Messages of Hope

Month: July 2021

Sport and mental health

Published / by Sandy


This week, gymnastics superstar Simone Biles withdrew from the individual all-round competition in the team gymnastics finals at the Tokyo Olympics, citing mental health concerns. She said it was important to “focus on my mental health” and “not jeopardize my health and well-being. Whenever you get in a high-stress situation, you kind of freak out. We have to protect our body and our mind. It just sucks when you’re fighting with your own head.”

Biles said tennis star Naomi Osaka, who cited her mental health when withdrawing from the French Open earlier this year, had inspired her to speak out about her own issues.

The athletes have been so much already just to get to the Olympics, coping with an ongoing COVID global pandemic, and without friends and family able to be with them, to support them. Simone got the ‘twisties’ (lost her spatial awareness) in a vault routine. Gymnastics routines can be dangerous, and any lack of confidence or self-doubt can have serious consequences.

Praise has been heaped upon her decision, like the following by Lauren Welch on a Facebook post: “Simone Biles is an amazing woman. We can learn a lot from her. She recognized that she was feeling the burden of all the pressure that was directed to her being perfect in all she could do as a gymnast. She recognized she was human and that she could not withstand this pressure at this time. She also knows that she is a great athlete and she loves what she does and she pushes herself to do more than is possible for most young gymnasts. With that knowledge, courage and wisdom she listened to her body, mind and spirit and knew it was not her time for a medal. She pulled herself out of competition and allowed others to shine at the Olympics. She is brave, courageous and wise beyond her years. We all can learn to listen to our body, mind and spirit to discern what our next step needs to be – and if we do that we all might be healthier in mind, body and spirit. The healthier we are in body, mind and spirit – the better our world will be”.

Needless to say there will be some pushback from people like broadcaster Piers Morgan, denigrating those who cite mental health issues as a reason to step back from sport for a while. A veiled ‘toughen up’ critique. Andrew Bolt said he was concerned about the “praise” heaped on Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw from the Olympics. “She should get sympathy for pulling out, but I don’t think praise for actually quitting after muffing a vault and then walking out of the team.”

There is a back story, of course. Washington Post‘s Sally Jenkins writes that to this day, American Olympics officials continue to betray Simone Biles. They deny they had a legal duty to protect her and others from a rapist-child pornographer, Larry Nassar, even though they had  unambiguous and credible evidence that the gymnastics doctor was a serial sex assaulter. Corrupt officials covered it up, and favours were traded to ensure the issue was ‘bottom drawered’. The officials continue to evade responsibility in judicial manoeuvring.

They are Simone Biles’ tormenters.

Abuse is a current event for Simone Biles. Nothing was ever said to her, or efforts made to protect her. She has been frank about her profound lingering distrust of USA Gymnastics and her conviction that they will not do right by her and other athletes of her own accord. In a recent interview Simone Biles said one of the main reasons she came back for another Olympics at aged 24 was to try to ensure accountability. ‘If there weren’t a remaining survivor in the sport, they would’ve just brushed it to one side’.

The Olympics is no happy anniversary for Larry Nassar’s victims. ‘It is a huge trigger’, says Rachael Denhollander, whose police report against Nassar in August 2016 finally triggered the Michigan law enforcement investigation – led by women – that took him down. ‘This time is year is awful because it brings back what it was like. It brings back how hard it was to speak up, to verbalise it for the first time. This is when it all came out. And the body keeps score. It remembers those times of year and those anniversaries. I can’t even imagine trying to function’.

The body keeps score.

To perform the aerials that Biles does requires a wholesale commitment of mind and body. When you are suspended 10′ up in the air, upside down and twisting at the rate of a motorised motor, ‘You have to be 100% or 120% because, if you’re not the slightest bit, you can get hurt’, Biles said.

To perform at that height and that hazard required trust. Right now, Simone Biles has none. And why should she?

Lifeline 13 11 14  24/7 Crisis Support
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

From Refugee to the Olympics

Published / by Sandy

When the Refugee Olympic team participated in the Olympics Games in Rio in 2016 for the first time, it sent a message of hope and inclusion to millions of refugees who inspire the world with the strength of their human spirit. How Yusra Mardini escaped war-torn Syria to reach the Olympics in Rio and then Tokyo is a story full of strength and resilience.

Born in Syria, Yusra was raised in a disciplined Muslim family in Darayya. Her father was a swimming coach and she started learning swimming on weekends. But fascinated by flying planes, she always wanted to be a pilot.

She was in 7th standard when the civil unrest began in Syria in 2011 and never came to an end leading to a mass exodus of refugees. Yusra’s family also fled the town and this put a stop to her swimming sessions.

In 2015, Yusra along with her elder sister escaped from Syria and completed an arduous journey to Germany. They flew to Turkey from where they boarded a boat to Greece.

The boat journey that was supposed to be around 45 minutes lasted for over 3 hours as their boat broke mid-water. Yusra along with her sister and others were found pushing the broken boat ashore.

A 17-year-old swimming across the sea with the load of 17 more passengers on her shoulder. Yusra became a symbol of hope and strength.

She reached Germany part on foot, in buses and even with the help of smugglers.

And one year later, there she was in Rio competing as part of the first-ever IOC Refugee Olympic Team in 2016.  “Sport was our way out. It was kind of what gave us hope to build our new lives”.

While she could not secure a spot in the semi-finals, she went on to become a UNHCR goodwill ambassador. Today, she continues to work for the welfare of refugees across the world.

“I want to do lots of things but, for me, swimming has been number one and being a part of the Olympic games is my biggest dream. My dream is for the world to be at peace and there will be no more refugees anymore. That those wars will end and that we are all equal in the world and live peacefully and in harmony. I know it’s hard but this is my dream”.

(adapted from an article by Meenu Katariya)

 

Cathedrals: a forgotten model for church growth

Published / by Sandy

Pilgrim Uniting Church Adelaide has recently updated its strategic plan and clarified key directions. It is premised on the location as a church in the heart of the city, for the city. While the UCA doesn’t have cathedrals (no Bishops in the UCA!) Pilgrim is one of the churches in the city that may be considered cathedral-esque in its mission and ministry. So this article written by Revd Dr Jane Shaw (in the UK context and posted here on 16th July 2021) is most interesting and could be an interesting catalyst for discussion.

The central question posed is: why are church-plants seen as the only game in town when it comes to reversing decline?

Cathedral congregations and communities have been growing in the 21st century. According to official Church of England statistics, attendance at cathedral services grew by 13% in the decade from 2009 to 2019. That is just attendance at services. The statistics do not take account of all the ways in which cathedrals engage the spiritually curious and the wider society; nor do they tot up the tourists and pilgrims who go back home and explore their faith in other places.

This growth did not come out of a vacuum. Throughout the 20th century, cathedrals increasingly opened their doors to the broader community, were patrons of the arts, and enlarged their educational and civic engagement. (This is certainly true for Pilgrim as well).

So, why, when it comes to models for church growth, does there seem to be only one game in town: church-plants?

It was reported recently that the Archbishops had supported a proposal for 10,000 new lay-led churches — effectively church-plants in people’s houses – doing away with “key limiting factors” such as competent clergy and much-loved church buildings (News, 2 July). Many people have expressed their surprise, shock, and hurt at both the proposal and the language in which it was conveyed. Others have run the numbers to show that the model is simply not viable.

So, here is a proposal: let’s use cathedrals as another model for church growth. It seems so obvious. Cathedrals appeal to people who would probably never go near a church-plant. Cathedrals evoke awe as we enter them, helping us to appreciate the beauty of holiness and the glory of God.

They cater to “passengers”, and, let’s face it, many people need that at times. When someone taking the first steps towards faith, or tentatively coming back to church after a period away, quiet anonymity can be essential. When we are tired and worn out, we just need to be in a sacred place without people badgering us to be on the coffee roster or to go on an Alpha course. Cathedrals are full of pillars that people can safely hide behind, until they want to emerge and start to participate. Furthermore, cathedral music is good, the preaching usually thoughtful, and the liturgy well done.

Cathedrals also present a different and, in my experience, successful model of mission: one that’s about throwing open the doors and welcoming everyone into a wide range of activities. They enable people to enter by many different pathways: the arts, pilgrimages, talks on pressing issues, and outreach, service, and social-justice programmes. These activities develop the broader cathedral community, and, from them, a person’s curiosity about “church” can grow, leading to deeper engagement.

I am puzzled about why the Church of England keeps coming back to just one model: church-plants and discipleship. The church-growth report From Anecdote to Evidence (2014) stated “there is no single recipe for growth.” So let’s try a range of models.

Resourcing parishes is vital, too. Sometimes, there is a tension between cathedrals and parishes, but there doesn’t need to be. The parochial system’s vast network of churches and clergy is extraordinary and irreplaceable. Properly resourced, parishes could offer some of the same pathways to faith as cathedrals offer.

The parish church is a great asset: a building that local people find beautiful and would be sad to see closed, but for which they don’t usually feel any responsibility. So, might parish churches increasingly become hubs for the whole village or community, with concerts and talks, clubs for the elderly, pop-up meals for the whole village, and a home for the local post office or library when those vital institutions face closure?

In this way, the congregation can show the love of God to the wider community, and, at the same time, encourage that community to use, enjoy, and take ownership of a building that is often costly to keep up. As with cathedrals, participation in other activities may well lead to tentative, and then not so tentative, steps towards church and faith.

Cathedrals and parishes both exercise a ministry of presence, serving the whole community. Growth is not just for the sake of growth: it is intimately tied to pastoral care, service, love, and social justice. In the face of the one model of church growth that is currently on offer, it is imperative that cathedrals and parishes work together to offer alternative ways to reach the spiritual seekers, the “nones”, and those on the margins.

And the next time that the Church of England wants an expert on mission and church growth, I hope that they will call on one of those many clergy who have been quietly but surely growing cathedrals for years.

The Revd Dr Jane Shaw is Principal of Harris Manchester College, Professor of the History of Religion, and a Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford. She was formerly Dean of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco.

Some Facebook responses in an Australian context
Rev Josephine Inkpin (Pitt St UC, Sydney): Healthy mission strategy needs to be diverse and multi-dimensional. Sadly many Anglicans across the globe have also written off very small congregations which can also come alive where context and intentionality is clear (eg my recent experience in Milton in Brisbane). Much ‘church planting’/‘’discipleship’ approaches are also very narrow theologically and relationally, so where a Church – such as the UCA – goes over headlong for that, it is actually narrowing itself ideologically (the very opposite of ‘cathedral’ or smaller ‘base community’ philosophies and relationships). Pitt St UC is a striking example of a church which was seen as ‘redundant’ by UCA bodies but, thanks to creative divine nonconformity, whose USP and intentionality has enriched a better ecclesial and theological ecology and continues to ask questions about whether church mission strategists are really open to divine surprise and the value of holiness of place, hope-bearing particularity and healthy pluralism.

Glen Spencer (Uniting Mission and Education, NSW): Some really good insights. Certainly wanting to cheer on a diversity of ways in which the church seeks to join in the mission of God…including Cathedrals. What I don’t quite understand is the need to be critical of a plan that seeks to energise lay leadership to start small churches that are trying to love & serve the community around them.
Let’s cheer on Cathedral church.
Let’s cheer on small lay led churches.
Let’s cheer on larger, regional churches…and parish missions and neighbourhood churches…and university chaplaincy…and…and…
All in mutual encouragement, support and love.

Glenn Powell
As I understand it, the growth in attendance at C of E churches in England has been in BOTH cathedrals AND fresh expressions/church plants. What is languishing is average suburban congregations. I think that this is paralleled in the UCA, and I believe for two reasons:
1. In most things in life (eg business enterprises, farms, country towns, educational institutions, as well as churches) there is a “disappearing middle”. Growth is happening at the large and small scale, with the middle not knowing where to go. As I crunch the numbers in the UCA, most members attend churches with fewer than 50 or more than 150 at worship. If in-between, congregations go one way or the other. (Without an intention, there is only one way that they DO go.)
2. What distinguishes BOTH cathedrals AND fresh expressions/church plants is a clear sense of identity and purpose. They know who they are called to be, and what they are sent to do. The average suburban church cannot survive just being the X-suburb Y-denomination church, thinking that when new Y-denomination members move into X-suburb they’ll join. If suburban congregations are to do more than hope to survive, but to thrive, they have to discover a unique calling and sending. In language more familiar to Catholics, a charism and an apostolate.
The article states:
“The parochial system’s vast network of churches and clergy is extraordinary and irreplaceable. Properly resourced, parishes could offer some of the same pathways to faith as cathedrals offer.”
That resourcing can’t be to either bleed the cathedrals or thwart the new. It has to be about helping congregations/parishes to figure out why they even exist.

Peter Hobson
I am excited about the idea of the C of E focussing on mission – and I think there is much we can learn from their efforts.. but I do have a concern when this comes at the expense of discipleship rather than as a result of discipleship. And church growth initiatives, however well intentioned, can come at the expense of discipleship when they look for some sort of easy answer. Discipleship is hard. When we try to sugar coat it – it becomes something else. I spent twelve months at a theological college that tried to ‘blue sky’ it’s educational and formational imperatives. It was – and still is – an absolute disaster. The aim was to increase student numbers – and the numbers were prioritised over the learning. The college forgot what it was for… I’ve heard all the rhetoric about every number is a person. But show me a person who wants to be thought of as a number? Every disciple is a person. And making disciples is our mission. Let’s use Cathedrals and car washes – home churches and parishes… but when we set the goal as ‘numbers’ we will build strategies for ‘numbers’ – and there is no guarantee whatsoever that discipleship will follow. From my experience – it is the exact opposite. Church growth should come organically as a result of discipleship growth – not because of the latest marketing idea.

Dwelling in Love Bible Study

Published / by Sandy

(originally posted on the Uniting Church Assembly website)

First Nations leaders from Nungalinya College led Bible Reflections on Day 2 of the 16th Assembly.

With support and co-ordination from Rev Michelle Cook, eight leaders from Nungalinya* shared on the Assembly theme “Dwelling in love”. (*Nungalinya is an ecumenical training college located in Darwin equipping First Peoples for leadership in churches and communities. It is supported by the Anglican, Uniting and Catholic churches of the Northern Territory).

In preparing for the study, participants washed each other’s feet and thought about the connection between serving and being connected to Jesus.

The study opened with an introduction to the Yolŋu worldview from Rev Deacon Maratja Dhamarrandji, a leader of the Northern Regional Council of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) and former chair of the Nungalinya Board.

“To honour God and respect culture is a policy of Nungalinya College and it fits well my voice and theology,” said Maratja.

“I’m a Yolŋu man and a Christian man. I’m not an individual that can be introduced alone. No Yolŋu person is ever alone. A Yolŋu is always in relationship to someone and something else.”

“A Yolŋu is always a ‘half’ of another ‘set’ of Yolŋu. This understanding may be contrasted from the Latin American saying that it takes two to tango; in the Yolŋu worldview, it takes more than one to be Yolŋu.”

“In the double parts of my cultural heritage, I am also body soul and spirit. I am connected to the past, and now and the future. I am of those at once, I am never alone.”

Marlene Boko, from Aputula (Finke), who is currently studying Christian Ministry and Theology shared on the context of 1 Corinthians 13.

“Paul was talking to the people in the Church at Corinth and he’s telling them about the most important way to live, to live loving each other and loving God.”

Wangarr Dhamarrandji from Galwin’ku shared in the Djambarrpuŋu language on the importance of leading in love.

“If we change our thinking to the way Jesus thinks, that love of Jesus will show in our thinking.

“If we see God’s creation, looking closer to our surroundings and we see closer to God’s creation we also see God’s love in that creation. And that is yindi (great, very big).”

Further reflecting on the texts through their own art, Troy Mardigan from Nauiyu (Daly River) and Uncle Jo Cuttabut spoke about reconciliation, resurrection, the Holy Spirit and God seeking to be closer to us.

Joanne Baker, from Miliŋimbi, and Maurice Karui, from Wadeye (Port Keats), reflected on what it means to act in love.

“How I show love in the community is to walk with those people who are broken in spirit,” said Joanne.

“Love is action, love hurts, love brings people together. It has to be the way Jesus taught us. When we have that integrity of the Lord inside us, your love shows clear.”

Maurice shared how he had experienced God in the opening of the water lily flower.

“When I saw that flower with my own eyes, and I felt that God’s spirit was in that flower, I opened my heart.”

The last reflection, ‘Speaking in love’, by Yurranydjil Dhurrkay, was recorded for the UCA Queensland Synod Bible study on Ephesians 4:15-16. She reflected on how we build one another up as the Body of Christ.

“That way I am able to work with you, and build you, as a part of Christ’s body. I’m helping you to find your place in Christ’s body, and you and me will both grow in love. And then we will become strong and know that Christ is the head.”

Watch the Bible Study in full here. Questions for reflection on the study are here.

Rev Charissa Suli, President-elect of the UCA

Published / by Sandy

CONGRATULATIONS to Charissa on being elected President-elect, announced on the One Great Sunday of Sharing in the UCA. The declaration that the Uniting Church in Australia is a multicultural Church for all God’s people sets us on a journey of continual discovery and renewal and One Great Sunday of Sharing helps us to keep this focus at the heart of our common life in the UCA.

Charissa is a second-generation Tongan Australian with over 20 years of experience in cross cultural and intercultural ministry in the Uniting Church. Charissa is the youngest person to be elected President, and the first person of colour.

In the information Charissa provided to Assembly members she wrote:

My deep love of God was forged in the crucible of early motherhood and a business career to support my family. Not a day goes by when I don’t thank God for the blessings of my husband Langi and our family.

My ministry is the product of many great Uniting Church mentors, people like Tony Floyd and Jason Kioa, who opened my eyes to thepossibility of ministry and leadership. With Jason’s encouragement, I chaired the Tongan National Conference 2nd Generation Team for 9years, encouraging young leaders and nurturing team ministry. I’m thrilled that many of these young leaders are now faith leaders – both lay and ordained – in their own UCA contexts. I went on to work as a cross cultural consultant for the NSW/ACT Synod.

I completed my theological studies at United Theological College and was ordained as a Minister of the Word in 2014 at St David’s Uniting Church in Dee Why on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. I served in congregational ministry at Dapto Uniting Church before followingGod’s call to work at the Assembly from 2018 as a National Consultant focusing on leadership, justice, education, multicultural and cross-cultural ministry, discipling the next generations and mission.

I am a confident presenter and performer, but the heart of my work is enabling young members of the Uniting Church to find their ownvoices. I’ve worked with colleagues across the UCA to improve church resources about domestic and family violence, and coordinated online campaigns and events such as 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-base Violence and supporting ecumenical initiatives such as Thursdays in Black. I’m also serving as a chaplain for the Fifteenth President, Dr Deidre Palmer.

I am passionate about people and ministry, and how we inspire the people around us as communities in Jesus Christ in the life of our beloved Uniting Church to truly be the instruments through which Christ works to bear witness to himself.

In today’s challenged environment for people of faith, I am passionate about being a positive voice in the public square about what it means to be Uniting Church in Australia today,

Passion
I am passionate about pastoral ministry built on respectful and informed relationships – ministry that acknowledges everyone’s difficult journeys but holds a special place for those who have really struggled to feel God’s love in our Church – such as First Peoples, our LGBTIQ+ community, our culturally diverse communities

Vision for the UCA
I want the UCA to be a welcoming Church that is joyful, accepting, hospitable and life-giving to all, one that is open to God’s spirit leading us to new experiences even when the journey together is difficult, painful, or uncomfortable. I want our Church members to love one another enough to travel the road ahead together, seeing beyond whatever differences we have to our shared values.

I want the UCA to be a Church that affirms a variety of expressions of faith to deepen our understanding of God and our neighbour; a Church that is unafraid, even proud of our diversity to the point we let ourselves be enriched and reshaped by it; a Church that goes deeper into the scriptures and makes space for theological talanoa (the Polynesian word for sharing/conversation) to inform our faith and practice of ministry.

I want the UCA to be a Church that bears witness to the Gospel and fulfils God’s mission in every aspect of our ministry as we follow and apply the life and teachings of Christ in everything we do. And as witnesses, we will listen and learn from one another, rather than only speaking and teaching, and we will promote full participation and talanoa.

I want the UCA to continue to be a justice-seeking church that faithfully addresses racism, gender justice, and the effects of climate change, being accountable for how our decisions will affect the flourishing of God’s creation, learning from the mistakes of the past and doing things differently and better.

I want the UCA to be a Church that presents a strong and positive identity front and centre across the Assembly, Synods, Presbyteries, Congregations and Parish Missions and their respective Agencies, across Uniting Church schools and with our global ecumenical partners.

In a world where many borders and minds are closed, I want the UCA to keep thinking globally and maintain a strong commitment to the ecumenical movement.

I really want a UCA that walks the talk when walking together as First and Second Peoples in Covenant with the UAICC.

And I want a UCA that embraces digital technologies to communicate with all generations inside and outside our communities to spread the Gospel in rural and urban contexts, focusing on daily ministry rather than just Sunday ministry – to be a Church that helps people find faith and live out their faith on a daily basis.

I am full of hope and optimism for the Uniting Church in Australia. I see myself as a transformational leader, deeply focused on God’s people in the Uniting Church.

While I’ve experienced firsthand the difficulties of changing embedded cultures, I have also been enormously encouraged by the results of persistence with intergenerational and intercultural ministries.

My learning and growth in ministry has enabled me to resource synods, presbyteries and local congregations in cultural awareness training and being present in spaces of conflict leading people forward through a process of cross cultural mediation to resolve difficult matters of the Church.

I am walking into the future with a well-informed faith and confident I have the tools and skills to pursue ministry in this important leadership role in the life of our Church. I have a finance and marketing background and am currently completing my Masters in Ministry.

By focusing purposefully on our people and our relationships, and by championing our witness and service, I know we can build a bigger, broader and more Uniting Church.

In my own ministry I’ve seen God breathe life into areas that were once arid and barren, bringing them back to life.

A Church to bring the vision of Pentecost to life, a kingdom banquet where “people will come from the East and West, North and South, and will take their places in the feast in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 13:29) Perhaps the vision can only be completely realised until the kingdom has arrived in all of its glory. Nonetheless, we must live as though the eschatological kingdom has already arrived!

Finally, I’m aware of how much I draw my motivation from the people around me in UCA. God has bestowed those in our Church with all the gifts and abilities we need to positively change the world.

The challenges that we face as a Church today are numerous. But when we work collaboratively as the people of God on the way to the promised end, we truly transform lives and communities, leading them forward to Christ

Uniting Church Assembly – Cato Lecture

Published / by Sandy

The Cato* Lecture is an important feature of the triennial Assembly in the Uniting Church in Australia. Black liberation theologian Prof Anthony Reddie, Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture, Regent’s Park College, was invited to deliver the Cato Lecture to the online 16th Assembly, mounting a vision for unity in the Christian community where both difference and oneness in Christ are affirmed and celebrated.

Speaking from the UK, Prof Reddie explored the dichotomy of holding together human commonality and difference as we strive to find new ways to live in whole, healed and just communities.

“It seems to me that the challenge that you have as the Uniting Church is the same challenge we have in the UK, which is the same one that arises in every context in which the church is ‘birthed and earthed’: how do we at the same time affirm difference and how do we affirm unity? How do we live with that tension of togetherness and difference?”

Prof Reddie explored how in the face of difference there are often two responses at opposite ends of the spectrum: to collapse differences into a narrative of ‘sameness’ or similarity, or otherwise, to overemphasise our distinct identities.

To focus overly on sameness highlights unity but may neglect the contributions made by cultural, linguistic or theological difference. A focus on difference celebrates the way in which we belong to “powerful and particular identities”, but may create barriers and exclusion.

Both responses, Prof Reddie suggests, are inadequate on their own.

Instead, he proposes a middle ground: that faithful forms of community lie in understanding ourselves as communities made whole by diversity – not ‘sameness’, but ‘oneness’.

Prof Reddie is a self-described post-colonial educator, and child of Jamaican parents who arrived in the UK as part of the Windrush generation. On his previous visits to Australia he has connected with the National Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission of the NCCA and with members of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.

Drawing on a lifetime of theological reflection on his ancestry, the history of colonisation, and contemporary race dynamics particularly in the UK, Prof Reddie critiques narratives of unity that collapse or deny difference as a hallmark of empire.

The forms of Christian community we embody, he suggests, are opportunities to correct some of the assumptions that have led to Christianity’s complicity with colonialism.

He points out that the close links between Christian mission and ‘Whiteness’ included the export of a ‘White Christ’: imagery and theologies that neglect the particular incarnation of the historical Jesus in first Century Palestine.

The colonial approach based on assumptions about ‘White exceptionalism’, says Prof Reddie, led to outcomes like the destruction and denial of distinct cultures and traditions, residential schools, dispossession and exclusion, and, significantly, the genocide of indigenous cultures and peoples.

He observes that similar assumptions about ‘normative Whiteness’ can underlie theologies and practices of Christian unity which seek to form people into the same image, the image of the dominant culture.

“When you understand this issue within the framework of imperialism and colonialism, of the relationship between white bodies – white settlers – who are seen as superior and brown bodies who are seen as inferior … you see the monstrous construct of race that has bedeviled Christianity since its earliest times.”

“Holding together unity and diversity, particularity and universality, the sense of being one but also respecting our particular differences … is something the church has asserted but rarely practiced well.”

“We have so many texts that talk about how within the ecclesia, within the body of Christ, within the Assembly or the household of God, there’s an egalitarianism, there’s a respect for difference. There’s the affirmation of who we are in our particularity but also that sense of unity in diversity within the broader body.”

“At the same time, within the Christian faith we talk about being part of the one body of Christ. We talk about being one people. We talk about one God, one church, one baptism.”

“I believe this is an ongoing tension in which the power of the Holy Spirit enables us to both celebrate those things that make us specifically who we are, but also affirms our oneness and affirms that we are all made in the image and likeness of God.”

In closing, Prof Reddie proposed the events of Pentecost as a counter-narrative, pointing to a Pentecost ethic of embracing and affirming what makes us distinct from each other without sacrificing unity.

“Pentecost has a special resonance for our increasingly plural and complex time, because any careful reading of this text affirms notions of cultural, physical, and linguistic difference.”

“Pentecost shows sameness and difference being played out together in tension. We see difference being affirmed, as people hear the Good News in their own mother tongue, their own cultural tradition. And yet there is still a unity – that they are speaking of a common experience in Christ Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

* In 1932, successful Victorian businessman Fred Cato established the Cato Lectureship to promote the enhancement of religion and education. The presentation of material of interest to the general body of church members was designed to extend the goodwill and friendly relations between Methodist or related churches in Australia and other countries. Mr Cato stipulated that the lecturer was to come from overseas, and the lecture to be given within the proceedings of the triennial Methodist General Conference.

Dr Anthony G. Reddie is a self-described activist scholar, who has written more than 70 essays and articles and 19 books that firmly position Black liberation theology at the forefront of the practical theology discussion. Recent publications include Theologising Brexit: A Liberationist and Postcolonial Critique (Routledge, 2010), and the republished Is God Colour? Insights from Black Theology for Christian faith and Ministry (SPCK, 2020) and Intercultural Preaching [co-edited with Seidel Abel Boargenes and Pamela Searle], (Regent’s Park College, 2021).

UAICC report to Assembly

Published / by Sandy

Rev Mark Kickett, Interim Chairperson of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress until the next Congress National Conference later this year, presented the report of the UAICC to the 16th Assembly.

The report included a series of video presentations (as the entire Assembly meeting is online) and was quite wonderful. The video below formed part of the presentation.

In March 2018, a delegation of First Nations people from the United Church of Canada travelled to Australia as part of the Canada-Australia Reconciliation Dialogue.

Sara Stratton, Reconciliation and Indigenous Justice Animator at the United Church of Canada has written about the trip here.
united-church.ca/news/canada-australia-reconciliation-dialogue

The trip followed a visit to Canada by members of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress in July 2017.

Thanks Deidre, and welcome Sharon

Published / by Sandy

Rev Sharon Hollis has been installed as the 16th President of the Uniting Church in Australia in an online service of worship, with hundreds across the country tuning in to witness and celebrate. She will lead the Uniting Church over the next three years. Sharon is the first ordained Uniting Church woman to be elected President. Her Assembly theme is #dwellinginlove.

Dr Deidre Palmer has served as President for the past three years – a pastoral, passionate and prophetic leader, with a kind, compassionate, generous heart. She has been attentive to young people, listening to them and encouraging them. Her public and media statements are strong and courageous, and represent so well the tradition of prophetic public ministry in the Uniting Church. Thank you Deidre!

An excerpt from Deidre’s address as retiring President:
The last 16 months have been difficult for our Church, nation and global community. I’m conscious of the challenge those of you in lockdown areas are currently facing, and the grief and loss experienced, as we have been isolated, disconnected, and had our lives disrupted. We thought we were in a better situation, but we still face uncertainty.
Globally, progress made in alleviating extreme poverty has been lost, as the most disadvantaged again suffer the greatest impacts of COVID. We also face the climate crisis witnessed in unprecedented bushfires, drought and intense weather patterns. Many of us are exhausted.
Often, I’ve turned to Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4, that speak of the extraordinary power that comes from God. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed, perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed” – and call us to “not lose heart”. God has enabled us to endure through conflict, failure, drought, bushfire, injustice, discrimination and this pandemic, and with Christ-like eyes, inspires us to focus on what really matters in people’s lives and in the life and mission of our Church.
These last three years have taught me (us), that we can plan, imagine a way forward and be totally disrupted. But we are a people of Resurrection – we follow a risen, crucified Lord, who is with us always and empowers us to be a people of love, reconciliation, and hope. You are witnesses to this hope as you gather here.
I’ve shaped much of my preaching, presentation of the Assembly’s work and conversations through the lens of my theme for this triennium – Abundant Grace, Liberating Hope. As the Church faces challenging times, I’ve been deeply aware that it’s God’s abundant, extravagant love and grace that holds us together. It transforms our view and enables us to be the people and communities of faith we are called to be. Read the full Retiring President’s address.

On Saturday 17th July, members of the Assembly voted online for the President-elect who will serve as President after Sharon. Impressive candidates. The results of the ballot will be known on Sunday morning.

Dwelling in Love

Published / by Sandy

The 16th Assembly is the triennial decision-making meeting of the national Council of the Uniting Church in Australia, which guides the life of the Church and its advocacy over the next three years.

This year, for the first time, the triennial Assembly meeting will take place online from 17-18 July 2021, a decision made to protect the health and safety of members in the context of COVID-19. The Assembly meeting will then reconvene in 2022 when a face-to-face meeting is possible.

President-elect Rev Sharon Hollis share more about the theme for the triennium, Dwelling in Love. Watch the video here.

Jesus loves me this I know, And the bible tells me so (Anna Bartlett Warner)

Love is central to both our understanding of God and Jesus, and of our practice of Christian discipleshipGeoff Thompson[1]

The theme for the 16th Assembly invites the Assembly to reflect on how God’s love dwells with us shaping us as followers of Jesus and inviting us to dwell lovingly with each other as the household of God.

It reminds us that when we gather as the body of Christ we bear each other’s burdens and share each other’s joy. It calls us as an Assembly to become a loving community of prayer, discernment and decision making, noticing where the Spirit of Jesus is abiding with us.

This theme invites the Assembly to reflect on the nature of God as love and the call for us as Christians to live lovingly in the world. It echoes the prophet’s instruction, even while in exile, to pray for the city.

As community, the people of God seek the city’s welfare because their welfare is caught up in the wellbeing of the other (Jeremiah 29:7). It recalls the new covenant where God gives God’s people a heart of flesh even as they been unfaithful (Ezekiel 11:19-20). It echoes the great commandment to love God and love our neighbour. It reflects John’s metaphor of abiding in Jesus as the branches belong to the vine (John 15: 1-17) and speaks of Paul’s witness that faith, hope and love abide and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).

In 1 John we read that those who live in God live in love. As individual disciples and as the church we are loved. Knowing ourselves loved allows us to choose to dwell in God’s love rather than in destructive systems that invite us to dwell in them. To remain in God’s love is to make a choice to live for God’s way and to notice God’s reign.

At times gentle as when Hannah is gifted a child by Love or a mother hen gathering her chicks, Love also speaks with the ferociousness of the mother hen protecting her chicks or the voice of the prophet judging our faithlessness and calling us to love the world as God does through acts of justice and mercy.

God’s love is revealed in Jesus Christ pitching his tent to live amongst us.

Love is willing to suffer for the way and purpose of God, dying on the cross for love of humanity and the redemption of creation and rising to life so that we might continue to know we are held in love and called to live lovingly in the world as followers of Jesus Christ.

Because God dwells with us we are assured that, no matter where we dwell, God is there with solace and a call to transformation. Because God remains with us we are equipped for mission in the world bearing witness to God’s love and inviting others to participate in God’s love.

Inviting the Assembly to dwell in Love provides a lens to view several key callings on our life as a church.

  • The Preamble to the constitution reminds us that the Creator Spirit dwelt with the First Peoples of this land long before missionaries brought the gospel of Jesus Christ.
    In love, the Creator gave the First Peoples customs, culture and spirituality that guided them to dwell in this land with deep care for the earth and each other. The theme invites Second Peoples to continually reflect about the ways Second Peoples have failed First Peoples and into deep relationship with First Peoples. In particular, Second Peoples within the Uniting Church are called to remain alongside Congress seeking to walk together in ways that allow us to be attentive to the deep wisdom God has given to the First Peoples and support their sovereignty and self-determination.
  • It is now 35 years since the Uniting Church declared we are a multicultural Church.
    To grow into this declaration is at times joyful, at times painful. Many people of colour in the Uniting Church know the pain of racism in the Church. To abide with each other in love across racial and cultural difference is to recognise the indwelling of the Spirit in the other and to be willing to do the hard work of confronting our own prejudice so that we might dwell together in love. If we are willing to continue to do this hard work then the quality of our life together will witness to the abundant love of God in our midst and of our abiding with God.
  • The theme invites local communities of faith to be loving neighbours,
    seeking to really get to know the people and communities where they are in ministry and to discern prayerfully how to live lovingly with our neighbours for the sake of the gospel. It calls us to strive to be communities of justice and mercy remaining with those most in need of God’s liberating love and embodying God’s love in our worship witness and service.

[1] Geoff Thompson In His Own Strange Way: A Post-Christendom Sort-of-Commentary on the Basis of Union. Adelaide: Mediacom 2019

A foretaste of something more

Published / by Sandy

A sermon in NAIDOC Week by Stuart McMillan, the Uniting Church Assembly’s National Consultant Covenanting
Unley Uniting Church, Adelaide, July 4th 2021

Ps 148:1-6, 1Kings 21:1-2, Romans 8:19-27, Matthew 25:31-46

Greetings friends, I am delighted to share with you this NAIDOC Sunday.

Let me begin by acknowledging the sovereign First Nations Peoples of the land and waters where you are the Kaurna peoples. I pay my respects to their ancestors, elders and all descendants who have care for country since creation. I also acknowledge the sovereign Larrakia Peoples of the Land and waters where I live and am speaking to you from. I pay my respects to their ancestors, elders and all descendants who have care for country since creation. Truly God was in this ancient land and with her peoples.

I have been led to share from the Scriptures something of our Covenantal journey with the UAICC and First Nations Peoples more generally, that touches upon the theme of Heal Country and the words of the NAIDOC committee: “We are all looking for significant and lasting change”.

I have summarised the vision which accompanied the act of entering a binding Covenantal relationship between the UAICC and UCA in 1994 with these words: “We seek significant and lasting change through a new relationship characterised by justice and love. We are committed to a destiny together where First Nations Peoples, through the UAICC are at the heart of who we are as the UCA.”

The key words for us today from 1Kings 21 are found in v.3 where Naboth says to the King: “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.”

For the Hebrew people there are two expressions of inheritance or heritage and for our purposes the more significant is Morasha. Morasha is acquired by hard work and must be given as a precious heirloom to the next generation. Morasha has two objects in the Hebrew Scripture: First the land of Israel, and second the Torah of Israel, i.e., the law.

The Bible describes both the land of Israel and the Torah poetically as a song. And the Sages interpreted Morasha as if it were written me’orasa, a fiancée; both the song of Torah and the song of Land are expressions of profound love and commitment says Rabbi Riskin (chief Rabbi at Efrat). Hence says Riskin, the people of Israel seem to be wedded in eternal marriage to the land – and the Land assumes an almost personal form, like the beloved bride of her husband, Israel.

Riskin tells of a radio interview with a now 96year old man Ya’acov Hazan. When Hazan was 10 he was a sick child and the doctors advised hard work so his parents apprentice him to a Lithuanian farmer. The boy worked hard beside the farmer; he noticed the farmer even though it was back breaking work always had a smile.

He asked the farmer the source of his joy and the farmer said, “don’t you hear the music the song of the Land?” The boy heard nothing, and the farmer advised, “It’s not your land. If it were, you too would hear the song.” Hazan determine as soon as he was able, he would return to his land to hear its song. Now at 96 he still works his land, and he hears its music.

I am helped and I hope you will be too by this understanding of the connection between creation, the Creator, the Land, and her Peoples together with the Law. This Hebraic understanding is like a window which helps us understand something more of this ancient land, her peoples, their law, and the music of creation – the songlines.

For as First Nations elders have said we do not own the land it owns us, it is mother we are born of it. When First Nations Peoples sing, it is both a recognition of the ancestors and an act of eternal creation in harmony with the Creator.

So, Healing Country cannot be separated from people and law and song. Archie Roach sings as you heard at the commencement of worship: “Heal the people, heal the land, the two go hand in hand.” Profound theology.

“Creation waits…… creation will be liberated……the whole creation groans…..”

Paul in Roman’s reminds us of the link between people and country and all creation. The ‘climate crisis’ is a manifestation of the broken relationship between people and the whole creation. We, my friends, have much to learn from our First Nations sisters and brothers. I want to encourage you to take opportunities to ‘walk on country’ with First Nations Peoples. Uncle Clyde, Rev Ken Sumner, Jordon Sumner and Sean Weetra lead these at Raukkan in the Coorong and Rev Dr Aunty Denise Champion and family take them in Ikara, in the Flinders Ranges. Even in Adelaide city Uncle Frank Wangutya Wanganeen and others lead walks.

The Roman’s passage reminds us that the Spirit intercedes according to God’s will. This is expressed with our hope in paragraph 3 of the Basis of Union: “Jesus is Head over all things, the beginning of a new creation, of a new humanity. God in Christ has given to all people in the Church the Holy Spirit as a pledge and foretaste of that coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation. The Church’s call is to serve that end: to be a fellowship of reconciliation.”

This beloved is our hope and assurance for the whole creation, the Spirit intercedes, and the Spirit enables us to be the co-workers with Christ in this unfinished work of reconciliation and renewal. For us in the Uniting Church this is why in our journey and walking together with the UAICC in the 2009 Assembly we endorsed a new Preamble to our Constitution to further recognise our past, own the truth but importantly to recognise God was in the Land with her peoples before the invasion and the English Scriptures came, the First Nations Peoples of this Ancient Land knew Arrawatanha through creation, the land, law, story, and song.

 It is why in 2018 the 15th Assembly recognised and affirmed the sovereignty of First Nations Peoples in this ancient land. A sovereignty which was never ceded and in terms of the Statement from the Heart co-exists with that of the Crown. A sovereignty which is so much more than about land title, it is a spiritual notion. May I encourage you to do the 6-week Bible study for small groups about the Statement from the Heart. The Assembly Resourcing Unit will be beginning in August a new program; Living the Covenant Locally, which is about studying resources, and taking action. Congregations will be recognised for doing this by the local UAICC Regional Council and encouraged to encourage another congregation to do likewise.

Why have I included the gospel about the sheep and the goats? Not for what might be a normal use of this text to encourage good works. Rather in this I hope you might see that rather than the people taking Jesus with them to feed the hungry, visit the sick and those in prison, cloth and offer shelter to those without and welcome in the refugee; in-fact they may be surprised that they meet Jesus in the other. The story of Saint Oscar Romero of San Salvador is a story of a Catholic Bishop who discovered Jesus in his oppressed and impoverished flock, they shone the light of Christ into his life and the Spirit transformed his faith and life, indeed he lost his life for their sake. I commend the book and or the DVD to you.

So, friends, my experience over 40 years now living, working, and being adopted into First Nations families has been one of discovering Jesus in the other, my life and faith have been transformed.

Healing Country is about relationship, ours with God the Creator, ours in creation, ours walking together First and Second Peoples – sisters and brothers in Christ. This week the Assembly launched its first formal Covenant Action Plan – check it out on the web site.

Healing Country is about relationships where we open ourselves to the other and in this we are enabled to glimpse more of the mystery of the Creator. It is indeed a foretaste of something more discovered in relationship.

Beloved, we celebrate NAIDOC 2021 today and the ancient wisdom of First Nations Peoples. I encourage you to participate as you are able in local NAIDOC week activities. Let us today, commit anew, to the binding covenant relationship the UCA has with the UAICC, and to the broader commitment we have to all First Nations Peoples for healing country and lasting significant change,+ because Christ’s love compels us.

Mägayamirri rom (like blessing you with the fullest meaning of Shalom).

NAIDOC…From little things big things grow

Published / by Sandy


Turning points along the way.

This year NAIDOC (National Aborigines Day Observance Committee) is celebrating 64 years since an inter-church group met in Sydney in 1956 to think about a modest idea.
The National Missionary Council of Australia representing major denominations though it would be a good idea to celebrate “an annual day of observance for Aborigines.” (A brief history of NAIDOC Week includes reference to the NMCA)
In the early 1970s movements of self-determination began to change the emphasis and committee membership was largely made up of first nation activists from across Australia.
The 1970 September meeting held at the Foundation of Aboriginal Affairs George St included leaders of a wide range of indigenous organizations.
By 1977 Federal Executive members included John Moriarty, Lester Bostock, Neville Perkins and Michael Mansell.
In Victoria annual celebrations led by Pastor Doug Nicholls and the Aborigines Advancement League merged with the annual NADOC celebrations.
Today those involved in the early years would be amazed and proud of the widespread public support and recognition now being given to a simple idea. NAIDOC is now one part in a growing movement in recognising and affirming indigenous culture and spirituality.

(Text provided by Rev Dr Dean Eland)

NAIDOC Week IN THE MEDIA

NAIDOC Week IN OUR CHURCHES

You might also like to read the sermon shared by Assembly’s National Consultant Covenanting Stuart McMillan at Unley Uniting Church on 4 July, titled, A Foretaste of Something More

NAIDOC Week

Published / by Sandy

This week is NAIDOC Week, 4th-11th July, #naidocweek. The NAIDOC acronym stands for National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee, and is observed each year from the first Sunday in July until the following Sunday. NAIDOC Week celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

The 2021 theme is ‘Heal Country‘ (see more below)

On the ABC on Sunday 4th July, Brooke Prentis was a guest presenter on Dr Meredith Lake’s ABC radio show, Soul Search. Brooke is a Wakka Wakka woman who was born on Yidinji country, grew up mainly in Gubbi Gubbi country, but now lives on Gadigal land in Sydney. She’s also an Aboriginal Christian leader and she shares about her journey of faith, the Aboriginal Christian leaders that inspire her, and what she’s up to in her current role as CEO of Common Grace, a Christian movement in Australia.

Joining her was Aunty Rev Dr Denise Champion, an Adnyamathanha storyteller, Uniting Church Minister and theologian. Recently, Brooke travelled with Aunty Denise to Ikara, known in English as the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, to walk on Adnyamathanha country. Together they discuss their trip, why the Flinders Ranges is a place that needs healing, and how Aunty Denise navigates that as an elder and as a Christian.

Aunty Denise’s new book released in June 2021 is Anaditj or ‘The way things are.’

Listen to the ABC Soul Search program here.

And consider ways to get involved in NAIDOC activities including the NAIDOC ecumenical service at Pilgrim Uniting Church at 6pm on 11th July.

About the 2021 Theme: Heal Country, heal our nation

Country is inherent to our identity. It sustains our lives in every aspect – spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially, and culturally. It is more than a place. When we talk about Country it is spoken of like a person.

Country is family, kin, law, lore, ceremony, traditions, and language. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples it has been this way since the dawn of time.

Through our languages and songs, we speak to Country; through our ceremonies and traditions we sing to – and celebrate Country – and Country speak to us.

Increasingly, we worry about Country.

For generations Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been calling for stronger measures to recognise, protect, and maintain all aspects of our culture and heritage for all Australians.

We have continued to seek greater protections for our lands, our waters, our sacred sites and our cultural heritage from exploitation, desecration, and destruction.

We are still waiting for those robust protections.

Healing Country means hearing those pleas to provide greater management, involvement, and empowerment by Indigenous peoples over country.

Healing Country means embracing First Nation’s cultural knowledge and understanding of Country as part of Australia’s national heritage. That the culture and values of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders are respected equally to and the cultures and values of all Australians.

The right to protect Country and culture is fundamental.

Destruction and desecration of our sacred lands or ancient sites – some of the oldest human occupation sites on the planet – is an enormous loss for both our nation and the world.

But to truly heal Country we have more to do.

Our lands will continue to burn from bushfires, droughts will continue to destroy our livelihoods, without using traditional practices that have protected this country for centuries.

For generations, our Elders and communities have advocated, marched and fought for substantive institutional, structural and collaborative reform.

The aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the culmination of generations of consultation and discussions among our nations on a range of issues and grievances.

Healing Country means finally resolving many of the outstanding injustices which impact on the lives of our people.

It must be a fair and equitable resolution.

Fundamental grievances will not vanish. In the European settlement of Australia, there were no treaties, no formal settlements, no compacts. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people therefore did not cede sovereignty to our land. It was taken from us. That will remain a continuing source of dispute.

To Heal Country, we must properly work towards redressing historical injustice.

While we can’t change history, through telling the truth about our nation’s past we certainly can change the way history is viewed.

After 250 years, our children and our future generations deserve better.

For generations we have repeatedly called for just recognition of our right to participate on an equal basis in economic and social terms.

Yet such participation cannot be successful unless, first, there is formal recognition that Indigenous people have been dispossessed and, second, definite, specific steps are taken to redress the grave social and economic disadvantage that followed that dispossession.

Healing Country is more than changing a word in our national anthem – it is about the historical, political, and administrative landscapes adapting to successfully empower and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, nations, and heritage.

We are all looking for significant and lasting change.

We cannot afford to let pass the very real opportunity that now presents itself for reform based on a fundamental change in the relationship Australia has with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Heal Country, heal our nation.

Refugee event at Pilgrim

Published / by Sandy

Rev Liellie McLaughlin, Community Connections Facilitator, Pilgrim Uniting Church, reflects on the Pilgrim Refugee Event: ‘Celebrate with Refugees’.

Thank you to Pilgrim for your support in kind, in donations and in person. Being able to invite the incredible panel, and  Allen Edwards, Kaurna person who did the ‘Welcome to Country’, and the photographer, is part of the rich relationships which grows from the work of Community Connections. This panel, consisting of a young man and his dad from Iran ( who are seen to be asylum seekers, thus not allowed to be citizens, will have to pay for education in Australia at international student rates), the young lady from Afghanistan who is allowed to study physiotherapy as a recognised refugee, a mum from the Congo (who is so grateful for the school and tertiary education she received in Australia and the support for her child with autism) and the highly qualified Sudanese person, who entered Australia with a Masters degree and excellent English, yet gratefully cleaned the bins at Flinders Medical Centre as his first job) are all part of the great bridge-building and ‘safe passage’ support Random Acts of Welcome and Community Connections strive for. 

Sandy’s message about the work of Justice for Refugees and Bruce Whyatt, David Winderlich and Libby Hogarth explaining the vast work of Circle of Friends complemented the evening and our knowledge so well. 

I wrote this to thank the panel:
“One cannot express in words what an event like ‘Celebrate with refugees’ would bring in terms of joy, partnerships, community-enrichment, a sense of tapping into the heart to do what is worthwhile, what is good and what is core to us all.

It was so good to hear the feedback at the end of the evening, the next day and flowing into this week…and all of those on the panel were equally picked as favourite speakers and preferred prime minister!  Inspirational.   And the bridge Allen built between the losses suffered by refugees and the position of the Indigenous was very well articulated and build the bridge for the event. 

Due to the great team-work you have given so graciously and so abundantly to this event, COFA Pilgrim has raised +/- $1300.00 last week.  However, that is only the ‘countable assets’, the unseen is for us to explore to see how it will grow wings.   The awareness-making is very worthwhile and many a heart was stirred” 

The work of Community Connections was so well complemented with the presence, dedication and commitment from  Pilgrim UCA and Bridgewater UCA and some from the Interfaith Forum. The work of Sandy, Margaret, Libby and Bron, providing the great hospitality and the gracious welcome –  this great work underpins and frames an event like this, together with the free photography from Subodh (connected via Cofa Jobs).

With a grateful heart to Pilgrim for the support.

Warm regards, Liellie 

Facilitator: Community Connections

(more photos on Pilgrim Uniting Church Facebook page)