Messages of Hope

Month: February 2019

Spotlight on ‘the church’

Published / posted by Sandy

The verdict that announced Cardinal George Pell was guilty of child sexual abuse sent shockwaves around the world this week. ‘The church’ in general have been cast in the spotlight once again, with society at large left with a negative view of the church as an institution where people, especially children, should be feeling safe.

Uniting Church SA Moderator, Rev Sue Ellis, “The news of the conviction of Cardinal Pell for Child Sex offences serves as a sombre reminder of the sad history of sexual abuse of vulnerable children entrusted to the care of churches and other institutions. It reinforces the importance of upholding the stories of people who endured abuse in a church institution”.

She continues: “As people of the Uniting Church, we are committed to seeking to make amends to survivors and to ensure others never suffer in this way again. The Church is called to be a safe place for all people and we are constantly scrutinising our policies and practices around children to ensure they comply with the Royal Commission’s ‘Key Elements of Child Safe Organisations’.”

In response to the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the Uniting Church launched their Safe Church initiative that offers procedures, training, screening and reporting avenues to help prevent abuses from happening within our churches. In June 2018 we also committed to join the National Redress Scheme, a Government support programme that assists people who have experienced institutionalised sexual abuse and holds institutions accountable for it.

This week the National Redress Scheme published a list of institutions identified by the Royal Commission who have joined the scheme. The Uniting Church does not appear on this list, but we are mentioned on their website along with other institutions whose applications are still being processed. The Uniting Church in Australia has provided the Federal Government with our application and supporting documents in December 2018.  We have been informed that we will soon be operational as a fully listed institution and ready to begin processing any claims originating from within the Uniting Church.

“We pray for all survivors of child sexual abuse and for their families and the families of those who can no longer share their pain. We pray for a safe society where the rights of children and vulnerable people will be recognised and championed. In Jesus’ ministry, the importance of such people in the Kingdom of Heaven was made abundantly clear to his disciples and followers. May it be so in the life and witness of our church today,” says Sue.

“Our thoughts and prayers are also with the Catholic Church at this time as Pope Francis leads the people into a new era of accountability in their discipleship to Christ.”

(originally published on SA Synod website)

Hymn: O God when trust is shattered
PASSION CHORALE 7.6.7.6 D (“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”) – new words to a familiar tune
O God, when trust is shattered
by wolves among your sheep,
when youth and children suffer,
when those remembering weep,
when victims tell their stories,
when leaders hide abuse,
bring healing, love and mercy!
Bring justice, God of truth!

When leaders side with evil,
when people do their worst,
may we reach out to victims
and put their healing first.
If any member suffers,
we all will suffer, too.
Bring healing, love and mercy!
Bring justice, God of truth!

We pray that the abusers
will learn sin’s awful cost,
and — making no excuses —
will know that they are lost.
Then may they find redemption —
as we all need it, too.
Bring healing, love and mercy!
Bring justice, God of truth!

May all who serve in churches
be careful, watchful, wise.
May we prevent abuses
and hear your children’s cries.
We pray that institutions
will seek your way anew.
Bring healing, love and mercy!
Bring justice, God of truth!
Tune: Hans Leo Hassler, 1601; harmony by Johann Sebastian Bach, 1729 (“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”)
Text: Copyright © 2018 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette.
Email: carolynshymns@gmail.com New Hymns: www.carolynshymns.com/
Permission given for churches to use this hymn in worship

Compassion for those who need our help

Published / posted by Sandy

February 2019: The Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce and the National Council of Churches in Australia call for an end to the demonising of refugees and asylum seekers and a humane approach to their care and support.

As people of faith we welcome recent moves to bring all children in detention off Nauru. We welcome the passing of the Medical Transfer Bill by our Australian Parliament of elected representatives. Both these measures are humane and in no way jeopardise our national security. But they do not go far enough.

As people of faith we reject any rhetoric that suggests Australia is facing a border protection crisis and that Australia needs to reopen Christmas Island as a detention facility.

As people of faith we call on people from all sides of politics, the media and society to avoid using language that seeks to demonise groups of people currently held in detention and other people wanting to come to Australia to seek a safe life.

As people of faith we call on politicians from all political parties to outline reasoned and humane policies that will end offshore detention. We want to ensure the dignity and well-being of all in our care, including those people seeking safe refuge who are in Australia and being left destitute in our communities and neighbourhoods by current policy.

We urge the kind of welcome that lifted everyone’s spirits this week, with the return of Hakeem from detention in Thailand, who we all are embracing as one of our own.

Let us be clear. We are helping sick people because they need our help. That is enough to do well, now.

“Our Churches and agencies around the nation, as ever, stand ready to help, in partnership with our Government.”

‘Just Earth’ launch

Published / posted by Sandy

On Thursday 14th February, the free “Just Earth” App was launched (available in Google and i-tunes) at the Effective Living Centre. The app is sponsored by the Environmental Action Group in the Synod of South Australia.

It offers 40 days of Biblical reflections, prayers and beautiful photographs and invites us to prayerfully discern ways we are called to participate in God’s healing and renewal of the whole creation. It is designed for those who care for all aspects of the created world and its beauty and wonders. This app combines wisdom from many traditions and ages, contemporary prayers and potential actions. It is designed to challenge, inspire and encourage all who love the earth and wish to express their love more effectively.

‘The way we see the world determines the way we treat it. If a mountain is a deity, not a pile of ore; if a river is one of the veins of the land, not potential irrigation water; if a forest is a sacred grove, not timber; if other species are our biological kin, not resources; or if the planet is our mother, not an opportunity – then we will treat each other with greater respect. That is the challenge – to look at the world from a different perspective”. (David Suzuki)

If we only see life from ‘our’ perspective, then we miss the point and the richness of life entirely. Indigenous spirituality demonstrates that creation is alive – the forest, the mountains, the fields and the thousand hills. It sings of the Creator Spirit, is owned by the Creator Spirit. All we need to do is open our inner eyes and view life from another perspective to notice.

 

 

Living with tragedy

Published / posted by Sandy

Uniting Church President Dr Deidre Palmer has asked members to keep residents in disaster-affected areas in their prayers in the days and weeks ahead. After heavy monsoonal rain, Townsville and surrounding areas are experiencing major flooding. Hundreds of residents have been evacuated and thousands of homes have been inundated. It is estimated more than 300,000 cattle have died in the floods. Some churches have opened their doors for people to gather and find support. In Tasmania, homes have been destroyed in widespread bushfires, which have been burning since before Christmas.

“We pray for all those who are suffering through adversity, that they might know God’s grace and love and be restored in hope through it. In times of natural disaster, churches are pastoral first responders to people experiencing the pain and grief of loss,” said Dr Palmer. “I pray for our chaplains as they seek to comfort the distraught, and our local church leaders as they seek to support the communities around them.”

The Assembly’s National Disaster Recovery Officer Rev. Dr Stephen Robinson says support is available for presbyteries and congregations through Uniting Church disaster relief funds. “As we pray and wait to see the extent of damage and loss, we will continue to make sure that local Presbyteries are aware of the availability of peer support, monetary support through Synod and Assembly disaster relief funds and the possibility of extra ministry resources which can follow up in the recovery phase.”

Prayers

God of all comfort and compassion,
We pray for those who are being or have been devastated by flood and rain.
We know that while the rain has come as a blessing to some,
particularly those in our outback areas,
for those whose properties are inundated or lives that have been threatened,
we pray for your protection and mercy.
Strengthen those who are isolated,
Who lay sleeplessly at night concerned for their own
and their neighbour’s safety.
Keep at bay the spread of disease
And show mercy and give strength
to emergency services and SES volunteers.
Protect those who are trapped in floodwaters,
particularly visitors to the region
and have no home in which to find comfort.
May our response to the suffering of others be generous and bring you praise.
For we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
(Source: Rev. Garry Hardingham, Chairperson and Presbytery Minister
Presbytery of North Queensland)

Loving God, in the midst of what nature brings us,
we thank you for the deep wells of community life;
we pray that people will be kept safe;
that property damage be minimal,
that we might support and help one another through these challenging days.
(Source: Rev David Baker, Moderator, Synod of Queensland)