Messages of Hope

Month: September 2018

Vale, Rev Bruce Prewer

Published / by Sandy

Rev Bruce Prewer served as a Minister at Pilgrim Uniting Church in the 1980’s. His contribution is well remembered, and cherished. He developed an authentic Australian voice in the liturgies and prayers he wrote and shared generously through his published books and online. His work lives on in worship liturgies at Pilgrim, and in congregations across the globe. Well done, good and faithful servant!
28th April 1931 – 11th September 2018 Rev Stan Clarke, Minister, Sunbury Uniting Church (Victoria) prepared this eulogy for Bruce’s funeral. 

Following a protracted illness Bruce passed away surrounded by family in Victoria on 11 September, 2018.

Born in 1931, the youngest of four children, Bruce’s early years were spent at Dilston, in Tasmania.

He credited reading the daily paper during an extended hospital stay caused by rheumatic fever with opening his mind to the world beyond Dilston.

His experience of fire and brimstone preachers engendered in the young Bruce a hatred of religion. He made up his mind that he wanted nothing to do with their God.

He leaned towards agnosticism in his teens, continuing to attend worship with his parents, enjoying the pipe organ playing and smorgasbord of hymns in the Methodist Hymn Book. That there were pretty girls in the junior choir didn’t escape his notice, either.

Yet it was a time of deep discontent for him. In March 1949, he attended an evangelical rally and gave his life to Jesus. He described this as the big turning point in his life and “the smartest thing I ever did”.

Only a few months later, during worship service he had a mystical “auditory” experience of being called to ministry.

After a year at Otira College in 1950 the “church fathers” decided to fast-track him into the ministry.

In 1955, he was posted as probationary minister to King Island, and was given permission to marry Marie Goldsmith, which he said was the “second smartest thing I ever did”.

In March 1957, he was ordained at Wesley Church, Melbourne and posted to Wynyard, Tasmania, where he began to experiment with different styles of worship.

Having rearranged the church set-up, he introduced informal talk-back evening services, singing rock music and African-American spirituals. The often infamous Truth magazine did an article portraying him as a young rebel breaking the old traditions.

Following a posting at Glenorchy in Hobart, Bruce was granted his desire to move back to Victoria to be closer to family. He was posted to Mt Waverley, High St Road. At this time he was first diagnosed with the depression that affected him his whole adult life.

While travelling overseas Bruce encountered the art of Norwegian sculptor Gustav Viegland, particularly his celebration of ordinary people. This helped Bruce see his country and culture from an outside perspective. Viegland inspired Bruce to get on with some of his own down-to-earth Aussie poetry.

Bruce’s proficiency as a poet is well known in Australian churches. His first book, Australian Psalms, became a religious best-seller.

Among other works to follow were: Brief Prayers for Busy People, Kakadu Reflections, The Boomerang Bender, Prayers for Aussie Kids, My Best Mate, More Australian Psalms, Australian Prayers, Australians at Prayer, Prayers for the Twenty-first Century, and Beyond Words: reflections on the Gospel of Luke. His final book, Faith’s Last Hurrah!, went to press just months before his death.

For over six years Bruce served in ministry at North Essendon, which was a significant and productive period of his life.

Bruce was among those who helped pioneer “field placements” for candidates in training for the ministry, providing supervised, hands on, in-parish learning.

Commencing ministry at Adelaide’s Pilgrim Church in 1981 he withdrew from wider church involvements to focus on being a pastor, counsellor, preacher and worship enabler.

He became enamoured with the wilderness beauty of the Flinders Ranges. The abundant wild life and the prehistoric story of the Aborigines in Kakadu National Park featured in his writings.

Once more feeling the tug of family back in Victoria, Bruce moved to St Andrews, Bendigo, in 1989. This time of ministry was curtailed two years later when his chronic depression brought his general health to breaking point.

When his health improved he resumed writing, and developed his website of lectionary/worship resources. He wrote steadily until his health again declined.

Bruce described himself as a “theological mongrel”, “a wandering child of God who has been found,” not sitting comfortably in any school of theological thought.

He saw himself as a true evangelist, someone with some very Good News that he wanted others to experience.

While Bruce thought his words were “pathetically inadequate”, many have found those words enriching and inspiring in their own encounter with Jesus.

Bruce is survived by his wife, Marie Joyce, sons David and Martin and daughter Chris, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

(Article reprinted from Crosslight publications, Synod of Vic/Tas)

Super Typhoon Mangkhut – prayer for the Philippines

Published / by Sandy

In the wake of the devastation of Super Typhoon Mangkhut, Uniting Church in Australia President Dr Deidre Palmer has called on UCA members to pray for the people of the Philippines and our partner church, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). Dr Palmer has written the below prayer in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Philippines.

God of mercy and comfort,

We pray for the people of the Philippines, whose lives, homes, food and water supplies and sources of income have been devastated by the impacts of Typhoon Mangkhut.

We pray for comfort for all those who are grieving, for those who have lost families and friends and whose communities have been severely impacted.

We pray for strength and support for all those responding to this disaster.

We pray for our partner church, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

Thank you for their faithful and compassionate embodiment of your Gospel as they respond to the needs of those affected by the Typhoon.

May they know your sustaining love and our solidarity with them as sisters and brothers in Christ.

Through Christ we pray, Amen.

UCCP has asked for support from their international partners. Your donation will make a huge difference, helping provide essential food and relief supplies to struggling families, many who’ve lost everything in the landslides.

Mutual Affirmation – Rev Dr Ji Zhang reflects on Marriage and Same Gender Relationships

Published / by Greg Elsdon

Mutual Affirmation: A Theological Reflection on Marriage and Same Gender Relationships

[by  Rev Dr Ji Zhang 张骥, Uniting Church Assembly theologian in residence]

In July, the Fifteenth Assembly resolved to honour the diversity of Christian belief among our members by holding two equal and distinct statements of belief on marriage. This decision will now allow Ministers and celebrants authorised by the Uniting Church the freedom to conduct, or to refuse to conduct, same-gender marriages. Church Councils also have the right to determine whether marriage services take place on their premises.

I have been listening to many different voices across the life of the UCA, both in the lead-up to the Assembly and since. For many people this is a good decision that reflects the openness of UCA and allows our diversity to exist within our communities. I have also engaged various UCA communities and leaders, including CALD leaders and Chinese communities. For many of them, the Assembly decision is pastorally difficult.

As I have listened, one question has kept emerging. How do we hold together two equal and distinct statements of belief? It is like holding a family together through difficult times – not easy.

First of all, the existing statement of belief has been retained.

“Marriage for Christians is the freely given consent and commitment in public and before God of a man and a woman to live together for life”.

An additional statement of belief has also been adopted.

“Marriage for Christians is the freely given consent and commitment in public and before God of two people to live together for life”.

With these two statements, the members of our Assembly have decided not to have a unity of sameness in which everyone agrees on a single statement. The decision essentially allows our diversity to coexist. At the heart of this decision is to uphold and celebrate who we are as the Uniting Church, namely unity in diversity.

For complete article go to:

https://assembly.uca.org.au/news/item/2876-mutual-affirmation-a-theological-reflection-on-marriage-and-same-gender-relationships

 

A safe place for all

Published / by Sandy

A Safe Church for All People

A statement by President Dr Deidre Palmer 
6 Sep 2018

Almost 40 weeks have now passed since the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse handed its Final Report to the Australian Government.

Commissioner McClellan, his fellow Commissioners and staff have distilled the wisdom of their landmark five-year inquiry into 17 volumes. The learnings of the Royal Commission – the most comprehensive investigation into child safety in our lifetime – are readily available to all institutions. So too are the stories of those who have experienced the trauma of child sexual abuse – the stories of survivors and their families – and of those who did not survive.

I stand with our two previous Uniting Church Presidents, who have served our Church during the time of the Royal Commission, in expressing my deep sorrow that there have been children who were abused in our Church, including our institutions. To those who have been abused, to your families and friends, who have been impacted by the ongoing effects of the abuse, I am deeply sorry that we did not protect and care for you in accordance with our Christian values and the way of Jesus, who has called us to be communities where all people can flourish in trust and safety.

We will seek to make amends and to ensure others will not suffer as you have.

For leaders of institutions which appeared before the Royal Commission, like the Uniting Church, the stories of people who endured abuse in our institutions and others must continue to be upheld in our collective memory.

As a Christian organisation, our theological understanding of ourselves as a community responding to Jesus Christ, means we need to keep asking ourselves this important question: is our Church safe?

If our Church is not a safe place for all people, by definition, we are not living out our call to follow Jesus.

Long before the Royal Commission’s Final Report was released, our Church and its Agencies were adopting the learnings from the hearings and research into our policy and practices around child safety.

Policy work in our Church is well advanced. A new National Child Safe Policy Framework is in place. At national and Synod levels Royal Commission Response Task Groups have worked closely together in resourcing the UCA’s whole of Church response.

We have created an annual national audit process against the Child Safe Framework, and we map audit and compliance responsibilities.

The National Task Group’s work has underlined a need for greater consistency across our Church. We are now considering how we might achieve better consistency, possibly in the form of a national Safe Church Unit. We will be required by the Federal Government’s new National Office of Child Safety to implement recommendations and demonstrate child safe practices in our life as a church, and to report on these things.

The Royal Commission’s ten “Key Elements of Child Safe Organisations” are expected to form the basis of a new set of National Standards to which organisations that engage with children will be required to demonstrate compliance annually. These ten elements are already replicated within the UCA’s National Child Safety Framework.

The work ahead of us all is to demonstrate compliance clearly, consistently and transparently in all we do with children. And this is not compliance for the sake of satisfying an external agency. but rather acting and being in ways that are consistent with who God calls us to be as Church – a trustworthy, respectful, loving community, in which all people are safe and can flourish.

The change that is expected of us – and that we want to see – is that this work will be carried out consistently across our Church.

This work is not only for those whose specific roles include child safety, this is part of our expression of our every member ministry. We are all called by God to take responsibility for creating and forming communities of trust, care and safety for all people, including our children.

I hope and pray that every member of our Church will work faithfully and carefully in the months and years ahead to ensure the work of child safety is continually grounded in our life and witness.

(Originally published by the SA Synod and UCA Assembly)

Season of Creation

Published / by Sandy

In the month of September, and concluding on the feast of St Francis on October 4, many people focus on the ‘season of creation’. For Christians, creation is not merely an academic discussion about evolution or not – it is now, much more, seen as an essential part of mission, in partnership with others who share concern for “our common home”.

This reflection is by Rev Steven Koski:

Caring for God’s holy and sacred earth is a spiritual practice. The environmental crisis is a spiritual crisis. We will not cherish or protect what we take for granted. We will not restore and renew what we do not revere. We will not save what we do not savor and regard as sacred.

The earth is not a commodity to be consumed by our greed and arrogance. The earth is a sacred community we share with all living things.

When people wanted to know more about God, Jesus told them to pay attention to the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. We can learn as much about ourselves and God from one single wildflower as we can from a thousand books of theology on a shelf.

The essence of prayer is connection. Perhaps the best prayer for the care of creation is to step out into creation today and be reminded of our sacred connectedness with all living things. Perhaps the best way to heal and restore the earth is to be healed and restored by the earth.

John O’Donohue wrote, “When the mind is festering with trouble or the heart torn, we can find healing among the silence and mountains or fields, or listen to the simple, steadying rhythm of waves. The slowness and stillness gradually takes us over. Our breathing deepens and our hearts calm and our hungers relent. When serenity is restored, new perspectives open to us and difficulty can begin to seem like an invitation to new growth. This invitation to friendship with nature does of course entail a willingness to be alone out there. Yet this aloneness is anything but lonely. Solitude gradually clarified the heart until a true tranquility is reached. The irony is that at the heart of that aloneness you feel intimately connected with the world. Indeed, the beauty of nature is often the wisest balm for it gently relieves and releases the caged mind.”

Be present to God’s sacred and holy earth, the sacred community we share with all living things.