National Update June 2012

 Welcome to the June edition of National Update with latest news from the Assembly.

Just a Thought

CorkinRev. Terence Corkin, General Secretary, Assembly

I was reading an article the other day and the person being interviewed made the comment that so many new Members of Parliament turn up keen to share their views and make a difference in public policy only to be confronted by the reality of party room discipline which requires that everyone stays on message. That, well known fact, reminded me of absolute monarchies that brook no dissent – and certainly not in public. Read more

One of the breakthroughs in the development of English democracy was the development of the notion of a “loyal opposition”. That is to say you can have a different view to the monarch, in this case, but still be loyal to the office. Not only governments but also churches, communities and families need to foster the idea of a “loyal opposition”.

This kind of loyalty is not to the person or community (such that they always get what they want) but to their calling – to be whoever God has called them to be. It is a loyalty to what God wants for a family, a Christian community, a society and the world.

I am reminded of the confrontation between Nathan the prophet and King David in 2 Samuel 11:26–12:13 over David’s murder of Uriah the Hittite so that he could marry Bathsheba. This is the Old Testament lectionary reading in early August. In the context of the kings of Israel and Judah the counterpoise to the tendency of people to justify their corrupt and abusive behaviour was the presence of the prophet. For all his failings David still made place in his court for the prophet Nathan. Most despots surround themselves with people who only tell them what they want to hear. In Israel there were always the prophets.

Power is seductive, subtle and deceptive. It is so devious in its way with us that we often don’t recognise that we have it; or if we do have it we find it hard to see why it should not be used for what we judge to be the best. But power is not given to us for our benefit. Power is a gift to be used in the service of others.

Given its dangers I invite you to think about how we might protect ourselves - as individuals, congregations, communities, and society at large from the seductive and destructive embrace of corrupting power.

The challenge for us personally, as a community of faith, and as part of a wider society is to make space for the prophets. My experience is that many congregations don’t have much time for prophets. Instead they prefer conformity and that those who disagree with the dominant views keep their opinions to themselves. I have seen congregations torn apart when someone has been brave enough to name abuse and expect that it will be addressed. Frequently the Assembly, or more often UnitingJustice, gets a lot of criticism when it speaks out on public issues with a perspective which is not the mind of the majority of members.

A critical mark of personal and communal maturity is the extent to which differences of opinion are welcomed and encouraged. It is in this spirit of humility and openness to the renewal of God that the Uniting Church has an agency like UnitingJustice Australia, and also why it is committed to making space across its life for dissent and debate. It’s hard work but it is how we make room for the prophet to come and, painful though it may be, to call us back to our true vocation.

13th Assembly Working Papers

The 13th Assembly in Adelaide is now only a month away. Proposals for consideration have now closed. The Agenda, Reports and Proposals are all available on the dedicated 13th Assembly website . A reminder too to all members of the 13th Assembly, if you haven’t done so already please register your attendance by following this link on the 13th Assembly website.

From the President

On 22 June it will be 35 years since the Uniting Church in Australia was created.
Over those 35 years our church has grown in its mission, identity and purpose. Read more

In 2012 we are a church that still seeks to ‘unite’, within the diverse body of the church and to work towards reconciliation in our own hearts and in the world. 

Back in 1977, our Statement to the Nation spelt out our Christian responsibility to society and called us to respond by involving ourselves in social and national affairs.

The Statement to the Nation is a good place to measure our progress as a church, at least in terms of our social witness, and reflect on how it has shaped our thinking and actions as we’ve grown over the past three-and-a-half decades.

In 2012, Uniting Church agencies are engaged in mission and ministry across an incredibly broad range of areas.

UnitingCare has more than 1,300 social services sites nationally - twice as many sites as McDonalds! The agency serves over two million Australians each year.

Today the Uniting Church enjoys close partnership with 36 churches beyond Australia’s shores and we run Relief and Development, Experience and Church Connections projects with them through UnitingWorld.

UnitingJustice Australia has provided a strong voice for the Church in opposing all forms of discrimination, advocating for human rights, as well as in urging the wise use of energy, and the protection of the environment.

Every week worship is offered to God in approximately 40 languages including indigenous languages.

The formation and development of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress in 1985 has probably been the most significant development since Union. Congress is the indigenous part of our church offering holistic ministry alongside Aboriginal and Islander people.

100 years ago the provision of services in remote areas of Australia was the focus of work of Rev John Flynn’s Australian Inland Mission. Frontier Services continues that work as they celebrate 100 years’ involvement in rural and remote Australia.

Assembly groups such as Multicultural and Cross-Cultural Ministry, Christian Unity, Adult Fellowship, Doctrine and Worship all work to express and celebrate our identity as Uniting Church, build fellowship within our Church and resource our witness in word and action to Jesus Christ.

As I travel around the church I have been blessed to see grass roots expression of ‘Life Overflowing’ which is the theme of our next triennium.

I see people who creatively and passionately engage with the great mission of the church – to give a glimpse of the promised end – one of reconciliation and renewal of the whole creation!

In 2012 we again pledge ourselves to hope and work for a nation whose goals are not guided by self-interest alone, but by concern for the welfare of all persons everywhere — the family of the One God — the God made known in Jesus of Nazareth the One who gave His life for others.

We are still in the process of uniting, seeking, with God’s help, to embody the reconciliation and renewal of all things.

Thanks be to God!

Anniversary resources

Resources are available for congregations wishing to mark the anniversary of our Church.
A 10 minute video 35 Years Together: Our Statement to the Nation and accompanying worship resources are on the way to more than 400 congregations who have expressed an interest in receiving them.

The video gives an overview of the broad range of good works the Uniting Church and our agencies are undertaking via the Statement to the Nation issued at our founding in 1977.
You can access these resources via the Assembly website, or by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  the Assembly Communications unit.

Outback care and community services

Two new Patrol Ministers inducted
Frontier Services was delighted to welcome Rev Craig Mischewski as the new Flinders Patrol Minister on 9 May in Hughenden.

Craig will cover a large area of north Queensland. The Patrol is based out of Hughenden and sits on the Western edge of the Great Divide. It is bounded by the Shires of Flinders, Richmond and McKinlay.  Read more

He will travel across the region in his four-wheel-drive providing both practical support and pastoral care to individuals and families who are faced with the realities of isolation as well as drought, floods and fire.

A large part of his role will be to simply spend time with people, offering a listening ear or lending a hand on the property when needed.

“I’m looking forward to having the space to be with people – having the opportunity to minister in a way where you are just there. Being with people is my passion,” Craig said. I’m also ready to bring my fencing wire strainers to get out there and help where I can.” 

Craig comes from a professional background in community services. His most recent role was Minister at the Townsville City Central Mission.

Meanwhile, Rev Rowena Harris, the former Patrol Minister for the Croajingolong Patrol was welcomed into the Snowy River Patrol, based in Orbost, on 14 May.

Rowena will work with the congregation in Orbost but the majority of her time will be spent supporting the wider community.

The Patrol extends across the region which includes Bemm River, Marlo Plains, Cape Conran and up the Bonang Highway and associated areas including Bonang, Bendoc, Tubbut and Buchan.

Rowena will visit families living in the more isolated parts of the region and take on a meaningful role in the small communities of the region, providing encouragement, support and a genuine hand of friendship.

 

Youth event – a Happening on the Todd
Eight students from Green Point Christian College on the Central Coast in NSW will travel to Central Australia to take part in a Centenary youth event with students from St Philip’s College in Alice Springs on 17-22 June. Read more

Students from both schools will take part in outdoor activities with the highlight being a Centenary Dinner with a larger gathering of St Philip’s students on the Todd River. Sharing will take place around a camp oven dinner with Uniting Church President Alistair Macrae.

The event will create connections and friendship between young people from urban and remote Australia and build on a shared vision for the future.

Meanwhile, Frontier Services’ supporters and their guests came together at a Centenary Dinner at Bungaree Station in the Clare Valley of South Australia on May 5.

Frontier Services took the opportunity to acknowledge the support it receives from its corporate partners in NSW and South Australia, as it celebrates the Centenary.

On the following day, Uniting Church congregations across South Australia celebrated ‘Frontier Services Sunday’, an annual event when worship and prayer are offered for the work of Frontier Services and the people of remote Australia.

Centenary celebrations will continue throughout the year. To find out more go to this page or to get involved contact Kate Higginbotham, Centenary Events Coordinator on 02 8270 1361 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  for more information.

 

Communities suffer with Fly In, Fly Out
Frontier Services National Director Rosemary Young spoke at a public hearing of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Fly In, Fly Out (FIFO) work practices on May 25, highlighting the difficulties faced in delivering the essential services needed in remote communities impacted by FIFO operations. Read more

Frontier Services told the Inquiry that the enormous salaries on offer to FIFO workers in the mining sector had made it incredibly difficult to recruit professional counsellors, nurses and family support workers in the remote locations where Frontier Services works.

“There is disconnection from community. People flying in and flying out fit less in the community to which they originally belonged, and barely in the community to which they come,” Ms Young said.

“Further, the communities which have become FIFO bases are faced with highly disproportionate costs, partly driven by the totally disproportionate salaries available to those working in these industries in this way. Small businesses cannot be staffed and community services are struggling.”

Frontier Services called for a greater commitment to building community in areas affected by FIFO.

“We believe that policy and tax drivers should be in place, where they can, to encourage the mining companies to establish permanent community where families can interact, and normal society endure.”

“We know that communities rise up and disappear again and that it requires a significant investment in infrastructure to provide a settled workforce for the period of resource extraction. (But) Frontier Services takes the view that such communities are essential, because without the connection of community, life is somehow devalued.”

Volunteers provide hands-on assistance for Frontier Services
Volunteers have travelled outback to offer hands-on assistance with the vital upkeep of Frontier Services buildings across the country.

A Work Party consisting of 12 people from across Queensland, NSW and Victoria met in Charleville for a two-week stint to complete vital jobs at a number of the services based in the town. Read more

They painted walls, repaired ceilings, replaced doors, relocated a clothes line, removed mould, moved a garden shed and countless other jobs.

Each year a number of Work Parties are sent out to various locations where Frontier Services is based to assist with the huge job of maintaining the buildings and properties used by the services.

Frontier Services Work Party Coordinator Gordon Hill said the volunteers signed up because they wanted to make a difference, particularly for people in remote areas.

“It is particularly rewarding to help out the Frontier Services staff – they are the ones supporting people in the community and so we are helping them.”

“It can be very hard to find people to do these sorts of jobs, particularly in the remote areas we go to, so the contribution of the Work Party volunteers is very significant.”

There has also been a Work Party stationed in Andamooka in South Australia and Emerald, Qld.

If you are interested in becoming a Work Party volunteer, you can contact Gordon Hill on 02 6836 3002 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Cover the Country
Frontier Services has launched its Cover the Country campaign to raise the money it needs to continue to care for the people of remote Australia for the next 100 years. Read more

Every $20 that is donated will help Frontier Services provide a wide range of services, including children’s services, health care, aged and community care, pastoral support and volunteer assistance.

Cover the Country is a special way for people to support Frontier Services this year as it celebrates 100 years at the heart of remote Australia.

To donate, all you need to do is go to www.coverthecountry.com.au

You can follow the success of the campaign on the website or our Facebook Page  as we virtually ‘Cover the Country’. 

Relations with Other Faiths

Jewish-Christian Dialogue
Representatives from the Uniting Church and Executive Council of Australian Jewry met at the Lamm Jewish Library in Caulfield South in Melbourne on 17 May for a day of dialogue. Read more

The meeting was very positive. Rev. Matthew Wilson of Mt Colah Uniting Church in Sydney explored models of theological understanding of dialogue, while Rev. Dr Howard Wallace from Mulgrave Uniting Church shared his appreciation of the book of Koheleth (Ecclesiastes).

The Dialogue has been held every year since 1991. There are currently two meetings a year – one in Melbourne and the other in Sydney.

Anyone interested in more information on the UC Jewish-Christian Dialogue can contact the Co-convenors Rev. Elizabeth Raine and Rev. John Squires of Wauchope Uniting Church.

 

Upcoming Events
ASR Annual Conference - The annual Association for Studies of Religion Conference will be held at the Nan Tien Temple in Berkeley near Wollongong on 22 June. The theme of this year’s conference is ‘A Day in the Life of a Temple’ focuses on experiencing aspects of Buddhism and participating in interactive workshops. Read more here

JCMA Winter Conference – The Jewish Christian and Muslim Association of Australia is holding its annual residential at Millgrove east of Melbourne from 1-4 July. This year’s theme is “The Prophet Motif.”  Read more here

Worship, theology and discipleship

Theology and Discipleship News
The Worship working group recently met in Brisbane.  The next teaching DVD will be on the sacrament of Holy Communion.  It will be filmed at the September meeting.  A Doc.byte on Worship was finalised and will be available in the near future. Read more

The President and two members of the Doctrine working group have been to the Northern Synod to speak with Indigenous leaders about the new Preamble to the Constitution.  This is an important task that will take some time but the process is now underway.

The latest edition of the email magazine Grevillea is now on the Theology and Discipleship section of the Assembly website.  This edition is on “Ministry – touching all of life” and has articles from Geoff Stevenson from Northmead Uniting, Kathy Pereira from UnitingWorld, Keith Hamilton from Parramatta Mission and an article about the annual School of Discipleship.

Two books that have just been published by MediaCom are Building on the Basis: papers from the Doctrine and Worship working groups 2000-2011 edited by Christopher Walker and Pilgrim People: An Invitation to Worship in the Uniting Church by Stephen Burns. 

Cross cultural and international ministry, relief and development

Tongan National Conference
The joy and enthusiasm of the Uniting Church in Australia’s Tongan congregations shone through a wet Queen’s Birthday long weekend in the foothills of Sydney’s Blue Mountains. More than 500 Tongan UCA members chalked up a milestone 25th Tongan National Conference (TNC) in a beautiful bushland setting at the Merroo Christian Conference Centre in Kurrajong.

Coverage of TNC is online now on the Assembly website with a number of pictures also on the UCA Assembly Facebook page.

Chance to “Match their Commitment”
With the end of the financial year approaching, UnitingWorld is reminding Church members they can support UnitingWorld’s Match their Commitment Campaign with a tax-deductible donation.

Your gift, teamed with Australian Government funding, will go further towards education, peace and overcoming poverty. Read more here

Focus on the Philippines
UnitingWorld will host an evening of fellowship with Rev Luna Dingayan from the Ecumenical Theological Seminary in the Philippines on 3 July in Sydney. Read more

Rev Dingayan will reflect on the critical calling of the church in the Philippines today, focussing particularly on the spate of extra-judicial killings continuing in the country.

Several United Church of Christ in the Philippines pastors and workers have been targeted and killed in recent years as a result of continuing military violence towards the church.

The evening will begin at 7pm at the Green Room of Wesley Mission, 220 Pitt Street. Refreshments and finger food will be provided.

 

Justice and advocacy

World Environment Day
World Environment Day was observed on 5 June. UnitingJustice has produced a selection of resources which includes information on this year’s theme of a ‘Green Economy’, sermon starters, worship resources, and a list of simple actions. If you missed 5 June, you might consider celebrating the Day on another Sunday during the year. You can find the resources here.

Stronger Futures Call to Action
UnitingJustice has produced a Call to Action Kit in response to the Stronger Futures legislation, which will come before Parliament again on 18 June. This legislation extends the Northern Territory Intervention and is of great concern to the Uniting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian Congress in the Northern Territory. The kit gives an overview of Stronger Futures and includes ideas for how you can get involved, such as distributing information postcards and sending letters to politicians. You can download the Action Kit here.

Visit to Christmas Island
From 8-10 May, Reverend Elenie Poulos joined Reverend Alistair Macrae, Reverend Lorna Green (Anglican Diocese of Perth) and Alison Atkinson-Phillips on a visit to Christmas Island.

The main purpose of the trip was to visit the joint Uniting and Anglican Chaplain on the Island, Reverend Christine Senini. Reverend Senini has made a significant contribution both in the detention centres and the general community. Read more

The team were pleased to see some improvements in the operation of the detention centres, however concerns for long-term detainees and unaccompanied minors still remain. Elenie talked about the visit and the Uniting Church’s view on asylum seekers on Radio National’s Religion and Ethics Report which you can listen to here.

Elenie also spoke on RN Drive which can be listened to here.

 

Submission on National Children’s Commissioner
UnitingJustice Australia has cautiously welcomed the proposed creation of the role of a National Children’s Commissioner. This is a positive step in the effective incorporation of our human rights obligations into policy and legislative frameworks; however, the proposed legislation does not go far enough in the protection of vulnerable children, including asylum seeker children. UnitingJustice has made a submission to the Inquiry into the legislation detailing these concerns. You can find the submission here.

Marriage Equality
UnitingJustice’s submission to the recent inquiry into the Same-Sex Marriage Bills has now been made public on the House of Representatives website. If you would like to read our submission, you will find it on our website here.

God’s Earth, Our Care – Faith for a Planet in Peril
Elenie was invited to speak on the Economy of Life Statement: Re-imagining Human Progress for a Flourishing World at the God’s Earth, Our Care Conference held by the Justice and International Mission Unit of the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania on the weekend. The Conference was an opportunity to reflect on how Christians can address climate change and contribute to living a more sustainable future. You can read the Economy of Life Statement here.

Adult Fellowship

UCAF National Committee is now in Western Australia.
During the weekend of 17-20 April a group of UCAF leaders from around the nation met at Kincumber Spirituality Centre in NSW.

This was the time for the tri-ennial Consultation when the old has completed their term and the new is commissioned.  That is old and new committees! Read more

After three years of hard work the outgoing committee arranged the consultation at this beautiful setting.  There were between 30 and 40 people in attendance.

The President, Rev Alistair Macrae, and the General Secretary, Rev Terence Corkin,  attended the consultation and gave members encouragement when they used metaphors like “backbone” and “life blood”  to explain the place of Adult Fellowship in the life of the Church.

This time together was for business (of course with a little fun!).   Each Synod presented a report on the work the UCAF is doing in their State.  The challenges, gifts and projects are many and varied.

The Bible studies were led by Rev Richard Harris who challenged and inspired us with his teaching.

Rev Amelia Koh-Butler was welcomed once again and inspired us all to think on how UCAF and its members are relevant in the Uniting Church today.  Amelia is always such a bundle of energy and inspires enthusiasm when talking with a group of people.  Many of us had heard of ‘Godly Play’ but had not actually participated before.  So, we heard some stories using Godly Play.  Following on from Alistair’s comments Amelia emphasised the importance of journeying with others and the need to connect to other individuals and to groups.  The Consultation can be to the church a prophetic voice, and has the important responsibility of being the carrier of that prophetic collective voice within the church.

On the Saturday evening we were privileged have the hospitality of the Kincumber Uniting Church.  The food and the entertainment were excellent.  On the Sunday morning we travelled again into the Church where the outgoing chaplain Rev Noreen Towers led worship with Rev Kenneth Brown preaching.  The outgoing Chairperson of the UCAF National Committee Rev Alistair Christie presented the new Committee to members of the congregation and gave each one a candle to take the light back and remember this time of Commissioning.

The new UCAF National Committee 2012-15 sees the next three years as a challenge.  We want to work on making the UCAF an integral part of the life of the Uniting church, and encourage members to join and be part of this wider network as we explore the chosen them “Who is my neighbour?”. As the ‘third third’ we wish to awaken the Church to the importance of ‘fellowship’ in its life.  In a time when electronic communication and a move to individualism is on the increase, we wish to introduce people to the joy and power of Christ in a communion. 

Synod News

Church and community to join in bicentenary celebrations
A major thanksgiving service to celebrate the bicentenary of Methodism in Australia is taking place 15 July at Sydney’s State Theatre. Read more

MG07142The significant community work Wesley Mission is known for today has its roots in the pioneering care begun by the first Methodists in Sydney in 1812. In the ensuing years they initiated many of the welfare services we know today in areas such as aged care, homelessness and family services.

Mark Scott AO, a senior Officer of Wesley Mission and Managing Director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, will join Wesley Mission Superintendent the Rev Dr Keith Garner in hosting the event, with contributions from senior church and political leaders.

The service, Celebrate 200, will also feature a multimedia presentation and a performance by acclaimed Australian singer and entertainer Debra Byrne.

The service will be preceded by a procession - a March of Witness - from Martin Place to the State Theatre beginning at 2.15 pm. Those taking part will include Wesley Mission staff, church and community leaders, volunteers and supporters.

The event at the State Theatre begins at 2.30 pm. It is a free event and tickets can be secured by visiting this link.

The bicentennial celebrations began on 6 March this year to mark the day in 1812 when the first Methodists met in The Rocks to plan the church’s future. The celebrations will in fact continue until 2015 which is the anniversary of the arrival in Sydney of the first Methodist Minister – the Rev Samuel Leigh – from England. During the next four years Wesley Mission will be highlighting the underlying tenets of Methodism which have shaped the Word and Deed ministry of Wesley Mission – hope (2012), advocacy (2013), innovation (2014) and faith (2015).

One of the highlights of the 15 July event will be the launch of a special book produced for the bicentenary. Today’s people tell today’s story, will be launched by CEO Keith Garner and will be available for sale at the event. Alternatively, visit this page after the event.

 

To find out about what is happening across the country visit the Synod news sites below:

New South Wales and the ACT - Insights

Northern Synod - Northern News

Queensland - Journey

South Australia - New Times

Victoria and Tasmania - Crosslight

Western Australia - Revive

To learn more about employment and other Assembly news go to www.assembly.uca.org.au

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