In her annual Easter Sunday video message, the President of the Uniting Church in Australia Dr Deidre Palmer has said Australians are standing with each other in a time of crisis and trauma
While Easter observances in the Church are taking different forms this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Palmer said that Christian communities were responding in ways to keep vulnerable people safe.
This year's message was filmed on Kangaroo Island in South Australia, where people are rebuilding their lives in the wake of devastating bushfires.
"In the Easter story we see the power of God's love to overcome. From death and devastation, new life and hope emerges," said Dr Palmer
President Deidre Palmer has issued a Pastoral Note just before Easter, urging Chuch members to be mindful of the safety of people in violent relationships.
"We are hearing reports of an increase in calls to Domestic and Family Violence helplines across the globe from women who are more isolated than ever, and whose social supports and safety plans are in jeopardy," said Dr Palmer.
"In this Holy Week, we recall the way of Jesus, and his life of love and peace. We remember his violent death at the hands of those who resisted his message of love, justice, inclusion, equality and non-violence.
I was recently part of a deeply moving Zoom conversation with two remarkable people from Israel-Palestine.
Christina Samara is a Palestinian Christian resident of East Jerusalem. Elisa Moed is a Jewish Israeli citizen. Christina and Elisa each own inbound travel companies in Palestine and Israel, respectively. Between them, they operate an amazing venture, Breaking Bread Journeys, interfaith travel in both Israel and the Palestinian Territories, with a focus on understanding the “dual narratives”.
Our end of the conversation was a mixed group of Australians who have travelled with Breaking Bread on study tours organised by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD). The group I travelled with in March 2019 was a mixture of Christian leaders and members of the rainbow community, including prominent leaders in LGBTI organisations as well as people well-known in the media.
We talked about the current situation and future possibilities.
The Uniting Church has joined civil society groups pushing for all migrant workers to receive the Federal Government's new JobKeeper wage subsidy.
More than 120 organisations including the National Council of Churches in Australia, the Refugee Council of Australia, and the Queensland Community Alliance are calling on the Morrison Governmnet to expand the coverage of its JobKeeper scheme.
They want the scheme to cover all working people in Australia, regardless of visa status or how long they’ve been working in their current job.
The Assembly Standing Committee (ASC) has approved temporary guidelines for Uniting Church congregations and faith communities to celebrate Holy Communion as part of online worship.
"At this moment, we cannot gather together in our usual ways, because of the restrictions designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19, and to keep vulnerable people safe," said Uniting Church President Dr Deidre Palmer in a Pastoral Letter explaining the decision.
On Palm Sunday this week people across the country will urgently raise their voices so that refugees and asylum seekers will not be forgotten in our fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
A great justice tradition in Australia is that on Palm Sunday every year thousands of people take to the streets to call for a more compassionate response to refugees.
This Sunday, instead of gathering for rallies and marches in major cities, people are finding new and creative ways to raise their voices together.
The Uniting Church in Australia is marking a year since joining the Federal Government’s National Redress Scheme (NRS) for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.
“The occurrence of abuse in our institutions is part of our history. We do not hide from it but commit to continuing to learn from it,” said UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer.
“The Uniting Church is committed to restoring relationships in our communities for survivors.
The Assembly has received a number of requests to consider the possibility of Uniting Church congregations conducting Holy Communion online during this period of self-isolation and physical distancing during the Covid-19 crisis.
The Assembly is considering this and the Assembly Standing Committee will make a decision by close of business Friday 3 April 2020.
The Uniting Church in Australia Facebook page will host livestreamed worship from around the country from Palm Sunday.
Associate General Secretary Rob Floyd says the national livestreams, which can be replayed later at any time, are for online audiences whose congregation doesn’t have a local livestream available.
“We are aware that there are some people who are part of congregations who are not able or decide not to offer their own livestream,” said Mr Floyd.
“We also know of others who would like to connect to a wider network of UCA people across Australia and to experience worship leadership from a variety of gifted leaders across Australia.”
“So over the weeks ahead we will draw on our many talented worship leaders from across the UCA to provide one short service as a national livestream every Sunday.”
The timetable for national streaming, which may change, is as follows: