The North Queensland Presbytery Minister, the Rev Bruce Cornish, has visited widely in the area during the week and the minister in Innisfail the Rev Glen Louttit led a service of thanksgiving and remembrance in the Town Hall, the Sunday after Cyclone Larry devastated Innisfail and surrounding areas. Glen says that the situation is still catastrophic with electricity provided by generators, and most other services not yet available. He estimates over 30,000 people lived through this traumatic and catastrophic time, with the force of the winds greater than that of Katrina or the cyclone that devastated Darwin. The Moderator of the Queensland Synod the Rev David Pitman and the Gen Secretary of the Synod, the Rev Jenny Tymms, are in regular contact with the area. Church buildings and manses suffered minimal damage. Some members of congregations have lost their homes and their livelihoods. Many volunteers from churches to the South and North of the region are helping. The destruction is massive, the cleanup is on such a large scale, and the time to rebuild will take months and years. Let us continue to pray for those in the Innisfail area, in the immediate aftermath of this disaster, and vow to keep on remembering them during the long task of getting life back to normal. The Queensland Synod is receiving non tax deductible donations that can be more flexibly dispersed, and for those who want to receive the benefit of the tax deduction the request is to give through the Commonwealth Bank Appeal. Representatives of the Assembly’s National Disaster Fund have been in contact with the Presbytery Chairperson for North Queensland and the Synod Secretary assuring them that there are funds available through this source to assist the UCA’s response. Rev Dr Dean Drayton
Lord God of the winds and waves, of energy and order, we pray for those who have experienced the fury of forces that have devastated their region and struck terror into many hearts. We give thanks for the security of our own precious worlds of home and street and job. We pray for those for whom these have been crumpled up like roofs in a screaming gale, and now feel so bereft and exposed to the forces of this universe, and their own deepest feelings of loss and exposure. Keep before us the ways we can help rebuild shattered buildings, and devastated fields. And give understanding and insight to those who find the tears so close to the surface, bubbling up unheralded when the memories come of the fear and the helplessness huddling before the seemingly never ending wind and rain.
We pray wisdom for those who are given the task of restoring order, hope for those whose needs are great, and patience for those who know there are no quick solutions. Through Cyclone Larry’s threat to community may new communities be built, bringing new life to the area, new relationships with government, and a new confidence in life. As you give, O God, rich and full and always beyond what we expect, help us too, to grow in such generosity. Through Him who lived through a shattered world, to a cross and a resurrection, even Jesus Christ our Lord, we pray. Amen.
10 May 2006
We pray for all who have had one focus for the last two weeks, the freeing of those trapped underground. In the glare of the days that are to come, when all returns to a sort of normal, help families find new depths in a time of release.
Bring we pray that realisation of the way you hold us in ways that are within and beyond our ways of knowing. Help us treasure our freedom to live our days for the ones we love in our local and wider communities. In the name of Christ. Amen.
9 May 2006
Lord it is a day for shouting thanks, and a day of lament. The joy and sadness of life locked into one day. Be with the Beaconsfield community as they walk this amazing day with the families of Brant Webb and Todd Russell, and kneel to give thanks with loved ones for the life of Larry Knight.
We thank you for the work of rescuers, and carers, providing support in the height of exhilaration, and the depths of grief.
And now with the mine closed for safety investigations may their still be hope for the future of this community, bonded together by adversity, finding courage for the journeys still to come. In your mercy O God we pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
President's reflection on Beaconsfield
5 May 2006
Immediately after the rock fall trapped three miners at Beaconsfield, in Tasmania, Frances Seen, the Uniting Church Community Minister there opened the church from 7am-9pm so that miners, and friends and members in the community could come, light a candle, reflect, pray, and go on their way. So many did.
Last Sunday in the worship service prayers were said for those in grief and those still not found as the Rev. Allan Thompson, the Synod Officer led worship with her. The sadness of the family at the death of their own (name) was followed that night by the most amazing announcement as rescuers ran to the church to share the good news with the community. “They are alive.”
We are now all involved. I rang Frances and talked with her on Monday morning. She was tired, but I assured her that we were all praying with her and the community, in this their longer vigil. And now the long waiting for an extremely difficult rescue has all of us on edge. We wait for news, we long for news when we are in that in between time of hope anticipated, but hope not yet fulfilled. We can see them stepping out into the glare of the television lights, and hardly wait for the joy of that event, yet all in Beaconsfield know the difficulties which must be overcome.
We must also be mindful of the deep hope of Beaconsfield that the community which is dependant on this mine has a future, as they too wait to see whether this will also be fulfilled.
The church has been flooded with people, townsfolk, visitors, politicians, quietly holding in their thoughts and prayers those still trapped, those rescuing them, and their families. And people keep on lighting their candles of vigil and hope.
And we too know something about that sort of waiting; and that sort of hoping; and the need for some sort of space to find ourselves before the God who sustains us in hope.
Lord in your mercy, restore these men to their families. Guard those who are there with them in this rescue mission. Bring your consolation to those in the midst of grief and hope for a community with an uncertain future. In the name of Jesus Christ, on whom we wait and in whom our deepest hopes are fulfilled. Amen
Rev. Dr Dean Drayton.
In memoriam to Larry Knight with prayers for Brant Webb and Todd Russell.
Representatives of the Assembly, including the President and General Secretary met with representatives of the proposed Assembly of Congressing Congregations in Sydney recently to discuss how it would relate to official Councils of the Church. One of the main areas of discussion at the recent meeting was legal advice received by the Reforming Alliance which claims the decision of the 10th Assembly in relation to sexuality and leadership are invalid or irregular.
Meeting in Sydney on August 26 and 27, the Assembly Standing Committee received a report on the meeting from the General Secretary as well as its own legal opinion in response to the claims made by Reforming Alliance.
The ASC accepted the opinion it had received that there is no validity to the claims made by the Reforming Alliance. The ASC expressed concern that members of the church felt compelled to take theological differences to a civil court and made it clear that the proposed Assembly of Confessing Congregations has no status or formal recognition within the councils of the Church.
It asked the General Secretary to seek more information from representatives of the proposed Assembly of Confessing Congregations about the exact nature of how it will operate within the existing church structures. When answers have been received to these questions, this information will be distributed across the church.
Guidance from the National Assembly regarding the proposed "Assembly of Confessing Congregations"
This guidance has been prepared by the Assembly officers in response to requests from some members, congregations and presbyteries seeking Assembly comment about the proposed “Assembly of Confessing Congregations”. It has been distributed to Congregations and Presbyteries.
Every year millions of young people around the world spend time at Christian camps, festivals and conferences, taking part in a range of activities from extreme sports to bible studies, small group discussions to Christian rock concerts. But what happens to those young people when they return to their homes and the euphoria of a week spent in close-knit Christian community fades away?
A growing international trend for such camps and festivals is an ‘action day,’ involving participants spending some time experiencing what it means to put their faith into practice. Depending on the kind of event and who is doing the organising, this might involve a traditional evangelism mission into a city centre, with participants being confronted with what it means to go out and share their faith in the wider community. Or it might involve participants getting their hands dirty, taking on practical social or environmental projects for those in need.
The organisers of the Uniting Church in Australia’s National Christian Youth Convention (NCYC) 2007 have embraced the trend, with the concept of ‘mission immersion’ a big part of the original concept of the Perth event. If the idea seems to fit well within the Agents of Change theme, says Mission Immersion team leader Travis Windsor, that’s because the theme and keynote speakers were all chosen around the primary focus of creating a convention which would offer participants the chance to put their bodies where their ears are.
‘If you look at the traditional format of a youth convention, there’s a lot of listening,’ says Travis. ‘In Bible studies, small groups, even during rallies and nitelife, most of the program is about listening to other people talking. What we wanted for NCYC 2007 was to complement hearing with action.’
Back in 2003, when NSW hosted the biennial NCYC event, participants could choose immersion/reflection electives, learning from those involved in hands-on mission work with people in need. The structure of the 2007 program has allowed organisers to build on that foundation, with each delegate opting for one of three streams: xplore, journey and engage. At one end of the spectrum, the xplore stream is for those with lots of questions to ask, who may not be committed Christians but want to know more. The journey stream is for people who want to work through some deeper questions and challenges, while engage is for ‘delegates who are wanting to radically step out and share in the life and work of God in the world.’
Having arrived at the event on the Wednesday afternoon, delegates will already have spent some time within their ‘streams’ and have started developing relationships with others in their small groups before the Friday immersion. Small groups will then be matched up to community organisations and church groups for experiences ranging from nursing home visits, a busy bee at a refuge, prison visiting or taking part in a church community day.
While Travis acknowledges the experience has the potential to be ‘fairly in your face’ for the young people involved, the support of the small groups, which will include extensive briefing and debriefing sessions, means there will be a safe place for them to work through their experiences during the remainder of their time at convention.
The day will also give young people the opportunity to develop relationships with the older people who are leading the immersion activities, giving them someone they can call on for support and advice if they would like to get involved in a similar activity back home. Travis suggests it might also challenge some young people to re-evaluate their assumptions about what happens in the daily lives of people they normally only see in church on a Sunday.
‘It’s about having delegates go home realising that when I say I want to be an agent of change, it’s not just a catchphrase, its part of who I am,’ says Travis.For more information about NCYC and the mission immersion program, go to agentsofchange.org.au or phone 1300 006 292.
You are invited to a special reunion on Sunday, 22 October which will celebrate the rich Heritage of Christian Education in the UCA and its partner churches and the work of the former Joint Board of Christian Education and Uniting Education.
The stimulus for this comes as a result of the following resolution, passed at the most recent Assembly Standing Committee:
"... to acknowledge and honour the rich heritage that the Joint Board of Christian Education and then Uniting Education made to the life of the Uniting Church and its former founding churches over 92 years. The ministry of these former agencies of the Assembly set an example of ecumenical cooperation and provision both of resources and training for Christian Education, Discipleship and Mission not only in Australia and New Zealand, but also for some of our partner churches in the Pacific." The Assembly Christian Education Reference Committee has offered to host this event. The celebration will be held from 2.30pm at Blackburn Uniting Church, The Avenue, Blackburn Victoria.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
Greetings to you from the National Assembly.
The President of the Assembly, Rev Gregor Henderson, invited leaders from our migrant communities to meet with him for a pastoral conversation about how our migrant communities were feeling after the
11th Assembly. On Friday 22 September these leaders met with the President in Sydney.
A very positive meeting took place in which the experience and issues faced by our migrant communities were shared in an honest and open way. It was clear that the overwhelming majority of migrant congregations very much value belonging to the Uniting Church. There was a good deal of discussion and concern expressed about the Reforming Alliance proposal to establish an Assembly of
Confessing Congregations. During the meeting the initiative was taken by the migrant leaders to share with their communities and the wider church their views and concerns. This letter introduces to you the Open Letter that has been written by individual leaders from across the various migrant communities of the Uniting Church. I commend it prayerfully to you. Grace and Peace, Terence Corkin
The leaders of nine migrant communities have publicly declared they will not join the proposed Assembly of Confessing Congregations and have sent an open letter to their communities urging them to consider the impact it will have on the unity of the Church.
The open letter, signed by leaders of the Indonesian, Tongan, Samoan, Tamil, Vietnamese, Filipino, Niuean and Fijian National Conferences and the Korean Commission, follows a meeting in Sydney on September 22 between the migrant leaders and leaders of the Assembly.
The President of the Assembly, Rev Gregor Henderson, invited leaders from the migrant communities to meet with him for a pastoral conversation about how migrant communities were feeling after the 11th Assembly.
“It was a very positive meeting. The commitment of our migrant leaders to the unity and diversity of the Uniting Church is very strong. They conveyed to us very clearly the affirmations, concerns, and hopes of their communities,” Rev. Henderson said.
Rev. Henderson said the migrant leaders were keen to discuss the proposed Assembly of Confessing Congregations. At their own initiative they then decided to issue an open letter to tell their communities of their commitment to the life and mission of the Uniting Church and of their concerns about the proposed Assembly of Confessing Congregations.
In their letter the signatories said the Uniting Church was their spiritual home and was a place where their views were respected and where migrant communities would continue to help shape its future and contribute to its life
They said they would not be joining the Assembly of Confessing Congregations and asked their communities to “seriously consider the consequences of such a move for the unity of the Church.” “We do not support the establishment of an ‘Assembly of Confessing Churches’. We do not want to see the setting up of separate structures that undermine the work of the Councils of the Church. We are concerned that this move will create confusion and divided loyalties and be harmful to the unity of our church.”“We need to nurture and build our sense of togetherness. The Uniting Church contains a diversity of biblical and theological understandings. Showing that we can hold together a variety of perspectives and respectfully live together with our differences is a witness to the wider community.”
Congregations, faith communities and small groups in the Uniting Church are being encouraged to reflect on and celebrate international Human Rights Day through a suite of internet based resources being made available by UnitingJustice.
International Human Rights Day is celebrated on December 10 each year and commemorates the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted unanimously on 10 December 1948).
UnitingJustice National Director, Rev. Elenie Poulos said the Universal Declaration envisions a world in which all people enjoy rights and freedoms without discrimination.
“Human Rights Day is a time to celebrate how much has been achieved in bringing this vision to reality, and also to reflect upon how much remains to be done,” Rev. Poulos said.
This year UnitingJustice has produced a suite of internet-based information resources which can be downloaded soon from our website
“The material is suitable for use for individual reflection and group discussion and although issued on the occasion of International Human Rights Day can be used at any time.
“The resources include information about the church and human rights, worship materials, and fact sheets on climate change as a human rights issue, the death penalty and racism and human rights.”
“The Uniting Church has always had a deep commitment to ensuring human rights are upheld and in this tradition, at this year’s National Assembly meeting in Brisbane, the Assembly adopted the statement Dignity in Humanity: A Uniting Church Statement on Human Rights.
“This is the most comprehensive Uniting Church statement made on the subject of human rights, and it affirms the Church's belief that every person is precious before God and entitled to live with dignity.
“The statement commits the Uniting Church to promote and uphold human rights locally, nationally and internationally. It also declares the Church's opposition to capital punishment and calls upon Church members and agencies to work for and model justice, and to stand in solidarity with our partner churches in their struggle for human rights.“International Human Rights Day is a perfect opportunity for members of the Uniting Church to publicly live out the commitment made by the Church in this statement,” Rev. Poulos said.
For the members of Ambassador77, making music is a God-filled process — but they’re adamant that the music they make is for everyone, Christians and non-Christians alike. As the main evening entertainment at NCYC 2007, they hope to share some of their passion for their faith via their music.
The band members — vocalist and guitarists Nick Dubé and Tim McHutchison, bassist Nathan Carey and drummer Tim Dubé — grew up together at their local church, Melbourne’s Rowville Baptist, and started making music together in their teens. Ambassador77 was formed in 2002.
They’re now in the throes of recording their second EP, and thanks to a partnership with a Melbourne’s Melodic Music, they’re well on the way to fulfilling one of their main aims: to be Christians in the mainstream music industry, staying true to their faith and making great music.
Nick says that while he is intensely aware of God’s role in the creative process, the band is discreet about its Christian roots.
“God’s a big part of my life, so he naturally becomes a big part of my songs. I feel like each song is a gift from God, and often they just come to me with ease, but I’ve never been inspired to write songs that are overtly Christian,” he explained.
“That approach allows us to play in a pub scene and have that content in our lyrics without people being freaked out or scared away … and it opens the door for us to be able to go in and work with people in the mainstream industry, which is where we feel we can have the biggest impact.
“We’re pretty out there with the fact that we’re Christians, but we don’t want anyone to ever get their back up and feel like we’re excluding them.”
Nick says that through his lyrics, he tries to express honest feelings that others — whether Christian or not — will be able to relate to. But sometimes he finds God working through the songs in unexpected ways.
The band has just recorded a song called “Two Weeks”, which Nick says reflects his feeling of being lost in the busyness of life, and not able to stop and spend time with his wife: “To see your face without the haste of time would lift me up … to hear your voice without the haste of time would lift me up.”
Nick said that it was only after he finished recording the song that he realised a lot of the lyrics in it expressed his yearning to spend more time with God as well.
“I looked at those three lines and realised it’s a longing to see God’s face as well; for God to hold my hand through the busyness of life. Sometimes we work really hard on the lyrics in a focussed, practical way, and at the end of those songs we look at what’s come out and see meanings that we didn’t mean to come out of it.
“I like to be pretty real about my own struggles in my life and about what’s scaring me, what I need help with. People can connect to honesty,” he said.
Nick grew up in the church and says that although he didn’t have the “radical conversion experience” that some Christians do, he started to take the Gospel message more seriously at around age 18 after attending a Soul Survivor event.
He hopes some young people will have the same experience at NCYC. “That’s something I’d like to see there — kids experiencing Jesus in a real and relevant way that hits them right where they’re at,” he said.You can see Ambassador77 live at NCYC on Friday 5th, Saturday 6th and Monday 8th January, 2007.
From Rev. John Whaley
A National Rural Ministry Gathering was held at Culcairn NSW on 16th – 18th October, 2006. John Atkinson (WA Synod Resourcing Local Mission), Mac Forsyth (WA Synod Mid West Resource Ministry) and John Whaley (WA Synod Central South Eastern Region Resource Ministry) were included in about 20 people (lay and ordained) who gathered from around Australia. Each delegate displayed a passion for rural ministry and had a deep concern for rural communities. Culcairn is a small rural town situated north of Wodonga/Albury in southern NSW.
The purpose of the gathering was to worship together, share stories, joys and challenges, give reports about our regions, learn from each other and decide on some ways ahead. Local arrangements were more than adequate, yet with minimal impact on the Culcairn Congregation. The generosity and hospitality of the Culcairn folk was exceptionally warm, welcoming and plentiful and in the tradition of rural church.
Opening worship was focused through a clip from the film Chocolaté. Rev. Narelle Penman invited us to reflect on the issue of change, raising the question, “Are we open to a fresh wind?” The way we embrace change will be crucial to the future rural church. Geoff Wellington then introduced two questions: “Where do we find truth?” and “Is the Lord with us?” These questions are important and should be held before us; in fact, they often resurfaced in our discussions throughout the gathering.
The Culcairn Uniting Church provided for coffee breaks and lunch. Breakfast was at the local bakery and dinner at the Culcairn Hotel. These informal times of meeting and discussion proved invaluable (perhaps more than the main sessions) as people got to know each other, shared their stories, listened and learned.
Ross Neville (NSW Board of Mission and Coordinator of the National Rural Ministry Gathering) posed the question, “What do we hope to gain from this gathering?” The overwhelming answer was to recognise that, collectively we are on a journey together. We need to listen to each others stories and gain encouragement and support from our shared journey. And then we need to identify what is working and what is not, realising there are no “magic” answers; in fact the rural church is facing issues now that the city based church will have to deal with in the (maybe not too distant) future.
Much of the formal time involved listening to reports from NSW/ACT, SA, WA, and Vic/Tas. As each speaker talked about their work we imagined a rich tapestry of ministry offered to rural communities. Of particular interest was Ross Neville’s report on Project Reconnect, a DVD worship resource assisting worship in isolated areas. And from WA we heard of Mac Forsyth’s ministry into the Mid-West which is fully sponsored by the Light House Christian Fellowship of the Geraldton Uniting Church. Future directions focused on three main issues. Firstly, drought-related issues which raised more questions than answers: “How can we support and resource local churches to respond and address needs?” Secondly, the issue of: “What is Church in the rural Community? And then the issue of theological education and ministry formation for rural ministry.
It was agreed to reconvene as a National Group – 15th-17th October 2007, in Donald, Victoria.
If you would like to read a more comprehensive report contact Rev. John Atkinson via the WA Synod.
A new publication, aimed at fostering faith development, faith sharing and which will share a positive message about the Uniting Church and Christianity in general is being launched in February as a joint venture between the Synod of Western Australia and the National Assembly.
The Transit Lounge, a fortnightly zine (electronic magazine) is a response to the growing need within the Uniting Church membership for a publication that can show the broader picture of the work of the Uniting Church, encourage faith development and have a mission focus.