crosslight.org.au/2018/03/15/closing-the-gap-still-10-yearsbehind/
You can subscribe to our UCA Facebook NewsBot so that you won’t miss out on important church updates. Visit the Uniting Church Victoria and Tasmania Facebook page and click ‘send message’ to get started with our friendly NewsBot.
Like us on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/ucavictas/ Follow us on Twitter – https://twitter.com/ucavictas Most engaged tweet: Bears on Stairs
Most popular Instagram post: Hampton Park church sign
Follow us on Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/ucavictas/
Giving is living
Eternal God, We pray for your forgiveness We lament all the times we have faltered And moments when we failed to obey your call Give us grace to make a fresh start Guide us on the path to reconciliation Help us see beyond our differences And let us rejoice in our shared humanity We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Lord Amen
THE ConChord Sri Lankan choir (pictured above) represents hope for a future free from violence and conflict. This multi-ethnic and multi-faith choir sang at last year’s Sri Lankan Harmony Day in Tamil, Sinhalese and English. From 1983 to 2009, Sri Lanka was embroiled in a bloody civil war between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. More than 100,000 people lost their lives and many Sri Lankan refugees sought asylum in countries such as Australia. After the war ended in 2009, the Sri Lankan diaspora community began the long journey
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towards healing and reconciliation. There is still much unfinished work to heal the deep wounds of war, but groups such as ConChord are committed to fostering peace and harmony in the Sri Lankan community. The monthly Giving is Living pew sheets document stories of hope in grassroots communities. You can download and print the pew sheets for your congregation and access the above prayer at www.victas.uca.org.au/givingisliving
Horsham Uniting Church’s mission group hosted a Tropical Breakfast to raise funds to support women in the South Pacific who are receiving training in theological colleges.
“ TA K I N G P I C T U R E S I S L I K E T I P T O E I N G I N T O T H E K I T C H E N L AT E AT N I G H T A N D S T E A L I N G O R E O C O O K I E S .” — Diane Arbus
A Resurrection garden at Weeroona Uniting Church’s Song Story Supper service.
Jenny Payne, Ginny Clark, Christine Eldridge, Dianne Walter, Kim Fulcher, Jenny Tippet, Tupe Ioelu, June Revere, Ala Ioelu and Catherine Ioelu at the tropical breakfast.
Volunteers Korrie Termorshuizen and Marlene Muirhead at Echuca-Moama Uniting Church’s Pancake Day dinner.
Karena lives in remote Noro in Solomon Islands. Her community is benefitting from health education by volunteers from Johnsonville and Bairnsdale churches. There are now 13 trained community leaders in reproductive health and hygiene and 2000 kits will be sent over this year.
Gerard Millar with his children Patrick and Matilda at Chelsea Uniting Messy Church.
The Easter edition of Crosslight