- Just a thought
- From the President
- Outback care and community services
- Relations with Other Faiths
- Worship, theology and discipleship
- Cross cultural and international ministry, relief and development
- Justice and advocacy
- UnitingCare Australia
- Other Assembly News
- Synod news
Rev. Glenda Blakefield, Acting General Secretary
I would like to thank all Uniting Church congregations and church members who have been conducting services of lament about the treatment of asylum seekers. A service at Pitt Street Uniting Church in Sydney on 3 August was attended by 250 people, and many other services are taking place across the country this month, including in Melbourne and Adelaide. I am proud that our UCA members are speaking out with compassion and generosity for us to be a country which properly welcomes the stranger.
As the Federal Election campaign gets into full swing it is also encouraging to see many congregations fulfilling our Christian responsibility to society by involving ourselves in national affairs. Many congregations are hosting local candidates’ forums. May all involved be blessed with the peace and patience required to get through this challenging period of national discernment! Read more
For better or worse, I will miss much of the election campaign as I’ll be in the United States undertaking a period of study with Parker Palmer, an American educator and activist who focuses on issues in education, community, leadership, spirituality and social change.
In this month of political vibrancy and activism, particularly around refugee and asylum seeker rights, Palmer offers some guidance and clarity in his book Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit.
“The good news,” says Palmer, “is that Us and Them does not need to mean Us versus Them.”
“Instead, it can take us back to the ancient tradition of hospitality to the stranger. This tradition of hospitality affirms the many ways we can receive and learn from the stranger.
“This kind of hospitality is impossible if we are unable to see the creative possibilities inherent in diversity”
“We must understand the simple fact that we are dependent upon and accountable to one another including the stranger, the alien in our midst.”
Plenty of food for thought as we brace ourselves for the weeks and months ahead.
Peace and blessings
Rev. Professor Andrew Dutney, President, Assembly
You Count – a National Census of UCA Congregations and Ministers
As well as responding to requests to support various exciting events around the church, I sometimes get to initiate projects that I think are important. I want to tell you about one of those: a project to re-establish a statistical database of UCA Congregations and Ministers.
That may sound dull, but I’m pumped about it. For a start, it’ll be great to finally have answers to the questions I’m routinely asked by leaders of other denominations and our partner churches. Questions like: How many UCA Congregations are there? How many Ministers? Because for these and many other important questions about the church nationally the answer is all too often, “We don’t know.” Read more
The Assembly last published national statistics in 1994. In that time the UCA has undergone dramatic changes. Not only has the UCA reduced numerically, but we’ve become smaller as a proportion of the population and aged noticeably. The UCA has also developed a much more diverse cultural and linguistic profile. It has engaged in extensive innovation in Congregational life and in the organisation of Presbyteries and Synods – sometimes responding to sheer necessity but just as often out of a refreshed missional vision. The role and experience of Ministers has also changed with developments such as the increasing numbers of chaplaincies, the reduced number of rural placements, the increasing number of fractional placements, the diversification of Congregational forms and life, and the increase in the age at which people take up their first placement.
Synods and Presbyteries have maintained good records of the life of their Congregations and Faith Communities. Some have gone further, undertaking quite sophisticated surveys to guide their mission planning and resourcing. But the collection and collation of national statistics is now long overdue. If the Assembly is to play its part in overseeing and resourcing mission it needs to gather the information that will tell us about the Uniting Church as a whole.
I’m hoping you can help me with this. During August I will be distributing two different census forms. One is for Congregations and is to be completed by a church representative. A paper copy will be mailed to the Congregation and an online option offered as well. The other is a brief online census for all Ministers (whether or not they are in placement, including retired Ministers). Synod General Secretaries are collaborating in this project and have provided me with contact lists in order to distribute the census forms.
With your cooperation and goodwill I want to be able to tell the Uniting Church’s story near and far. To do that well I need to know something about every Congregation and Minister. Please take part, because everyone counts in the story of God’s pilgrim people!
To participate in the census, please visit: http://assembly.uca.org.au/census
ABC Religion and Ethics: What would Bonhoeffer do, Mr Rudd?
“Hoisted on his own petard.”That phrase has kept coming to mind as I’ve followed the announcement, explanation and implementation of the so-called “PNG Solution”.In 2006, then-Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd wrote an article for The Monthly entitled “Faith in Politics”. It was about the role of churches and individual Christians in politics. His purpose was to critique the “privatised, pietised and politically compliant Christianity” of the televangelists and to challenge “those who would seek today to traduce Christianity by turning it into the political handmaiden of the conservative political establishment”...
The Road ahead for Frontier Services
The Uniting Church Assembly and Frontier Services are proud to announce that former Assembly President and long-time champion of Frontier Services, Rev Gregor Henderson, has been confirmed as the new Chairperson of the Frontier Services board. Read more
Gregor brings with him a lifelong commitment to the vision and values of Frontier Services.
Gregor is current Chair of the John Flynn Foundation, as well as a former UCA Assembly General Secretary and President. He brings with him enormous experience of the mission and the heart of Frontier Services.
At the same time, Rev Alan White, the current Presbytery Minister at Sydney North Presbytery, commences as interim National Director today.
Alan has been in congregational ministry in a number of rural placements in Victoria, including as chair of the Goulburn Murray Presbytery.
He has been a member of the Standing Committee of both the Vic/Tas and NSW/ACT Synods and was the Chair of the ELM Reference Committee and is currently in his 10th year on the Placements Committee of the NSW ACT Synod. He has also been a Member of four Assemblies of the Uniting Church in Australia.
Meanwhile, the Uniting Church Assembly, the Federal Department of Health and Ageing and Frontier Services have agreed that a specialist entity is needed to manage and operate our aged care services, and as such the transition towards doing so is proceeding smoothly.
Frontier Services and the Uniting Church Assembly continue to maintain their commitment to the Frontier Services’ Patrol Ministry and the provision of associated community and pastoral services nationally.
Frontier Services would also like to acknowledge the magnificent support and guidance of another former President of the Uniting Church, Rev Dr Dean Drayton, throughout the transition process.
Farewell Rosemary Young
Frontier Services has said farewell to National Director Rosemary Young, after 18 years extending John Flynn’s ‘mantle of safety’ over inland Australia.
Rosemary joined Frontier Services as Community Services Manager in 1995, before taking up the National Director’s role in 1999.
Under her leadership Frontier Services has expanded its ministry and community services, making an enormous difference in the lives of tens of thousands of Australians living in remote and regional areas. Read more
The profile of Frontier Services is higher than ever after last year’s successful celebrations to mark the centenary of the Australian Inland Mission.
Uniting Church in Australia Assembly President Rev Professor Andrew Dutney paid tribute to Rosemary Young’s work.
“God has blessed us with Rosemary’s wonderful service across three decades and across the length and breadth of Australia,” said Rev Professor Andrew Dutney.
“Frontier Services and the Uniting Church in Australia are united in their gratitude and admiration of Rosemary’s passion for mission and her many achievements for remote and regional Australia.”
“Rosemary Young’s name will stand proudly alongside John Flynn, Fred McKay and others as church leaders who have dedicated their lives to the care - both physical and pastoral - of their fellow Australians.”
Rev. Glenda Blakefield, Associate General Secretary, Assembly
During September, congregations within the Uniting Church in Australia, as well as other interested individuals or groups, are encouraged to create a community of hospitality, conversation and friendship with people of all faiths throughout their neighbourhood.
Beginning on the first Sunday of the month, known as ‘Interfaith September Sunday’, congregations and groups are invited to select an activity to complete throughout the month.
You are warmly invited to explore and celebrate the development of these friendships in the presence of diversity and difference through our Interfaith September resources.
For resources please visit the Relations with Other Faiths website: http://www.assembly.uca.org.au/rof/resources/int-sep
Rev. Dr Chris Walker, National Consultant, Theology & Discipleship, Assembly
The Doctrine working group has developed a list of recommended resources for “A Season of Teaching and Learning” in 2014 which will include four new studies by members of the working group. These will all be available from MediaCom.
In relation to the Marriage issue, the first consultations are being held led by some trained facilitators in selected presbyteries and other groups. Rob Bos will collate the responses for the Doctrine working group for its October meeting. Then a discussion paper on marriage will be written and distributed across the church in 2014. Read more
There will be several conferences for people to attend in 2014.
A conference on Mission and Evangelism - “A Clear Call,” will be held in Adelaide on 28-30 March, 2014. Key speakers will be John and Olive Drane from Scotland. In the week following there will be an intensive led by the Dranes at Uniting College.
‘Back to back’ conferences on the Basis of Union and “Preaching for Transformation” will be held on 22 - 24 August and 25 – 28 August, 2014 at the Centre for Ministry in Sydney. The main speaker for the Preaching Conference will be Anna Carter Florence from Columbia Theological Seminary in the USA.
The teaching DVD on Holy Communion with Anita Monro and Paul Walton is proving popular. It is available through Chris Walker at the Assembly office.
Advent – Christmas 2013 resources
MediaCom has released its annual Advent and Christmas calendar with books, resources and media for the 2013 Christmas period. Be sure to plan and order early to be ready for Advent on December 1. You can view their catalogue online atwww.mediacom.org.au or order by calling 1800 811 311.
Rev. Dr Kerry Enright, National Director, UnitingWorld
Advocacy news: join us in the Movement to End Poverty
On Thursday 14 March UnitingWorld joined with coalition partners Micah Challenge and Make Poverty History to rally the Federal Government to end poverty within a generation. Read more
In the lead up to the Federal Election and with both parties wavering on their commitments to overseas aid, this movement is vital in reminding our Federal Government that we expect Australia to do its part in ending extreme world poverty – and we don’t believe in breaking promises to the world’s most vulnerable.
The Movement to End Poverty is a joint, sector -wide petition supported by people from all over the country. The strength of all our voices will remind the Federal Government that contributing a fair amount to sustainable human development is something many of us support.
Church Connections: Paving the way for a safe future
Under the eaves of the roof of the world, some of the most tenacious people on earth are building a school.
The village is Linbong*, nestled in the North Indian foothills of the Himalayas. When you imagine the word remote, conjure up its people and its dusty streets. From here, Bhutan stretches green and mysterious to the north, Nepal to the north west. In its extreme isolation lies beauty – and danger. Read more
“Sending children to school from Linbong is so dangerous that most of the parents simply won’t do it,” says Kathy Pereira, Associate Director Church Connections. “The walk takes hours along winding forest trails and children are literally taken along the way by human traffickers. And for those who have income and can afford to send their children to school and board in Kalimpong, a town four and a half hours drive away, there are also major problems.”
The people of Linbong are among the poorest of India – tribal minorities who fall outside even the caste system. They are light skinned and almost Nepalese in appearance – highly valued within the human trafficking network. With very few resources, they are vulnerable to promises made by outsiders to ‘find their children work’ or provide ‘safe accommodation’ while they are attending school in Kalimpong.
Many children who leave to pursue education in Kalimpong never return.
“Parents in Linbong have no way to stay in contact with their children in town,” Kathy explains. “They have no car, no phone, no Internet. They may not have relatives or friends who can keep an eye on the children while they’re attending school. Many children simply disappear.”
Late last year the people of Linbong decided they could no longer risk their children’s future. With the support of the Church of North India, they determined to build a school in their own village. Most parents are uneducated, but they dream of seeing their children learning in a safe environment, able to participate in a fast changing world.
“It’s an amazing endeavour, driven by people who are determined to see a better life for their children,” Kathy says. “A ‘satellite’ of the existing Presbyterian Suma School in Kalimpong, over the next fifteen years the school will be scaled to cater for 400 primary and secondary students. They’ll build six classrooms, staff facilities and a medical clinic. There’ll also be boarding facilities for students from other local remote areas.”
UnitingWorld works with communities to resist, build resilience and rehabilitate in cases of human trafficking. The Linbong School project is another practical example of ways that communities are taking the initiative to provide education and safeguard children’s futures.
In partnership with UnitingWorld, the Church of North India, and the parents and children of Linbong, you can be part of bringing change to this remote corner of the globe. Building has already begun and our first target is to raise $40,000 to allow the first students to begin their schooling in 2014.
Please help us stand alongside the parents of Linbong as they provide a safe place for their children to learn. You can give online at www.unitingworld.org.au/preventchildtrafficking.
*The name of the village has been changed to protect the community.
Multicultural and Cross-Cultural Ministry
Rev. Dr Tony Floyd, National Director of Multicultural and Cross-Cultural Ministry
A recent meeting of members of the Multicultural Ministry Reference Committee and Ministerial Education Commission sparked discussions about the vibrant multicultural aspect of our Church. The meeting included educators from all of our theological training colleges, including the two UAICC training centres of Nungalinya and Yalga Binbi.
Discussions were around:
- Imagining a framework for formation for ministry that is shaped by and for our cultural and linguistic diversity UCA in a multifaith and multicultural Australia.
- Becoming intentional about facilitating, developing, collecting and distributing theological perspectives and insights towards a theological underpinning for intentional cross-cultural ministry that connects with the vision within the Basis of Union.
- Hearing the voices of those who are exploring the scriptures from different cultural spaces and experiences and building towards biblical hermeneutics of cross-cultural life and faith.
- Networking across the nation for those who are seeking effective and respectful ways of journeying alongside faith communities from other cultures, languages and Christian traditions who believe God is calling them into the UCA.
This is a step further towards the declaration made 28 years ago, in 1985, when we proclaimed that “we are a multicultural church”.
The whole of that document is worthy of thoughtful reflection, as are the later statements, “A Church for all God’s people” (2006) and “One Body, many members – living faith and life cross-culturally” (2012), for those interested in cross-cultural and multicultural aspects of the church.
Rev Elenie Poulos, National Director, UnitingJustice
Remember you can follow UnitingJustice on Twitter @UnitingJustice to stay in touch with us and our work between newsletters.
A Just Society: your faith, your voice, your vote
With an election around the corner, it is important to stay informed on the issues that are important to our faith.
In the Statement to the Nation made by the first Assembly in 1977, the Uniting Church in Australia recognised that Christian responsibility to society is fundamental to the mission of the Church. It promised that our response to the Christian gospel would always involve us in social and national affairs.
That's one of the reasons why the federal election resource - A Just Society - is so important. It is an expression of our faith as Christians and citizens of this country, and our commitment to share with all Australians in the search for meaning, purpose and community in life. Read more
The resource, which has been distributed to Synod offices throughout Australia, includes materials prepared by various Assembly and synod agencies and Uniting Church members. It features a Booklet (with a preface from President Rev. Prof. Andrew Dutney), website with longer and more detailed Issues Papers, a series of Hot Issues Briefs, and an Election Toolkit which covers how to organise an election forum, ideas for active citizenship and prayers for use in worship in the weeks leading up to the election.
All of the resources are available online and the website has now been updated with a variety of prayers for your congregation or faith community.
There are limited printed copies available of the Booklet and the Hot Issues Briefs. Please contact your synod office for your copy of this wonderful resource.
ABC Religion and Ethics: When it comes to Asylum Seeker Politics, Love Must Drive out Fear
When Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that Australian would not process or resettle any asylum seekers who arrive in Australian territory by boat, our coddled, massaged and well-fed fear of asylum seekers found what turned out to be its penultimate conclusion. One can only pray that we can’t sink any further into the abyss on this matter than the Coalition’s shockingly misnamed “Operation Sovereign Borders.” Read the full article on ABC Religion and Ethics
A Lamentable Lack of Compassion
On Saturday 3 August more than 250 Uniting Church members from across Sydney gathered for a sombre hour-long service of lament at Australia’s harsh policies against asylum seekers.
The Moderator of the NSW/ACT Synod Rev. Dr Brian Brown opened the service at Pitt Street Uniting Church by expressing deep concern for the well-being of those fleeing danger and oppression. Read more
“We are here to lament their dire plight, especially that, having experienced deep pain and loss at the beginning of their journeys, they are now facing rejection and utter hardship as well at the end of their search for freedom and security,” said Rev. Dr Brown.
“We are also here to lament the state of our nation’s soul; that the place of the ‘fair go’, that sings of having ‘boundless plains to share’, is now turning away those who most need our welcome, our shelter and our comfort.”
Every corner of the historic old Church echoed with haunting voices of lament that cried out against persecution faced by people fleeing for their lives, at the injustice against fellow human beings, and at the tone of the public debate on asylum seekers.
The voices of lament were punctuated by soulful soloist Charissa Suli singing, “Were you there when the boats were turned away?Were you there when those lives were lost at sea? Were you there when the nation turned its face?” to the tune of Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?
The Bible reading was the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37), while Tamil congregation leader Rev. Dr John Jegasothy read the Lord’s Prayer in Tamil – the native language of many asylum seekers.
At the end of the service candles were lit from the Christ candle and subsequently around the church, spreading light into darkness, before the Moderator led the congregation out on to the steps of the Church on Pitt Street for a brief public rendition of the liturgy.
Speaking to media after the service Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director of UnitingJustice said that Christians were called to treat every human being with dignity and respect.
“Fear driven politics punishes vulnerable people and I hope that with services like today we can begin to embrace a politics of generosity, hope and love.”
“This was an important action on behalf of the Uniting Church and its members,” said Rev. Dr John Jegasothy.
“For Uniting Church members to come together to lament the dark and growing stain on our nation’s soul is a powerful message.”
Similar services of lament were held at Uniting Church congregations across NSW over the weekend of 3-4 August. More services of lament are scheduled in other cities around the country in the weeks ahead.
The liturgy written by Rev Dorothy McRae-McMahon, Rev Kent Crawford, Justin Whelan and Radhika Sukumar is available for download at http://bit.ly/lament-liturgy.
Photos of the event are available to view at http://bit.ly/lament-photos.
Speaking Truth to Power about Asylum Seekers
National Director of UnitingJustice Australia, Rev. Elenie Poulos, and members of the Uniting Church who work with asylum seekers, have spoken out during a Federal Government caucus meeting in the Sydney suburb of Balmain. Read more
Rev. Poulos told assembled national media that the Government's policy of sending all asylum seekers arriving by boat to Papua New Guinea for resettlement was, "a gross abdication of our moral responsibility to care for people who come to us seeking protection."
"This is the damaging end result of treating asylum seekers and refugees as political footballs," Rev. Poulos told reporters outside Balmain Town Hall.
"Policies that intend to punish rather than protect are totally inappropriate.
"The decision to close ourselves off from helping people in need is immoral and should concern everyone.
"We are very concerned about people drowning at sea but people will only stop getting on boats when they feel safe where they are. This is where the Government's energies should be focussed."
Rev. Poulos, who is also Chairperson of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, raised concerns that Australia was not meeting its obligations under the Refugee Convention.
"The Refugee Convention requires us to process the claims of asylum seekers who arrive regardless of how they arrive.
Rev. Poulos rebutted the notion there was such a thing as "a queue" for asylum seekers.
"The queue is a fabrication. There is no queue if you're a person in Syria who's had to flee your home. There is no queue in Afghanistan, in Iran and Iraq," said Rev. Poulos.
"There are millions of refugees in the world. All of them are struggling and as a rich, wealthy, secure and stable country we have a responsibility to care for people in our region.
"At home too, churches and church agencies are being stretched to provide care and support to the many asylum seekers and their families in the community who have been stripped of their work rights. The 'no advantage principle' forces people into situations of destitution.
"It's a very sad situation where we have politics overriding the care of people in need," said Rev. Poulos.
Lin Hattfield Dodds, National Director, UnitingCare Australia
Entrenched Disadvantage Hasn’t Shifted in a Decade
On the 12 July, the Productivity Commission released its report: The Deep and Persistent Disadvantage in Australia. In response, National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds said “a combination of inadequate financial support and access to services is forcing vulnerable people into deeper poverty, entrenching their disadvantage, and making it increasingly difficult for them to get ahead.” Read more
Disadvantage is dynamic. Most people who become disadvantaged are able to move out of it relatively quickly, but a small group remain disadvantaged for extended periods of time. Between 2001 and 2010, 3 per cent of Australians aged 15 years plus experienced deep social exclusion for five or more years and less than 1 per cent for seven years or more.
Find UnitingCare Australia’s full media releasehere.
National Children, Young People and Families Network
The Children, Young People and Families Network convened in Canberra at UnitingCare Australia for a two day meeting. This brought together expertise from around the network to tackle key challenges facing children, young people and families nationally. Services Development Director, Wendy Middleton, will provide further updates of meeting outcomes next week.
Staff Update: Welcome Wendy Middleton
UnitingCare Australia is delighted to welcome Wendy Middleton to the National Office this week to take up the role of Director, Services Development. Read more
Wendy was most recently the CEO of Wimmera UnitingCare for the past five years, which provides over 70 programs and employs 420 staff and 250 volunteers. Previously she has been the General Manager of Strategy, Planning, HR Housing and Support for Sunnyfield, NSW; CEO of Broadmeadows Disability Services; and Manager of Direct Care; and A/Regional Director Public Health and Community Services for the Department of Human Services – Grampians.
Wendy has served on the Board of Governance of the Wimmera Development Association and the Centre of Excellence in Child and Family and is an Associate Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
With over 30 years of experience in the community services sector and post graduate qualifications in human services, Wendy is excited to be working with Aged Care and Children and Young People and Families Networks to work towards stronger services and better outcomes.
Staff Update: Welcome Marion Rae
It’s also a great pleasure to also announce the appointment of Marion Rae, our new Director of Communications and Public Affairs. Read more
Marian has a background in journalism, public policy, and as a political media director, and roots in the Methodist church in social activism. Marion is deeply committed to social justice. Marion has worked in Australia and overseas. She was the Financial Correspondent for Reuters for some years, and has worked for the Canberra Times and Bloomberg in the Press Gallery. Marion brings with her the skills, depth of experience, and expertise needed to advance UnitingCare Australia’s advocacy priorities through effective communication and stakeholder strategies.
Rev. Dr Stephen Robinson joins the Assembly
Please welcome Rev. Dr Stephen Robinson who joins us in the Assembly as the National Disaster Recovery Officer. Read more
Ordained in 1992, he has ministered at Dural Parish, Port Macquarie and Lugarno. His interest in disaster recovery began when he joined the NSW Rural Fire Service as a volunteer member, ultimately leading to his appointment as chaplain in 1996. He then became aware of the effects of stress and trauma on people, particularly carers such as ministers and chaplains as they sought to care for others in an emergency or disaster setting.
This then led to the completion of his Doctor of Ministry at the Fuller Theological Seminar in Pasadena, California. His dissertation, Ministry in Disaster Settings: Lessons from the Edge, was later published into a book of the same name and is used extensively in ministry and chaplaincy training.
He then led the establishment of a Peer Support Team in the NSW and ACT Synod to assist ministry leaders during and following disasters. Stephen has also worked extensively with government, including on the facilitation of multidenominational and multi-faith chaplaincy in evacuation and recovery centres across NSW (the Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network), which he continues to oversee.
He has also worked in disaster recovery with the Synods of Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland as well as with the National Council of Churches in Australia.
His new role in the Assembly will resource Synods and other councils of the church to more effectively care for ministers, congregations and communities in disaster response and recovery.
National Youth Ministry Training 2013
We're taking a brand new direction with our National Youth Ministry Training. In the past, it was an in-service event for professional youth workers. Now it is much more! Read more
We're inviting volunteer youth leaders, young adult mentors, professional youth workers/young adult workers, MOWs, and pastors to participate. Come on your own or come with your local ministry team members!
The National Youth Ministry Training will attend the 'National Youth Ministry Conference' (NYMC), www.nymc.org.au, the year's largest youth ministry training ecumenical event. We'll participate together as a Uniting Church cohort alongside other denominations.
NYMC will have over 600 participants from various different youth ministries. There will be many great guest speakers, a ministry expo and some special UCA events. We will be surrounded by practitioners from all over Australia, from many different contexts that we can learn from and share with.
The event will take place from the 23rd to the 27th of October in Tweed on the Gold Coast. The Uniting Church has booked out the Tweed Central Motel and the cost of accommodation is included in the total cost.
- You must be over 18 to attend
- Costs cover both the conference and the accommodation
- Meals and your transportation to and from the event will be additional costs to consider (there is the option to cook meals at the Tweed Central Motel).
You will need to register through the Assembly booking system in order to secure your place. Registration forms and further information are available online. See the Assembly website for more information.
The Transit Lounge
The Transit Lounge is the youth online publication of the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly. You can find the publication at www.thetransitlounge.com.au.
If you know any young communicators or young people who would like to contribute, please contact usvia the Transit Lounge website.
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