Issue 31, No 9, 2012
God and suffering
Seeking asylum Don't Go Back to Where You Came From p.13
Playing in the park Playgroups descend on Semaphore p. 24
Contents Outstanding care and support for older people and their carers since 1935 Home care and support services for older people living in the metropolitan area, Adelaide Hills, Murraylands, Riverland and the Limestone Coast. Flexible, individual assistance with daily tasks, social support and personal care. In-home, individual or group respite for carers (including overnight options at Westbourne Park and Naracoorte). Therapy Services for rehabilitation, health and well being, at Marion, Elizabeth or Paradise. For details, visit the website or phone 1300 13 66 33. (For the cost of a local call, you will be diverted to the nearest office.)
Residential Services Independent retirement living at Marion, Bellevue
Heights, Malvern and Paradise, phone 8370 3756. Residential aged care accommodation; high and low care, secure dementia units and residential respite. Locations: Bellevue Heights, Craigmore, Leabrook, Malvern, Marion, Mitcham, Murray Bridge, Mount Gambier, Paradise and Westbourne Park. Phone 8373 0211 or visit:
012 10 New Times.indd 1
8/14/2012 11:08:48 AM
FEATURES Love is many, splendid things
The violence of silence
Two little girls and God
Don't Go Back to Where You Came From
Learning in lament
Playing in the park
REGULAR PAGES Moderator’s Comment
Letters to the Editor
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Call to ministry Is God's call general or specific? How do you know if you've heard it? Hear from a variety of voices who have sensed a call to ministry in likely, and not-so-likely, forms. iStockphoto reference: Cover onceawitkin; p.11 dragoninteractive; p.13 EdStock
We live in a fortunate culture that facilitates long and, hopefully, healthy lives. We often grow to an old age, watch our faces sag, our skin fold and our steps shorten. We begin to lean on synthetic supports more and more as we age – the help of others, the sturdy steel of a walking frame, the daily vitamins and chemicals to promote our health and wellbeing. We watch our loved ones pass on, sometimes slipping easily into the afterlife, sometimes tortured with chronic diseases. What can be assured is that we will live and we will die; for many though, there will be much suffering in between, be it physical, emotional or spiritual. At times this suffering can withdraw the total strength of its recipient and so, they choose to bring about their own death to end the pain through assisted dying or euthanasia. I recently watched a fascinating documentary titled ‘Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die’ in which the science fiction author, made famous by his successful series ‘Discworld’, shared openly of the onset of his Alzheimer's and his plans to die with assistance. Over the course of an hour, the show traced the stories of a number of people as they battled illness and investigated their options. After significant moments, Terry reflected on his own journey and was clearly troubled at the distress of loved ones left behind. The open-ended finale made no judgments on what was right or wrong. These were not black and white situations. Those who were choosing to die had greatly valued their life and now, in their suffering, were choosing to go - for some to end their suffering, for others to prevent the further suffering of their partners, their children, or in one case, their parents. It was a deeply moving documentary and, as I felt a tear slip down my cheek, with it came an incredible desire to live fully, extending my best efforts to love the worlds closest to me, and the globe as a whole.
It demonstrated the tender and touching side of suffering and highlighted the significant complexities that suffering encompasses. Suffering is particularly difficult as a theological topic. It is often dealt with severely or triumphantly; sins are blamed, or overcoming is expected. For faithful believers who are crippled by terminal illness, neither explanation is fair. Too often we mask God’s words with our own, shouting loudly into someone’s suffering, while God may be whispering words of solace or simply deliberating in silence. Suffering is, at times, an horrific mystery. We cannot avoid it or excuse it - we often cannot even assess its source. As people of faith, perhaps there is more importance in solidarity with those who are suffering and taking their petitions to God, than there is in an account of it. When we petition for others, or for ourselves, we know we do not petition alone, but through and with Christ. Does that ease the suffering? Not always. A problem shared is not always a problem halved - sometimes it’s just a problem shared. And sometimes that is the best we can hope for.
Need more Uniting Church news? The voice of the Uniting Church in South Australia, New Times is the go-to source for people wanting to learn more about the breadth, diversity and vision of the Church in South Australia and beyond. To increase the number of copies delivered to your church, contact Katrina Levi on (08) 8236 4266 or email email@example.com
My first day as a Student Chaplain at a major Adelaide teaching hospital really threw me a curveball. I had been given the names of two patients to visit, after which I was to return to the Chaplain’s Office to reflect with him. The first visit was fairly straightforward. I sat with a rural man in his late 60s who was recovering from hip replacement surgery. He talked about how this operation was going to give him a new freedom to work on his fruit block. He acknowledged that he’d have to take things slowly at first, but he was sure that an improved quality of life was just over the horizon for him. The second visit, wasn’t so straightforward. The name hadn’t meant anything to me but when I saw the patient, I was speechless. I was confronted by the frailty and obvious distress of this woman in her early 50s suffering from terminal cancer.
“Hi Robert – it’s been a long, long time,” she said quietly. I was stunned. No one outside my immediate family called me “Robert” anymore though others, who knew me prior to my working years, might have once done. “It’s me, Helen – Helen Jacobsen.” That was not the surname I had been given on my patient’s record, but as soon as she mentioned it, I vividly recalled the beautiful, 20-something woman who had lived in a flat in my late aunt’s house with her new husband. Still standing just inside the door, I felt my eyes well up with tears. Here was someone who, in my junior years, had encouraged me in my love of music, piano-playing and singing, someone who had always made me feel like the centre of the universe whenever we talked. And here she was now, almost unrecognisable and in great pain.
How was I supposed to minister to her? She invited me to sit in the chair closest to her and offered me her hand. “This is tough for you, isn’t it?” she said as she held my hand. “Tough for me? What about you?” I replied. “I’m really hurting,” she said. “But, you know, the toughest thing for me at the moment is coping with wellmeaning visitors blaming God for my situation and heaping sympathy on me. They say things like ‘This isn’t fair. Why should this be happening to you?’ “Their questions have helped me to really examine my position and I’ve come to the point where I no longer ask myself – why me? I have found some peace and strength in asking myself – why not me?”
Love is many, splendid things When the sun hides itself low behind the hills and candles light up across parks, plains and TV stations, we know that Christmas isn’t far away. These special evenings when the carols strike up, as people are gathered together in twos and threes, hundreds and thousands, remind us that Christmas is better when it’s spent together. Christmas is a great reminder that love is community. And that’s the simple message of our Christmas postcard campaign. The front is pictured (at left), and the back simply notes that ‘Love is many, splendid things’ and invites the recipients to your Christmas services. The rear of the card also features images from Uniting Churches across South Australia who hosted a CommUnity Day event this year. As we celebrate the love of God this Christmas season, we have an opportunity to extend that love with our wider communities also – an invitation at this time of year may be what they’ve been waiting for. Orders can be placed online at sa.uca.org.au/postcards.
Christmas postcards and CommUnity Your custom church greeting here.
Your Christmas service/ event details here
For more information about Uniting Church community events, worship services and practical support, please visit sa.uca.org.au/Christmas
This year, the Christmas postcards share the visual style of the CommUnity Day banners which will grace Uniting Churches across Adelaide and South Australia from Friday 2 November (which is also World Community Day). The banners will also tie in with the ‘love is’ theme of the 2013 Uniting Church SA calendar. Postcards cost $65 per 1000. If your congregation would like in excess of 10,000 we can negotiate a more heavily discounted rate. Registrations close on Friday 19 October and cards are available for pick from the Presbytery and Synod meeting on 2-3 November. Enquiries can be directed to the Communications Unit: p. (08) 8236 4249 e. firstname.lastname@example.org
Are we listening? Denise Champion and Mark Waters “Are we listening? Will we act?” are the cornerstone questions posed by former ABC Foreign Correspondent, Jeff McMullen, having seen ‘Our Generation’, a film on the Northern Territory Intervention. “The truth in this film is like a red hot poker driven into the conscience of a nation,” he continued. Our Generation is a story told through the eyes of Yolngu people from Arnhem Land. The film covers themes of self-determination, the Northern Territory Intervention and the enforced breaking down of traditional lifestyles. Complex issues are exposed as the film highlights the role of the Australian Government ‘Stronger Futures’ legislation which has cemented many aspects of the Northern Territory Intervention in Arnhem Land and other communities - to their detriment. The UAICC has joined forces with Brougham Place Uniting Church to host a screening of Our Generation on Wednesday 31 October 2012 at 7.30 pm. This event will help attendees to grapple with the issues portrayed in the film and be informed about what has been happening since the 2007 Northern Territory Intervention. Filmgoers will also hear about what these issues mean for our church and how individuals can respond. Denise Champion is the Covenanting Coordinator for Uniting Church SA. Mark Waters is a member of Brougham Place Uniting Church and the State Manager for Reconciliation SA.
Our Generation screening Date: Wednesday 31 October, 7:30-9:30pm Venue: Brougham Place Uniting Church, North Adelaide Speakers will include Rev Prof Andrew Dutney.
The Heart of Worship – ACC 2012 The annual general meeting and gathering for the Assembly of Confessing Congregations (ACC) was held on 13-15 September at the Nunyara Conference Centre in the Adelaide Hills. It brought members and beyond together to worship and hear from four keynote speakers, Rev Martin Bleby, Rev Mike Raiter, Rev Deane Meatheringham and Rev Dr Peter Davis. The papers (or their summaries) will be published in the ACCatalyst magazine.
Friends behind burkhas Bindy Taylor Many have expressed fear and concern in light of the wellpublicised riots by Muslims in recent weeks. A number of Muslim leaders have raised their voices and called for peace in contrast to the conflict. In Australia, Islam is a minority religious group with only 2.25% of the total Australian population (476,000 people) identifying themselves as Muslim. There is much we do not know or understand about the Muslim culture, and for many, this unknowing is a source of unease. But Islam shares many similarities to Christianity. We follow one God, we dress up for our communal gathering, we believe people should follow the moral teachings of the prophets and much more. The University of SA International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding is playing an integral part in researching the divide between Muslim and non-Muslim worlds and promoting education of how to bridge perceived barriers. The Centre recently won a grant to develop a project titled 'Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Muslims but Were Afraid to Ask', a 40-minute DVD with accompanying teaching materials designed for secondary school students. The project highlights the Centre’s desire to increase understanding around the key issues of discord that undermine community wholism.
Light eternal Dr Judith Schneider The Council of Christians and Jews in Western Australia gathered on Thursday 9 August at St Peter’s and Emmaus Church to discuss the Uniting Church’s document, ‘Jews and Judaism: A statement by the Uniting Church in Australia’, which is the basis of a DVD and booklet called ‘Light Eternal’. Many Christians, by viewing Judaism as a phenomenon from the past, have failed to appreciate that Judaism has developed as Christianity has. Christian Scriptures, which draw heavily from the Hebrew Scriptures, should alert us to a developing understanding of God in scripture, from an oft violent God to a more compassionate one. Christians should ask “Why are there Christians here?” and “Why are there still Jews here?” The Uniting Church in Australia’s ‘Light Eternal’ discussion kit is available to all Uniting Church congregations through the Assembly.
New gold, silver and bronze New Times won three awards for its 2011 publications at the recent Australasian Religious Press Association (ARPA) Awards for Excellence held in Wellington, NZ on Saturday 8 September. The awards were: Best Headline Gold - "Women: finding faith beyond that fateful fruit", May 2011 Creativity Award Silver - "Missing a Mark Graphic Novel liftout", June 2011 (L-R) Peter Bentley, ACCatalyst; Penny Mulvey, Crosslight, Vic/Tas; Mardi Lumsden, Journey, Qld; Deb Bennett, Crosslight; Caryn Rogers, New Times, SA; Marjorie Lewis-Jones, Insights, NSW/ACT; Chip Henriss, Crosslight; Stephen Webb, Insights; Heather Dowling, Revive, WA; Bindy Taylor, New Times.
Catherine Hoffman, New Times Intern In the July edition of New Times we advertised for the contract position of ‘New Times Intern’ and we are pleased to introduce our successful candidate: Catherine Hoffman. She has been working diligently with the Communications team since early September. Catherine brings experience in student journalism, having been editor of On Dit, the University of Adelaide’s student newspaper, in 2008. During her time as editor, she completed an Arts degree with a dual major of English and Anthropology. Since graduating, Catherine has achieved two graduate diplomas but has returned to her journalism roots to investigate what God is calling her to. We are very excited to have Catherine on board with us for three months, and we hope you enjoy and are challenged by her articles in the remaining 2012 editions of New Times.
Creativity Award Bronze - "Body Anatomy", July 2011. These awards were amongst 14 won by the Uniting Church publications nationally. Congratulations to all!
Placements news Placements finalised since the September edition of New Times: Rev Christine Gilbert to St Andrews by the Sea, Glenelg from 1 January 2013 Rev Gerry Hodges to Eldercare , Cottage Grove from 1 January 2013 Cheryl Wilson, Candidate for MOW to Eldercare, Maitland from 1 January 2013
Inaugural Robert Iles Memorial Lecture
What are our options today when facing the challenge of knowing the best way to represent the gospel to the world? Prof. Brian Edgar Professor of Theological Studies Asbury Theological Seminary, Kentucky 7.30 p.m., Thursday, 8th November, 2012 Supper Burnside City Uniting Church Cnr. Portrush Road and Fisher Street, Tusmore
Theodicy Where is God when it hurts? Is there purpose in suffering? Why do the righteous fall while the wicked prosper? The theology of suffering – theodicy – is a difficult, but necessary discussion point for Christians.
The violence of silence Catherine Hoffman Suicide affects more people than the silence around the subject suggests. And that silence is not easing the suffering. Suicide remains one of the least talked about causes of death in modern society. There is little education or discussion about suicide in schools and communities, despite the fact that suicide deaths greatly outnumber car crash fatalities in Australia, every year. The government regularly runs disturbing ad campaigns in a bid to curb reckless driving. Road death tolls are frequently covered in the media. Suicide, however, is swept under the proverbial carpet. Although there is general support for bringing the issue of suicide into the light of the public sphere, the sentiment is rarely accompanied by action. So the Uniting Church, in conjunction with Uniting Communities and Lifeline, said, very publically, that it was time to talk.
At noon on World Suicide Prevention Day, Monday 10 September, approximately 200 people gathered in Adelaide’s Victoria Square to march on the silence of suicide in the inaugural ‘Out of the Shadows’ walk. King William Street was temporarily closed for the march from Victoria Square to Parliament House. The sea of orange Out of the Shadows balloons and black ‘Suicide: it’s no secret’ t-shirts adorned much of the large crowd . At Parliament House, the Honourable John Hill MP, Minister for Health and Ageing and Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, spoke about the need to further support services and promote discussion surrounding the topic of suicide. Later that afternoon, Scots Church hosted the second annual candle lighting service, which gave an
opportunity for those touched by suicide to light a candle for their lost loved ones. There is still more dedicated time to talk this year, including at rural events and an aboriginal forum. All details for these events are available online at nosecret.org.au or by emailing Sarah Williamson on email@example.com. Need to talk to someone? Calls to Lifeline are free from both landlines and mobile phones and are always open on 13 11 14. Further information on services can also be found at nosecret.org.au.
Suicide: it’s no secret Last year, Uniting Church SA Moderator, Rev Rob Williams, and Justice and Advocacy Officer, Rev Sarah Williamson, launched the ‘Suicide: it’s no secret’ campaign. Through this campaign they encouraged focused discussion about suicide’s prevalence, education on help available and gave opportunities to grieve loved ones lost to suicide. The suffering will not go on in silence.
Two little girls and God’s love Suffering and sickness is often more difficult to witness when its pains are visited on children. Rev Graham Nicholls recalls a story of love, leukaemia and loss from one of his times spent in India. It was a birthday party quite unlike any other party I had ever attended. It was 21 June 2007. We were celebrating the 10th birthday of two lovely girls, Priya and Bhakti - in the Haematology Department of the Christian Medical College Vellore, India. The pair had little in common beyond their age. Priya - gaunt, withdrawn and unwell - seemed reluctant to be there; Bhakti - round-faced with dancing eyes - was into everything. Both the girls had been in the hospital for months, suffering with different forms of leukaemia. They were both going through programmes of chemotherapy, but neither was being affected too successfully. The pile of sandals and thongs outside the door gave an indication of the large number of parents, grandparents, friends, staff and kids who had packed into the Children’s Play Room that day. Most of the children had lost their hair; many of them wore gauze masks for protection from infection. That didn’t stop any of them from participating in a wild game of musical chairs, or gleefully ripping open the parcel that was passed around in a game of pass-the-parcel which offered little gifts for every child. They then tucked into all sorts of goodies and the special cake that had been prepared for the two birthday girls. It was a day of great fun. About a month after the party, I had an urgent call asking that I visit Bhakti and her parents in the hospital. The months of chemo had failed to kill off the sick cells in Bhakti’s young body. There could be no further treatment; she would have to return home to die. Bhakti had not yet been told. I dreaded the visit, but went and found Bhakti’s father was alone with her. ”I cannot believe in God anymore,” Bhakti’s father cried out in a tearful tirade when I entered the room. “Why have they not healed her?” He was on the floor, kneeling at my feet with his arms around my legs, desperately pleading for help and answers. I managed to get him out of the room and into the passage. But even there he was sobbing and shouting. He pleaded for me to speak to his doctor and ask if there was any alternative treatment and would he try just one more cycle of chemo in an effort to destroy Bhakti’s sick cells?
“There is no chance any further treatment would help, Graham,” the doctor told me later. “But, one of my colleagues has suggested I might try a different form of chemo. It is a very long shot. Tell her father I will try once more. But I am not hopeful.” The next cycle of chemo was only slightly more effective. “We are taking her home, Father Graham. We have simply told her we are taking her home for respite,” her father said. Over the next three weeks I had three phone calls from them. The first was Bhakti telling me about her dearly loved little dog and saying that she was well. In the second, Bhakti said that she had been to Sunday school and had seen all her friends and had so much fun. The third phone call was from her mother, to say that Bhakti had died. “Please pray for us. Our eldest boy died just three weeks before we discovered Bhakti had leukaemia. Now we only have our younger son left.” How is it possible to talk to that family about the love of God? How could I answer the unanswerable questions that were thrown at me day by day at the hospital? The distraught and angry father pacing around the annex outside the ward: “Don’t you come here telling me that God loves me. Is it love to give leukaemia?” Or the Hindu husband who lost his wife and emailed me in Australia to thank me for helping him and his sons, but who said, “I can never believe in God again.” Unlike our country, where God is brought out on high days and holidays, like a piece of bone china to be dusted down and put back until next Sunday, next Christmas or whenever, in India, God is the God of every day, every situation and every conversation. There, it is not the existence of God that is under the microscope but the veracity of his nature and actions. The unanswerable “why?” was met down every corridor of the wards - as well as in my own heart. But I draw comfort from the indelible image of God himself gasping out the question from the cross, “Why have you abandoned me?” In the moment which God gasped that question, God also was and ‘is’ the answer. Surely we cannot blame God for all the perverse things that happen in our lives, whether they be illnesses, accidents, natural disasters or unforeseen circumstances. Nor ought
Theodicy we declare this or that has happened because God is punishing us for our sins. We should rather acknowledge the presence of evil in our world, and the accumulating effect of human determination to do our own thing down through the millenniums and “to hell with God.” God has never said, “to hell with humanity.” Rather he was prepared to involve himself in my life at its very worst so that I might have life at its very best. Edward Shillito in his poem, ‘Jesus of the Stars’ says it best for me: The other gods were strong, but Thou wast weak. They rode but Thou didst stumble to a throne. But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak. And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone. Though Bhakti’s life was lost, Priya continues to make a steady recovery. Broken-hearted people everywhere will find answers to their unanswerable questions if they can see God’s unfailing love in me… and in you. Rev Graham Nicholls is a retired minister, footballer and opera singer.
Uniting College for Leadership & Theology
Want to know more about being Uniting? Heritage, Theology & Polity of the Uniting Church A degree level intensive investigation of the UCA: who we are, where we came from, how we are organised and where we are going. UCA President Rev Prof Andrew Dutney, 11-15 February 2013. Equipping in our Christian Heritage A new and interesting VET Diploma unit which explores what the Uniting Church is, what it is about, and what it stands for. Available via distance education. Financial assistance available! Uniting College for Leadership & Theology is the ministry training and theological education agency of the Uniting Church SA. Uniting College is a member college of the Adelaide College of Divinity, a registered Higher Education Provider and Registered Training Organisation
CONTACT: 08 8416 8420 firstname.lastname@example.org unitingcollege.org.au acd.edu.au
Pilgrim Uniting Church in the City 12 Flinders Street, Adelaide
DOCTRINE OF DISCOVERY: IMPACT ON FIRST PEOPLES THEN AND NOW The Doctrine of Discovery provided that by law and divine intention European Christian countries gained power and legal rights over indigenous non-Christian peoples immediately upon their “discovery” by Europeans.
A LOOK INTO THE PAST TO TALK ABOUT THE FUTURE Professor ROBERT MILLER Professor of Law at Eastern Oregon University, Shawnee Indian from Oklahoma
Panel members will also give a MAORI and an ABORIGINAL perspective Tuesday 30 October 2012 7.00pm – 9.30pm Cost: $15 or $10 (unwaged) PILGRIM CENTRE (12 FLINDERS STREET) Booking essential 8212 3295 email@example.com More information at www.pilgrim.org.au/dod This is a joint activity between Pilgrim, and the Research Unit for the Study of Society, Law and Religion of the University of Adelaide.
Hope starts here Suffering has many faces throughout the Philippines, reports Cath Taylor. In any discussion about evil, suffering and the hand of God, our international partners have much to add to the conversation. These are often people who live amongst tragedy on a scale foreign to most of us. They are also people who live amongst hope and redemption. “At the height of Typhoon Sendong, communities were literally wiped out by the sea,” says Rev Luna Dingayan, from Baguio Seminary in the Philippines. “I’m sure many of them were faithful to God - in fact, some of them were United Church of Christ Philippines members. Does God really care for the innocent?” Asked about the source of suffering, Luna responds thoughtfully. Evil is the result of human action in the world, as is evident in tragedies like the flooding in Mindanao. Investigations into the loss of life along the Cagayan River revealed that disregard for urban planning, political greed and contempt for the environment all played their part in the disaster. “I don’t believe it is God’s will that innocent people are washed out to sea,” Luna says. “The forces of evil manifested by the greed of politicians, who used their connections and influence to obtain logging concessions in the forest reservations of Iligan, resulting in the denuding of the forest reserves, caused the flash flood.”
If people contribute to suffering they also have a redemptive role. In and through each of us, as we model the life of Jesus, the love of God is revealed. “This is one of the great paradoxes of biblical faith,” says Luna. “In the midst of brokenness and powerlessness God’s power and goodness are concretely shown.” Christians can be overwhelmed by the suffering of the millions dying of starvation or leading marginal existences in refugee camps. How can we possibly make the love of God known in these situations? Luna suggests we begin by embracing the suffering of others even those far away - as though it is our own. He recalls the words of Paul: “The universal church is like a body with many parts. If one part suffers, the whole body suffers.” Drawing closer to the suffering of others often begins with education and prayer. Many of us don’t care because we don’t know. For those who are able, Luna suggests a more hands-on approach. “Partners from Western Churches must continue sending volunteers, mission
interns, people on study tours and immersion visits to parts of the world where people experience suffering. “When we stand in solidarity, suffering can be eased. We acknowledge with deep gratitude that our Human Rights program in the Philippines has been carried out with the help of our partners. “People who have been tortured and imprisoned were released due to pressure from partner churches all over the world.” The suffering of people throughout the world is manifest on a grand scale. Hope starts with the redemptive life of Christ - love even in the midst of pain. You can read more of Cath’s interview with Luna online http:// unitingworld.org.au/blogs/whereis-god-when-it-hurts-rev-lunadingayan/ To find out more about the work of our Partner Churches internationally, to receive regular prayer updates or to hear about how to engage with Partners through volunteering or exposure trips, contact UnitingWorld on 8267 4232.
Don’t Go Back to Where You Came From Although Australia proudly claims cultural diversity, we hold conflicting views on the notion of human rights for foreigners, notes Elyse van Ryswyk. Many welcome international refugees as fellow citizens; others are equally biased against those seeking asylum. The plight of victims of forced evacuation from their homes has been investigated in the TV miniseries Go Back to Where You Came From, which aired its second season in late August. Through the pursuits of quasi-celebrities and political figures, SBS simulated the adverse experience of people escaping their homes in Mogadishu of Somalia and Kabul in Afghanistan. This controversial program challenged the personal morals of Peter Reith, Angry Anderson, Allan Asher, Catherine Deveny, Mike Smith and Imogen Bailey, who represented the spectrum of naïve aggression through to generous compassion in Australia. These participants evolved through an emotional journey which left them feeling grateful, yet guilty, for returning home to privilege. The show divulged a number of unpleasant facts about the lives of those in both of the featured countries. We were shown how asylum seekers are tortured and forced to leave their families, without any alternative to illegal travel. In context of the starvation plaguing forgotten nations, the Australian figures embraced a deeper understanding of modern reality. The previous production of Go Back to Where You Came From received industry honours including a Media Peace Award from the United Nations Association of Australia and the prestigious Golden Rose from Switzerland. The series invited viewers to look beyond Australia’s media manipulation of refugees to a prospect of global equality. Negative reviews suggested participants were misrepresented and misled in order to conjure ideal results. Skeptics noted the use of strategically selected refugees and questioned why those featured destroyed evidence of their identities. Considering its social impact, the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International were disappointed Australia’s politicians did not practically respond to the first series and it now seems the second has aired too late to affect the recently approved policy for offshore processing. This government initiative neglects our international obligations
by relocating asylum seekers to Nauru and Manus Island. The series proved that such utilitarianism misinterprets the nature of refugee flight and, rather than deterring others, it merely sacrifices human rights. By educating ourselves and others through websites such as Welcome to Australia: welcometoaustralia.org.au, and the UN Refugee Agency: unhcr.org, we are able to spread awareness rather than animosity. Instead of taking our sense of belonging for granted, we must take action to share it.
Asylum seeker or refugee? Asylum seekers are those hoping to secure international protection, whose claim has not yet been finalised by their preferred nation. By comparison, refugees flee their countries and cannot return for fear of being persecuted, due to their race, religion, political opinion or association with a social group.
Learning in lament
rowing up in the 1960s and 70s, having parents and grandparents who went through the Depression and war years, one of the things I learnt about pain and suffering was that talking about it wasn’t the done thing. It was certainly not the sort of thing to talk about at church. If things were bad at home or at work, you didn’t talk about it, you simply stopped feeling sorry for yourself and got on with it. As I got older, I also learned that staying quiet and not talking about pain and suffering doesn’t make it go away. In one way or another, we all experience suffering – through broken relationships, death, unexpected illness, or through violence against ourselves, our families, our communities. Suffering, especially unexpected, traumatic suffering, disrupts our lives in painful and unforeseen ways. Suffering may cause us to question the meaning of the world, leaving us in a fragile place where all the beliefs and practices we once cherished no longer make sense. Suffering can lead to a crisis in which our understanding of life disintegrates. For people of faith, suffering can lead to deep and difficult questions about the nature of God, the nature of the world, and the relationship between God and evil.
Dr Liz Boase is a Co-Director of Biblical Theology at Uniting College for Leadership & Theology. She is a published scholar who has a continuing love affair with the book of Lamentations. Staying quiet and simply getting on with life may work for a while, but ultimately the consequences of unresolved pain and anger resurface, leaving us emotionally and physically vulnerable. In staying quiet, the deep questions about the meaning of life and the nature of God do not go away. Ours is not the first generation to experience suffering. People have struggled with suffering and its meaning through the ages. The Bible itself deals with these very questions, and gives many different answers, some of which we might find helpful, others less so. When I began studying theology in my twenties, I found that the books of the Old Testament resonated deeply with me. People often ask me what it is about the Old Testament which grabbed my attention, and my usual response is that, in these ancient writings, we are able to find out a great deal about ourselves and what it means to be truly authentic human beings before God.
The place where that is most real for me is in those writings which deal with deep questions about pain and suffering. It is there that I find the courage to name and acknowledge the tough stuff of life. It is there that I find the language to bring all of who I am to God, in pain, in anger, and in hope. In these writings we learn an important lesson about suffering. It is OK to talk about it. Staying silent is not the answer. In the Psalms, Job and Lamentations, we encounter people calling, ranting, pleading and protesting to God out of their experiences of pain. Silence and shutting down emotion are not seen as viable or healthy options. Talking is laid out as the way to engage with God in the midst of pain. And in that tough place, God will be present. One third of the psalms are lament psalms which call out to God in times of distress. Laments often have a similar shape: they call out to God, they name the distress or suffering, and they ask God to bring relief. These
Theodicy are truly hopeful psalms. They assume that God hears the prayers of God’s people, and they believe that God can and will act. Nothing is out of bounds in the naming of suffering. In lament psalms, in Job and in Lamentations, we hear complaint about personal dimensions of suffering – physical pain, anguish, and turmoil; we hear complaint about the actions of others, the enemies, who harm or ridicule; and we hear complaints about God – both what God has and what God has not done. It’s all there, it's all named. God is assumed to be present to the pain, and present with the sufferer. Even darker and more frightening emotions are brought to God. Anger and the desire for vengeance are named – not to be acted upon, but also not hidden as if they didn’t exist. Even our darkest emotions can be brought before God. And God welcomes that honesty. In the book of Job, the innocent sufferer Job lays out his pain and anger. Job struggles deeply with God. He has always believed that suffering only comes to the wicked, but in his own suffering knows that he has done nothing to deserve his fate. Job finds his logical, ordered framework of right and wrong, sin and punishment to be inadequate. In his anguish, and in his integrity, Job holds on to his own innocence in the face of his friends’ increasingly direct assertions that Job must have sinned greatly to have suffered so badly. Job even goes as far as accusing God of injustice, unleashing on God his deepest torment.
The book closes with God appearing to Job, never really answering his questions, but assuring Job that it is he, and not his pious friends, who have spoken rightly. Job’s challenge to God might seem shocking, but what Job does, and God acclaims, is to speak with utter honesty, laying out all the pain and the questions. Job is not content to be silent and suppress his feelings, but is willing to name his anguish, clinging always to the belief that it is God who is the answer, even if God no longer makes sense. Job does not learn why he suffers, simply that suffering exists – it is there in the complex web of life. But in the midst of that reality, Job encounters the mystery of God, and in that Job can rest. Like Job, we may never truly understand suffering – its randomness, its unfairness. Like Job, we are not expected to remain silent. And in our honesty we too may encounter the mystery of God, present to us and with us even in our darkest moments. In that lies our greatest hope.
Heart-on-your-sleeve Rev Adam Tretheway
Housed in St Andrews by the Sea Uniting Church, UnitingCare Glenelg has a heart for people and a longing to see lives transformed. St Andrews is alive with a plethora of activities throughout every week. UnitingCare Glenelg primarily runs three programs from the historical site: the Friendship Cafe, Mary’s Soup Kitchen and Community Aid. These programs have been running for more than a decade, the Friendship Cafe for over 45 years. The backbone of the programs is the 80 volunteers, from church and community backgrounds. This compassionate team go above and beyond in every aspect of their work. Our vision is to treat people with respect, dignity and compassion – in a manner we believe reflects and honours Christ. At times, people who live on the jagged edges of life come into our midst; homeless, broken-hearted, lonely, isolated, battered, bruised or wounded by the curveballs life has thrown their way.
Our guests are often people who are in need of someone to sit with them and listen, to advocate on their behalf, to journey with them, to alleviate their burden or to provide emergency relief. We have created an environment of love, warmth, acceptance and hospitality where people are able to come as they are. Central to our work is finding ways to sow seeds of hope in the lives of those we meet and help people rediscover a greater sense of self-identity, meaning and purpose. Along with practical and material support, UnitingCare Glenelg also offers spiritual encouragement. Many wonderful, colourful discussions about God, spirituality, the church and religion are held around a bowl of homemade soup or outside on the steps of the church. A ‘table for refreshment’ is also available in the midst of the hospitality programs which provide various prayers, reflections or short bible passages to offer words of hope and encouragement. The ministry of prayer is also offered.
It has been uplifting seeing God at work in people’s lives with many beginning to explore matters of faith and begin attending worship. Because of the love, support and second chance in life people receive here, we have the privilege of seeing the “ripple effect”: people, in turn, beginning to act like shepherds – bringing along friends in need or reaching out, befriending, supporting, comforting, encouraging and sowing seeds of faith and hope. We’re excited to see lives being transformed and observe what God is doing in our midst. There is a great sense of anticipation for what lies beyond the horizon. If you are interested in being part of the ministry offered through UnitingCare Glenelg, please contact Rev Adam Tretheway: p. 8295 1771 e. firstname.lastname@example.org
Sun rises on 25 years for Sunset Rock
Painting of Sunset Rock Uniting Church’s vision by Pauline Overbeeke.
wenty-five years may not seem long for a church anniversary party, but Stirling’s Sunset Rock Uniting Church seized the opportunity to bring together past ministers and members on Sunday 26 August. One hundred and ninety people attended the anniversary service where they were able to reflect on the changes the church has experienced over the past quarter of a century.
The service also served as a call into action for the future. The beauty of having a reunion after only twentyfive years is that there were a number of people able to recall the church’s beginnings and how three churches became one. Ashton Memorial, Mt Lofty Congregational and Aldgate Methodist Churches, who still functioned separately after the 1977 Uniting Church amalgamation, finally came together a decade later, in 1987, to form Sunset Rock Uniting Church. The complex was developed from a former Presbyterian Campsite with two parts, one named Nioka and the other Sunset Rock. The event was celebrated with the unveiling of a wall hanging, titled ‘A Work in Progress’, which had been created by members of Sunset Rock’s congregation to depict the former churches amalgamating to form the present church. Sunset Rock member Pauline Overbeeke painted the church’s vision for the future “to know Christ and make Him known, through worship, fellowship and service to the community”. This large painting (pictured) now hangs in Sunset Rock’s Williamson Room for all to be reminded of the shared ideal and future.
Drawing history to a close Spalding Uniting Church will celebrate 85 years of ministry and, at the same time, close the congregation on Sunday 7 October. Samuel Trengove proudly laid the Foundation Stone on 6 October, 1927, with great hope for the future, one which was realised throughout a vital 85 years of faithful ministry. The church building was completed and opened in early 1928. The Spalding congregation has enjoyed inspiring and encouraging leadership from a number of ministers, many of whom have delighted in their life within a small rural community. The teaching and direction offered by the ministers eventually evolved into the formation of a Lay Ministry Team in 1996. For 16 years, lay members have led the congregation. Those years have seen a significant growth in participation in the life of the congregation and community. As with many small rural communities though, Spalding has farewelled retirees from the district and witnessed the passing of many aged folk which has made it too difficult to maintain the congregation.
Everyone is welcome at Spalding Uniting for this special occasion which will include a lunch and a display by the Spalding History Group. Samuel’s great-granddaughter, Rev Sarah Williamson, will be the guest preacher at the 10:30am service. Enquiries and apologies to Jan Trengove: p. 08 8842 2517 e. email@example.com
Event details at a glance Spalding Uniting Church: 85th Anniversary and Closing Service Where: Spalding Uniting Church When: Sunday 7 October, 10:30am Visitors are asked to bring a plate of food for a shared lunch. Luncheon will be held in Spalding District Hall.
24/7 work Tracey Taylor, UnitingCare Wesley Bowden
David Spear is currently the State Manager of the Australian Institute of Company Directors in South Australia. The high level executive is pictured here on a very different work day, serving lunch to dedicated carers, including Hazel and Heather.
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On Tuesday 11 September, more than 120 carers were treated to a very special afternoon of good food, great entertainment and a chance to relax and enjoy themselves. Carers are often ‘on-call’ 24/7. Their role can significantly affect their physical and mental health, is usually unpaid and often unacknowledged by the community. In 2004, a 10 year study undertaken by the South Australian Department of Health showed that 5.9% of South Australians provided long term care at home for a parent, partner, child or other relative or friend. UnitingCare Wesley Bowden assists hundreds of carers every day. We decided it was time to celebrate our carers and show them how appreciated they really are with a delicious three-course lunch in the magnificent Banqueting Room at the Adelaide Town Hall. Master of Ceremonies, Rob Popplestone, kept guests amused in between entertainers and courses with his easy banter, and even called his first game of bingo. Dozens of prizes were won, ensuring that most guests left with a memento from the day. This event would not have been possible without the generosity of our corporate supporters, including the Property Council of Australia, Adelaide Town Hall, Australian Institute of Company Directors, UnitingCare SA’s Pancake Day, Grant Thornton, the Peregrine Corporation, Australian Executor Trustees and the Commonwealth Bank. They supported the event with more than their cheque books, each sending along a few volunteers to wait on guests. We look forward to producing this event to celebrate carers again next year.
l e t t e r s t o e d i t or
Grief over sad past
I have only recently acquired a copy of the formerly unknown, ‘Apology Regarding Past Forced Adoptions’ which was tendered to the relevant senate standing committee on community affairs in November 2011. I hope it was also freely supplied to all the media to reach some of the 150,000 victims and the same number of affected babies – now adults – deliberately severed from each other. Wrongs are life, apologies are rare. It should not be merely a confession.
In the article ‘The Salt of Kindness’ (New Times, September), Reverend Phil Hoffmann tells of his recent visit to Saltaire, the site of Rev James Jeffries’ original church. He refers to the city of Bradford as “bustling and untidy”.
Something is sadly missing from the apology, an apology from all the ministers then and even now for their refusal to baptise the innocent babes. Did Jesus demand family pedigrees before he embraced and blessed the children gathered around Him? When He said, “suffer little children”, some ministers must have taken it literally, read no further and so denied a welcome into the Holy Family. That grieves me. Have they forgotten Matt 18?
I agree wholeheartedly with him regarding the untidy state. I grew up in Bradford in the 1940s-60s and in those days it was a great city, clean and tidy, with a proud history and many fine buildings. Today, Bradford suffers from those who have not sought to contribute to the city and take little to no pride in their immediate surroundings. Many suburbs have become run down and gardens are overgrown with rubbish strewn around.
K. Whitby, Plympton
Bradford today is seen nationally as the most deprived area in England. If Sir Titus Salt’s Christian conscience was troubled by the slum conditions in his time he would turn in his grave at Bradford’s condition now.
Are we still in a Field of Miracles?
B. Hodgson, Golden Grove
Thank you Louise for your generous book review of Brian Jefferies’ life and ministry in the book, Field of Miracles (New Times, September). Brian is a man who bridges two worlds, that of science through his sheep-breeding work, and that of the simple life of faith expressed through obedience, to do what Jesus would do in the face of human suffering. His confidence that God heals today is tempered by the reality that not all whom he prays for are healed. But that huge question of ‘why?’ does not deter him from pressing on to follow the way of Jesus. The Church is a richer community to have someone like Brian in our midst. Let’s hear a few more of these vital home spun stories of faith in action. A. George, Hope Valley
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diary KANGAROO ISLAND CHURCHES will be hosting Spirit Feast from Friday 5 – Sunday 7 October. Art, music, food and community participation will feature at this ecumenical event. Young Voices of Melbourne choir will launch the ‘Fanning the Flames’ art exhibition on Friday 5 October, and the weekend will culminate in the ‘Blessing of the Artists’ Service. As before, we’ll be yarnbombing the church in preparation! ART EXHIBITION TITLED ‘MOVEMENT’ by well known artist Hugh Adamson can currently be viewed at The Corner Uniting Church, corner of Diagonal Rd & Oaklands Rd, Warradale until Friday 19 October - open Tuesday to Friday, 10am to 3pm. For further details contact Reception, 8350 5400, or Pauline, 8376 2666. You are invited to attend WELLSPRING SA COMMUNITY DAY on Saturday 13 October at Christ Church, 26 King William Road, Wayville, beginning with a
shared lunch at 12.30pm. A number of members will be sharing what they are passionate about in the area of spirituality. This will be a good opportunity for those new to Wellspring to engage with others in ‘what makes their heart sing’. For further information please contact Brian Ball. ph. 8337 8517 email@example.com SPRING COMMUNITY FAIR at Adelaide West Uniting Church, 312 Sir Donald Bradman Drive, Brooklyn Park on Saturday 13 October, 8.30am – 3pm. Pancake & coffee breakfast (from 8am), second hand books, bric-a-brac, plants, cakes, produce, pre-loved clothing and excellent new crafts. Children’s activities – hot food and full BBQ. Gourmet cakes and coffee with café-style continuous entertainment from 10am, featuring Adelaide West Men’s Choir, Henley & Grange Concert Band, Visual Energy Studios Cheerleading Group, Fulham North Primary School, and local and community artists. Free entry all day. Enquiries 8234 1199. GRANGE UNITING CHURCH Spring Fete will be held on Saturday 13 October 2012 from 9am - 1.30pm at Grange Uniting Church (5 Beach St, Grange). Devonshire morning tea, crafts, cakes, plants, wooden toys, patchwork display,
playgroup activities, sausage sizzle, variety stalls and much more! For information, phone church office on 8355 0322 or email firstname.lastname@example.org BOOK LAUNCH: A new book on the steps which led to the formation of Pilgrim Church (formerly Union Church in the City) will be launched at the Pilgrim Centre on Sunday 21 October at 1pm by Rev Dr Brian Phillips. Author: Past Moderator of the Uniting Church in SA, Rev Keith Smith, who was Associate Minister at the Pirie Street Church during the lead-up to the amalgamation. Readers can buy a copy of the book for $24.95 by contacting Keith Smith mk_smith@aapt. net.au, 8338 1376. The launch of the NEW VISION FOR MAUGHAN UNITING CHURCH as an International Church will take place on Wednesday 7 November at 7pm. Government officials and UnitingWorld representatives will be invited. All are welcome to attend. THE NEXT PCNet SA resourcing day, focused on effective worship practices, will be held on Saturday 10 November at Effective Living Centre, Wayville. To book for this event, please contact Christine Gilbert: office@ effectiveliving.org or 82710329.
A contribution of $10 towards costs is appreciated. For more information, please see the website, www.pcnetsa.org WAIKERIE UNITING CHURCH will be celebrating their centenary on Sunday 11 November 2012 commencing with a church service at 9.30am and followed by a luncheon. Remembrance Day will be acknowledged at the appropriate time. If anyone is interested in attending these celebrations please contact Jan Francis (08)8541 2508, jif48@ riverland.net.au by 12 October as it is necessary to confirm bookings for the lunch. We look forward to welcoming all visitors to share in this special time with us. WOODVILLE CONCERT CHOIR will be performing on Sunday 18 November 2012 at 2pm in Grange Uniting Church (5 Beach St Grange). Following the one hour concert, afternoon tea will be served in the hall. Tickets are $12 ($10 concession). For more information, contact the church office on 8355 0322, email@example.com.
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reviews The seed of the church Book: The Very Stones Cry Out Authors: Baroness Caroline Cox and Benedict Rogers Recommended for: raising interest in the persecuted Church In short: An account of how Christians live and work under oppression in many countries today. Available from: amazon.com RRP: $28.95
The big D Book: Mourning After Suicide, and When Death Has Touched Your Life Authors: Lois Bloom and John Biegert, respectively Recommended for: those who offer pastoral care and comfort at the time of death In short: Two books of 32 pages that can provide comfort for a person struggling with one of life’s biggest challenges. Available from: MediaCom RRP: $6.75 each If cancer is sometimes referred to as the Big C, then I guess death could be the Big D. Any minister will tell you that there is no more extreme pastoral circumstance than accompanying people at the time of death – whether facing death or dealing with the death of a loved one. It can be one of the few times that people are really honest about believing in a God of love and facing the problem of evil. What do we say? How do we relate? It can help to have something reliable to offer a person in such times. Two small books that can be useful are Mourning After Suicide and When Death Has Touched Your Life. Mourning After Suicide begins, “I have relived the weeks before our son’s suicide over and over.” This is no artificial treatment of the subject. It is a collection of thoughts about the difficult topics of guilt, anger, stigma and forgiveness. It also includes prayers and an excellent bibliography. When Death Has Touched Your Life is a collection of thoughts, poems and prayers to help a person get a handle on the grief they are experiencing. Like Mourning After Suicide, it is helpful in its simplicity. Both books are written from a positive, faith perspective that engenders hope for the future and strength in the present, and are designed to be given to people at a time of grief and sadness.
The human rights of Christians are being violated on a wider scale today than at any time in history. In The Very Stones Cry Out, the authors bring stories to light from seventeen countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America, places where Christians are currently suffering under unjust national laws or where local leaders flout the law to oppress Christians. Each chapter begins by recounting an episode of violence against churches, before describing the general experience of Christians within that nation. The stories tell of brothers and sisters of our Lord who are brave enough to do, under fear of discovery, what we can neglect to do, in the name of convenience. The authors also remind us of how oppression and persecution have fallen away in other parts of the world. I enjoyed this book because it resonates with my love of stories of hope within experiences of pain. I have begun using the book as a guide to prayer, reading a chapter each day and interceding for each country in turn. Damien Tann
Getting scientific Book: The Language of Genetics: an introduction Author: Denis E Alexander Recommended for: those who have some background in science and an interest in genetics In short: Thorough and scholarly for a specialised audience. Available from: amazon.com RRP: $31.95
When I opened this book at random and read “the specialised prestin found in echolocating mammals provides…” I wondered about the lot of a book reviewer. I dutifully read it from beginning to end. It was not an easy read but there were some gems amongst the technical stuff. This book claims to be an introduction but is a very thorough and sometimes technical one, giving a history of the science of genetics from the earliest Greek philosophers onwards. It includes sections on the genetics of human evolution, the genetic basis of disease, and work on the human genome. The later chapters explore difficult topics such as genetic engineering with chapters such as ‘Genetics and life’s suffering’, ‘Genetics and the purpose of life’. Challenging but worth pursuing. This book will not appeal to everyone but I think my scientifically inclined son-in-law will enjoy it and even a lay person would benefit from the questions addressed in the last section, without needing to understand the intricacies of the science. Glenys Badger
Playing in the park The annual Playgroup in the Park (PiP) event is scheduled for Friday 26 October with more than 4,000 children, under the age of five, expected to attend the giant outdoor playgroup at Semaphore’s foreshore. The event is attended not only by church families, but also by the community at large. In the previous years, PiP has attracted a diverse group of attendees from a wide variety of socio-economic, cultural and ethnic backgrounds; it acts as a celebration of Children’s Week, community and of God’s love for families. “We are showing in action what we are about – God’s love,” says Kathy Blazewicz, the event organiser and Family Ministry facilitator of Woodville Uniting Church. Free food and drinks will be available on the day and each family will also receive a free giveaway bag. Children
will be entertained by a wide range of activities including painting, crafts, story-telling and performances by Sue Harris Puppets and Dan Burt the One Man Band. The 2012 event will be opened by mother of four, former attendee and exradio broadcaster, Amanda Blair.
PiP 2012: At a glance Date: Friday October 26, 10am-1pm Location: Semaphore Foreshore Cost: Everything is free! What to bring: Water bottle, hat, sunscreen & picnic lunch Facebook: facebook.com/playgroupintheparksa For more information contact Seaton Central: p. (08) 8235 9556 w. playgroupinthepark.org.au
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