Rev Sophie Lizares was ordained as a Deacon at Willetton Uniting Church on Saturday 3 March.
Having come to Australia from the Philippines, Sophie was raised in the Catholic church and was a leader in the ecumenical youth and student movement, passionate about working for justice. Sophie worked for the Catholic Bishops Conference in the Philippines and was the founding Executive Director and Editor of a weekly newspaper. She has completed two Masters theses’; one in social development and the other in ministry. During this time she became involved with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, a Uniting Church partner church.
Sophie then became engaged internationally with the Christian Conference of Asia and the World Council of Churches. In 2000 she was elected into the Council of the United Evangelical Mission which is made up of churches from Asia, Africa and Germany, and in 2003 she was appointed Asia Secretary, consulting with 11 church denominations in Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
God’s call on Sophie’s life eventually led her to Western Australia, and she began her journey to ordained ministry in the Uniting Church WA in 2014. During her formation, Sophie undertook supervised field placements at All Saints Floreat Uniting Church, Port Hedland Uniting Church, UnitingCare West’s Tranby Centre and Juniper. She is now working as the Chaplain at UnitingCare West.
Rev Lesley De Grussa led the reflection during the Ordination Service. She informed those present that Sophie was, among others, commissioned to oversee work that was being done to support survivors of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, which affected hundreds of thousands of people across 14 countries.
“In the midst of disaster, whether it is natural or comes from human origins, God and God’s love is ever present. God knows the sufferings and pains we have in life. God knows the pain that comes as a result of natural disasters. God knows and understands, because God has experienced it personally,” Lesley said.
“Sophie, what does God promise to do? God promises to keep you. God will guard you as you go on your journey of life, and as you return home. As you go out and come in. As you face the dangers of the day and of the night.
“God has given us the power to demonstrate his love. God has given us the power to be compassionate and loving toward one another. And when we demonstrate compassion and love, that is the presence of God in our lives. That is the presence of God in midst of disaster. Don’t ask where God is in the midst of disaster; know that God is with us, walking with us, holding on to us.”
Sophie responded to her ordination, sharing her thoughts on discipleship in today’s world.
“In response to my news about my being in formation somebody scoffed and said ‘why? Why would anyone want to be a minister in that church. Why would anyone want to be a Christian in the first place? Yet what a time it is to be the other among others, among the brokenhearted, the anxious, the stranger. What a time to speak to power, what a time to make visible the invisible,” Sophie said.
“Through the generations, witnesses led by God have walked in faith through hard conditions, through lion’s dens, slavery in Egypt, exile in Babylon. For times such as this I draw inspiration from life and theology where we say the struggle is a privilege. Hearing and responding to the cry of the poor and oppressed has become a starting point for the knowledge of God.
“It is from this hopeful, pastoral and prophetic position that I understand the call to ministry and discipleship in Australia today. People are there not to prove themselves, their myths or missiologies, but people have allowed themselves in obedience of faith to be used by God’s love. I am so privileged to follow that tradition.
“As you walk out from here today, just walk out, don’t look down. For all you know, you might be walking on water.”