Crosslight No. 288 June 2018
talking to me?
T he ex traordinary
and beautiful ways we are called Page 14 Deidreâ€™s discipleship Meet our President-elect
a Frontier Services minister
minded P 22
Synod Archives go digital
Furry visitors drop by Bellbrae Uniting Church
Regulars Harry and Meghan make an appearance at Horsham Uniting Church
Letters - 16 Moderator’s column - 19 Notices - 24 to 25 Reviews - 26
14-15 Guest editorial Mental health shouldn’t be a lone struggle
Communications & Media Services
This month, Crosslight welcomes Lionel Parrott, member of Yarra Yarra Presbytery Mental Health Network and part of the steering committee for a major new report.
IMAGINE, if you can, living your life with another presence within you. Sometimes, this presence may be so strong it takes control of you. This presence, described as mental illness, can impact upon education, access to employment, social relationships, acceptance within the community, housing and accommodation, diet and all-round health. Relief may be only temporary. The disturbing presence comes and goes, but there is no long-lasting cure. You have to learn to manage or live with it, and to deal with the side effects of any prescribed medication. The statistics around mental illness are eye-opening. One in four Australians will suffer from an episode in their lifetime. Yarra Yarra Presbytery recently conducted a research project called Creating Welcoming Communities prompted by concerns that the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has resulted in many people with
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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mental illness slipping through the cracks. The resulting report affirms a practical, powerful, and responsive form of ministry in this context, with recipients experiencing a sense of sanctuary, safety and hospitality, of being able to be themselves, be part of a community, share stories, feel a sense of hope and reconciliation, and explore personal spirituality. I urge you to read the mental health feature on pages 22 and 23. That people are falling between the cracks of mental health care programs was also a major theme of the UCA Funds Management post-budget breakfast that you can read about on page 7. Just as some congregations are called to mental health ministry, this issue’s cover feature explores how individuals experience their calling to ministry. Every person’s calling is unique and deeply personal as Kevin Dobson, Viola Leung and Sean Winter explain on pages 14 and 15. With Assembly fast approaching, Crosslight introduces you to our UCA President-Elect Deidre Palmer on page 10. Also take a
moment (page 12) to meet Bradon French, synod’s new intergenerational ministry youth worker. Many congregations would like to undertake more initiatives in the area of mental health ministry, but feel they need to be better equipped. They should be encouraged because mental health chaplains are increasingly aware of the benefits of spiritual exploration and understanding in making a contribution to improved mental health. On a practical level, providing shelter, food, activities such as drama, music, art and sculpture, and a gathering space can all help. It is at the grassroots level that the church can offer hope and a sense of community.
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Lionel Parrott Member Montrose Uniting Church and member of Yarra Yarra Presbytery Mental Health Network
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Table of togetherness WHEN Brunswick was named as a terrorist target in 2016, the local religious community decided they would respond by showcasing the neighbourhood’s thriving diversity. Moreland community leaders, including Christian, Muslim and other faith representatives, formed Moreland Together. Synod interfaith community development worker April Kailahi was one of the network’s founding members. “As soon as the news reported that Brunswick was targeted as a site for terrorism, we came together to discuss what we could do to counter this hateful narrative,” she said. “Our group consisted of those who did not buy into the notion of a divided Moreland, those who love and value Moreland’s diversity and wanted to tap into the thriving sense of community that exists.” The Moreland Together network welcomes people from all demographics, including those with no religious affiliation. One of its central missions is to create an inclusive community where all voices are respected and valued, especially those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. “Over the last year we have promoted our core values of social justice and inclusive hospitality and generosity through forums and dinners,” Ms Kailahi said. “We have connected community, council, police and local religions.” Last month, the Uniting Church and Salvation Army hosted a Moreland Dines Together multicultural dinner at the Brunswick Salvos Community Centre. The evening featured a short film about a young Australian Muslim woman who becomes the victim of an Islamophobic attack. The film’s director, Kauthar Abdulalim is also co-founder of Her Project Inc, a non-profit organisation that seeks to
empower the next generation of Muslims in Australia. As a young Muslim of African, Indian and Pakistani heritage, Ms Abdulalim is keenly aware of the challenges faced by many women of her faith. “When the Sydney siege happened, I remember feeling really scared to step out of the house,” she said. “I think women are targeted because we are more visible as Muslims than men. “I used to wear a head scarf, but I feel like going out into the public would make me prone to attacks.” According to the 2017 Islamophobia Register Australia report, nearly 80 percent of Muslim women who were physically or verbally attacked in public were wearing hijabs. Women were also more likely to be subjected to an Islamophobic attack than men. More than 67 percent of victims were female and 30 percent were accompanied by their children at the time of the incident. Ms Abdulalim believes storytelling can be a powerful way to tackle prejudices against Muslims. “Thanks to having parents from Indian and Pakistani backgrounds, I grew up watching a lot of Bollywood,” she said. “As I grew up, I realised that film is such a strong medium, especially in today’s generation where you don’t have to go to a cinema to watch a film. You can watch it on your mobile phone or laptop. “This medium can reach people all over the world.” Ms Abdulalim’s filmmaking is informed by personal experiences and also her bachelor degree education in Islamic studies. “I wanted to understand the current sociopolitical situation of Muslims so that I can better reflect these stories,” she said. “A lot of academics have so much to share, but their research doesn’t get to people; not everyone reads research papers or essays.
IN his final national message the 14th President of the Uniting Church in Australia Stuart McMillan has urged Church members to address the “unfinished business” of sovereignty and Treaty for First Peoples. “I started my presidency with the Yolŋu words Bala limurr roŋyirr ŋorraŋgitjlil -
Stuart McMillan JUNE 18 - CROSSLIGHT
Film director Kauthar Abdulalim
“But when it comes to films, it’s something everyone will watch.” The May gathering was the third Moreland Dines Together event this year. Previous dinners were held at Brunswick Police Station and East Coburg Community House. Ms Kailahi encouraged communities throughout Australia to participate in intercultural and interfaith conversations and counter the divisive ideologies perpetuated by religious extremists.
“We all need to continue to engage with our neighbours,” Ms Kailahi said. “We need to be radically inclusive; if we are not then those who are trying to divide us will win.” You can see a short video of Moreland Dines Together by going to the Uniting Church Victoria and Tasmania Facebook video page: https://www.facebook.com/ ucavictas/videos/
Jacky Magessa and Brunswick UC minister Rev Ian Ferguson
‘Let us return to the white ashes of the fire’,” Mr McMillan said. “It was a call to reflect on the way all the people of God, First and Second Peoples have been sustained by the Holy Spirit in their own way. “I continue to invite Church members to consider what it would mean for the practices of our Church to honour First Peoples as sovereign in this land and what it means to stand with them in their pursuit of just terms treaties. “The conversation continues and the movement for Treaty is stirring again as the ashes of my time are cooling. “I pray that the Holy Spirit will rekindle the embers of the work done by both First and Second Peoples over the last three years so that we can together strive to achieve a more just church and nation.” The theme Mr McMillan chose for his triennium as President was Hearts on Fire. A proposal to the 15th Assembly in July will ask the Uniting Church to affirm that the First Peoples of Australia, the Aboriginal and Islander Peoples, are sovereign peoples in this land. Mr McMillan said it had been a joyful,
challenging and inspiring three years as UCA President. “I thank God for the great blessing of serving the Church in this role,” he said. In his message to coincide with the Uniting Church’s 41st Anniversary on 22 June, the President also honoured Church women and men who had stood together with First Peoples in their struggles for their rights, the UCA’s international church partners and emerging young leaders in the Uniting Church. “The love of Christ shared in all these relationships, these fellowships of reconciliation, is life-giving,” he said. Quoting from Hebrews 10:24 Mr McMillan urged Uniting Church members to fellowship wherever they may be. “Beloved, let us continue to ‘consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, but encouraging one another’,” he said. “In your place you are Church, you are called to be a fellowship of reconciliation to shine the love and light of Jesus in your communities. I have been deeply blessed to share with many of you the ways in which you have been led to do this.” 3
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Being present for others THE Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program is not something to be entered into lightly. The program, run by The John Paver Centre and based out of the Centre for Theology and Ministry, requires 400 hours of supervised pastoral practice and education. “People are surprised by the emotional demands,” John Paver Centre director Rev Andy Calder said. “It requires people to use both the head and heart to integrate what they are theologically thinking and feeling while trying to enhance their pastoral skills and practice.” Participants, who can be lay or ordained, must do 200 hours of pastoral ministry with an onsite supervisor appointed by the program. There is a wide scope for placements and previous participants have worked in congregations, hospitals, schools, prisons, forensic psychiatric treatment facilities and environmental agencies. “The independence of the John Paver Centre from a health care service enabled more creativity of placement opportunity,” CPE graduate Jennifer Greenham said. “For example I was able to be placed in a community mental health service and develop ongoing pastoral relationships with people who had achieved some stability in their lives.” The experience gained from the pastoral placement forms the basis of journals of self-reflection that participants bring to group sessions. The group typically consists of six students and two supervisors. “The underpinning of the program is that people bring written thoughts about their pastoral skills through self-reflective materials and the group works with it,” Mr Calder said.
An important aim of the program is to teach people how to expand their pastoral perspectives and develop listening skills. “It is a rigorous action-reflection process focused on enhancing pastoral identity, skills and responsiveness,” Mr Calder said. “We teach people how to push to one side all those other agendas that impact on their lives so they can be fully present for the other person.” Senior prison chaplain Deborah Kotteck said this was something she had gained from the program. “To provide pastoral care to another requires that you fully know yourself within an encounter so that you can be for and with, the other,” she said. “This learning is an experiential journey that is fully explored in CPE. The course was for me, life-changing.” Mr Calder said that participants get out of the course what they are prepared to put in it. “We like to choose people who are really hungry to do it,” he said. The 2018 program will be offered in the period September to December to people involved across the spectrum of community-based pastoral care. Participants are required to supply evidence of an agency or organisation’s support for the duration of a placement. Completion of the unit can be credited as a subject for Bachelor of Theology degrees associated with the University of Divinity.
Inquiries can be made to: Andy Calder, C/- Uniting Church Centre, 130 Little Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000. P: 03 9251 5489 or E: email@example.com
Clinical Pastoral Education participants
JUNE 18 - CROSSLIGHT
New chapter in life of UCAF PAM GRANT Pam Grant, secretary of the UCAF National Committee (2015-2018), reports on the recent consultation held in Hobart. IT was a time of thanksgiving but also of new directions as members of the Uniting Church Adult Fellowship (UCAF) gathered for the 13th National Committee Consultation held at the Hobart North UC early last month. Embracing the theme, Living Water – Come Drink, participants at the consultation included members of the retiring National Committee from the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, the incoming National Committee from Synod of South Australia and other UCAF synod committee representatives as well as some observers. We were also delighted that World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women South Pacific Area President Joy Jino and Assembly general secretary Colleen Geyer both attended and presented informative sessions. At the Consultation opening we were warmly welcomed to country by Leprena Centre manager Alison Overeem, who shared her story and the ministry of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress at Leprena. Hobart North UC minister, Rev Jeff Savage also greeted the gathering and we were richly served by members of the congregation who provided great support. Chairperson Margaret Pedler, reflected on her term, including her visits to UCAF fellowship groups in the synods of Western Australia (where she addressed the Synod meeting) and Queensland, South Australia and NSW/ACT. While some synod committees reported reduced membership and falling income, the outgoing National Committee said the three water-themed projects they had promoted in the past three years received great support from the UCAF groups across Australia. The incoming National Committee was introduced and launched their theme for the next triennium – Your Word Lights the Way – and a devotional resource. Proceeds from the sale of the resource
by UCAF groups will raise funds for the two projects the new National Committee has chosen for its focus – UnitingWorld’s work in providing theological training for women in Pacific nations and Frontier Services Ministries, especially the work of bush chaplains. A very special part of the Consultation was the tributes service led by chaplain Rev Ross Stanford. This service recognises the contribution of past members of UCAF synod committees and/or National Presidents/Chairpersons who have died in the past three years. The obituaries provided wonderful testimony to these loyal and faithful servants. The major item of business was the proposal to restructure the National Committee from a rotational synod-based committee to a representative one that contains office holders selected for their gifts and graces as well as representatives nominated by the different synods. There was a lot of energetic and prayerful discussion of this proposal; one that had become necessary because of the difficulty many synod UCAF groups encountered in bringing a sufficient number of people together to form a national committee. The Consultation also agreed to establish a working group, whose task over the next two-and-a-half years is to develop the documents required for the new committee to do its work. The working group will complete its task at the 14th UCAF Consultation held in South Australia in January 2021, with the representative committee taking office from 1 July 2021. While many may feel these changes are a time for sadness, those present at the Consultation saw this as an exciting time for the UCAF, as it will enable the National Committee and synod groups to look afresh at what they do, how they do it and how the profile of UCAF might be lifted across the country. The incoming National Committee was commissioned during a worship service at Hobart North Uniting Church on Sunday 6 May, with the outgoing committee thanked for their work over the past three years.
UCAF members at Hobart North Uniting Church
Michael with his children Sophie and Ben
WHEN Michael Easton took up the newly created role of community outreach worker at Avenel, Nagambie and Seymour Uniting Church, a congregation member told him: “We’ve employed you but we’ve got no idea what you’re going to do.” While some might find this daunting, Mr Easton is using it as an opportunity to dream. He is busy researching where the linked congregation, which worships at church sites in the Victorian Goulburn Valley towns of Seymour and Avenel, can best engage with the community. The church was able to employ Mr Easton because of a bequest that also provides funds
for the upgrading of their Avenel property. This has given Mr Easton scope to think about both his role and how the church facilities could be tailored to meet community needs. Already he has identified the lack of a place for families to hang out and have a meal that isn’t associated with gambling. “The council was quite disturbed when I told them that the main place for families to gather was the club, the pokies place,” Mr Easton said. “One of the dreams I have is a gathering space for families, a play centre café. “We could also run sessions on basic parenting and life skills, giving people a safe place that also grows their capacity to thrive.” Mr Easton is also exploring the potential of building low income housing on the Avenel church site and whether the church could partner with the nearby TAFE to provide skills and training for people experiencing homelessness. However, as a former finance worker Mr Easton knows that the capacity to follow dreams is not limitless. “My challenge is that around all these needs there’s a whole lot of dreams, but I need to find out what dreams could gather momentum,” he said. Mr Easton said his previous career gave him some important grounding for ministry. “Banking was important for me because I gained finance and people skills,” he said. He has successfully utilised these skills by running financial literacy programs. However, Mr Easton came to believe that there was a deeper non-material need to be addressed.
“The symptom may be financial issues but the cause is people’s purpose in life and where they belong,” he said. “I guess if we see ourselves as belonging to Christ our money then becomes something that serves us and serves a particular purpose. We would make better use of money as a result of that.” In his current role Mr Easton, who is a qualified lay preacher, hopes to assist both the community’s material and spiritual welfare. “Faith is the core of what we have to offer,” Mr Easton said. This does not mean overtly trying to convert people but engaging them in a way where they might be open to talking about spiritual matters. Mr Easton said there was one unfortunate similarity between the two institutions he has worked for.
“Churches, like banks, do not have a good name in the community at the moment,” he said. “For me it’s about building a sense of trust with people.” He had an opportunity to do just that early on in his new role when a congregation member had the idea of getting Mr Easton to conduct the prayers at a candlelight vigil held in association with the Cancer Council fund-raising event Relay for Life. Mr Easton ended up running the whole service. “The people who were there really appreciated how it happened, the tone of it all,” he said. “So there were some extra connections built. They knew that I was the Uniting Church outreach worker there to support and encourage them in what they are doing.”
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CROSSLIGHT - JUNE 18
News Budgets miss the mark on mental health EVERY 10 minutes someone in Victoria is admitted to hospital emergency departments due to mental health and associated substance abuse issues, a postbudget breakfast hosted by UCA Funds Management heard. The event, held last month in the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club, looked at how the recent Victorian and Federal budgets affect the non-profit sector. Commonwealth Bank of Australia director of global markets Bruno Bellon was the first of four speakers introduced by UCA Funds Management CEO Mathew Browning. Mr Bellon said that despite Australia being a wealthy nation the Federal budget was “continuing a trend in recent years to get tougher on welfare recipients”. He noted the New Start allowance had lagged far behind wages’ growth. Mr Bellon said there was widening economic inequality with those at the top accelerating their wealth accumulation while those at the bottom stagnated. Mental Health Victoria CEO Angus Clelland said that even though the state and federal budgets were committing large amounts of money to mental health
it was a sector that had been “chronically underfunded for 20 years”. This was especially the case in Victoria. “Victoria has the dubious distinction of having the lowest per capita expenditure on mental health in the country,” Mr Clelland said. However, Victoria is spending muchneeded money on hospital beds and new crisis hubs for those requiring urgent treatment related to mental health and substance abuse issues. Mr Clelland said there were 52,000 such emergency admissions every year in Victoria, meaning one person every 10 minutes. This has led to an extraordinary strain on ambulance and police resources, with five to six police vans often “ramped” – meaning waiting in a queue – outside emergency departments waiting to admit the passengers. Mr Clelland said there was a lack of funding for preventative and communitybased mental health programs meaning problems were only being addressed at a crisis point. “If we only focus on disruption we will be chasing our tail forever in this state,” Mr Clelland said. He noted that some preventative services were actually being cut to help fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). “We need to be to be able to ensure prevention is the focus of the budgets,” Mr Clelland said. “It’s a national disgrace, we need a hell of
a lot more money to address that issue in Victoria and nationally.” In his presentation Dean Boland, a principal at Deloitte Australia, also noted the changes happening due to the implementation of the NDIS, which he said after five years had been one third rolled out. Mr Boland said that state and federal programs are being closed down to make way for the NDIS and this presented a risk that the clients and providers who straddled the two systems could fall into the widening gap. During the panel session with all four speakers a question from the floor gave an example of this risk by citing the episodic nature of mental health issues that sometimes excluded sufferers from
the NDIS. Mr Clelland agreed this was a problem and one that governments needed to rectify. “We need to take this to the politicians and make this into an election issue,” he said. UCA Funds Management partnered with the Commonwealth Bank, Deloitte and Pro Bono Australia to put on the breakfast. Uniting AgeWell Chair Raelene Thompson said extra funding in the Commonwealth budget for mental health in aged care was very welcome. “A mental health funding package addresses what many have described as a glaring inequity in the provision of mental health services to older members of our community who live in residential care,” Ms Thompson said.
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This 1926 photo shows organist William Bousted at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Ballarat
This 1946 photo shows Rev Cliff Lanham with an ex-RAAF biplane purchased by the Methodist Inland Mission Board
This photo circa around 1870 shows Caroline Elizabeth Newcomb, a female squatter who was the first secretary of the Methodist Church at Drysdale
Brown bakelite and metal hearing aid for church pews
This 1985 photo shows Rev Brian Howe at the Williamstown dockyards during the time he served as deputy prime minister in the Hawke Labor goverment
Screen memories SOME of the vast store of images kept in the Uniting Church Victorian Archives is now available online. Over the last year approximately 1000 photos and images of church people, places and artefacts have been scanned to make digital copies. These images have been uploaded to the state government-funded Victorian Collections website, where they can be accessed by individuals as well as public and private organisations such as museums and heritage groups. “Much of the work has been done by our volunteers under the direction of archivist Dr Jenny Bars,” synod records manager Graham Hawtin said. “The images have been carefully researched and are accompanied with contextual and historical information, which makes the material more useful than if it was ‘just’ a collection of images. “It’s part of a wider plan to use digitisation and online resources to start ‘opening up’ the Archives and make our collections more accessible to interested groups, wherever they may be.” Dr Bars said the project had a long way to go, with roughly 50,000 images set to be digitised. “The collection is huge; there’s groups, buildings and all sorts of things but we’ve started with drawer one in the filing cabinet, mostly profiles of people, and we’re making our way through,” she said. Mr Hawtin said that putting the images online had already sparked public interest. “We have had a number of people contacting us over the last year or two to ask questions as well as telling us more details about images they’ve seen online.,” he said. The Synod’s Victorian Archives office is keen to hear from people interested in regularly volunteering at its base in Malvern East. Volunteers can assist on various projects, including helping research the extensive collection of archival photos.
Dr Alexander Gosman secretary of the Congregational Union of Victoria 1867-1868
For more information contact Dr Jenny Bars on 03 9571 5476. See the collection here https://victoriancollections.net.au/organisations/unitingchurch-archives-synod-victoria#collection-records Miss Katalini Dimula, a missionary nurse in Papua New Guinea during her visit to Australia in 1952
Rev George & Mrs Joan Buckle, Centralian Patrol Padre based at Alice Springs 1986
Rev Arthur Preston preaching from the pulpit in Wesley Church, Lonsdale Street, Melbourne in 1981
CROSSLIGHT - JUNE 18
Judy gets inspired
Drawing out the best
Mystical Forest - acrylic on canvas
Hugh Berry - Walking Down Street in Burgundy France
Helen Potton - Life afloat
JUNE 18 - CROSSLIGHT
WHEN Judy began doing volunteer work with a Monday afternoon art group run by Uniting Vic.Tas she couldn’t have anticipated that it would spark her own creative journey. Judy attends the Gifford Arts Program at the Gifford Village Community Centre, which incorporates the Croydon North Uniting Church in Melbourne’s east. “Gifford Arts blends people with and without disabilities who have a common interest and purpose in creating amazing visual art,” Uniting Vic.Tas community engagement officer Jane Davoren said. “We have people in the group who have mental health issues such as anxiety, and depression as well as those with mild intellectual disabilities and sensory impairment.” Professional artist Artur Lyczba acts as a mentor for the 20 people who regularly attend. “The group is so diverse and we certainly encourage anyone turning up for a come-and-try experience. Some group members have not picked up a pencil/ paintbrush since school days,” Jane said. “Each person works on their own art at their own pace with Artur’s support and help.” Judy, a retiree, began volunteering at the group 10 years ago to assist people with severe physical disabilities hold and use the art equipment and materials. She kept attending even after no group member required that assistance. “Over the time I’ve gone from being a volunteer to being part of the group and doing artwork,” Judy said. “At the time I joined I was going through a marriage break-up, so things for me were pretty tough. “The group is my therapy, it makes me feel good.” As well as enjoying the tactile experience of handling oil pastels, Judy said she had made friends. “The people who come, you get to know them all,” Judy said. “There is a real community feel to it. It doesn’t matter if someone can’t converse very well, we seem to be able to communicate. It’s just spending time with people.” The group, however, is about more than socialising. Judy said Artur challenged every participant to reach their artistic potential. “He is absolutely fantastic at bringing out the best in people. He demands really good things,” she said. Group members are also supportive. “There’s always someone there who’s going to give you some positive feedback,” Judy said. For Judy this has led to the unexpected benefit of proving her childhood teachers wrong. “I was from a generation that was told at school, if you couldn’t draw something that looks like a landscape or a portrait then you weren’t an artist,” Judy said. “I think my style is more on the abstract. I just pick a colour I like and something appears.” Judy’s works have been included in the group’s general exhibitions and as a result she has “sold a few”. “I never thought I would do that,” Judy said. “That’s something I wouldn’t have achieved had I not gone to that group.” Artwork by members of the Gifford Arts Program is being exhibited at Maroondah Access Gallery in Ringwood until 13 July. 9
discipleship MATT PULFORD
“I ACTUALLY think leadership grows out of discipleship,” Dr Deidre Palmer says. “As an educator, as someone who contributes to people’s formation in faith, I see leadership arising from inviting people into a deeper relationship with God.” Youth worker, Christian educator, academic, theologian, social worker, counsellor, Moderator - from July 2018, Dr Deidre Palmer will extend her invitation to discipleship to the whole Uniting Church in Australia and beyond in the role of national President. “Abundant Grace Liberating Hope” is the theme she has chosen for her term. Growing up, Deidre grew to appreciate God’s abundant grace at the Seaton Methodist Church in the western suburbs of Adelaide in the early 1970s.
Church activities were a big part of Deidre’s life through high school and as she later completed a Bachelor of Arts and Diploma of Education at Adelaide University. Deidre remembers travelling to Sydney to attend the first Uniting Church Assembly at Sydney Town Hall in 1977. “As young adults we felt that it was a movement of the Holy Spirit in our time. I still believe today that the Uniting Church is a movement of the Holy Spirit,” she said. The Holy Spirit moved again when Deidre met Lawrie Palmer on a Uniting Church Youth Committee. They married in 1978. Life was a “wonderful adventure” with Deidre working at the SA synod in children, youth and young adult ministry and Lawrie as a doctor.
“I felt that in being in ministry in the Uniting Church I was pouring my energy into a church whose vision I was deeply committed to – to the equality of women and men, to every member ministry, to the voice we give to children and young people”
In 1981, US religious educator John Westerhoff came to Australia to speak about intergenerational ministry. “I’d been looking at doing some further education,” Deidre says. “He suggested I do a Masters in Religious Education where he taught at Duke University.” A few months later Deidre and Lawrie were living on campus in North Carolina. After two years she was ready for the next challenge – a PhD at Boston College. When it came time to head home to Adelaide to write up her thesis, “An educational approach towards a discipleship of equals in a socially prophetic church” the Palmer family had grown. Daughter Kate arrived in 1986, the PhD in 1989 and second daughter Joanna in 1992, by which time Dr Deidre was looking forward to parenting, part-time teaching and Uniting Church life. That was until a teaching position in Christian Education at Southern Methodist University in Dallas opened up. Deidre applied, was successful, and the family headed back to the US. “I loved my job in Dallas,” Deidre says. “I had a fabulous group of women colleagues. We used to meet every week for lunch as faculty to support one another. They were amazing women and I’m still in touch with some of them.” Again, a deep sense of call drew Deidre back to the UCA. “I felt that in being in ministry in the Uniting Church I was pouring my energy into a church whose vision I was deeply committed to – to the equality of women and men, to every member ministry, to the voice we give to children and young people,” Deidre says. She came back to Adelaide to teach Christian education, which she still lectures in today at Uniting College and Flinders University. In 2005 a visit to South India sparked another academic adventure – this time into social work. On her return Deidre was inspired to enrol in a Masters of Social Work at Flinders. She went on to work for Uniting Communities, counselling adult survivors of child sexual abuse. “As a social worker, I heard their stories and responded to their suffering by inviting them into narratives of hope,” she says. “As a Christian, I believe that this work is a vital expression of Christ’s compassionate ministry, especially in an area where Christian organisations have failed.” Deidre was working as a counsellor when members of the SA Synod nominated her as moderator-elect. That confidence in her leadership was resoundingly shared by members of the 14th Assembly in 2015 who chose her as President-elect on the first ballot. As is the case with all incoming Presidents, Deidre’s first task is to preside over the Assembly meeting. Beyond the 15th Assembly youth and young adults will definitely be a focus. During her time as moderator, Deidre canvassed the views of young UCA members about what they thought their church should be doing in the public space. “These young people are amazingly gifted and committed to shaping our church. We can move courageously into the future, because we see the hope among us now,” she says with abundant hope.
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Pictures credit: Denise Merrett
Right Royal event
‘Prince Harry and Meghan’
HORSHAM Uniting Church might not have had quite the who’s who roll-call of dignitaries and celebrities attending but it still managed to show it could put on a pretty decent royal wedding. One day ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tying the knot at St George’s Chapel in Windsor, England, Horsham Uniting Church staged its own version of the event. For event co-ordinator and church member Denise Merrett it was a chance to show people an unexpected side of church life. “There is enough sadness in the world, and we wanted to invite people from our local community to an occasion where they could have some fun, and see that church involvement can be fun”, Denise said. The event mirrored many aspects of the royal wedding, including the wedding cake which was made using elderflowers and roses. It took a full day to decorate the hall. “I love weddings, I’ve helped organise my daughters’ weddings and also a number of local girls over the years,” Denise said. “For our Harry and Meghan wedding, we advertised in the local paper and invited members in our local community to come along and dress up in wedding gear. “It wasn’t our first wedding; we did a similar thing when William and Kate married in 2011.” A highlight of the Horsham UC evening was that everyone was asked to bring small presents for the “bride and groom” that
‘Princes Charles and Camilla, Prince Phillip and the Queen’ JUNE 18 - CROSSLIGHT
would in turn be donated to charity. Denise said they received over 60 beautiful gifts. “It was amazing what people gave. A gilt-edged mirror, coat hangers, a pair of vases, mouse traps, tea towels and lots of linen. All the items are brand new and we are looking forward to passing them on to charity,” she said. Denise said that the Horsham royal wedding did score one special coup. “Meghan’s father turned up at our event! We thought that was pretty special,” she said. The event was also a way to introduce the church to people who don’t normally attend. “We printed some information related to ‘church’ for people to keep – things like a legend that Christ’s cross was made from elderwood and the religious significance of myrtle which Meghan had in her bouquet,” Denise said. Denise hoped others would discover the same friendliness in the church that she had after moving to Horsham with her late husband after retiring from their farm and local business in Kaniva. “We were keen to meet people when we moved so we went to the Horsham Uniting Church and were made to feel very welcome,” she said. As for the timing of their Harry and Meghan event, even a royal wedding has to recognise the local priorities. “We held our ‘wedding’ the night before so that people could still get to the regional inter-league footy matches the next day,” Denise said.
‘The newlyweds’ 11
approach TIM LAM IT’S not just tram zones and hook turns that Bradon French is learning to navigate as he settles into his new Melbourne-based role with the VicTas synod. One of his first priorities as the new intergenerational ministry youth worker is to meet congregations throughout the synod and get to know their needs and priorities for young people. “It’s not a challenge to just youth ministry; it’s a challenge to the whole church,” Bradon said. “I’m coming with questions and some clues as to where we might find the answers together.” Bradon confesses he knows little about Victoria. This is only the second time he has been to Melbourne and he has never visited Tasmania. But he is excited at the prospect of developing connections with young people and church communities throughout the synod. “Young people have the potential to influence and transform the communities where they are, whether they be families or neighbourhoods or churches,” he said. “In this digital world, they can have tremendous influence.” Prior to his move to the VicTas synod, Bradon served as the Next Gen Consultant in the NSW/ACT synod for six years. During this time, he was instrumental in reshaping the National Christian Youth Convention (NCYC) into Yurora, the
biggest gathering of Uniting Church young people in Australia. He also spearheaded the introduction of Pulse, a NSW/ACT synod project that aims to develop relationships between young people and Uniting Church communities. “Young people aren’t some homogenous group,” Bradon explained. “You get to see each individual person as a story and that story is worth hearing. It helps the church shift so that we make space for young people to participate and lead.” Bradon believes it can be difficult for young people’s voices to be heard in the church. One of his missions is to empower youth by equipping them with the skills and confidence to share their stories with the rest of the church. “If there’s a church that’s willing to do the hard work and prioritise that, then young people flourish,” he said. “Or you need a young person with tremendous courage and support to speak into a system that probably doesn’t make that easy. “Part of me wants to tackle the system, but part of me also wants to find ways to work outside the system. A system that prefers people who have experience and understanding of it doesn’t lend itself for youthful participation.” The decline in church attendances
nationally has been well documented and many are looking to the next generation of young leaders to turn that around. However, Bradon wants the Uniting Church to move beyond a narrative of survival and embrace the unique gifts that young people bring to the life of the church. “I’d like to think we’re moving that way because we recognise the potential in young people, not out of a desperation and fear that we are going to die if we don’t get young people here,” he said. “If our motivations are healthy, it’s quite an exciting time.” Bradon is eager to explore ways that the church can challenge its “default” methods of youth ministry. He is particularly keen to resource youth so they can offer leadership beyond their local communities. “I think we’re in the middle of a bit of shift in the Uniting Church,” Bradon said. “We need to think about what sort of a movement our young people will inherit and what sort of movement they are forming. “But we need some regeneration, we need some creativity about what it means to be a church today and that will influence how we organise ourselves.” Bradon acknowledged that change can cause anxiety, but it can also give birth to unforeseen opportunities.
“Anytime a group of people is confronted with change, it’s confronting,” Bradon said. “The unknown is scary and change paralysis is a reality that could be a great challenge to all of us. “The greatest challenge is whether we have the courage to truly listen and change, to be a church that I think God is calling us to be and recognise that those answers may look and sound like nothing we’ve heard before. “If we look forward 20 years, sometimes it’s too hard. But I hope there’s some liberation there that allows all generations to dream.”
Bradon’s work is part of the new equipping Leadership for Mission (eLM) unit. If you would like to get in touch with Bradon, email him at email@example.com
Bradon with his family: Harper (6), Patrick (4) and Mel
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playing anymore North Ringwood UC playgroup
SOWING the seeds of faith, developing relationships and entrusting people to lead have been key to fostering North Ringwood Uniting Church’s flourishing intergenerational ministry. Last month, North Ringwood members Trevor and Merry Sweatman told a Stories of Childhood Conference at the Centre for Theology and Ministry how the church was turning a wildly successful playgroup program into a growing Messy Church. The playgroup program, for pre-school children, has been operating for 28 years, growing strongly to operate every weekday morning, catering for 125 children from 90 families. Trevor Vernon, the Children’s and Families’ Ministry Coordinator at North Ringwood Uniting reflected on the transition from Playgroup to Messy Church. The Christian content in playgroup sessions tended to be low key and emphasised during appropriate times of the year such as Christmas or Easter. “Playgroup had for years been sowing
seeds with families,” Trevor said. “There was a real sense of these families wanting to more deeply explore the Christian faith. “Playgroup offers a small dose of the faith but every single Messy Church has a Christian principle. It’s got Christ being preached routinely.” Trevor said the relationships formed between the congregational volunteers and playgroup families were an important welcoming factor for those who wanted to interact more with the church. However, traditional Sunday worship services have not been well suited to some of these families and especially mothers who are single parents or whose partners are not supportive of church attendance. Approximately two years ago North Ringwood began looking at hosting a Messy Church on Saturday afternoons. “Our church is very supportive of new ministries, especially one as well-targeted as Messy Church,” Trevor said. “Approval for Saturday afternoons came quickly. “Also, important early on was the support
of other experienced Messy Church leaders. We got good advice and wise counsel from a number of those who have gone before us.” Two Messy Churches were held in 2016, five were put on last year and this year it has become a monthly event. “It basically takes over the whole church,” Trevor said. “We have about 120 people coming from babes in arms up to grandparents. Playgroup families come in from quite a distance. “One of the delights for us is that there are families that are coming and wanting to be involved in the running of Messy Church who have no Christian background. That’s a really exciting thing.” Trevor said that it was important to realise people could develop in their faith while still undertaking the leadership and volunteer tasks that are essential for Messy Church. “It’s a much more communal type of activity, everyone is involved in different things through the gatherings and there
is no sense of when you have reached a certain level of Christian maturity that you are then approved to do this or that,” Trevor said. “One of the really important things is we’ve realised some of the best volunteers are not necessarily from our church and not even necessarily at this point in time Christian.” Trevor said that North Ringwood Uniting still has a number of intergenerational ministry challenges. They have struggled to engage older primary and secondary school-aged children and were also conscious that the faith community needs nurturing between the monthly meetings. However, one of the most heartening aspects of seeing families transition from playgroup to Messy Church has been the main source of enthusiasm for getting people along. “We’ve worked out that the best way to promote Messy Church is through the children. The evangelists in the family are the kids!” Trevor said.
Inspiration In The Heart Of Melbourne A unique space in the heart of the city, St Michael’s is more than a church. If you’re looking for a progressive church that will not tell you what to believe and will listen to what you’ve got to say, look no further than St Michael’s Uniting Church in the heart of the CBD. We are known for presenting thought-provoking seminars and lectures by renowned international speakers and academics; as well as world-class musicians in the architectural splendour of a heritage listed church. For a truly inspirational experience visit St Michael’s today.
St Michael’s Uniting Church 1 2 0 C O L L I N S S T M E L B O U R N E - W W W. S T M I C H A E L S . O R G . A U
The Thinking Person’s Church
JUNE 18 - CROSSLIGHT
What does it mean to be called? BARRY GITTINS WE use the word “calling” lightly, when the idea of a vocation to ministry has the potential to change many lives, including the lives of those called. In this feature, we call on three members of the Uniting Church to ask them what it means to feel God wants them to be ministers of the gospel.
Talking heads and God’s messengers REV Kevin Dobson was “about 18”, circa 1970, when God used a very unexpected intermediary to help call him to ministry. Kevin and his youth group mates were leading a service at his local Methodist church in Ulverstone, Tasmania, where neighbouring minister John Graham was the pulpit preacher. “We were sitting behind John, who had brought along his ventriloquist doll, Alfie,” Kevin recalls. “As John was preaching, Alfie spun around and said to me, ‘You’re going to be a minister!’ “John Graham was taking the opportunity to challenge people to think about their futures, and I was still working out who or what I would be,” Kevin said. John and Alfie’s prophetic suggestion started to take shape when Kevin moved to Melbourne in 1974 after five years working as a bank teller to get his VCE and commence his journey to accreditation as a lay preacher and a ministry candidate. Kevin tested his vocation as a 23-year-old “home missionary”, which preceded his candidacy for the Methodist ministry in 1976. He was one of the last Methodist candidates accepted before Union in 1977. “I’m 66 and I was ordained in 1980,” Kevin said. “So this December it will be 38 years of ministry for me, and two years as a home missionary. It has been a good decision.” Kevin has worked in pastoral ministry, serving churches and multiple congregations in Tasmania, and throughout Victoria. Answering the call has been both difficult and rewarding. “I’m always discovering fresh insights from Scripture and the Christian faith to share with the people to whom I minister,” he said.
“Positive and negative responses mean people are listening and wanting to grapple with what’s being said and done. “I love walking with them on their faith journey; it’s a great responsibility, joy and challenge.” Kevin doesn’t expect unthinking obedience to what he says, nor does he receive the automatic reverence ordained ministers used to. “Society and the church have changed so much. I believe the good news of Jesus is still relevant and I do my best to live it and share it, while respecting other people’s beliefs and backgrounds,” he said. “We can’t label people or put them in boxes, and one of my roles, as the old saying goes, is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
Callings, ordained and affirmed by God What does it mean to be called to ministry? As head of Pilgrim Theological College, director of education and formation for leadership, Rev Dr Sean Winter is well placed to tackle the question. “People start in different places,” Sean said. “Everyone in the church has been ‘called’ to some degree. That is, we all have a call to discipleship; to following Jesus and exercising mutual care, and serving the community.” However Sean said that some people experience a more specific call. “A call to ministry is a call to a representative role, which recognises and affirms an individual’s gifts and skills. Specific people are called to lead the church and minister.” Sean cautions that callings must be confirmed and there is no cut-and-dried formula. “There is no one way that a vocation is recognised. For 30 years I have been working with
Kevin Dobson reminisces his call to ministry with a friend who dropped by his current church 14
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people who have been ‘called’, and their stories have all been different,” Sean said. “A common thread is that the person who is called experiences an inward leading, a disturbance in their commonplace life. “Scripture and prayer have a role in confirming their calling, and a sense of conviction also comes from the core disciplines of the spiritual life and from the church.” Sean said that being called is not just an issue between the person and God. “There is the sense that other people have of the person called, and there is an affirmation and identification, encouragement and support as you explore your calling,” he said. “The Damascus Road ‘sudden blinding flash’ illumination may be true for some but many people never have a dramatic, sole moment of clarity. It can be a slow, sure journey into that confirmation of being called. “A call to ministry is a call to a life poured out, years spent representing the church’s own call. It is absolutely appropriate that the church recognise and test it. “Any process of discernment involves accountability and guidance, you can’t sustain ministry in the long-term simply through your own enthusiasm – what will sustain you, however, is being a part of a loving community, giving you authority to serve God and serve humanity.” Sean said that in the Uniting Church, the call to ministry is not confirmed until the church recognises you and gives you the opportunity to serve. The transition to ministry is marked by the ceremony of ordination. Sean emphasised that it is an ongoing process of accountability, lifelong learning and continual opportunities for professional development. Sean said that exercising the spiritual leadership of one who has been “called” actually comes back to the quality of humility. “When you are willing to place your own sense of calling before your community of faith – that is a vulnerable place you have found yourself in,” Sean said. “You cannot do that well, you cannot live with and listen to your community without exercising a fundamental sense of humility. The best ministers live with a sense of joyful surprise: it is a gift of grace, not something that is earned.”
Everything changed for Viola THE first Christian in her family, and now a candidate for ordained ministry, Viola Leung’s path was fixed in a quite different direction until two missionaries showed up at her university in Xi’an, China. “Two men, one from South Korea and one from Australia, were working as English teachers when they shared the gospel with my class,” Viola said. “This was dangerous, but it became a question of trust for me; I saw the missionaries’ lives, and they moved me with their message of Jesus. “I committed my life to Jesus Christ in 2002, when I was 24. This was different. We were atheists but as a child I knew some Buddhists… religion was a strange thing.” To the dismay and confusion of her family – engineers, doctors, lawyers, and government officials – Viola’s passion for the Christian faith was neither a cultural flirtation nor a momentary interest. Viola was baptised into the faith six years later. “There was a big car accident, which led me to return to church and be baptised,” Viola said. “After my baptism my life changed, everything changed. My life was going to be different, and this was difficult for my family. “I wanted to live overseas, but I did not speak English. I prayed about this for a long time and decided to quit my job. I had been a nurse, then I was a teacher, teaching Chinese. I had security and stability and respect. But it wasn’t where I felt called to be.” Viola’s brother was living in Australia and said to her, “If you want to know more about Jesus and to explore your calling, then come and study here.”
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“I prayed about this for a long time and decided to quit my job. I had been a nurse, then I was a teacher, teaching Chinese. I had security and stability and respect. But it wasn’t where I felt called to be.”
Viola jumped at the chance. Becoming a ministry candidate was not her immediate calling; it grew out of her theological studies and her English language studies, and her increasingly rich church life. “I felt the call later,” Viola said. “I came to Australia and looked at different churches, and decided to go to Uniting Church Gospel Hall in Melbourne, where we share the Lonsdale Street Wesley church building with the English-speaking congregation. I became involved in lay ministry, doing the role of pastoral care, and working with young people and aged people.” The progress to ordained ministry has been gradual. The path, hard and exacting. “It was not an easy decision; I felt my English was still not good enough,” Viola said. “I have worked for Wesley Neurological Support Services for seven years, I did a year’s study in welfare work, then my minister’s wife introduced me to the Melbourne School of Theology, which has a Chinese language department. “I told my lecturer and my minister that I want to serve God as a minister – I believe God will equip me for the future God has planned for me.” 15
Letters Blood and theft Israel was born of blood and theft. That is an incontrovertible fact. But the latest violence Israel has inflicted on unarmed civilians in Gaza is a bloody stain on the world’s humanity, especially on those Western Christian nations who were instrumental in establishing Israel on Palestinian land, thus dispossessing millions of indigenous population. We all watch on, prepared – again, it seems – to countenance Israel’s disproportionate violence against Gaza’s civilians. Not even children are safe. Gazans are held under siege in the world’s largest open-air prison. In the current cycle of violence (May 2018), indiscriminate shootings and bombings by the Israeli military have killed more than 100 civilians and wounded thousands. Is there a collective memory of occupied France? Does anyone recall the French Resistance, the Maquis? Have we all forgotten international conventions that support an occupied people’s right to challenge the occupier? I uphold nonviolent protest, it is legitimate under international law; the disproportionate violence that Israel is inflicting is anything but the ‘legitimate defence’ it claims. It is high time for sanctions to be applied and for Israel’s crimes against humanity
to be brought before the International Court of Justice. My underlying fear is that Israel’s excess of violence is calculated to inflame Iran and thus provoke an outbreak of violence throughout the entire Middle East. This would spell catastrophe. In God’s name what are we all about? Have we lost our moral compass? Do we think criticism of Israeli government actions is anti-Semitic? Come on, Christians, get real! Cry out for justice! Make a noise! Heather and Bill Mathew Parkville, VIC
Respect God’s creatures I was disheartened to read in the May Crosslight about live snakes and a crocodile being used in a workshop about overcoming fear. Research has shown that using animals in such exercises (and similar ones, such as ‘petting zoos’) decreases their life spans - the exception to the rule are dogs working in pet therapy. Using live animals to decrease human fear shows a lack of respect for God’s creation. Animals pick up our emotions: why should snakes be surrounded by a cloud
of negative emotion? Time to move on from Genesis 3. Does this activity really address the fear of change, and remove possible obstacles from within the church? The way forward is to walk alongside our congregations/agencies, loving and respecting one another is the way forward – and respect of God’s creatures. Respect can come about by marvelling at their God-given design. For example, snakes don’t have eyelids – a transparent scale protects their eyes. Snakes that are poisonous have diamond-shaped pupils, non-poisonous ones have round pupils. Snakes smell in stereo, with their tongue. Because the end of the tongue is forked, the two tips taste different chemicals. Many snakes are not harmful to humans and help balance the ecosystem. Because snakes shed their skin, they have been, and can still be seen, in a more positive light as symbols of rebirth, transformation and healing. The snake as a symbol of transformation is more powerful and beneficial to the church than representing ‘...all kinds of problems and fears and challenges that the church and its agencies face.’ One does not need to handle snakes in order to learn how to decrease fear, and support one another; pastoral care, counselling to address specific phobias, and prayer, should be sufficient. Rev Barbara Allen Brighton East VIC
Good doctor Julie Perrin’s report on Dr Julia Baird’s graduation provides an interesting snapshot into the life of a very visible media “personality” in a world that is constantly changing (“Degree of reckoning”, Crosslight, May). By addressing the issue of domestic violence in faith communities, both Julia Baird and her colleague, Hayley Gleeson, exposed not only that subject, but the increasing tendency for people to rail against others via social media. Being a Christian in 21st century Australia, especially when you are involved in a very secular profession, calls for patience and trust. Trolls have no place in our society. The good doctor’s courage in religious journalism is to be commended, and whilst the trolls bang their drum, I am reminded of the words from “There’s a light upon the mountain”. I sense the drumbeats of his army are truly the heartbeats of our love. Allan Gibson OAM Cherrybrook NSW
Capital offence? I read with interest Barry Gittins’ article ‘Discipleship and the Cost of Peace’ in the May 18 – Crosslight and wish to comment on his last paragraph in which he states “If the US does move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which looks inevitable, it’s the end of the two-state solution.” What has puzzled me for many years would be why are foreign countries’ embassies in Tel Aviv? Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. The government is based there, including their parliament. Other countries have the foreign embassies based in their capital city
and why is there an uproar about the USA wanting to move their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? With reference to the ‘two-state solution’ man may want to dictate what he wants; however, the one who will have the final say about Jerusalem is God. D M Stephens, Boronia, VIC
A debt of gratitude In 2016 and then aged 85, I was quite conceited about my general health and fitness. Apart from a few minor ‘impedimenta’ of age, requiring bi-focals, hearing aids and a tin hip, I’d had a wonderful run to that point. Still travelling overseas, teaching and preaching around Australia and New Zealand, and publishing a couple of books, can go to one’s head. Then routine blood test results found me being referred to a haematologist. The diagnosis was myelodysplasia, bone marrow failure. Eleven cycles of a new treatment yielded ‘underwhelming’ results. Now it’s only regular blood transfusions – a couple of units fortnightly. Eventually that will cease to work. So, here I am being literally kept alive by nameless, faceless blood donors I will never meet – plus my doctors and the impeccable nurses at St Vincent’s Oncology Day Centre. How can I thank those donors? I became a donor at 20 and gave blood for years and years, but never thought of it as doing something good. Those donors may not, either. But now, each time I am hooked up, it is like some kind of ‘epiphany’. Whoever you are, out there, helping to keep me alive, please accept my heartiest thanks, and allow me to give a plug for readers of Crosslight to consider becoming blood donors, and to encourage their progeny to do so if they’re not already. Rev Dr John Bodycomb Doncaster, VIC
Trust fund What a tremendous letter from Jenny Monger in March Crosslight: “Lack of Trust”. When we think of the words of that old hymn: “Simply trusting every day trusting though a stormy way even when our faith is small trusting Jesus that is all”, that sums up very well Jenny’s letter. When one considers the two most powerful competing forces in our world are Love versus Fear we as Christians need to practice what we preach. Gary Shaw, Ballan, VIC
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.
CROSSLIGHT - JUNE 18
Every person has a story to tell
Where was God? CARMYL WINKLER
Fifty-six years ago my sister died, with her husband, in a car accident. They were both 24. Always the questions will be “How could God allow this?” and “Where was God when my child suffered?” One answer is, “He was in the same place as he was when his own Son died.” I recently came across a sermon Dad shared a fortnight after my sister and brother-in-law’s car accident. The sermon was later printed in The Methodist Spectator. Dad’s thoughts are as relevant today as they were half a century ago. They show the perspective faith can give on the struggles a family faces when they are confronted by unexpected loss. Some extracts from Light in the Shadow of Death by Rev Colin McRae: It is known to all of you that during the past fortnight the Angel of Death has visited our family, and that a daughter and son-in-law have lost their lives in a road accident. You will pardon my speaking about this just because it may become personal to any of you any day. The first comment must be about the almost overwhelming kindness of so many people. We have been humbled and amazed by the loving kindness shown. It is a good thing for people to learn, even thus, of the real goodness that lies deep within others. In all the hurt of the occasion we are able to see how blessed we have been in these two children. We see that there are things worse than death, for practising Christians. We have had all these years of love and joy from our child – why should we grieve unduly? Through these days I have found that for me there is a danger of self-pity, as though I had been badly dealt with and the world owes me a recompense; even of self-satisfaction that it was our daughter and husband to whom such tributes have been paid. We have met at first-hand the problem of reconciling such a seeming tragedy with our Christian faith in the goodness and the protecting care of a Heavenly Father. While there continues in our world the evil and the vicious, why should these die, who had so very much to give? Does not God love and care? Cannot he protect? Or more awful still, is there no God? To these questions the answers must be found somewhere within the Gospel itself. And the Gospel is written in people’s lives as well as in the Bible. Why were our children the kind of people we think
them to have been? In large part, because they trusted in God. Is there then no God? Then where did the mighty movement of spiritual fellowship come from that surrounded us all at the funeral service? To us it brought comfort and composure through what had threatened to be an intolerable ordeal. It brought other things to other folk. Surely it came from the faith and love of these Christian people? Is there then no God? We turn again to the Scriptures: what can separate us from the love of God? I am convinced that there is nothing in death or life that can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ our Lord. So what is the answer to our questions? We think of the answer as being not in some human theory tidying everything up into a packet; not in cynicism or denial; but in a great venturing out in faith in the reality and power of God. If the door to this abounding life is what we call death, need we be so alarmed? Jesus went this way first and He leads us through no darker room than He went through before. I have watched people die after pain and anxiety. I have sometimes seen the stress go out of the weary face, to be replaced by what I can only call a look of glad surprise. Our faith in the spiritual world rests finally for Christians in the resurrection of our Lord. If He rose from the dead, then is death discredited; it is neither final nor permanent. The Bible sets forth a world not yet amenable to His will, and therefore much may happen that is not His will. Yet He can make all things work together for good to them that love Him. We find a new demand for better appreciation of people while they are still with us, for tomorrow they may have crossed the bar. We can see that life is not in length of days but in quality of living.
My husband and I were living in Indonesia at the time of the car accident with a six-month-old daughter. She too would die before her time. As I reflect on the shortened life of my daughter, I can only say, “I thank my God each time I think of you.”
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. Email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org JUNE 18 - CROSSLIGHT
Forming disciples theologically
“Burdened by some conventional definitions, there is a strong tendency to think of theology as merely an intellectual discipline.” Professor James Cone (image: wikimedia commons/coolhappysteve)
THE theological world recently mourned the death of Professor James Cone, a prominent African American theologian who taught for many years at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Among his influential and prophetic books were A Black Theology of Liberation and The Cross and the Lynching Tree. At his funeral in early May, the eulogy was delivered by the even more famous African American public intellectual, Cornell West. By any measure this address was stunning in its oratorical and prophetic power, moving in the depth of its tribute, and inspiring in its proclamation of the gospel’s hope. It is well worth watching; a simple Google search will take you to it very quickly. West referred to the challenges Cone faced when growing up in deeply-segregated Arkansas in the pre-civil rights days. He drew attention to the way Cone’s family and his church (the African Methodist Episcopal Church) had shaped him to be the person he was and to have the gospel commitments he did. Professor West made two points about this. First: “That’s what we need these days,… the spirit of the tradition that produced a James Cone.” Second: “He was already fortified before he got to Union Theological Seminary.” Both of these comments are worth thinking about in the context of the Uniting Church. They prompt two questions: ‘What kind of people should our church communities produce?’ and ‘What does a theological education contribute to those already formed by their churches as Christian disciples?’ What kind of people should our church 18
communities produce? The obvious answer to that question is ‘all kinds of people’. And so it should be. We are not in the business of producing clones. Disciples of Jesus come in all shapes and sizes and with all manner of gifts, grace, personalities, flaws and strengths. But the question reasonably invites some deeper reflection. Among the characteristic practices of the Christian faith are hospitality to strangers, love of enemies, a readiness to forgive, boldness in speaking the truth to power, generosity in the use of money and other possessions, and humility in confessing Jesus Christ as Lord. Such characteristics cannot be taken for granted. Belief that these are gospel virtues does not by itself translate into the practice of those virtues. In my experience, our own willingness to embody such virtues might begin with some sense that they are what God requires of us but that such willingness gets real traction when we see them embodied and practiced by others. This probably means thinking about the church – both its present and future – less in terms of age, social and cultural demographics, and more in terms of something like a virtue-profile. It might mean we insist on asking how many homeless and unemployed people are in the congregation at least as urgently as we ask how many young people are involved. We might think about our churches in terms of how welcoming we are to refugees, to the psychiatrically ill, and to the socially dysfunctional. Churches that are intentional about such a profile for their congregations not only practice the gospel, they are likely to form their members ever more deeply into those
gospel virtues, precisely because they see them embodied all around. People are thus nurtured in a tradition that produces certain kinds of people in the same way James Cone’s home church helped to make him the prophetic theologian he was. ‘What does a theological education contribute to those already formed by their churches as Christian disciples?’ According to Cornell West’s eulogy, James Cone was already ‘fortified’ before he got to theological college. Undoubtedly, James Cone would be a fascinating case study in examining the added value of theology to discipleship. But let me reflect on this question more generally. Burdened by some conventional definitions, there is a strong tendency to think of theology as merely an intellectual discipline. And, on top of that, the study of theology in the mainline protestant tradition has been deeply weakened by the notion that it consists of shuffling people from one point to another on some liberal-conservative spectrum. I would argue that a theological education is not about developing a theological ‘position’ at all. Nothing so impoverishes the contribution of theology to the church when it is presented in those terms or when it is expected to function, or is caricatured, in that way. Rather, it is about shaping a theological imagination. It involves learning to see and experience God, the world, Jesus, salvation, mission, church and neighbours through an ongoing critical but constructive engagement with the tension-filled biblical material, an immersion in the ebb and flow of the history of Christian doctrine, and a ruthlessly honest familiarity with
Christianity’s history and its diverse practices. Such engagement, immersion and familiarity doesn’t produce a theological ‘position’, but it offers an expanded Christian imagination. This leads, in turn, to particular ways of praying, loving, worshipping, caring, speaking, living and leading. The study of theology can thereby help to form people who variously demonstrate the restlessness of so many of the biblical writers, who share the intellectual curiosity and confidence of the church’s great theologians, who know the brokenness but also the promise of all theological utterances, and who take on the impatient irritability of the church’s great activists and prophets. From what I know of James Cone, I think his theological work did produce such outcomes. They are also the outcomes that potentially lie before anyone who dares to take on the unsettling but creative and hope-filled business of studying Christian theology.
Geoff Thompson Co-ordinator of Studies Systematic Theology Pilgrim Theological College
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Life begins at 41
Moderator Sharon Hollis attends the Premier’s Iftar dinner with synod employees George Delice, Ahmet Yilmaz, Jackie Man and Nathier Kamalie
THIS month we commemorate the 41st anniversary of the Uniting Church in Australia. It’s not nearly as exciting as last year’s 40th birthday. There will be fewer cakes and parties and events I imagine. After the excitement of last year, this June’s anniversary reminds us that the life of the church is mostly lived out in its ordinariness. As I’ve visited congregations on weekdays and on Sundays I’ve witnessed so many wonderful examples of people living their faith in ways that participate in what God is doing in the world – day in day out, week in week out, year in year out. One of the great privileges of being moderator is to worship with congregations across the synod. From small to large, rural to inner city, regional to suburban, I’ve been able to participate in a diversity of worship. We gather regularly around word and sacrament to recall God’s mighty saving action in the world, for the sake of the world. Week-by-week we are reminded of God’s goodness and mercy, God’s love and justice, God’s grace and forgiveness. We hear stories of faithful Christian discipleship from across the ages. In all of this our hearts and minds, our lives and imagination are shaped to God’s ethic of costly reconciling love. We are nourished for our own discipleship which we live out in our homes, our workplaces, and our community engagement. It shapes how we live and act as children, as friends, as parents, as colleagues, as members of society. This discipleship expresses itself in the daily decisions we make and in the regular habits and practices of our congregations. The church is called to participate in God’s work to renew creation, healing and regeneration of the Earth. God’s word called the world into being and God’s love has continued to sustain the world in all its beauty and woundedness. God’s care
for the least and the marginal extends to care of the Earth and all that fills it and calls us to be active participants in God’s redeeming work in creation. As I’ve visited congregations I’ve seen churches hearing this call in so many ways – community gardens, compost bins, reduction of single use plastic, solar panels on church buildings, advocacy for the Earth, lobbying of politicians and business, repairing cafes, and staging eco fairs. Congregations everywhere are showing us how we seek community, compassion and justice for all creation and inviting all of us to consider how we might be part of God’s renewing of creation. God lives amongst us in order that we might find a home in the heart of God and live that hospitality out in the world. I have seen so many generous acts of hospitality. I think of the way
many congregations welcome each new person and seek to get to know them, helping them grow as disciples as we embrace the gifts they bring to the life of the community. There are congregations that not only feed the hungry and homeless but make friends with them, creating communities where companionship can be found and every person’s humanity and worth is valued. Many congregations welcome community groups to use their buildings and engage with them to enhance their services and grow friendship. Several congregations are offering hospitality to their Muslim neighbours and welcoming them to an Iftar meal to break the fast at the end of a day during Ramadan. Many Uniting Church people will accept the hospitality of their Muslim neighbours to share an Iftar meal.
A particular form of hospitality I’ve been thinking about is the hospitality that makes space for difference. I recently had the chance to gather with a group of ministers and discuss tough things with a tenderness towards each other and ourselves. We talked in multiple languages and remained aware of the diverse cultures that nurtured and shaped us, welcoming each minister’s unique gifts. In this way we created a community of welcome and hospitality that allowed us to listen to each other and grow in commitment to our shared faith. As we enter our 42nd year, I encourage us all to continue our commitment to discipleship in our daily life, formed and nourished by our Christian worship together.
Last month, Moderator Sharon Hollis visited the Leprena Centre in Tasmania
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DIARY OF A FRONTIER SERVICES MINISTER CROSSLIGHT asked Rev Rowena Harris for a snapshot of a typical month in the life of a High Country bush chaplain.
Wednesday 11 April I begin progressing through a workbook, produced and required by the Victorian Council of Churches (VCC). It is a requisite for attending re-accreditation as an emergency services chaplain. I am the regional coordinator, and work with the local shire when disasters strike. I write and send the monthly chaplaincy report to Presbytery Standing Committee before visiting a family to discuss a funeral. . it’s high up in the mountains.. for my own piece of mind, I’m home before dark. Thursday 12 April I drive to Traralgon, home of my Nissan dealer, for a 40000km service on the work car. I have had the car since about May last year, so that’s not tooo bad. The four-wheel drive was bought there and wee are assured of a good service. Three-and-a-half hour’s drive to service a car.. still, it could be worse. Anyway, I collect the car and drive home, buying dinner in Bairnsdale on the way. The road through the ranges twists and turns. Animals come out in the dusk and after. The last section of the drive home lasts forever.. I try to be a careful driver. Friday 13 April On the road A stay-at-home day. My task is to update again my Frontier Services PowerPoint for all the presentations I do throughout the year. . I am taking a service at Bright on Sunday. I do this regullarlyl around th the SSynod, and itt seems tto go ok.k M My own congregation will go to the local Anglican Church this Sunday. (By the way, I could visit YOUR church, if you asked me! I could also speak at your fellowship group or dinner or.. . Why not contact me?) Sunday 15 April. I drove over to Bright yesterday. The congregation was sooo welcoming. Later in the afternoon, as I drive over Mt Hotham, I watch the glorious sunset. Fabulous views. I finish my VCC workbook whilst in a Bright coffee shop and email it off.
Friday 20 April Various church folk pop in to see how things are going for the manse and reno team. They bring donations of food. I lunch with an about-to-be mum. We talk about parenthood, hopes and dreams, relating to God.. . I catch up with the local man who grows roses. We talk, beginning with roses, but then discussing some big issues of life. Rev Caro Field from Presbytery is here. We dine together at the Little River Pub. It is great to spend time with her. Sunday 29 April Messy Church. We focus on making prayer hand-cards, as a reminder that we can talk to God. Morning tea in the manse as usual. Then we have an informal church council meeting over more tea and cake.
Monday 16 April. The Country Women’s Association meets in Swifts Creek. I am enjoying both its agenda and the company of its members. Afterwards, many of us gather for lunch in a local cafe. On to Omeo for a choir meeting… I enjoy being Cuppa time part of the High Country Singers. I pop into a farm just above the town and listen to the family tell me about drought, and the cost of bringing food and water in for the stock. We decide to pray about the weather. I join things.. chaplains have a term, ”intentional loitering”, which means when you hang around long enough, folk begin to unburden themselves to you. It probabl p y wouldn’t occur in a normal church context as most of these people don’t go to church. We live in a post-Christian society.. but when you are there, people begin to trust and talk. Being able to sing is an asset out here. Services and the like don’t always have musicians. But I manage. The VCC emails through to announce that the course is postponed for a while, until we can find more students. I wil need to think of ways we can advertise and encourage possible lay/ordained chaplains. If you’re interested in this and how faith traditions respond to disasters - Google or contact the VCC. I spend the rest of today preparing for the funeral, reflecting on what the family told me last Wednesday. High Country
North East Presbytery of Victoria is organising teams of volunteers from all over the synod to comee and fix it. Lindsey Oates is leading the volunteers, which includes local Kailex Black, who Lindsey said was painting like a professional after picking up a brush for the first time. I write my sermon for next Sunday’s Messy Church, and then travel out to have lunch with a young familyy on a farm. I meet kids and cows, alpacas and sheep, dogs and pigs. As I drive home late in the afternoon, I reflect on some themes in my life.. # God is an amazing artist. I drive through spectacular scenery. I see incredible beauty.. . And God made it. # I meet courageous, compassionate and strong Kailex helping people, resilient as they journey on difficult pathsfire, drought, flood - well, all the weather phenomena. Poverty, difficult terrain, few support services.. I meet people in unexpected places, filled with amazing and unexpected graces.. . They are not conventional Christians, and they rarely attend churches (and may be way too far away to attend them anyway).. And I am incredibly blessed to spend time with them.
TTuesday 17 April TThe presbytery renovation team are hard at work. I aam impressed by the commitment shown. TThe manse where I live is in dire condition and the
Wednesday May 2 I regularly visit the Alpine Resorts, and catch up with the few folk who stay over summer. When winter comes, I continue to visit Dinner Plain but Mt Hotham has a visitor charge. I am the new police chaplain for the Hotham station that only functions in winter. I spend time with their HR to ask if it is possible to be classified as staff and therefore incur no visitor charge. I suggest that there may be other tasks I could do there.. eg. disaster relief ministry, pastoral care of staff. HR says my request will be considered. There is paperwork to be done and supporting emails to be obtained from the state police chaplain and other work-related leaders. Whilst up there today, I visit a few of the summer staff I know. Nothing major. We look forward to the season.
Friday May 11 The polar vortex arrives and there is snow everywhere! Not quite in Swifts Creek, but almost. It is exciting, incredibly beautiful and achingly cold! I spend a fair bit of the day driving around, photographing, and talking to everyone.. . they are doing exactly the same! There is a great community connection, an important part of my role. Saturday May 12 It rains and rains and rains. I visit a farming family and we talk about how God answers prayer. Sunday May 13 I lead worship in Maffra UCA. Again, a great congregation! I am blessed. Monday May 14 Mt Hotham HR contacts me. Request accepted! Yay!
You will have picked up that Rowena loves to hear from people interested in bush chaplaincy and emergency services chaplaincy. You can contact her on 0409111996 or at High Country Patrol based in Swifts Creek, Victoria. The next manse renovation team will go up to Swifts Creek from 21 October until 3 November. People with painting, carpentry, building skills are especially sought. Presbytery may be able to assist with accommodation. Come for whatever days you can. Please contact Lindsay Oates on 0408 343 531. 20
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Opinion Supporting seasonal workers
RANDALL PRIOR IN 2008, the Australian Government initiated a program for people from Pacific Island nations to stay in Australian on short-term visas and fill vital employment gaps in the agricultural industry. The workers earn money to take back home and gain valuable agricultural skills to introduce into their home communities. It seemed a win-win arrangement, and in most situations it is. For the Bombaci family in southern Victoria who produce 90 percent of Australia’s asparagus crop, their annual labour force of over 100 ni-Vanuatu workers, has saved their industry. The arrangement provides much needed financial support for workers’ families. On average, workers can save $8000 in a few months of crop-picking. Earnings are used to build a family home, pay school fees or set up a local business. One ni-Vanuatu who visited a trout project while working on a tomato farm in Victoria returned to his home village on Malekula and established a fish farm where he employs family members and local villagers. The governments of Vanuatu and Tonga, who supply the majority of workers, last year called for the program to be extended. However, the program has also been fraught with difficulties. Over the years, there have been several reports of exploitation and maltreatment with workers complaining that the program’s promises are not fulfilled. In the worst instances, Islanders have worked excessive hours, stayed in poor accommodation, been charged exorbitant rental rates and returned home without savings. An ABC investigation into conditions in Victoria uncovered a situation where workers received as little as $9 a week after all the deductions were taken from their pay. Over the last five years, 12 workers have lost their lives across Australia, including four from Vanuatu.
Warragul Uniting Church welcomes ni-Vanuatu visitors
Although the majority have been due to car accidents, questions have been raised over the support and advice that guest workers receive. Many workers are vulnerable to the whims and wishes of their employer, and are left largely to themselves to survive the complexities of living in a dramatically different culture.
Ni-Vanuatu workers enjoy a visit to AAMI Park.
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Knowing that they can be dismissed and sent home penniless in shame, they remain silent when they have requests or cause for complaint. Last October, the Vanuatu Fellowship in Victoria established a Seasonal Workers Support Group, which works in close connection with Mark Zirnsak and the synod’s Justice and International Mission cluster. The initiative seeks to generate stronger involvement of local support groups (especially churches) in the post-arrival briefing scheme and the ongoing pastoral care of workers. The group also promotes advocacy, in particular to identify instances of abuse and exploitation. The Support Group’s membership comprises around 20 people from across Victoria who are passionate about the need to support the workers. This includes two ni-Vanuatu men, residents in Victoria, who provide a valuable cultural bridge between the workers’ home cultures and their farm work environment. While the government program stipulates pastoral care as a requisite part of the scheme, this task rests in the hands of the employment contractor and very easily falls by the wayside. The Support Group has set out to make sure pastoral care happens. The group’s priority is to establish
relationships with workers as soon as they arrive and to assist them to negotiate the myriad of differences between their homeland and Australian society. Many of the workers come from village communities, with little or no experience of urban life and limited English. The Support Group is creating a reference booklet in English and Bislama, including a section on cultural behaviour. The plan is to make the reference booklet part of the briefing program for workers on arrival and available throughout their time in Australia. Local churches and community groups are encouraged to establish personal relationships with seasonal workers and provide them opportunities to understand Australian life. Some workers are becoming regular participants in church worship and enriching congregations by sharing their knowledge of Vanuatu life. The work of the Vanuatu Seasonal Workers Support Group is in its early days, but already it has become clear that its role is important. It is among a growing network of church support groups around the country. Uniting Church president Stuart McMillan recently commented that he has been “enormously heartened” by the work of these groups in seeking justice for seasonal workers. Randall Prior is chair of the Vanuatu Seasonal Workers Support Group. See the Vanuatu Seasonal Workers Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/groups/ SeasonalWorkersVanuatu You can also contact Randall at priority49@ optushome.com.au for more information.
Community minded DAVID SOUTHWELL
Natalie Dixon-Monu and Terri
OUTSIDE the church hall it’s a grey, wet and wintry Melbourne morning. But inside, the atmosphere is warm and inviting, as well rugged-up diners tuck into steaming plates of pasta bake and vegetables. Good Grub, the free Tuesday lunch put on by Boroondara Community Outreach (BCO) at the Habitat Uniting Church in Kew, is winding up. Suanne is a regular at Good Grub and other BCO activities. She first suffered depression at age 16 and a few years later was diagnosed with mental health disorders. “It’s been a really long horrible battle with some moments of absolute wellness,” Suanne said. She said BCO events were good for “just rocking up and being yourself ”, even if that sometimes meant bursting into tears. However, Suanne said that BCO minister Rev Natalie Dixon-Monu invariably injected a sense of fun into proceedings. “You just want to be around her, she’s just the most positive person,” Suanne said. Suanne also thought Natalie’s dog Gus, who wandered around the hall in a proprietary manner, was great pet therapy. Natalie said informality and participation were defining characteristics of BCO. “In our model of care we very much have a sense that all of us are part of a community, this is a community space in which all of us contribute and belong,” she said. “We don’t call people clients, we call them community members. “People are asked to contribute by looking after the space and their own space.” Terri, another Good Grub attendee, backed this up. 22
“Building community with people who are on the margin of society is the essence of what it’s about,” she said. “When I turned up here I discovered a community to belong to, not an organisation that provides a service and they are two really different things. That’s what makes this place unique.” Terri contributes her artistic knowledge and skills to help run the BCO ceramics workshops. “Some of the participants here are what you call a participant volunteer,” she said. “What this is trying to do is break down the barriers between volunteers and participants. It is not a clear line of delineation. “We have a choir, All Directions, and if you don’t know any of the people, you wouldn’t know who are the volunteers and who are the participants.” Natalie said that the government funding of health care had moved away from community models to more individualised service delivery. This is a trend which the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) would exacerbate as it continues to be rolled out nationally. “Even pre-NDIS there was a shift in how people are cared for,” Natalie said. “So since 2014, all the community spaces that people used to go to were pretty much defunded. There’s been this real push for the idea that those spaces are not good spaces and it all has to be goal-orientated.” While Natalie thought there were some positives in that approach, she believes the pendulum has swung too far and “the baby had been thrown out with the bath water”.
“It’s been a complete denial of recognising that people aren’t siloed individuals who just set goals and go off and achieve them, let alone when you are mentally ill; we all need community connection,” she said. “The people who have got chronic mental illnesses and are disabled by them need places to belong and be sustained, in amongst achieving goals. “In all of the research, resilience is about having community. Resilience is about having other significant people in your life that can support you in the ups and downs.” A recently completed major report into the Yarra Yarra Presbytery Mental Health Ministry - Creating Welcoming
Communities - also affirms the value of community based care programs. “Having a place where you can share your stories with others who have similar experiences and who understand what you are talking about is extremely important to creating a sense of personal well-being and community,” the report says. Paul Dunn, from consultancy TR Concepts was one of the co-authors of the report, which assessed the two Yarra Yarra ‘open door’ communities of BCO and the Hope Springs group based in Heidelberg Heights, along with other areas of the presbytery’s mental health ministry. “The openness of those communities is
Natalie and Suanne
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Good Grub kitchen volunteers
really important,” Paul said. “Although it’s targeting people with mental health issues anyone who fronts up gets access. Because they are funded outside the formal service system it gives them a flexibility to work in a way where they don’t have to have assessment criteria for people to come in and use the service. “That informality is really attractive for people with mental health issues, who find the formal, more bureaucratic administrative overload of some of the traditional mental health services something they are not that keen on, meaning they are less likely to use services.” Natalie agreed that having to meet program criteria was potentially alienating to people with mental health issues. “They come to this place because they feel they are valued and loved and accepted without all that criteria stuff,” she said. “Because we are not government-funded there is flexibility in the way that we can respond to people that you can’t have when you are micromanaged under public funding, where you have to tick boxes and meet strict criteria. “We have accountabilities but they are not criteria accountabilities.” The Creating Welcoming Communities report says that churches are wellpositioned to provide a broad sense of acceptance and community. “The ministries provide informal mainstream settings which mobilise volunteers and a range of other supports to enable people to feel this sense of belonging and to be a part of the life in their local community as valued citizens,” it says. Natalie said that church offered a space for those who couldn’t find help elsewhere. “These mental health ministries really function in spaces where a lot of care isn’t offered or people are complex and don’t want to engage with the system,” she said. “We are actually able to hold and care for people who are fractured and vulnerable.” Paul Dunn said that not having a prescriptive approach to mental health also allows people to explore new possibilities. “People are seen as a label in a formal mental health system,” he said. “What those church communities have done with their informality and friendship has really opened up a whole range of ways for people to be and behave in those settings that transform the way that they are perceived. “It gives them a capacity to re-story their lives. You can potentially go in and be who you want to be.” The report makes a strong case for Yarra JUNE 18 - CROSSLIGHT
Yarra’s mental health ministries as an expression of faith. “The Mental Health Ministries are cherished as an embodied expression of Christian mission by participants, volunteers, co-ordinators, members of the congregations and other stakeholders,” it says. “The ministries are imbued with inspiration and commitment which provides a unique motivating force and focus.” Natalie said that BCO members came from a variety of faith backgrounds, including none, because what they found in the community was “unconditional acceptance”. However, the Christian message is still communicated. “People know I am a minister and they know everything I do comes out of that framework,” she said. Natalie said that open door communities did have expressions of church suitable for those attending. “The people I care for can be very unwell,” she said. “So a traditional church context for them is not going to work because they can’t focus through a 20-minute sermon. “Often they feel embarrassed about going outside for a cigarette or embarrassed that their clothes aren’t good enough. You also add in drug addictions, so they are not going to go near that kind of space. “That’s why here in Kew and with Hope Springs we created a worship space, because people wanted to go to church but they just didn’t feel they could go to the traditional spaces.” At the Good Grub lunch Terri affirmed this. “From my perspective I feel that this is my church, this is my church community,” she said. “It isn’t about going to a service on a Sunday but it’s actually about creating community and engaging with the margins of society. “That to me is the essence of the Gospels and that’s what I believe church should be, and that’s what this provides.” The Creating Welcoming Communities report considered the sustainability of Yarra Yarra’s and congregation’s mental health ministries. A major concern was the burden placed on the few paid workers such as Natalie, who said she was doing a lot of crisis case management where people were falling between the gaps of the publicly funded programs. “The problem is I am doing everything. It’s insane. I do the job of three or four people,” she said.
“Mental health has always been a poor cousin in the health system. The reality is a lot of the people that I care for, even if they do get the NDIS, it doesn’t cover everything.” The report also highlighted concerns over the sustainability of congregational programs that rely on church funding and volunteers, when both those things were likely to keep diminishing. Hilary Salmon, a member of Manningham Uniting Church, was leading the team of volunteers busy at work in the Good Grub kitchen. She said the meal largely consisted of a donation from a local fruit and vegetable shop but she also often bought items the day before. “We’re mindful of food that suits the people attending and the type of food they like,” she said. “We serve at 11am because many of the clients haven’t had breakfast and that carries them through until the next day for some of them.” Hilary said she had a background in hospitality and had been volunteering in the Good Grub kitchen for 10 years. “We have a wonderful team who come regularly,” she said. “They just enjoy coming and giving and the camaradie of a volunteer group that’s very supportive. “We get to know the clients and they’re generally very happy with the food we serve, so that’s lovely.” The Yarra Yarra report recommended that the mental health programs should look to partner with other community groups and funded agencies, such as those run by
Uniting Vic.Tas. This is something BCO already does with support from the local council and a partnership with Trinity Grammar School that sees uniformed students regularly attend community events. However, Natalie said she thought the church still had a lot of capacity to support mission ministries such as hers. “There’s enough money, resources around,” she said. “It’s just that we may sometimes have them tied up in the traditional Sunday services with a property that’s barely used and not bringing in income.” The Creating Welcoming Communities report also recommends building a network to share the mental health resources and expertise of congregations. Synod disability inclusion advocate Rev Andy Calder has prepared a survey to discover what congregations are doing and what they need to support individuals and families with mental health issues. “The gospel imperative is that we need to support people in our midst or in our local community,” Mr Calder said. “Sure, there may be challenges but if we can swing the pendulum so we have a mindset that’s embracing rather than exclusionary, then I think we can have communities that are richer as a result.” The survey invites church councils and individuals to respond and also asks participants to “bring it to the attention of anyone you think would appreciate the opportunity to be involved”. People are invited to complete the survey by 20 July this year. You can find it at this link: www.surveymonkey.com/r/ucavictasmental-health.
Good Grub volunteer Bill scrubs up well
Placements CURRENT AND PENDING PLACEMENT VACANCIES AS AT 18 MAY 2018 PRESBYTERY OF GIPPSLAND Drouin – Bunyip Parish (*) Lakes Entrance (0.6) (P) (C) Maffra (*) Resourcing Ministry – Administration (0.5) (*) Resourcing Ministry – Pastoral Care (*) Resourcing Ministry – Mission linked with eLM (*) Trafalgar (*) Yallourn/Morwell/Newborough (*) PRESBYTERY OF LODDON MALLEE Central Mallee Cooperating Parish (0.5) and Tyrrell Parish (0.5) (P) (C) PRESBYTERY OF NORTH EAST VICTORIA Presbytery Minister, Administration and Resourcing linked with eLM (*) Presbytery Minister, Mission and Education (5 year term) (C)(P) Presbytery Minister, Pastoral Care (5 year term) (C)(P) PRESBYTERY OF PORT PHILLIP EAST Beaumaris (0.6) (P) (C) Chelsea, Carrum and Edithvale (C) Cranbourne (5 year term) (P) (C) PRESBYTERY OF PORT PHILLIP WEST Bacchus Marsh (*) Essendon North (0.5 – 0.7) (P) (C) Geelong (Wesley) (C) Presbytery Minister – 2 placements (*) Surf Coast (P) (C)
PRESBYTERY OF TASMANIA Derwent Cluster (Glenorchy and Claremont) (0.6) (*) Hobart Cheil (0.6) (*) West Coast Patrol (*) PRESBYTERY OF WESTERN VIC Henty Region – Surrey Cluster (P) (C) Kaniva – Serviceton (P) (C) Lake Bolac Cluster (*) PRESBYTERY OF YARRA YARRA Banyule Network – Ministry Team Leader (C) Banyule Network – Pastoral Care and Discipleship (C) Melbourne (St Michaels) Presbytery Minister (P)(C) Ringwood (C) SYNOD Royal Melbourne Hospital Chaplain (0.4) (1 year term) (C) (C) Current - may be in conversation (*) Pending - profile expected soon. Ministers available for placement may express interest in a particular placement. (P) Suitable for pastor. A lay person wishing to be considered must lodge an Expression of Interest. Enquiries and written Expressions of Interest to: Ms Isabel Thomas Dobson Secretary, Placements Committee Email: email@example.com
MINISTRY MOVES CALLS AND APPOINTMENTS FINALISED Jong Eog Lee (OD), Joong Ang Church of Melbourne (0.4), commenced 1 May 2018 Sue Withers, eLM Co-Director Relationships and Connections (0.5) to commence on 1 June 2018 John Rigby, Gladstone Park (0.5) to commence 1 June 2018 Amanda Nicholas, East Geelong to commence 1 July 2018 Will Nicholas, Newtown (St David’s) to commence 1 July 2018 Stephen Burns (OD), eLM Ministry Studies Coordinator to commence 15 July 2018
Notices COMING EVENTS HYMN FEST BORONIA ROAD UNITING CHURCH 1.30PM, SUNDAY 3 JUNE Boronia Road Uniting Church, 209 Boronia Rd, Boronia. If you enjoy a ‘good sing’ then join us in singing favourite hymns and choruses. Max Thomson will provide the music and Malcolm Cameron will be our master of ceremonies for the afternoon. A scrumptious afternoon tea will be served – all this for $10 per person. More information available by calling P: (03) 9762 5032. SINGULARITY SINGS FOR RYDA 2.30PM, SUNDAY 3 JUNE St Margaret’s Uniting Church, Mooroolbark. 2PM, SUNDAY 10 JUNE, St. John’s Uniting, Cowes. Singularity presents a concert performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe. While away your Sunday afternoon in the fairy story silliness of this wonderful comic opera. Afternoon tea provided at both venues. Proceeds from the two performances go to Rubaga Youth Development Association (RYDA), Uganda. More details from Doug Williams on M: 0401 177 775 or E: firstname.lastname@example.org www.blackdouglas.com.au/ryda/news.htm. HYMN FEST CONCERT 2PM, SUNDAY 3 JUNE St Andrew’s Uniting Church, 105 High St, Berwick. Come and have a sing-along of much loved hymns, new and old. Featuring soloist Monique Churchill, ‘Journey Bound’ band, pipe organ and church choir. $5 pp, includes afternoon tea. For more information or to sing in the choir on the day, contact Matthew Clark on M: 0437 397 369.
Robyn Whitaker, eLM New Testament Studies Coordinator to commence 15 July 2018
BOOK AND BEAR SALE FUND RAISER FOR FRONTIER SERVICES 10AM – 4PM, SATURDAY 9 JUNE, AND 11AM – 4PM, SUNDAY 10 JUNE St Andrews Uniting Church, Gisborne Road, Bacchus Marsh. Books for all ages, collectibles and new. Also bookmarks & painted primordial rocks. Enquires to Valerie on M: 0412 240 056. STEPPING IN – ATTENDING TO GOD IN THE AUSTRALIAN LANDSCAPE: A LABYRINTH RETREAT 22 – 24 JUNE Pallotti College, 80 McNamaras Rd, Millgrove. A labyrinth retreat led by Bronwyn Pryor and Christina Rowntree will draw on indigenous wisdom and the writings of Rev Dr Robin Pryor. The retreat will engage deep listening with poetry, visual art, labyrinth walks and quiet attention to seek the “intimate immensity” of God’s presence. The cost is $210 per person, or $190 for couples sharing a room and includes all meals Friday night to Sunday lunch. Book with Bronwyn Pryor on M: 0412 301 450 or E: email@example.com. THE PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIAN NETWORK OF VICTORIA: ‘THE RETURN OF THE SACRED IN AN AGE OF TERROR’ WITH DAVID TACEY 3PM – 5PM, SUNDAY 24 JUNE Ewing Memorial Centre of Stonnington UC, cnr Burke Rd and Copping St, Malvern East. As the West struggles to understand its new relation to the sacred, it does so in the context of religion-inspired terrorism. How and why are these things related? Speaker David Tacey is an independent scholar and public intellectual who works across the fields of spirituality, religion, psychoanalysis, literature and philosophy, and is Emeritus Professor of Humanities at La Trobe Uni and Professor of Public Theology at CSU. Meeting cost is $7 or $5 for members.
Michelle Cook, Nungalinya College, Northern Synod to commence 1 January 2019 RETIREMENTS Paul Tonson retired on 18 May 2018 CONCLUSIONS Kate Tierney, to conclude at Ballarat Central on 30 September 2018
The Synod of Victoria and Tasmania is committed to ensuring ALL people who have a lived experience of trauma, abuse or misuse of power within the Church, are provided with services to help them heal. Bethel Centre is independent of Synod and offers a warm and safe place for people seeking to heal and resolve the hurts, attend to spirituality and ÂcY]deZ#DjghZgk^XZhVgZ[gZZVcY^cXajYZ/
Professional Counselling and support by telephone, skype or in person;
Education and training workshops to small groups and personally tailored training to congregations;
Professional consultation, information and advice to ministers, church councils/leadership, congregations and staff;
Library and resource materials;
Collaboration with faith communities and secular services to support the healing process.
For further information please visit www.bethelcentre.com.au To make an appointment to see one our counsellors, please contact us on
03 9859 8700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org 24
CROSSLIGHT - JUNE 18
Notices MIND BODY SPIRIT SERVICE 5.30PM – 7.30PM, SUNDAY 24 JUNE North Balwyn Uniting Church, 17-21 Duggan St, Balwyn North. Speaker - Mr Graeme Houghton, exCEO of numerous Australian hospitals and former hospital standards and accreditation adviser to the Papua New Guinea National Department of Health. Topic “Getting to Know the Neighbours: my Experience of Papua New Guinea.” To be followed by soup and a short service of reflective worship in the church. See www.nbuc.org.au for more details. FRIENDS OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA & THE SOLOMON ISLANDS 12PM – 4PM, SATURDAY, 30 JUNE Camberwell Uniting Church, 316 Camberwell Road, Camberwell. Have you lived in PNG or the Solomon Islands? If so, you are welcome to visit our group to share current news of these countries. Publications are shared, recent trips recounted, issues discussed and letters written, including a shared lunch. Contact Don Cracknell on: email@example.com or Margaret White on: firstname.lastname@example.org or P: (03) 9889 7345. BACK TO ST PETER’S MALLACOOTA 9AM SERVICE, 10.15AM TEA, 11.30AM - BRING AND SHARE LUNCH & TIME TO REMEMBER, SUNDAY, 1 JULY Mallacoota (St Peters), UCA/Ang, Allan Dr, Mallacoota. On St Peter’s Day we will be celebrating a Back to St Peter’s event. If you know people or families who have had any connection with St Peter’s, please let them know. Enquiries to Rev Heather Cahill on M: 0487 759 335 or Mrs Kate Cowden on P: (03) 5158 8358. 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. Details can be found at www.somerscamp.com.au.
DANCE CLASSES FOR MATURE WOMEN 1PM-2PM, THURSDAYS Habitat Canterbury, cnr Mont Albert Rd and Burke Rd, Canterbury. Join this gentle, joyful space for movement and self-expression. For more information contact Susan on M: 0433 259 135. 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–12 noon. People of all ages are welcome. For information phone P: (03) 9560 3580. 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. FEED YOUR SOUL YOGA MONDAY THROUGH SATURDAY – MORNING, MIDDAY & EVENING CLASSES Habitat Uniting Church, 2 Minona Street, Hawthorn. Free your mind, body and spirit; strengthen your back and core muscles, and improve your overall wellbeing. Classes include yoga for beginners, yoga for seniors, yoga for men, yoga for menopause, yin yoga and hatha yoga. For more information please contact Angelika on M: 0401 607 716 or go to: www.feedyoursoulyoga.com.au.
TREBLE TONES INC., LADIES CHOIR AVAILABLE FOR FUND-RAISERS Would you like to hold a fund-raiser 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 folk-songs 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 593 PROCEEDS FROM CONCERT A concert at St John’s Uniting Church, Mt Waverley on 29 April featured two excellent choirs: The Voices of Frankston (associated with the Choir of Hard Knocks) and the Conchord Sri Lankan Choir. It was a wonderful occasion sponsored by the Uniting Churches of Mt Waverley and Chadstone. The $3073 proceeds were donated to The Voices of Frankston. Thank you to everyone who supported the event. HYMN BOOKS AVAILABLE Pleasant Street Uniting Church, Ballarat has closed. They have copies available of the Australian Hymn Book, Sing Alleluia, Uniting in Worship and the Good News Bible. Also available are numerous anthems which may be viewed by arrangement. If anyone has an interest in these, and other chattels of the church, contact Lynne on P: (03) 5332 3028, by mid-June.
CLASSIFIEDS CALOUNDRA: Sunshine Coast, Queensland: Beachside units, from $400/ wk. For details contact Ray P: 0427 990 161 or E: email@example.com. 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. LORNE: Spacious apartment, breathtaking ocean view, open fire, peaceful, secluded, affordable. P: (03) 5289 2698. ELECTRONIC ORGAN: Free to a good home/organisation. Yamaha Electone Model B-75N. In good condition (F pedal needs a new spring). Photos available from Denise on E: firstname.lastname@example.org. PULPIT AVAILABLE: Porepunkah Uniting Church has a pulpit available to a good home. 120cm (H) and 90cm x 90cm (W). In very good condition. Maple in colour. Photos and further details available from Val Taylor on E: Valvtaylor@gmail.com. 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. WANTED TO BUY: Antiques, secondhand/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 Ethical Consulting Group discussion: The banking royal commission 14 June 2018, 10.30 a.m. Waratah Room, St Michael’s on Collins, 120 Collins St, Melbourne
CALL FOR PHOTOS FOR 2019 CALENDAR
In this session we will discuss how we should respond as investors to the banking royal commission.
Annual Investor Briefing 9 August 2018 Rydges Melbourne, Exhibition Street Save the date for this year’s investor briefing “Investing for impact”. Please see our website or contact us for session details.
To register or for more information > www.ucafunds.com.au/events > 1800 996 888
We are looking for photos for the 2019 Giving is Living calendar. The photos will showcase thriving communities in the Uniting Church. Photos should be high quality and accompanied by a caption. Each person featured in the photo must complete a permission form, which can be downloaded from this link: bit.ly/CalendarUCA (case sensitive). Please send your photos and permission forms to email@example.com by August 1.
JUNE 18 - CROSSLIGHT
REVIEW BY NICK MATTISKE
REVIEW BY NICK MATTISKE
REVIEW BY JEAN WARRINER
REVIEW BY TIM LAM
BOOK | THE SHEPHERD’S HUT | TIM WINTON
BOOK | PAUL: A BIOGRAPHY | TOM WRIGHT
BOOK | OLD OLD AGE: A BRIEF GUIDE | IAN HANSEN
FILM | COME SUNDAY | M
IN Tim Winton’s fiction, reconciliation, sacrifice, redemption and the like work themselves out in the lives of society’s fringe-dwellers – those not usually thought of as upright, moral citizens. In Winton’s latest novel, The Shepherd’s Hut, main character and narrator Jaxie is a teenage ‘delinquent’ from the wrong side of the tracks (literally – he lives by the railroad tracks – some heavy symbolism in a book full of it). His mother has died from cancer and Jaxie has left school, mainly because of making himself into an obvious nuisance. When his abusive father accidentally kills himself, Jaxie takes it as an opportunity to finally escape. He leaves his one-horse Western Australian town, heading bush like an Aussie Huck Finn. Jaxie is not the churchy type; Winton lets us know he finds it all ‘mumbo-jumbo’. However, his desperate longing is a type of prayer; he has a home-grown, crude morality, and his story echoes the biblical flights of Jacob and David, whose obvious external deficiencies hide divine purpose. God often works through those on the edge, and although Jaxie scoffs at the idea of someone being an ‘instrument of God’, later he is told explicitly that he is just that. Winton captures an authentic voice, with its rough-as-guts vernacular (enough to make an outback trucker pause). Jaxie is disenchanted and wary of the human world, but comfortable with surviving in the bush, where a stripping back to basics also brings one closer to the divine. Jaxie’s meeting with the occupant of the hut in the book’s title and the Wild West climax are, again, heavy with symbolism, but they allow Winton to show how gospel values might appear in outcasts and ne’er-do-wells, those who in the Gospels are the recipients of the Kingdom of God.
A NEW book from Tom Wright is always notable, even at the pace he churns them out. Here he returns to probably his biggest topic, Saint Paul. This book is conceived as a popular biography, rather than another book on Paul’s theology, except that inevitably, what the author talks about when he talks about Paul is theology, as this was Paul’s life focus. Wright says that we need to see Paul foremost through his status as a Jew now preaching Christ, as opposed to more modern psychanalytical readings of Paul. This requires someone of Wright’s expertise, who knows the theology backwards, particularly in its Jewish context, which has probably been Wright’s biggest refrain over his career. By taking Acts and Paul’s letters chronologically, Wright shows how life and theology intermingle, and how differences in style can be explained by pressing issues. Paul is a deep, systematic thinker, but also driven by pastoral concerns. We see theology being made by necessity, a new religion on-the-fly, except that, of course, Paul was not creating a new religion but preaching Jesus as Judaism’s climax. As such, Paul had to negotiate remaining Jewish while also opening up the promises of Judaism to the whole world which, paradoxically, meant he ended up offending almost everyone. A highlight of Wright’s biography is how he immerses us in the immediacy of Paul feeling his way through the implications of preaching a homeless, executed man as Israel’s Messiah. This required all of Paul’s restless energy, but also cost him dearly. Wright’s biography is a reminder to not restrict Paul’s theology to our own narrow interpretations, and to not get caught up in dichotomies of social and personal, spiritual and practical, theological and pastoral, law and gospel. Paul’s message is all-encompassing.
THIS book is written by a man in his late 80s. He tells of how the world has changed greatly from the one he grew up in. Early in his life there was no electricity or any of the modern conveniences which we use today and have become dependent on. There were no televisions or refrigerators or washing machines. Cars and telephones were rare. People talked instead of texted. They socialised and got to know each other. Most people went to church and their children went to Sunday school. This was how friendships were formed. They didn’t believe in sex before marriage and faithfulness to one’s partner was the norm. Anyone who wanted a job could get one which then may have lasted until retirement. Most men left school and began work, whereas for most women their path was school, work, marriage, housewife and raising children. After the children had grown up and left home, a woman may have re-joined the workforce. Such a path can help women to be more adaptable and to be better able to cope with transition into retirement, the author critiques. Because a man’s life has been very much that of the ‘bread winner’, they are at risk of feeling obsolete. As women socialise more this may not affect them in the same way, “men share activities; women share feelings,” Hansen writes. He also says that ageing can limit mobility so that one may grieve for the loss of friends and access to some of life’s past pleasures. The book advises it is important to keep active in retirement and to ease into it with part-time or casual work. For those who can travel, this has the benefit of making them feel younger. Although I found this book difficult to read, particularly the first chapter, I believe it was worth the effort. It could be of interest to anyone who wants to know what it can be like to grow old and still live well.
Available from SPCK Publishing. RRP: $35
Available from Australian Scholarly Publishing RRP: $29.95
CARLTON Pearson was one of the most popular preachers in America during the 1990s, his Pentecostal mega-church regularly drawing more than 5000 worshippers. But when he saw footage of starving children in Rwanda, Pearson had an epiphany: Jesus died for all humanity and even those who do not believe in Christ will go to Heaven. Convinced it was a message from God, Pearson began publicly challenging his own fundamentalist teachings on eternal damnation, putting him on a collision course with his congregation and the church hierarchy. Pearson’s remarkable story has been adapted into a Netflix feature film starring Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave). Ejiofor’s captivating performance as the charismatic preacher is undoubtedly the highlight of the film. He is supported by a strong cast including Jason Segel as his fundamentalist Christian friend and Martin Sheen as the influential televangelist Oral Roberts. Pearson’s opponents are, perhaps refreshingly, not portrayed as cartoonish caricatures. Conservative Christians are not always favourably represented in mainstream movies, often stereotyped as self-righteous Bible-thumpers. While the filmmakers clearly align themselves with Pearson’s more progressive ‘Gospel of Inclusion’, Come Sunday remains respectful of fundamentalist Christians. Pearson and his detractors are not depicted as bitter enemies on opposite ends of the theological spectrum. They are close friends who find themselves driven apart by irreconcilable interpretations of the Word of God. Pearson’s desire to preach a message of inclusion not only leads to fractured personal relationships but also a schism within his own congregation. Disillusioned members walk out of his services and brand him a heretic. Declining numbers render his church property unsustainable. With the Uniting Church set to debate a number of delicate issues at the upcoming Assembly, Come Sunday warns us how quickly theological deliberations can descend into harmful bickering and even accusations of heresy. This can cause enormous hardship and division within a faith community as people retreat into their own echo chambers. But as Pearson’s story demonstrates, it can also be an opportunity to transform and liberate our lives, opening our minds to new ways of thinking. Come Sunday can be streamed on Netflix.
Published by Penguin Books Australia RRP: $39.99
This is the second of two reviews that Jean Warriner wrote during her university work experience at Crosslight in April. Jean worships at Ascot Vale Uniting Church.
CROSSLIGHT - JUNE 18
Social media round-up There were plenty of inspiring activities captured by our Uniting Church congregations this month, from community festivals to Pentecost celebrations. We also visited Chelsea Uniting Church and filmed a short video of their Messy Church in action. Families there explained how they are making church fun and interactive for people across all generations. You can watch it on our Facebook video page: https://www. facebook.com/ucavictas/videos/
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Facebook: SacredEdge festival in full swing
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Beatrix Van der Sant and Milkshake
Garry and Gypsy Jill
Locals and newcomers mix happily
Sundays at Bellbrae Uniting Church are furry and friendly, as these pictures from a recent service show. “We take pride in being a place where all who come to us find a warm welcome for themselves and their animal companions,” Bellbrae member Carleen Thoernberg said. “We have three or four regular dogs and lots of visiting canines and the occasional guinea pig. “On the Sunday pictured two of the dogs were visitors who had never been invited into church before. They had a great time with two of our regular dogs.” Also at that service rescue dog Gypsy Jill was introduced to the congregation by Garry, a regular visitor from Ballarat. But the canines weren’t the only creatures on show. Six-year-old Beatrix Van der Sant also brought along her guinea pig Milkshake, otherwise known as Milky. Whenever they stay with their grandparents, Beatrix and her sister Neve attend the church and help run the attached book shop and op shop. “Bea is a ball of dynamite especially after she has examined the free-for- children boxes we have in both shops,” Carleen said. Bellbrae is located near Torquay and the surfing mecca of Bells Beach, so the small congregation gets a regular flow of visitors.
“We are all different and rejoice in our differences and the fact that our visitors and occasional worshippers feel so at home,” Carleen said, adding that many linger after each service to enjoy “real” coffee and scones. As one of four linked Surf Coast Uniting Churches that rotate having services with a minister, Sundays at Bellbrae are often a bit different. “On our second Sunday we have a guest minister or a lay preacher and that is our talking day; we love to discuss things during worship. All opinions are valued,” Carleen said. “Sometimes the reflection/discussion goes on so long that we are still talking an hour-anda-half after our service begins. All the ministers who come to us are comfortable with our questioning and desire to discuss things. “Once a month we have a service planned by our worship team, which can include some or all of us.” Music is a strong point of the church. “We have our very own band, which includes piano, cornet, violin and sometimes guitar as well. We love to sing,” Carleen said. On fifth Sundays of the month Bellbrae has café church. On some occasions the congregation participates in a Taize service, which is an ecumenical and contemplative style of worship based around singing, chanting and readings.
JUNE 18 - CROSSLIGHT
“ T H E R E I S O N LY Y O U A N D Y O U R C A M E R A . T H E L I M I TAT I O N S I N Y O U R P H O T O G R A P H Y A R E I N Y O U R S E L F, F O R W H AT W E S E E I S W H AT W E A R E .” — Ernst Haas
St John’s Uniting Church, Mt Waverley presented a dementia awareness seminar.
Diamond Valley Parish Uniting Church hosted their annual arts festival. A number of beautiful hand-made quilts were on display as the community enjoyed an afternoon of activities, food and singing.
Graeme Wells presented Jean Johnston from the Howlong congregation with her 25year certificate of faithful service as a recognised lay preacher. Jean has also been an authorised lay presider for the sacraments at Howlong.
Royal wedding fever hits St John’s UC op-shop in Elsternwick.
The Voices of Frankston (associated with the Choir of Hard Knocks) and the ConChord Sri Lankan Choir performed at St John’s Uniting Church, Mt Waverley in April. The concert, sponsored by the Uniting Churches of Mt Waverley and Chadstone, raised $3073 for The Voices of Frankston.