National Update July 2014

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

sml andrew dutneyFrom the President

Rev. Prof Andrew Dutney

Like so many others, I have been watching the war in and around Gaza with grave concern. The loss of life, homes and infrastructure is heartbreaking. This further evidence of the elusiveness of a fair, lasting peace in Israel-Palestine is disheartening. 

But I have been watching with another agenda too. In September I am scheduled to lead the third National Ministers' Conference - this one in Jerusalem. On the one hand, the conference organisers are being properly cautious about the safety of the participants - monitoring the situation closely, and standing by in case we are advised that it is simply too risky and the conference has to be cancelled. On the other hand, we are very aware of how our presence in that troubled country at this time in particular will be a great encouragement to our sisters and brothers in the Christian community there.

Throughout the Middle East, the Christian minorities are in deep distress. They are being impacted by war or directly persecuted to the point of annihilation. Our concern is not just that Christian communities that trace their origins right back to the first century are at risk of disappearing altogether in the Middle East, but that these are our sisters and brothers in the body of Christ. In this body when one member suffers, every member suffers with it (I Corinthians 12:26). 

So I ask that you continue to pray for peace in the Middle East, remembering especially the Christian minorities in those countries. I encourage you to keep yourself informed about developments there and, whenever possible, to befriend those who have migrated to Australia to escape persecution or to find a more secure future for their families. And in that context, please pray also for the success of the National Ministers' Conference planned for Jerusalem.

I have been delighted by the success of the two National Ministers' Conferences held in July. The first in Charleville, in south-west Queensland, and the second in Western Sydney. The core program  led by Steve Taylor and Rosemary Dewerse (from Uniting College for Leadership & Theology) has been excellent. Focussed on the commitment to "Fresh Words and Deeds" in the 11th paragraph of the Basis of Union, it has provided insights and tools to enable the participants to engage with their particular ministry contexts with renewed energy and creativity. In Charleville we were helped to experience some of the realities of life and ministry in remote Australia by Frontier Services. In Western Sydney the Parramatta-Napean Presbytery, Multicultural and Cross Cultural Ministry, and Relations with Other Faiths planned a series of cultural immersion experiences to help participants engage with the multicultural, multilingual, interfaith realities of 21st century Australia. 

The feedback from participants has been very positive and suggests to me that the wider church will be enriched by the experiences of the ministers who took part in the conferences. I hope and pray that the Jerusalem conference will not only go ahead, but will be a similar blessing to the participants and the church. 

As you will be reminded below, the term of the General Secretary concludes at the end of 2015. For this reason the Assembly Standing Committee has initiated a process to bring a nomination for the next General Secretary to the 14th Assembly, next year. Terence has been an outstanding servant and leader of the church since he was appointed to the position in 2000. He has guided the church through seasons of plenty and scarcity, harmony and conflict, approval and derision. We thank God for providing us with such a leader and we thank Terence for his faithfulness to God's call on his life.   While the ASC is realistic enough not to expect to find another Terence Corkin through its nomination process, we are confident that God is already raising up the person we need for the next season. We seek God's guidance in discerning who that person might be. I ask that you pray for the ASC and its nomination committee as it engages in this process.

sml terence corkinJust a Thought

Rev. Terence Corkin, General Secretary

This week my thoughts are very much on the future. At the meeting of the Assembly Standing Committee last weekend I advised that I am not seeking to continue as the Assembly’s General Secretary beyond my current extension. My placement does not conclude until 31 December 2015 so the outcome of this process is some time off. Needless to say there is much work to do between now and then! Preparations for the 14th Assembly in Perth next year are underway and a number of tasks set by the 13th Assembly still need addressing.

Assembly General Secretary is one of the most challenging and also one of the most rewarding roles in the Uniting Church and it has been my privilege to serve in this position for the last 13.5 years. By the time I finish my placement I will have served for 15 years and with 6 Presidents, James Haire, Dean Drayton, Gregor Henderson, Alistair Macrae, Andrew Dutney and next year Stuart McMillan, not to mention many National Directors, dedicated staff and members of every Council of the Uniting Church. As I write this I feel very blessed indeed!

I told my five year-old grandson about moving from my current role and he asked what I was going to be doing next. I said that I didn’t know right now but that God would show me the way in due course. During a later conversation on this subject he asked “Will God write a note?” And so my grandson and I had our first theological discussion about how God’s will is revealed to human beings. If you were in that conversation what would you say?

My experience and conviction is that God will lead me to the next ministry that is appropriate for the time. I know that I will need to put myself in a place where it is possible for God’s leading to be effective. From experience I’m pretty sure that that space will include not allowing my own thoughts and feelings to run riot in my mind (prayer, meditation, and other spiritual disciplines that make room for the still small voice of God); it will involve attentiveness to possibilities – including ones that I have never thought about (bible reading, worship, realistic assessment of my strengths and gifts – including the ones that others see that I do not, thoughts popping into me head – sounds like a note from God, and the advice of others); and testing that sense of call (through personal reflection and most importantly through the community of the church).

 It is always a good time to be conscious and open to the leading of God.

I look forward to where God will lead me in 2016 as I also look forward to where God will lead our Church in the months and years ahead.

 

sml scott kellyOutback care and community services

Rev. Scott Kelly, National Director, Frontier Services

Frontier Services volunteer program Outback Links returns

Frontier Services’ volunteer program Outback Links is back in action, with volunteers ready to hit the road and lend a helping hand to families in the bush. Outback Links matches volunteers with families in remote Australia to provide hands-on help when it is needed most, during harvest or muster, after drought or flood - to lighten the load when there is no other help available. Volunteers will head to Paraburdoo and Toodyay, WA, Camooweal and Duaringa, QLD, Leila Creek, NT and Broken Hill, NSW. They will help with tasks from cooking, cleaning, gardening, feeding livestock, carpentry, painting and care taking the station to assisting young children with school while parents recover from injury.

Following a temporary break in operation, Frontier Services is confident that Outback Links will continue to grow and provide even more assistance for people in remote areas right across Australia. 

"There is a huge demand for hands-on help in the bush," said Frontier Services National Development Manager Grahame Ryan, "Our Outback Links volunteers help fill the gap, from Tasmania to the Pilbara.”

“We are so grateful for their skills, enthusiasm and most of all their willingness to help. It makes such a difference to people's lives,” Mr Ryan said.

Anyone can volunteer - a carpenter, an accountant, a school teacher or a student. Volunteers provide all kinds of help, wherever they are needed. Frontier Services has secured funding to support the continued operation of Outback Links and continues to build partnerships that will sustain the program into the future. A full review into the operation of the program has ensured Outback Links is meeting best practice in volunteer management. As the demand for support grows, Frontier Services is exploring the potential for the program to attract more young volunteers by expanding into corporate volunteering and during disaster recovery efforts in the bush.

If you would like to help, but are not able to volunteer, you can lend a hand by donating to Frontier Services to assist with the costs of placing volunteers in the bush.

If you know someone in the bush who could use a helping hand, please get in touch with Outback Links - phone 1300 731 349 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Our 2014 Christmas Card Collection is on sale

Our 2014 Christmas Card collection celebrates the ‘Colours of the Australian Landscape’. Our landscapes are as varied as the people in them and the colours are just as diverse. All proceeds from the sale of our cards support our community and pastoral services provided to people of the beautiful and colourful remote Australia.

The Christmas Cards are available as individual or mixed designs in packs of six. We are also selling last year’s Christmas cards at half price. Buy one packet and receive one free.

 

sml glenda blakefieldRelations with Other Faiths

Rev. Glenda Blakefield, Associate General Secretary

Sharing a Meal in Good Faith

The Uniting Church has partnered with Affinity Intercultural Foundation to host the first official Iftar dinner in a NSW Uniting church. On 14 July, representatives of Sydney’s Christian, Jewish and Buddhist communities and the Ramakrishna Sarada Vedanta Society of NSW gathered in historic St Stephen’s Uniting Church to share stories of faith and hospitality over a meal.

“Sacred hospitality in our churches and communities starts here,” said Assembly Associate General Secretary Rev. Glenda Blakefield, reflecting on the theme of the evening.

“By creating a space for interfaith friendship to grow, we honour God’s gift of diversity.”

As part of the event, the St Stephen’s Church Hall was set up so that Muslim guests could observe their afternoon prayer ritual as they broke their fast during Ramadan. Attendees also received Christian blessings, prayers and grace, a Muslim call to prayer and a Koranic recitation. After dinner Uniting Church representatives shared stories about how interfaith relationships have enriched their lives.

Ahmet Keskin of Affinity Intercultural Foundation encouraged participants to explore more ways to extend sacred hospitality by caring for each other’s wellbeing. 

“Sacred hospitality is about sharing, and tonight is a good example of sharing.”

“We have shared a meal, but we have also shared more than that, we have shared friendship,” said Mr Keskin.

Rev. Seforosa Carroll, Chairperson of the Uniting Church's National Working Group on Relations with Other Faiths, described interfaith engagement as transformative.

“For me, sacred hospitality is about making room for the religious other who is radically different to who we are,” said Rev. Carroll.

“It’s about being intentional in creating hospitable spaces to engage with other faiths,” she said.

The Moderator of the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and ACT Rev. Dr Brian Brown welcomed guests to the inaugural event.

Master of Ceremonies Jim Mein also shared his experiences as a Moderator during the Cronulla riots and how the interfaith partnerships he had formed had become close personal friendships.

“There’s nothing like an Iftar dinner, where there is the freedom to say what you actually feel and that is respected,” said Mr Mein.

“The challenge we face is getting more people to understand the gift of diversity and the gift of sacred hospitality,” he said.

Associate General Secretary Rev. Glenda Blakefield thanked Affinity Intercultural Foundation for its work to strengthen interfaith dialogue between the Muslim community and the Uniting Church.

“The UCA is absolutely committed to ongoing interfaith dialogue at leadership and grassroots levels.”

“It has been a joy to welcome our friends in faith through this Iftar dinner, which I hope will be the first of many,” said Rev. Blakefield.

 

sml chris walkerChristian Unity, Doctrine and Worship

Rev. Dr Chris Walker, National Consultant

Christian Unity

The Christian Unity Working Group is seeking ‘expressions of interest’ from people in Melbourne who would like to join the group - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Presbyteries and other groups are encouraged to respond to the important WCC paper, “The Church: Towards a Common Vision” with a Study Guide now available.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Doctrine

A Discussion Paper on Marriage with response form has been prepared and made available based on the Marriage Service in UIW 2. The three new study books for ‘A Season of Teaching and Learning’ are now available from MediaCom along with the other studies recommended.  The list of Resources for A Season of Teaching and Learning includes studies and a list of conferences in 2014, with many options for people and congregations to choose from.

Worship

A new worship paper on “Which Bible should we read in Worship?” is now available. A colloquium involving teachers of worship and preaching will be held on 1-2 December in Adelaide.  This will be an opportunity for teachers across the UCA to come together to discuss how worship and preaching can be taught effectively. The Worship Working Group is moving to SA after the 2015 Assembly, so it is seeking “expressions of interest’ from people in Adelaide who might like to join the group - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Conferences

We encourage you to attend upcoming conferences in Augustat the Centre for Ministry in North Parramatta:

Basis of Union – Catalyst for Renewal: 22-24 August
Preaching for Transformation: 25-28 August

sml craig mitchellFormation, Education and Discipleship

Craig Mitchell, National Director

 2014 is a huge year for national UCA youth events, we had a fantastic NCYC in January with over 1000 people involved. These national youth events depend on people like you, in local contexts, personally encouraging our youth and if possible, getting your church to support them with prayer and financial assistance. NYALC and About FACE are profound events for the faith formation of our young adults. They expand their world view, grow their character, develop their influence and connect them with some of the big issues of Australian society. Please encourage your great young adults who meet the criteria to attend and network with people across the Uniting Church. Without people like you, how will they ever hear about it?

FED Stories Events are happening

The first FED Stories events were held in July in Sydney and Canberra – half-day gatherings where local leaders share stories of effective discipling strategies. More events are coming soon in other cities, but for now read about the first events here. While the videos are also being made available, remember that you can host your own FED event, more details here.

Upcoming Events

Visit of John Roberto to Vic, WA and SA

“21st Century Faith Formation” and “Growing Faith in a Digital World”

National Young Adult Leaders’ Conference (NYALC)

December 7 - 12 2014, Namaroo Conference Centre, Sydney

NYALCs are designed to affirm, encourage, bless, grow and empower young adult leaders from our culturally diverse congregations. Young adults aged 18 to 30 who are leaders or wish to become leaders are encouraged to apply. 

About FACE 2015: January 5 - 18 2015

The next About Faith and Cultural Exchange (About FACE) program is less than 6 months away!  Participants will have the opportunity to spend time living in a Congress community and join hundreds of Congress people from across Australia at the UAICC National Conference in Tasmania.  Application forms for the next program are on the About FACE website or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

SongWrite II - 2015

A second UCA national songwriters weekend will be held in Adelaide on 12-14 June, 2015. More details to come.

Dates for future NCYCs

The Formation, Education and Discipleship Working Group has agreed that future NCYCs will be held in 2017 and 2020. This will allow synods and presbyteries some certainty in relation to planning their youth ministry events.

sml rob floydInternational Ministry, Relief and Development

Rob Floyd, National Director, UnitingWorld

As many of you will know, Christianity in China is growing at a staggering rate. With a new church being opened or re-opened every three days, the Church is unable to keep up with the demand for trained leaders and in many areas of China there is only one minister for 18,000 Christians. I'm genuinely excited that the UCA has launched a new partnership with the China Christian Council. The partnership includes a UnitingWorld project that will address the Church’s critical need for leadership by supporting scholarships for students, fostering exchanges between Australian and Chinese students and providing unique opportunities for people within the UCA to learn from one of the most dynamic and fastest growing Christian communities on earth. Keep reading for the story of one theological student in China, the first of many more in the coming months.

Imagine all the people… leading the Church of the future 

“Through my studies at theological seminary I’ve learned that we seek understanding of people’s needs in society - not only to focus on faith but on the wellbeing of the people.  This is how I will serve the church and why I have undertaken my training.” Dressed in a navy polo shirt and suit jacket, with laptop and books spread out before him, the young man looks and sounds much like any other theological student of his generation. There’s just one major difference. The place is China and within a few years this student is likely to be the sole ordained minister caring for a congregation of literally thousands of people. Supported by just a few committed volunteers, Deng Xao will guide men, women and children eager to hear the transforming story of Christ.  Later, they’ll invite friends and neighbours to their homes to share the way their lives have changed and church seating will overflow into the streets to accommodate new converts. UWJuly

This is life in modern China, where less than thirty years ago you could be imprisoned for your faith and places of worship were closed.  Today, ‘Communist, atheist China’ is well on its way to having the highest Christian population in the world. The reasons for this staggering growth are many. But in a packed church a week before Easter, a young woman talks about her faith in a way that rings true for thousands of others in modern day China.

“Modern society can be very lonely and competitive,” 27 year old Juliet says,  “Many University students in Shanghai come to the church and feel a sense of connection with each other and with what life is all about. Today in this service I learned that there is more to life than material things and I should focus on what is most important – love and the higher things of God.”

The China Christian Council (CCC) has a vision for a church that is true to the teachings of the Gospel, is deeply inclusive and cares for the most vulnerable in society.  It’s a vision that clearly resonates with the population, but the explosive growth of the church in China has its own set of challenges.

“The harvest is large but the workers are few,” says General Secretary of the CCC, Reverend Kan.  “Our greatest need is to train more leaders for our church. We are reaching in partnership toward the Uniting Church of Australia because we see a unique global church with a theology, commitment to social service and love for God’s people that we share.”

The Uniting Church in Australia, through UnitingWorld, is excited to be deepening our relationship with the Church in China. Our partnership will include training young leaders and exchanging lecturers and students from Chinese and Australian theological colleges.

“The possibilities for this relationship are very exciting,” says Ji Zhang, UnitingWorld’s Church Connections Manager for Asia. “Imagine… here in the Uniting Church in Australia we are standing beside and resourcing the leadership of the largest Christian Church in the world as it experiences a great revival. We are actively contributing to the development of one of the largest shaping forces of global Christianity.”

Please pray for Deng Xhao, Reverend Kan and the leadership of the Chinese Church.  And keep an eye out for how you can be involved in this partnership in the next few months!

 

sml stephen robinsonRelief and Disaster Recovery

Rev. Dr Stephen Robinson, National Disaster Recovery Officer

There is always something to do in the work of Disaster Recovery.  The disaster recovery management cycle has phases described as Response, Recovery, Mitigation, Preparedness (RRMR).  During the calmer months of winter I have been working with the Synods in preparedness.  At the beginning of July I spent some time with the West Australian Synod, training a group of very capable ministers as Peer Supporters. During times of crisis they will be well equipped to support and guide ministers and congregations.

I was also blessed to spend some time with the Synod as they worked on disaster recovery and relief strategies which are so important when disasters strike.  I am also working with the Queensland Synod in establishing a disaster recovery committee and make connections between the Uniting Church and other agencies and local and state government. I am finding that my role is useful in sharing resources,  saving each Synod and Presbytery the need to re-invent the wheel.  To further this I will be hosting a national meeting of synod disaster recovery coordinators in August, with the expectation of sharing valuable learning, processes and making plans to share people and resources across the states during major emergencies.  A highlight coming up for me includes speaking at the “Mission on the Verandah” Rural Ministry conference at Halls Gap, from 31 July, hosted by the Presbytery of Western Victoria. 

 

sml elenie poulosJustice and Advocacy

Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director, UnitingJustice

Children in Detention

The Australian Human Rights Commission has been conducting a far-reaching inquiry into the situation of children in immigration detention. We have made a submission to the Inquiry based on the long-standing position of the Uniting Church in Australia - the detention of children is morally wrong, harmful to their physical, emotional and mental well-being and is a breach of our obligations under a number of international human rights treaties. Much of the material in the submission is informed by interviews with young people and their families who have been detained in the detention network and with volunteers who regularly visit the centres.

C20 

The C20 is a platform for international civil society leaders to discuss the issues they believe should be on the agenda for the upcoming meeting of the G20 in Brisbane in November. The meeting was opened by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Julie Bishop MP and included an address by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Tanya Plibersek MP. Elenie participated in the workshop stream on climate change - a challenging one in the face of the Government's reluctance to put climate change on the G20 agenda. She heard a variety of plenary speakers and panels on measuring well-being and alternatives to GDP. Two of the speakers on this panel, Mike Salvaris and Jan Owen, sit on the Board of the ANDI project with Elenie. The Uniting Church in Australia Assembly is a supporter of this project to develop a well-being index for Australia. More information about the C20 and the final Communique to the G20 can be read here.

High Level Panel on Asylum Seeker Policy

At Parliament House in Canberra on July 11, Elenie was part of a group of 35 policy makers, politicians and commentators who gathered to discuss possible alternatives to the current policies that see asylum seekers held indefinitely in detention centres here and offshore and living in destitution in the community. The participants held a wide variety of opinions and brought an enormous breadth of experience to the table. The conversation was informed by a Discussion Paper prepared by Peter Hughes and Arja Keska-Nummi, two former officials of the Department of Immigration. The Roundtable was a joint initiative of Australia21, the Andrew and Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law UNSW, and the Centre for Policy Development. Read the media release and the Discussion Paper here.

sml lin hattfield doddsUnitingCare Australia

Lin Hattfield Dodds, National Director

Welfare review an opportunity for improvement

The medley of benefits, supplements, allowances and schemes that we call welfare in Australia has developed over the years in response to real and pressing needs. It is a system that has helped us take care of one another. Nonetheless, as it has evolved like patchwork, it has grown increasingly complex for everyone involved. Payment levels have not kept pace with the cost of living, and cumulative changes have led to unintended consequences.

This complex system, riddled with inefficiencies and inequity, has its roots firmly in a world long gone. Australia’s welfare system was designed for an era where men were the breadwinners and women worked outside the home only until marriage. Unemployment was generally short term and sporadic, with payments geared to helping individuals or families over a short hump of joblessness.

Australia is a different place now. Sixty five percent of women work, fifteen percent of families are single parent households, largely headed by women, and unemployment for too many Australians is long term and endemic. We’ve seen the rise of intergenerational unemployment, locational disadvantage and an increasingly complex mix of needs in our communities. Where thirty years ago, people came to community services seeking assistance with paying the bills, finding affordable housing, living with mental ill health, escaping family violence, gambling, alcohol or other drug addictions; it is the norm now for people to present with a cluster of these issues impacting their or their family’s lives.

Our population is ageing. More of us are living longer than ever before, including Australians living with disability. People with a range of conditions can now expect to live decades longer than in previous centuries. Families have become a whole lot diverse than in decades past. Australians increasingly partner multiple times over a life-course, so in addition to the rise of the sole parent family, we are experiencing and explosion in family types and complexity. It’s not unusual for children to live in and regularly move between two or more households.

And of course our labour market has transformed. Teens no longer are pushed to decided “what they want to be” at school, in preparation for selecting one job for life. Workers are required to skill up for work and to continue to develop skills over their working life as jobs change and as they shift industries in response to demand.

These changes all bring challenges for an outdated welfare system. The radical reconfiguring of Australian families, women working en masse, our ageing population, labour market changes and the emergence of long term unemployment all require new approaches to welfare policy and practice.

The particular challenges around financing supports and care for the vulnerable while ensuring an adequate revenue stream to govern the country well has focussed the minds of Australian government after Australian government on the twin approaches of increasing participation in the workforce and tax reform.

The Government’s announcement earlier this year that Australia’s welfare system would be reviewed provided a welcome opportunity to simplify the system while ensuring that the welfare we provide is effective for its task—providing vital support to some of our most vulnerable people. This is an opportunity that should not be missed.

It is also an opportunity that should not be confused or conflated with the revenue challenge Australia faces. Australia raises less tax than almost any other OECD country. As long as we continue to spend more than we raise, Australia will have an ongoing fiscal problem. The priority of the welfare review must remain focussed on getting the welfare system right. 

The Review’s Interim Report has recently been released and contains some positive signs. It offers principles or directions for where reform should head and outlines a number of questions that need to be addressed, inviting submissions.

Alongside its focus on sustainability and efficiency, the report rightly recognises that our welfare system should be about building capacity as well as providing support. The report also recognises the need to ensure that income support works in tandem with social supports and proposes that welfare should be as much about developing and nurturing the capability of individuals, families and communities as it must be about the provision of adequate income.

This means engaging with people holistically. Adequate income support enables people to survive. Working with people to build their skills and capability enables them to thrive. Social services, like those provided by organisations in our network and other charities, are crucial to providing meaningful support.

As the Review progresses in the weeks and months ahead, some key priorities must remain front and centre. The welfare system must provide support that is adequate, it must be simplified and it must be effective. If we can support people to build their capacity and capabilities, if we can nurture our communities, our families and our people, the long-term social (and economic) benefits follow.

In the months ahead, the Review must take care not to confuse short-term cost-cutting with efficiency. The task that faces us is one of creating the best system of supports that we can. There are few priorities higher than supporting our most vulnerable people and ensuring that they can contribute, belong and be valued.

Nobel prize winner Joseph Stiglitz shared his wisdom with Australia last night on Lateline, urging the Australian Government to invest more in our people, not less. We could do worse than take his advice.

This article was first published in Eureka Street on 1 July 2014 under the title “An opportunity to invest in Australia’s needy”.

sml tony floydMulticultural and Crosscultural Ministry

Rev. Dr Tony Floyd, National Director 

Fijian National Conference

UCA National conferences are great gifts to our cultural diversity. They provide intentional opportunity for members of different cultural and language groups to meet together around their common heritage, to celebrate their lives in or journeying into the UCA, to build understanding of the UCA, the culture and traditions of the country/culture of origin, and to grow together as disciples of the One Jesus Christ. Recently the UCA has been blessed by two National Conferences – the Korean, held on the Gold Coast and the Fijian, hosted in Victoria - I will report on the Fijian.

Focusing on the theme “Without a vision the people perish”, almost 360 people, (including more than 100 young people and children) met at chilly and damp Kyneton from July 3 - 6. Groups came from every Synod in the UCA, and included some who are not yet formally a part of the church, but who are ministering alongside our congregations, non-Fijian ministers and leaders who either minister to Fijian background members or have a group in their congregation. The latter group find such gatherings to provide very helpful insights into the life, faith and world views of their people. 

Just a few significant highlights from the FNC:

• We continued a special relationship with the Yolngu people of East Arnhem Land that began when the first white missionary arrived accompanied by a Fijian. When the conference met in Darwin a group of 20, including the former Moderator of the Northern Synod Rev. Dr Djiniyini Gondarra came to the whole of the conference in respect of those Fijian ministers and others who served and continue to serve in that part of Australia and its first peoples. This year Maratja Dhamarrandji, support worker in East Arnhem Land came and brought greetings and an apology from the Chairperson of the UAICC, Rev. Rronang Garrawurra.
• Young people shared their hopes and dreams for greater inclusion in their local communities and in the planning and programming for the National Conference.
• The Rev. Dr Jovili Meo, Qasi Levu, Chair of the FNC for 10 years, retired at this Conference - his significant service to the Fijian communities in the UCA and the partnership between the Methodist Church of Fiji and the UCA was recognised during the Sunday Holy communion service.
• In the elections for the next executive that followed Jon Lotu, son of as Fijian missionary and born in East Arnhem Land, a lay person was elected as Qasi Levu. This has enormous significance in this community for this role has only been held by ordained ministers in the past and still in Fiji. There was significant celebration and delight when this was announced. Rev. Dr Jovili Meo took the opportunity when responding to speeches of thanks, to publicly note this momentous occasion, to indicate how integral such realities are to the DNA of the Uniting Church, and that the only step remaining is for a woman to become Qasi Levu.
• Another enriching experience was the leadership and teaching in the key studies by the Rev. Jason Kioa, former Moderator of the Synod of Vic/Tas, Chair of the Tonga National Conference, and member of the National Reference Committee for MCM.  To have such relevant, focused, culturally sensitive leadership from another Pacific Island leader was widely commented on by all ages. The dialogue and discussions that followed each session allowed for a closer examination of priorities for future FNCs.

The next Conference will be in Brisbane in 2016 and details will appear in due course. 

Pastor David Busch - Korean National Conference  

KNC 7 copy

Qld Synod Moderator Rev. Kaye Ronalds, has acknowledged gifts of spirituality from Korean churches and members which have significantly enriched the Uniting Church. She was bringing greetings to the opening service of the Korean National Conference at Southport UC on Queensland’s Gold Coast. Kaye spoke particularly about the Koreans’ discipline of regular prayer, their commitment to mission, their striving for excellence in music and worship, and their heart for their young people to grow in faith and commitment to Jesus Christ. Ministers from about 25 churches attended the biennial conference, from 23-26 June, with the theme ‘A Common Vision’. The conference included worship, input and discussion sessions, and visits to places of interest in the Gold Coast and Brisbane. It was held mostly at Southport UC, with sessions also at New Life UC Robina and Calvary Korean UC, Brisbane. The South Moreton Presbytery, which encompasses the Gold Coast and southern Brisbane, has three Korean congregations.

 

sml deanDefence Force Chaplaincy

My name is Chaplain Dean Quilty, I am a Uniting Church Minister currently serving on overseas operations in the Middle East on a 6 month Deployment. I was asked just recently by a uniformed member how I as a Chaplain reconcile the purposes of the Defence Force, and the place of Chaplains within the military.

It is a good question, given that the Defence Force can be involved in military intervention directed by the Australian Government.

I responded by saying that Chaplaincy, in Defence for me is not about endorsing any particular Government Policy or response to security issues but rather, primarily about the people involved in that work and the impact that Defence life and its demands can have on their spiritual and personal well being.

Chaplaincy is a place of privilege and I feel privileged to be given the trust and opportunity to care for men and woman who can be placed under significant pressures; who may be witness to terrible injustice; or simply dealing with the daily pressures and demands of the unique Defence life.  

Finally, Chaplaincy for me is also about crossing divides.  I am called to care for all members, regardless of denomination, religion, atheism, sexuality, gender, ideology or any other category.  All to me are to be treated with care and respect and all are welcome through our doors. 

dove 50x50Other Assembly News

dove 50x50Synod 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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