National Update September 2013

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

Just a Thought

Rev. Terence Corkin, General Secretary

Terence smallThis week I was readin g the Psalm set for the comin g Sunday which is selected verses in Psalm 139. Verses 1 – 6 say:

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thou ghts from afar.
You discern my goin g out and my lyin g down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my ton gue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowled ge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain. Read more

When I was youn ger passa ges like this tended to make me a bit nervous. Ima gine God seein g everythin g t hat someone wanted to keep secret! I don’t know about you but t hat thou ght has been known to make people quite anxious. Guilt has a habit of s hapin g how we relate to the world and others – and never in a positive way.

Yet when I read this Psalm earlier in the week I heard it differently. I am en ga ged in a ministry t hat a lot of people don’t understand and certainly do not see w hat I do. There are many tasks t hat from a certain time horizon seem useless. Per haps even more difficult is the case t hat there are decisions t hat have to be taken which are misunderstood, misrepresented or cause for an ger to be directed at me. I expect t hat there are many people in ministry, and many other areas of life too, who could take comfort from bein g assured t hat God understands all our motives and why we do w hat we do.

The God portrayed by the Psalmist is not a cranky c haracter who is lookin g to find fault with us. Rather God surrounds us before and behind and lays God’s hand upon us. This is not the hand of a punishin g slap but the encoura gin g hand on the shoulder, the tender hand to lift us up, the hand t hat rustles our hair in affection.

God’s knowin g us deeply and frequently is a gift to us when no one else understands.

Grace and Peace

 

From the President

Rev. Professor Andrew Dutney, President, Assembly

Andrew Dutney small

I kept an eye on the live route map in the wakeful hours of a flight home from Europe earlier this year. Our flight path took us over Egypt, Jordan, Iraq. I could see we were just south of Israel and Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Iran.

And as we flew I thought about the Christian minorities in those struggling countries below. I remembered their suffering, their persecution. I thought about the leaders of their diaspora communities in Australia whom I have been getting to know since I became President – Coptic and Syrian Orthodox churches, Armenian, Chaldean, Coptic and Syrian Catholic churches, and several others. Australians are in anguish over the fate of their families and friends who remain in their homelands. These are vital, growing communities within the Australian church of the 21st century. Read more

And I reflected on the teaching of St Paul, that “we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members of one another” (Romans 12:5), and that “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (I Corinthians 12:26).

Christians of the Middle Eastern diaspora have no difficulty suffering with their sisters and brothers in Syria or Palestine. Christians of the African or Asian diaspora in Australia can often identify too with these minority communities in a time of political turmoil and civil war. But Christians of the British and European diaspora are equally called to recognise that we belong to our sisters and brothers in Egypt or Iran in the one body of Christ – and, at this time, to suffer together.

The Uniting Church was formed specifically “to bear witness to that unity which is both Christ’s gift and his will for the Church” (Basis of Union paragraph 1). Despite the strenuous lengths we go to pretend otherwise, it is Christ’s gift that we are already one body in him. “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female,” there is no longer Australian or Syrian, there is no longer Protestant, Orthodox, Pentecostal or Catholic; “for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) This is Christ’s gift. And it is Christ’s will that we find ways to show to the world that “unity of faith and life in Christ which transcends cultural and economic, national and racial boundaries” (Basis of Union paragraph 2).

I’d invite you to:

  • Become informed about what is happening to the Christian communities in the Middle East and about the churches from the Middle East in Australia.
  • Pray for them and encourage your congregation to join you in that.
  • Use your own networks to find and meet Christians from these communities…and see what happens next.

Uniting Church members interested in assisting families in Syria through Act for Peace can find out more at http://syria.actforpeace.org.au.

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

Outback care and community services

Rev Alan White, Interim National Director, Frontier Services

Alan White small

 

Patrol Ministers gather in Darwin

The Frontier Services Patrol Ministers travelled from remote and isolated locations across Australia for the biennial Patrol Ministers Conference held in Darwin from 19-23 August.

The Conference was an important opportunity for the ministers to come together, reflect and share on their work, learn new skills and refuel the mind and spirit to continue their ministry in remote areas.

Sixteen Frontier Services Patrol Ministers attended the conference  coming from Alice Springs, Jabiru, Tennant Creek and Katherine, as well as the Pilbara, Meekatharra, Cape York, Charleville, the high country of Victoria, the west coast of Tasmania and in between. Leichardt Patrol Minister, Graham Slaughter, from the Presbytery of the Downs, also attended the conference.

Uniting Church in Australia Assembly President Rev Prof Andrew Dutney played a significant role at the conference. The president participated and gave input over three days. He offered spiritual reflection and guidance, and also led both worship and impromptu singing with his guitar. In particular, he reflected on the call in Hebrews to “go beyond the city gates”, and related it to the call of Frontier Services to go beyond the places that are familiar and safe, to be with people in remote Australia and to discover the ‘sacred places’ for people in the bush.

The week included workshops led by Linda Vinall on the topic “Responding to Child Abuse and Neglect” and how this relates to the Patrol Ministry.

The Patrol Ministers also formally welcomed Rev Colin Batt, who was inducted as the Frontier Services Associate Director-Pastoral during the week. In this role, Colin will provide leadership, support and direction to the Patrol Ministers.

At the end of the week, the Patrol Ministers travelled back to their communities to continue the work of providing practical help and spiritual support for remote communities across Australia.

Frontier Services welcomes Rev Colin Batt

Frontier Services is delighted to welcome Rev Colin Batt into the role of Associate Director Pastoral.

Colin comes to Frontier Services with 30 years of experience in pastoral ministry in a variety of roles and places.

In his new role, Colin will provide leadership, support and direction to the Frontier Services Patrol Ministers as well as maintain and enhance the connection between the ministry and the community services provided across remote Australia and to encourage partnerships with the wider Uniting Church.

He will also play a significant role in maintaining and developing the theological context of the work of Frontier Services and its application to mission and ministry in remote Australia.

Speaking after his induction at the Patrol Minister’s Conference in Darwin, Colin stressed the importance of the patrol ministry to people in remote areas.

“I’ve realised that at times people make sacrifices to serve in remote areas and I want to start my ministry by thanking you for doing that on behalf of the church and encouraging you, because every step you take, every kilometre you drive, is valuable and it’s important because through that ministry you will change lives, one by one.”

Most recently Colin has been the lead minister at Burleigh Heads Uniting Church, with a congregation of 200 members. During his five years there, he has been involved in coordinating worship, preaching, teaching and working extensively with the community. He has been a Police Chaplain since 2000 and a School Chaplain and Head of Religious Education at Somerset College on the Gold Coast. 

Induction of Rev Dennis Cousens as the Midlands Patrol Minister

Rev Dennis Cousens was inducted as the Midlands Patrol Minister on Thursday, 5 September at Oatlands Uniting Church.

Dennis comes to the Midlands after five years in southwest Queensland as the Frontier Services Cunnamulla Patrol Minister. His Patrol in Cunnamulla was two and a half times the size of Tasmania.

Dennis will be based in Oatlands and travel to Ross, Bothwell and Campbell Town as well as the surrounding communities and properties.

Born and bred in Hobart, Dennis and his wife Sally look forward to exploring the Midlands and Central Highlands with fresh eyes and getting to know people and the issues they face.

“My time in Cunnamulla really highlighted the gift of a Patrol Minister is to be there for all people, irrespective of their religious background or denomination. It is all about relationships, not your banner. It is just being alongside people.”

Dennis was CEO of Hobart City Mission for 23 years. He was Moderator of the Uniting Church Synod of Tasmania from 2003-5 before that Synod merged to make the Synod of Victoria/Tasmania. 

He replaces Rev Meg Evans who finished up in April after 10 years as Midlands Patrol Minister.

 

Fire up the BBQ for people in remote Australia

Barbecues across the country will fire up in September as part of a national fundraising effort to ensure people living in remote parts of Australia have access to vital services and support.

Each year, Frontier Services encourages people to host a Great Outback BBQ to do their part for Australians in the outback.

Frontier Services makes a difference in the lives of 15,000 people every year with its network of community services and pastoral support, covering 85 per cent of the country from the tip of Cape York to the remote coast of Tasmania, west to the Pilbara and in between. Read more

“All Australians should have access to support when they need it, no matter where they live,” said Grahame Ryan, Frontier Services National Development Manager.

“We go to the places that are isolated and hard to reach because we believe people are worth it. You can help us go the extra mile for remote Australians by getting involved in the Great Outback BBQ.”

The Great Outback BBQ is a fun way to bring people together and raise money for Frontier Services.

Since its launch in 2011, the event has raised more than $140,000 for Frontier Services, with BBQs being hosted all over Australia.

“This is a great time of year to bring your friends, family or community together around the BBQ. Why not turn a planned gathering into something bigger and better for a good cause? There are plenty of opportunities in September to host a BBQ with Father’s Day on 1 September, footy grand finals at the end of the month and even the Australian election on 7 September.”

“If you can’t host a BBQ, why not make it a Billy Morning Tea at the office? The important thing is to have fun, bring some of the outback to your place and do something that will make a difference to people’s lives.”

Everyone who registers for a Great Outback BBQ will receive a BBQ Host Pack with recipes, fundraising ideas and other materials to get you started.

The Great Outback BBQ will kick off from 1 September and will continue throughout spring and into summer.

BBQ events will take place all over the country and in all states. The money raised from each event will go towards Frontier Services’ network of services including remote health clinics, support for families with children, respite for carers, volunteer assistance for those in need, patrol ministry and pastoral support.

Frontier Services has supported people in remote Australia for more than 100 years.

Register your event and download resources at www.greatoutbackbbq.com or phone Great Outback BBQ Coordinator Charlotte Caress on 1300 787 247.

Relations with Other Faiths

Rev. Glenda Blakefield, Associate General Secretary, Assembly

Glenda

Interfaith September

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

Worship, theology and discipleship

Rev. Dr Chris Walker, National Consultant, Theology & Discipleship, Assembly

Chris

A list of recommended resources for “A Season of Teaching and Learning” in 2014 from the Doctrine working group is now on the Assembly website. Four new studies are being written by members of the working group.

Consultations across the country are being conducted in relation to Marriage.  Rob Bos has recently done one in WA and will be conducting one with CALD people in Melbourne in September and with UAICC people in October. He will collate the various responses for the Doctrine working group. A discussion paper on marriage will be written and distributed across the church in 2014.

Task groups are working on the conferences to be held in 2014. Advertising and registration will be available in the near future. Read more

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 has been widely distributed. It is available through Chris Walker at the Assembly office.

“Guidelines on Lay Presidency at the Sacraments” have been slightly revised and approved by the ASC. The Worship working group has provided a service for recognition by presbyteries of such people.

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.

Cross cultural and international ministry, relief and development

Rev. Dr Kerry Enright, National Director, UnitingWorld

UnitingWorld Kerry Enright Small 2

Advocacy news: join us in the Movement to End Poverty

On Saturday 31st August we joined thousands of anti-poverty advocates and the Make Poverty Historyand Micah Challenge coalitions in an active bid to put foreign aid back on the political agenda. Three thousand people formed the words HALVE POVERTY 2015 on the famous Manly foreshore, in Tony Abbott’s electorate of Warringah.

The message to our politicians was clear – we want to increase our foreign aid and ensure Australia remains committed to doing all that it can to achieve the Millennium Development Goals to halve global poverty by 2015.

So far over 82,740 Australians have signed the coalition’s Movement to Poverty petition. Make sure your voice is also heard:  Will you add your name today?

Looking beyond tea in Darjeeling

Mention the name Darjeeling and most people think of tea: vast green terraced plantations and British Colonial style buildings.  The reality of life in Darjeeling and nearby Kalimpong is more sobering. 

recent report into the tea industry in these areas revealed that most tea pickers are paid less than 20 cents a day.  Extreme poverty makes families and children vulnerable to human trafficking which is rife in the area. Light-skinned children are highly valued, especially in the southern Indian sex trade. Read more

Uniting Church partners, the Church of North India Eastern Himalayan Diocese, live in this complex environment, faithfully serving among a population who are mostly Buddhist.  Most people are from tribal minorities who fall even outside the caste system – almost all are very poor subsistence farmers with low levels of employment and education. Added to these challenges, the people of this region have long campaigned for a separate political state to represent their interests.  Just this month the hills have been deserted – locked down as protests for a separate Ghorkaland state sweep North West Bengal.

This month we ask you to pray for our local project officer Miku Foning and a committed team working to build a new school in Linbong*, a remote village four hours drive from Kalimpong. In partnership with the Church of North India and the Church Connections Unit of UnitingWorld, the parents of Linbong are determined to secure a better future for their children.  The new school will cater for up to 400 children so that they can learn locally – safe from the threat of human traffickers who patrol this region.  Education will also provide them with a pathway out of poverty, offering alternative employment opportunities once they graduate from school.

*The name of the village has been changed to protect the local community.

To read more about this project and to show your support, click here.

Multicultural and Cross-Cultural Ministry

TonySmallRev. Dr Tony Floyd, National Director of Multicultural and Cross-Cultural Ministry

I am looking forward to attending the Relations with Other Faiths annual face to face meeting in Sydney this week. Multicultural ministry and Relations with Other Faiths work are closely intertwined and my colleague Rev. Dr Apwee Ting from the Indonesian National Conference will be pleased to join Rev. Sef Carroll and her colleagues for their discernment.

Later this month, I’m excited to be heading to China with other members of the Assembly, UnitingCare and UnitingWorld to meet with various church partners and to share our experiences as a uniting church with congregations in Shanghai, Beijing and Nanjing. Read more

The President Rev. Professor Andrew Dutney and several National Directors, myself included, will present seminars at the Nanjing Seminary.

The Uniting Church and our predecessor churches have a long relationship with the Chinese Christian community here in Australia. One of the UCA’s oldest congregations is the Chinese congregation in Melbourne who have been celebrating in worship for more than 140 years, with roots going back to the Methodist Conference.

With many mainland Chinese now embracing Christianity, it will be good to talk with our Chinese church partners about our shared history and how we in Australia have tried to embrace and include those from other cultures and backgrounds.

I’m sure an already blooming relationship with our Chinese church partners will grow even stronger with this visit.

 

Relief and Disaster Recovery

 

stephenrobinson2smallRev. Dr Stephen Robinson

I have had the opportunity to connect in South Australia with Wendy Perkins who is the Post Disaster Ministry Coordinator, working with the Uniting Church’s Synod on behalf of the South Australian Council of Churches.  I have had the opportunity to spend two days with her in terms of planning and training for their pastoral support of people following disaster events in the state.

I will be returning in early October to conduct disaster recovery chaplaincy workshops with chaplains and others from three regions of the state ahead of this year’s fire and storm season.

Closer to home I have been connecting disaster recovery chaplains with NSW Red Cross for interagency disaster recovery exercises which will be held in 10 areas across the state in September and October. I will be inducted into the role on September 27th.

Justice and advocacy

Rev Elenie Poulos, National Director, UnitingJustice

Elenie small

Remember you can follow UnitingJustice on Twitter @UnitingJustice to stay in touch with us and our work between newsletters.

The 2013 federal election resource - A Just Society: Your Faith, Your Voice, Your Vote - has been distributed to Synod offices throughout Australia and includes materials prepared by various Assembly and synod agencies and Uniting Church members.

All of the resources are available online. There are also a limited number of printed copies available of the Booklet and the Hot Issues Briefs. Please contact your synod office for your copy. Read more

While A Just Society covers a range of important issues, the focus of this newsletter is refugees and asylum seekers.

The past several weeks have seen a number of important developments in this area of work for us here at UnitingJustice, and we wanted to share with you all a little of what we have been doing.

Our National Director Rev. Elenie Poulos has had two great opinion pieces published that you can read here and here. And UCA President Rev Prof Andrew Dutney has had a wonderful piece featured on the ABC Religion & Ethics site.

For those who would like to learn more about what the Uniting Church has to say about asylum seekers, you can download policy statements and Assembly resolutions from our website.

Regional Resettlement Arrangement fact sheet

On Friday 19th July 2013, the governments of Australia & Papua New Guinea signed a Regional Resettlement Arrangement (RRA).

This new agreement covers all asylum seekers - men, women and children - who arrive in Australian waters by boat.

We do not want any asylum seekers to lose their lives on the journey by boat to Australia. However this "solution" is devoid of compassion. There are better ways.

This fact sheet is the first of a series we will be producing as more details of the policy changes and their impact on asylum seekers become clear.

UnitingCare Australia

Lin Hattfield Dodds, National Director, UnitingCare Australia

lin HD

UnitingCare Australia is well-positioned for an effective relationship with a new Parliament and a new Government. In the weeks leading up to polling day we have been focused on developing and distributing a suite of resources for pre- and post-election advocacy work that has been distributed across the Network and within the Church.

In the months and years ahead, the Uniting for Change website will be developed as a longer-term platform to provide another means of engagement. We thank Emma Lang, who this week left UnitingCare Australia, for her work in getting this project started.

UnitingCare Australia’s recently released Position Statements are focused on building a just society in which all people have the means and opportunity to access a decent life. Why this matters and how to get there are outlined, including specific recommendations to Government. Thank you to all across the Network who have contributed to these documents. They will serve as the basis for much work in the coming months and years.

These resources – covering Children, Young People & Families, Energy Affordability, Housing and Homelessness, Income Support Justice, Mental Health, People with Disabilities, Sustainable Social Services, the Well-being of Older People, and a new way of thinking about economics and society – are available online at http://www.unitingcare.org.au/federal-election.

We invite you to share these resources with colleagues and friends via social media to extend the conversation about a decent society

Other Assembly news

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.

Please note:

  • 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.

Want to hear more? Subscribe to the Transit Lounge! You’ll receive monthly newsletters with the latest church, world, faith and other news right to your inbox. Also, take a look at Transit Lounge on Facebook and Twitter for extra content and to have your say on issues facing young people of faith today. 

Synod 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

Visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/UCAAssembly

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