National Update December 2013

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

Just a Thought

Rev. Terence Corkin, General Secretary

Terence smallI want to put in a bid for Christmas as the most significant season in the church year. 

The sense of hopefulness we feel as we approach the end of another year embodies the Christian message that we receive when we immerse ourselves in the readings from advent – prophets, gospels, psalms and epistles.

I think the incarnation of Christmas is the most profound and distinctive Christian doctrine. God is with us – in the messy, joyful, challenging and enriching experience of life. Read more

Our own Christian message does have to compete with the cacophony of Christmas consumerism at this time of year. If the hard sell starts to grate with you as it does with me, can I prescribe a return to the biblical source as the perfect antidote? It always manages to restore my hope for the future and a sense of peace amid the clamour, no matter how hard the passing year has been.

And on that note, I would like to thank everyone who has worked with the Assembly through 2013 and wish everyone across the Uniting Church a joyous Christmas.

With God’s blessing, may we all find peace together in 2014.

 

From the President

Rev. Professor Andrew Dutney, President, Assembly

Andrew Dutney smallI’m pleased to announce that my Christmas message to congregations and the public is now available. You can watch and download the video at http://bit.ly/XmasVideo2013. The video will also shortly be available with subtitles in number of languages including, Tongan, Indonesian and Japanese. These will be posted at the same link.

At Christmas we’re reminded of the opportunities we have to engage with the community around us. We celebrate together the story of Christ’s birth. We cooperate in offering a helping hand to people in need around us. We make pastoral space for those whose life experience or family circumstances make Christmas painful. The opportunities are always there, but Christmas throws a spotlight on them. On this occasion I want to draw your attention to one of these opportunities that you mightn’t have noticed. I know I hadn’t until recently. Read more

One of the privileges of my role is meeting people engaged in ministry and mission well beyond my personal experience – to learn, to be challenged, and to have my horizons broadened. 

Last week, for example, I was asked to participate in the commissioning of Rev Dr Murray Earl as the convenor of the Assembly Defence Force Chaplaincy Committee, and our representative to the Religious Advisory Committee to the Services. The service of commissioning was held in Duntroon, Canberra, and the congregation was largely made up of military chaplains and their families.

When I meet with ministers serving in specialist areas often they want to tell me about their distinctive ministry – what makes what they do special. They want me to understand them; and I’m eager to do that too. But when I had some time with the UCA military chaplains after the service they had a different priority. They wanted me to know about a particular ministry opportunity that is now before the whole church but is barely recognised. And they wanted me to tell you about it too.

The last 10 years has seen about 60,000 troops – men and women of the ADF – deployed to the Middle East. As the Australian Defence Forces are withdrawn from overseas deployments in 2014, many of them will be seeking discharge. 

Not all those young men and women are combatants. Some were cooks, clerks, medics, support staff etc. But these young servicemen and women have all seen the horrors of war. Some of those women and men have deployed multiple times. In other words, they have done more than one stint of 6 to 8 months in the war zone. Most of those returned service men and women have been exposed to situations that would challenge their own meaning, values and understanding of life. Often the things they have seen and experienced have had a profound impact upon them – and their families. 

During service life ADF members have some form of ministry from their service chaplains. Chaplaincy is provided ecumenically in the ADF, and it includes a contribution of 22 full time and 30 part time chaplains from the UCA. Although, like most Australians, these young people often have had little or no previous contact with the church, chaplains become a normal part of their experience in the ADF and a significant support as they deal with life’s challenges – from the mundane challenges of growing into adulthood to the traumas of working in a war zone.

As they are discharged they will disperse throughout Australia – into your neighbourhood, your town, in the remotest parts of the continent and in the inner city. The ADF chaplains will have much less opportunity to support them but they are now used to looking to the clergy for pastoral care and support. As a truly national church, and as part of the wider church in Australia, we have a tremendous opportunity to serve these veterans. 

So what can we do?

First, our congregations need to be open and welcoming to our former service men and women. We need to be ready to show grace and tolerance to these people who will be unfamiliar with the way we “do church” – the way we talk, think and organise ourselves. 

Further, many will have lived through some extraordinarily difficult situations. While many will have learnt things through those experiences that will enrich out fellowship, some will have particular needs in the areas of spiritual and mental health. So we need to be ready for that. 

It would be important to cooperate with Ex-Service Organisations (ESOs) such as the RSL, Legacy, and the Vietnam Veterans Associations (in many places the VVAs have opened their doors to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans). The ESO community and networks will have invaluable experience and services to share. In turn, our congregations and the UCA network are able to offer very welcome help.

Ministers and lay leaders need to have at least some basic training in the areas of mental health first aid, and in suicide awareness, prevention and intervention. And when this training has been completed we should make it known to the ESOs. 

Seek out relationships with UCA chaplains stationed in your region. They can support you in serving veterans, but you can support them too by becoming the kind of congregations and Ministers that chaplains will confidently guide discharging members and families toward. 

This article is based on advice given to me by Rev Charles Vesely, an Army chaplain and Senior Instructor at the Defence Force Chaplains College, Latchford Barracks, Victoria.

National Ministers Conferences

I am overwhelmed with the response to the 2014 National Ministers’ Conferences so far. I am looking forward to sharing what is sure to be a special time with you in Jerusalem, Sydney and Charleville.

The Jerusalem Conference has now filled its registration, but there are still places open for the conferences in Charleville and Sydney. You can find out more about the conferences and register here (Sydney) and here (Charleville). Information about payment will be emailed to registered participants.

I hope to see you there!

 

Outback care and community services

Rev Alan White, Interim National Director, Frontier Services

Alan White smallTwo New Patrol Ministers for Frontier Services

Frontier Services Associate Director, Rev. Colin Batt has been busy speaking to candidates to fill in two positions available as Patrol Ministers. Read more

Negotiations are underway with two final candidates for the Cobar/Nyngan Patrol and the Parkin Patrol.

“We looking forward to two more Patrol Ministers joining us in February who will support local communities, giving their Ministerial support,” said Rev. Colin Batt.

“Both of these placements have been vacant for some time and locals are excited and looking forward to welcoming their new Patrol Ministers.”

Frontier Services will have a formal announcement in January.

Outback Barbeque a Winner

Frontier Services’ Outback Barbeque campaign has run for the third year with more community groups than ever getting together for a good cause. Read more

More than 86 barbies were held in order to raise money for people in remote and rural Australia, with more than $55,000 raised.

This year, many organisations and Church groups held events such as morning teas, including some Sunday school craft at One Tree Hill Uniting Church, a garage sale at Devonport Uniting Church, birthday donations, a car rally at East Maitland and Port MacDonnell Uniting Church holding a Dutch auction.

On a Wing and a Prayer: Frontier Services' Patrol Minister Flying in the Dark

Centralian Patrol Minister Rev. Colin Gordon recently visited Sydney to complete a night-flying course. Read more

Rev. Gordon patrols an area that covers more than 600,000 kilometres of mostly arid land with small towns, so navigating in the dark is not for the untrained, particularly in a small plane. He tells us in his lyrical style that “Training in the night flying is essential. There are very few, if any lights to get any sort of bearing, so the dark, without the moon is very, very dark.” Read the full story here.

 

Relations with Other Faiths

Rev. Glenda Blakefield, Associate General Secretary, Assembly

Glenda

The latest meeting of the Uniting-Jewish Dialogue group was held at the Uniting Churches Centre of Theology and Ministry on Tuesday 29 October. The main theme of the morning discussion was the book of Exodus. The afternoon discussion looked briefly at the role of God within the Australian Constitution led by Rabbi John Levi. Participants looked at the preamble to the UCA Constitution as it currently stands.

The group resolved to meet again twice in 2014, once each in Sydney and Melbourne. Next year’s key discussions will include reading the book of Jonah together and the topic of marriage. Read more

The National Uniting Church-Jewish Dialogue is now in its 23rd year. For more information visit the Relations with Other Faiths website.

The Relations with Other Faiths working group held their final Executive Meeting for the year where communication strategies, the President’s 2014 National Ministers Conferences and interfaith resources for schools and churches were just some of the topics of conversation.

The next Executive Meeting will be held on 6th February 2013. 

 

Christian Unity, Doctrine and Worship

Rev. Dr Chris Walker, National Consultant, Christian Unity, Doctrine and Worship, Assembly

ChrisThe Christian Unity working group met on 21 November. Some of us shared about our experience of the WCC Assembly in Busan, South Korea with my reflections of the event now on my blog

Some very significant papers were received at the WCC especially “Church: Towards a Common Vision” which the Christian Unity group hopes will be widely discussed across the Uniting Church. It is the most important paper since “Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry” (1982). The Christian Unity group will take the lead in formulating a response ready for the Assembly in 2015 and then on to the WCC.

Other major papers were: “Together towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes,” “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World” and “An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace.” Leaders across the Uniting Church would do well to let these papers inform their ministries. Read more

I have just sent out the email magazine Grevillea which I edit. This edition focuses on “Hope and Possibilities when Resources are Limited.” There are five stimulating articles. It can be found on the Assembly website under the Mission menu then Theology and Discipleship along with previous editions, or by clicking the link above.

A list of resources for A Season of Teaching and Learning is now on the Assembly website home page. It includes not only studies but also a list of conferences for 2014. There are many options for people and congregations to choose from.

I encourage people to consider attending the Mission and Evangelism conference, “A Clear Call” to be held in Adelaide from Friday 28 – Sunday 30 March, 2014. For further information and registration please see: www.clearcall.org.au.

Cross cultural and international ministry, relief and development

Rev. Dr Kerry Enright, National Director, UnitingWorld

Advent is upon us and Christmas is near - a time we renew connections by card, email or by gathering together. UnitingWorld Kerry Enright Small 2

Yet for many, and in particular for people in the Philippines, this coming season involves isolation: the loss of their homes, family, friends and networks of support. They will be relying on their connections to get through an overwhelming tragedy, and they will be looking for new connections to help them rebuild life. Read more

As we renew connections and remember isolated communities this Christmas, I want to thank so many of you for your generosity in donating to our Philippine Emergency Appeal.  It has enabled us to support ACT Alliance (of which we are a member) as they swiftly launched wide-scale relief efforts. We are receiving regular and challenging updates from one of our volunteers, the Rev. Andy Tiver, who is in Manila helping to coordinate distribution, and we continue to support the ACT Alliance as they move into the next stage of repairing and rebuilding homes and livelihoods. 

Thank you also, for your continued support of UnitingWorld through our Everything in Common Christmas gift catalogue. Everything in Common celebrates what we have in common with our partners around the world and enables you to stand in solidarity with them when you make a gift this Christmas.

Please visit www.everythingincommon.com.au to buy your gifts online.

Finally, many of you will have heard that I’ll be concluding my ministry with UnitingWorld on 30 April, 2014. The congregation of Knox Church, Dunedin, New Zealand have called me to be their minister and I have agreed to take up that role on 1 May 2014.

It has been a great privilege serving in the Uniting Church and I have learned much.  I have especially valued engaging with our 35 partner churches and also with the many congregations and bodies across the Uniting Church that connect with those churches.  I have been able to experience something of the dramatic change occurring in the world church.  Those experiences have sharpened my commitment to justice and connected me with a burgeoning world-wide movement. I feel energized for the next stage of ministry.

God be with you this Christmas and thank you for your ongoing and generous support of our shared work.

Lent Event

I am delighted to inform you about the wonderful Lenten resources UnitingWorld has prepared for 2014. Read more

Educators and Leaders of Children’s Groups will find the Children’s Resource an absolute inspiration – it is packed with great activities for each week of Lent. Likewise, Bible Study Groups will gain weekly enrichment through the Bible study, written for UnitingWorld by immediate Past President, the Rev. Alistair Macrae. And Ministers and Lay Worship Leaders will appreciate the clarity of the Lenten worship guide.

This year’s Bible study is available in printed form for $13 for congregations and $14.30 for individuals, inclusive of postage. Orders are to be placed by 5 February to receive copies in time for Lent! Call us on 02-8267 4267 (with your credit card to hand) to order your copies or returnthis order form with a cheque made payable to UnitingWorld.  Your Bible Study will be posted to you in February. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.if you have further queries. 

And, for the first time this year we’re launching a youth-inspired weekend event from the 7-9 March - Give it UP for Lent!  Just go to our website for more information and great resources.

Please share this information with your wider network, especially Education Officers, Leaders of Worship, Bible Study and Children’s group leaders. All resources are available to download for free from www.lentevent.com.

Multicultural and Cross-Cultural Ministry

Rev. Dr Tony Floyd, National Director of Multicultural and Cross-Cultural Ministry

TonySmall“Seek and find” is a wonderful invitation for the time between Christmas and the visit of the Magi from the East. Wandering from the familiar and the understandable to the unfamiliar and the mysterious characterises the journeying of that group of outsiders whose unclear destination turned out to be a house in Nazareth.

So while the Christmas season is in full swing a large contingent of members of the UCA and beyond whose common language and culture is Vietnamese, will journey to Tamborine Mountain, south-west of Brisbane, for a national gathering under that theme: “Seek and find”. Read more

This four-day gathering, involving several generations of people whose homes are in the east coast states of Australia, is a time for nurturing disciples old and new through music, dancing, preaching and teaching, fun and laughter together.

In 2014 MCM looks forward to:

  • participation in the ‘Yurora’ National Christian Youth Convention (NCYC) in western Sydney in January
  • the completion and release of our Cross Cultural Ministry resource DVD and a study/discussion guide in several languages
  • a gathering of key leaders and young adults from our various language and cultural community networks to review and develop appropriate strategies for working through the expected discussion paper on a UCA theology of marriage
  • national conferences for our Fijian, Tongan, Niuean, and Samoan communities and others

The challenging times are also exciting and grace-filled times and the energy arising in and around cross-cultural ministry across the communities of the UCA is a wonderful and grace filled gift. This is all worth remembering alongside the seasonal recollections of Immanuel – God-with-us”.

Salamat hari natal, dan tahun baru!

 

Relief and Disaster Recovery

stephenrobinson2smallRev. Dr Stephen Robinson

The church’s response to the Assembly Disaster Appeal has been generous and heart-warming. It has been an encouragement to all those involved in supporting congregations involved in community recovery.

In the past month I have been honoured to follow through with supporting disaster-affected ministers and congregations in the Blue Mountains and work closely with NSW Disaster Welfare Services in connecting the churches with the recovery processes. There is much work to be done by and through affected churches, as the recovery for fire-affected communities will take some years. Read more

At the end of November I led a training course for Disaster Recovery Chaplains at Thredbo, site of the landslip disaster of July 1997. We were blessed to be visited by Stuart Diver who shared something of his own recovery, and that of the community, since that time. Also present at that course was Stuart Stuart, the coordinator of the Victorian Council of Churches’ Emergency Ministries. Stuart and I are working together on a national approach to disaster chaplaincy and training.

On 10- 11 December I conducted another two-day training course at the Great Synagogue in Sydney for another group of eight chaplains. The 2014 diary is out now and I am already lining up training courses to be held in the South Australian and Western Australian Synods early in the New Year.

Justice and advocacy

Rev Elenie Poulos, National Director, UnitingJustice

Elenie smallIf you would like to hear more about the work of UnitingJustice, you can follow us on Twitter here and sign up to our newsletter here.

A Destiny Together: Justice for the First Peoples - A Week of Prayer and Fasting 17-23 March 2014

In July 2012 in Adelaide, the members of the 13th Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia listened to members of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress tell stories about the effects of the Federal Government’s ‘Stronger Futures’ legislation (and the ‘Intervention’ before that) on their lives and their communities. Read more

The Assembly members were very moved by the stories of harm and exclusion and responded in two ways. The first was to ‘down tools’ and make a silent procession through the streets to South Australia’s Parliament House to pray and sing in a public vigil of lament. The second was to adopt a resolution calling on the Church to engage in a week of prayer and fasting for justice for the First Peoples. The week will include a public prayer vigil outside Parliament House in Canberra to be led by the UAICC Chairperson and the President.

The President and the Chair of Congress are hoping that many Uniting Church members will come to Canberra to be a part of this historic public witness to justice and reconciliation. Presbyteries and congregations are encouraged to plan local vigils during the week and special services on the Sunday, and individuals, small groups and congregations are being invited to join the exercise the daily practice of prayer and fasting throughout the course of the week. Worship materials and resources to support all these activities are being produced, with UnitingJustice working with Congress to plan the week.

Through this pilgrimage of prayer and fasting, the Uniting Church seeks to express our grief at the continued injustice experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples; express our hope that justice will prevail for Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders; and act in solidarity and bear witness to reconciliation and the genuine transformation of relationship that is possible though God’s love in Christ.

You can now register your interest in this event here.

UJA welcomes back Jen Whyte

Jen Whyte has taken up the newly-created position of Project Officer for A Destiny Together: Justice for the First Peoples.

Many of you will remember Jen from her wonderful years of service with UnitingJustice as our talented Research Officer. We are blessed that she has come back to help run this very important project.

If you have any questions regarding the event, you can reach her via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

UnitingJustice condemns cruel policies of punishment

UnitingJustice Australia has condemned the Government’s latest proposed changes to the treatment of asylum seekers as policies of punishment and deliberate cruelty. Read more

National Director of UnitingJustice Rev. Elenie Poulos said that the toughening of an already hardline approach in the wake of the defeat of legislation designed to reintroduce Temporary Protection Visas means Australia has all but turned its back on the Refugee Convention.



Read the full release on the UJA website.

Give Hope Quilt Action

On Saturday 23 November, hundreds gathered beneath threatening skies at First Fleet Park in Sydney to unfurl a giant quilt - calling for an end to the detention of child asylum seekers. Read more

The quilt was made up of patches that congregations, schools and agencies from throughout NSW and the ACT had decorated with their message of hope for children in detention. 

The quilt, part of the Give Hope: Uniting for Asylum Seekerscampaign, was a wonderful expression of the people in the Uniting Church against the harmful practice of child detention.

You can read Elenie's sermon from the day on her blog, and you can see Siobhan's photos from the day here.

Asylum Seeker Action Night

Following the success of the Asylum Seeker Action Night held at Paddington Uniting Church in April, several hundred people gathered at Centenary Uniting Church in Parramatta to learn different ways they can make a difference to the lives of refugees and asylum seekers in our community. Read more

Siobhan presented an overview of the current policies that have been introduced by our new Government, and different strategies we can use to counteract the negative impacts they are having on vulnerable men, women and children seeking asylum.

Justin Whelan, Mission Development Manager with Paddington Uniting Church, said the event was a huge success.

“The action night gave locals in Parramatta and its surrounding areas the opportunity to share their ideas for a more compassionate and human rights-based response to asylum seekers with practical ways for them to help.

“We have seen that many people in the public feel frustrated with government’s policies and we wanted to help them channel that anger into something positive to help asylum seekers and refugees."

You can see Siobhan's photos from the night here.

 

UnitingCare Australia

Lin Hattfield Dodds, National Director, UnitingCare Australia

As preparations for Christmas begin, UnitingCare Australia remains busy engaging with the new Government in a number of key areas.lin HD

During November the National Committee of UnitingCare Australia met in Canberra to discuss priorities for the next 12 months. This included a productive meeting with the Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews, to gain an understanding of the Government’s legislative program.

Also during November, Claerwen Little, the Chair of UnitingCare’s Children, Young People and Families Network, and I met with the Assistant Minister for Education, Sussan Ley, to discuss the Productivity Commission inquiry into Child Care. The UnitingCare network has a significant presence in the Early Learning and Childcare sector, and this meeting allowed us to discuss issues of importance to the network and to share ways in which our objectives can mesh with Government policy and implementation. Read more

UnitingCare Australia made a submission to the Federal Government’s National Commission of Audit. A key theme of the submission was that investment now in effective social policy and programs is smart economics:

  • Helping families escape poverty;
  • Enabling children to have a positive start and to be life-long contributors to society;
  • Transitioning more people into a more productive and better-trained workforce; and,
  • Enabling us all to better prepare for the challenges of an ageing population.

The full submission will be made available once it has been published by the Commission of Audit.

The UnitingCare Australia office will close for the Christmas break from 5pm Friday 20 December 2013, until 9am Monday 6 January 2013. Any enquiries about service provision, including services provided over the Christmas period, should be directed to the UnitingCare office in your Synod. A list of Synod office numbers is available here.

Finally, I and the rest of the National Office would like to wish all of you a wonderful Christmas full of hope, peace, joy and love.

 

 

Other Assembly news

 

Employment

A number of new employment oppotunities are now available within the church and beyond.

National Director, UnitingWorld

UnitingWorld is looking for a National Director to provide leadership and vision for its work in international mission, the development of Church partnerships and its relief and development programme. The person appointed will find satisfaction in both theological and strategic thinking, be well-versed in contemporary missiology and enjoy both a good understanding and experience of working cross-culturally. Find out more here.

CEO/General Secretary, Synod of South Australia

The Members of the Presbytery and Synod of UCSA seek to appoint a new CEO/General Secretary for South Australia, to build further on the impact the Church is having on the SA community in spiritual and practical terms. Find out more here.

Associate Director, Church Connections, UnitingWorld

UnitingWorld is looking for an Associate Director to lead its dynamic Church Connections unit, establishing and developing relationships with partner churches and more. Find out more here.

Disaster Risk Resilience Manager, Act for Peace

You’re an experienced disaster resilience professional with a track record of working with community based development approaches. You’re looking for a challenging role supporting local partners to deliver disaster risk resilience and climate change adaptation programs. Your work will include a strong focus on community safety and protection. Find out more here.

Director of Christian Education and Discipleship

Uniting College for Leadership & Theology in Adelaide is seeking a new Director of Christian Education and Discipleship. Find out more here.

Senior Minister, St Columba Presbyterian (New Zealand)

St Columba Presbyterian Church (Botany, Auckland, New Zealand) is seeking a Senior Minister for a fixed term from July 2014–October 2016 while the current Senior Minister is Moderator of the General Assembly. Find out more here.

 

Synod news

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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