News

Poverty is about a lack of means to live a decent life. It’s about not having enough money to eat healthy food. Poverty is not being able to take your kids to the doctors or dentist. Poverty is never having new clothes, or holidays. Poverty means standing in supermarket queues, quietly praying you’ve added up your handful of items correctly. If you haven’t, you'll face the embarrassment of having to put something back.

Poverty is about always having to say “no” to school camps and excursions. Poverty means never going to the movies, or out for a casual coffee with friends. Poverty means putting up with rotten teeth and a bad back. Poverty means standing in the rain waiting for busses that never run on time. Poverty means having your name on an endless Government list for somewhere safe to live. Poverty means that other people make decisions about your life most of the time.

Could you and your family live on $400 a week? Four hundred dollars for everything? Four hundred dollars to pay the rent, food, transport, clothes, the doctor and chemist, school and kids sports…. This year more than 3.6 million Australian households are struggling to survive on four hundred dollars a week.

Poverty exists. It’s bad for everyone. Together, we can make a difference.

A new UnitingCare Australia action kit targeting Uniting Church congregations and UnitingCare agencies and missions was launched recently to coincide with National Anti-Poverty week and to help the Church meet its aim of getting poverty, especially child poverty, on the National agenda.

Developed in partnership with congregations and agencies the Not Enough poverty kits aim to enable local mission, by empowering UCA members and UnitingCare staff and supporters to use their gifts, skills, and local connections to act for change for those whose lives are less rich and more troubled than they need to be.

The action kit has four sessions developed in cooperation between congregations, agencies and Assembly Agencies UnitingCare Australia, Uniting Justice and Uniting Education. It aims to develop conversations about how Christian tradition and experience can be brought into focus to encourage us to work together.

UnitingCare Australia National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds, said each session is designed for a small group to work through in one meeting and there are a range of activity choices available in each session, both for those who would describe themselves as people of faith, and for those who work or volunteer in our agencies and share our passion for justice.

“The action kit was designed by people in congregations and agencies for congregations and agencies. If you want to produce resources that excite and engage people you need to have them help shape the project,” she said.

The kit follows on from UnitingCare Australia’s on-going advocacy work on poverty at the Federal level and the recent decision of the UnitingCare National Conference to commit the 450 strong network of service providers to getting child poverty on the national agenda.

“We deliver children’s services, child protection, out of home care, programs for homeless young people, family support and early intervention. Our credibility lies in our direct and daily contact with families, the work that we do and the outcomes we achieve.

“As a nation, we have the knowledge, the skills, and the resources to tackle the causes and impacts of child poverty. As a network, UnitingCare has the experience and knowledge to work with Government to do that.”

Lin said one of the ways to achieve change at a Government level was to mobilise local congregations, UnitingCare providers and communities to act and agitate for change. “Imagine if every Federal politician was contacted in their own seat by locals with the same message about serious, well resourced national action on poverty.”

Poverty exists. Its bad for everyone. Together we can make the difference.

“Working together, we can transform our neighbourhoods, our communities, and our country, one choice and one act at a time, to be places of hope and belonging for everyone”.

‘Every day, UnitingCare community service providers see the tragic effects of poverty and financial hardship and the way these compound for the most disadvantaged in our communities—people who are homeless, those with poor mental health, people living with a disability. We need to turn around Australia’s poor record on dealing with poverty. Working locally through this action kit provides a way for national action and transformation to begin at a grass roots level.”

Want to know more? You can download the kit from the UnitingCare Australia website (www.unitingcare.org.au) where you will find lots of information about poverty and inequality.

 

Uniting Church Overseas Aid is urgently seeking donations to assist a number of countries in South East Asia that have been hit by natural disasters in recent months.

Donations will be used to assist the work of our partner Churches to provide emergency support in disaster affected regions of the following countries.

  • Indonesia
  • West Papua
  • The Phillipines
  • How to send donations

(1) Earthquake hits Alor Island in Eastern Indonesia

At 4am on the 12 November 2004 an earthquake registering 6.5 on the Richter Scale hit the eastern Indonesian island of Alor. Around 17,000 buildings were damaged. Most of these where houses leaving 50,000 people homeless. Reports indicate that 34 people have died and there are approximately 300 people with major injuries. Living conditions are difficult with the onset of the wet season while hundreds of aftershocks have hit the island.

Our partner church in the region, the Evangelical Christian Church in Timor (GMIT) has formed a disaster response team and is distributing food and shelter to local congregations. Most of Alor Island are members of GMIT. The island is very mountainous and the only airfield on the island is out of action. Roads are cut due to landslides. Financial support can be sent to the GMIT Synod in Kupang through Uniting Church Overseas Aid

(2) Earthquake hits Nabire in West Papua

On Friday 26th November 2004 an earthquake registering 6.4 on the Richter Scale hit the town of Nabire in West Papua. This was the second earthquake to hit the town in the past nine months and at least 17 people have died and 180 people are injured. Over 300 buildings in the town have been damaged and Nabire's airport has been severely effected. Planes are not able to land. Some 89 aftershocks were experienced during the following day with a total of 368 aftershocks being measured since the earthquake (some aftershocks measuring up to 5.4 on the Richter Scale). People have been living outside because they fear their houses will collapse. Electricity and water supplies are out of action while bridges have been damaged and roads are cut.

Our partner church, the Evangelical Christian Church in the Land of Papua is preparing to provide emergency assistance in the area. Financial support can be sent to the GKI di Tanah Papua Synod in Jayapura through Uniting Church Overseas Aid.

(3) Typhoons hit Luzon, Philippines

Six hundred people are dead or missing in the eastern region of Luzon due to a series typhoons that have hit the region. Winds of up to 240 kph and heavy rain have swept away roads, bridges and villages. Mudslides together with huge logs that have been washed down from the mountains and are causing extensive damage. The town of Real (population 30,000) is isolated by floodwaters and many tens of thousands of people are affected in other areas.

Typhoon Nanmadol is now approaching Luzon with 185 kph winds. This will be the fourth storm to hit the region in a week. Uniting International Mission is contacting our church partner in the Philippines, the United Church of Christ (UCCP), to seek further information. It's highly likely that our church partner (UCCP) will be seeking support to provide emergency aid to the region. Financial support can be sent through Uniting Church Overseas Aid.

The above information on the current situation in these countries was current at December 2. For more detailed up to date information can be found via the world news section of the BBC website at http://news.bbc.co.uk/

How to send donations

Please send donations to:

Uniting Church Overseas Aid
Donor Liaison Officer
PO Box A2266
Sydney South NSW 1235

Cheques should be made out to “Uniting Church Overseas Aid”

For receipt purposes please enclose a name and address with the donation.

Contact telephone number – 02 8267 4266

All donations to Uniting Church Overseas Aid are tax deductible

 

In the wake of the turmoil and instability in the Solomon Islands, a spiritual assistance mission was organised with the help of Methodist Churches in the region and the Uniting Church in Australia.

With the help of Uniting International Mission Rev Sarah Williamson from New South Wales and Bruce Mullan from Queensland joined the Mission in the Solomon Islands recently.

"A jewel of the Pacific still reeling from devastating conflict," was how Queensland Mission Consultant, Bruce Mullan, described the Solomon Islands on his recent return.

In 1998 Guadalcanal, the island scene of so much violent warfare during World War Two, became the centre of a lawless conflict between the locally organised militias and the rival Malaitan Eagle Force. The fight was over land holdings but the ensuing warfare saw almost total collapse of government and society in the Solomon Islands.

"I spoke with one family whose son had been killed in the fighting," said Bruce. "His grave was in the village of Koleasi where I spent a weekend." Originally the young teenager had been airlifted to Honiara's main hospital with a gunshot wound and was recovering well when the opposing militia broke into the hospital and killed him.

Such reprisal violence was endemic in the villages, and people who had lived in peace since the missionary days in the first half of the 1900s found their communities reverting to the "old ways". "We were dying in spiritual death," said Rev Bromley T Chuchu, minister of the Koleasi Congregation in the Guadalcanal mountains. Revd Chuchu told how villagers were affected spiritually, socially, physically and mentally by the ethnic unrest and warfare. "It was all fear and panic," he said.

Led by Australia and supported by nine South Pacific nations, the RAMSI intervention force arrived in July 2003, deploying more than 2,000 men and women in the first wave to restore peace. Calling the operation "Helpem Fren" this Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands quickly restored hope to a country on the verge of political and economic collapse. Now over 3,800 people have been arrested, including militia leaders, suspected murderers and extortionists.

When Revd John Mavor from Uniting International Mission visited the Solomon Islands a year ago the United Church leaders praised the RAMSI but expressed the need for a spiritual assistance mission. The Methodist Consultative Council of the Pacific adopted this idea when it met in Samoa early in 2004.

In November 2004 ten church leaders from the Methodist churches in Fiji, Tonga and Samoa and from the United Church in PNG and the Uniting Church in Australia visited the Solomon Islands to bring encouragement and express solidarity with the United Church. The UCA representatives were Rev Sarah Williamson from New South Wales and Bruce Mullan.

"Just knowing that other churches had not forgotten them was a huge encouragement to the church there," said Mr Mullan. "There is a lot left to do, but God will use the church in the Solomons as an agent for the ongoing peace and stability that will be required after the RAMSI has returned home."

Moderator of the United Church in the Solomon Islands, Rev Philemon Riti expressed deep gratitude for this expression of friendship by other churches in the Region. "We thank God for this bond and the common concern for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ," he said.

 

Thursday, 13 January 2005

South Australian Bushfires

Please pray for people on the Eyre Peninsula. We particularly pray for those who have lost loved ones. Please also pray for the small congregation at Wanilla, and for the ministry teams at churches like Port Lincoln, and Tumby Bay as they offer pastoral care.

The Moderator of the Uniting Church SA, Rev Dr Graham Humphris, has Written a pastoral letter to church members in the affected region in which he says: "It is in this awful situation that we, as part of your extended family known in the Uniting Church in South Australia, want you to know that we are grieving with you, praying for you and wanting to stand by you and support you in any way that we possibly can."

The President says that in this Sunday of mourning he makes the sad request to our congregations to now include at least one member of the Uniting Church who died in the fires and remember the many other families who are grieving in Southern Eyre Peninsular and beyond.

 

Thursday, 13 January 2005

President meets Immigration Minister

This is a statement by the National President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Rev Dr Dean Drayton, following a meeting with the Minister for Immigration, Senator Amanda Vanstone, in Adelaide on Friday, January 7, while he was attending the National Christian Youth Convention.

A baptised member of the Uniting Church was forcibly deported from Baxter Detention Centre on the night of January 3, the New Year’s Day public holiday.

I immediately emailed both Senator Vanstone and the Prime Minister to express the Church’s disappointment at the decision

I was able to meet the Minister Vanstone personally while I was in Adelaide for the National Christian Youth Convention to personally explain the concerns we had.

I was encouraged by the meeting. The Minister was gracious, warm and open to our concerns.

Neither the Minister nor the immigration authorities will reconsider material which has already been examined in any case. But we have authenticated and documented the conversion of some asylum seekers who are baptised members of the Uniting Church.

We believe this should be considered ‘new information’ and so allow a new stage in their applications for humanitarian visas, permitting the Minister to consider them on a case by case basis.

The Minister also left the way open for further communication between us, which we appreciate.

It is my fear that members of the Uniting Church who are forcibly returned will face persecution and possible death at the hands of fundamentalist Islamic governments or groups.

Religious persecution is a reality in many parts of the world. It is expressly prohibited under the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and as President of the Uniting Church in Australia, I have a duty to see that members of our church are not persecuted for their faith. This is not matter of choice, but one of deep pastoral responsibility.

As I said at the National Christian Youth Convention: “We are most concerned about former Muslims who have converted to Christianity being forcibly returned to fundamentalist Islamic countries.

“It’s hard for Christians in these countries. It’s even harder for people who have converted from Islam to Christianity. Under Islamic law they are seen as apostates – people who are traitors to Islam. In some countries this may be punishable by death.

“The Minister acknowledged that the Uniting Church has been careful and thoughtful in the way we have authenticated people’s conversions.”

 

Monday, 31 January 2005

'One Nation Under God' Program


Date:
Friday 25th of February 2005
Place: Woolley Common Room, Woolley Building A20, Science Road, University of Sydney NSW 2006

Programme

9.00 - 9.30 Registration.

9.30 - 9.40 Welcome and Introduction by seminar convenor
Dr Christopher Hartney.

Morning Session: Overviews

9.40 - 10.10 Professor Garry W. Trompf: (Professor in the History of
Ideas, University of Sydney) "The Interface of Religion and Politics in
Australia: An Overview."

10.10 - 10.40 Mr John Nijjem: (Department of Philosophy, University of
Sydney) "The Unholy Family; a Theological Critique of Christian
Exclusivisms."

10.40-11.10 Reverend Elenie Poulos (National Director Uniting Justice
Australia [Uniting Church]) "Christianity and 'Family Values' Discourse."

11.10-11.30 Morning Tea

Mid-Morning Session: From the British and American Models to the
Australian Family Movement.

11.30-12.00 Dr Christopher Hartney (Lecturer, Studies in Religion,
Sydney, Department of History, UNSW): "Owning the concept of 'family' from the American Family Foundation to Fred Nile, The Festival of Light
and on to Family First."

12.00-12.30 Dr Carole M. Cusack (Chair, Studies in Religion, University
of Sydney): "Bellah's Second Model of Religion's Future and contemporary Australia."

12.30-13.00 Ms Frances Di Lauro (Postgraduate, Studies in Religion): "On Christian Particularism and Australian Politics: Positioning the
'Secularity' of Family First."

13.00-14.00 Lunch

Afternoon Sessions: The Australian Case

14.00-14.30 Ms Amber Sparrow (Griffith University), "A New Kid on the
Block: Political Representation of the Christian Right in Australia."

14.30-15.00 Dr Marion Maddox (Victoria University, Wellington) "Religion
Under Howard and the Resurgence of Christian Politics"

15.00-15.30 Afternoon Tea

15.30-16.00 Professor John Warhurst (Professor, Political Science
Discipline, ANU) [reading a paper by] Haydon Manning (Flinders
University) and John Warhurst (Australian National University), "The old and new politics of religion [in the 2004 election]"

16.00-16.30 Mr Philip Quadrio (Philosophy, University of Sydney) topic:
TBA

16.30-17.0 Final Comments and Discussion.
Chair: Chris Hartney

 

Wednesday, 02 February 2005

2005 Lenten studies

A range of small group Lenten studies are available for UCA members to access this year, including a series from the Synod of Queensland, the Presbytery of Tasmania, a series from the NSW Synod’s ELM Centre for Lay Ministry and one from the Catholic Education Office targeting Christians from different traditions meeting together.

ELM Centre studies
Co-authored by Rev Dr Chris Walker and Amelia Koh-Butler, ELM Associate Director, these Lenten Studies are available on http://boe.resources.org.au/ They specifically seek to respond to the visit by Tom Bandy last year, so focus on the question: “What is it about my experience of Jesus Christ that this Community cannot live without?” Anyone who would like an emailed version please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. ELM is asking for a $5 donation per copy made or $10 per hard copy.

Queensland Synod Lenten Studies 2005 series
Experiencing Jesus, is now available for use by small groups in congregations for study and reflection during Lent. They may also be used at other times during the year. The series of five studies will open up Biblical reflections on different ways people experience Jesus through change, healing, freedom, a second chance and real purpose. The studies will work best for small groups but may be used by individuals. These studies are provided free and can be photocopied for each member of your congregation or group. Congregations might encourage existing groups to study this material or plan to establish short-term groups which can meet in the time leading up to Easter. The studies are available for free download at http://www.journey.ucaqld.com.au/specialsynod/lentstudy05.php
For other questions about this study series please contact Bruce Mullan, Mission Consultant on email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (07) 3377 9801.
Tasmania
This year, for the second consecutive year, the Presbytery of Tasmania has produced a 24-page booklet of five Lectionary-based Bible Studies for Lent. It is a project of our Discipleship Development and Education committee. We have already sold over 200 copies - mostly to Tasmanians, but some to mainland congregations. We charge $3.00 per copy, or $10 per set of master sheets. We also have advertising posters @ $2 for A4 size and $4 for A3 size. Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., phone 03 6331 9784, or mail Presbytery of Tasmania, 96 Margaret St, Launceston Tasmania 7250.

"One Light, Many Journeys"

The Catholic Education office in Brisbane has prepared these studies with the possibility in mind of Christians from different traditions meeting together. Participants are invited to listen to the scriptures, reflect on their experiences and share their faith journeys. The overall theme is "Communion" and the six studies are: 1. Light for the journey. 2. To shine like the sun. 3. Sharing the light. 4. Light of the world. 5. To see the light. 6. Journey through darkness. Children's materials are also available. For sample lessons and ordering go to http://www.bne.catholic.edu.au/lentprog, phone 07 3840 0599 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Thursday, 31 March 2005

The Tsunami Wall

“The Tsunami Wall” is one creative response to the Tsunami being offered at the Flinders University of South Australia by Uniting Church Chaplain, Geoff Boyce.

Geoff and Rabbi Patti Kopstein, members of Flinders Multifaith Chaplaincy, invited staff and students to paint, draw or scribble their thoughts and feelings on “The Wall” during the month of March.

“Asian students, in particular, have stopped to paint and draw using their own languages and symbols,” said Rabbi Patti.
‘Some students have been touched by this opportunity and have said that they are going away to ‘think about it before returning to add their expression”.

Panels will now be hinged together to form an artistic installation as a memorial to those who lost their lives and a tribute to those who have donated their money and lives in the rebuilding effort.

“The Tsunami has had a big impact on Universities because of the number of students, past and present, who come from affected areas and because university staff and graduates are rising to the challenges in >response to the devastation,” said Geoff.