I began 2020 as your Moderator-elect wondering what would unfold during the course of the year and how I might be guided by God to effectively lead this wonderful Church when I assumed office.
When the day of the Opening Worship of the 44th Annual Meeting of the Synod of WA and my Installation arrived on 11 September, the world was a very different place indeed, unlike any other we have experienced in our lifetime.
The more I thought of it, as a people of God, we are in a not so different place to those early believers who literally did not know what their fate would be from one day to the next. They lived in a time of great uncertainty as the then powers of the day flexed their political and military muscle, not only in what we now call the Middle East, but throughout the then known world. The last thing believers needed to be doing was drawing attention to themselves.
However, as we know, those early believers, though naturally anxious, became increasingly emboldened to announce not only who they were, but whose they were in respect of their fealty, their loyalty, their life purpose.
In the world I grew up in, Christianity was not the majority religion. Many in the wider community regarded Christianity as a leftover remnant from imperial times and something not in keeping with a modern, vibrant, independent nation. So as a Christian, I knew that those like me who embraced the same faith were being constantly watched to see if our deeds matched our stated beliefs.
As I grew into a young adult, I came to realise that being held to account by those around me, even though they did not share my beliefs, was in its own way both a challenge and a compliment – for one was expected to be different, to embrace a way of living distinct from the run-of-themill existence so many accept as all there is to life. It has taken a pandemic for our nation to undergo a stocktake of our values and the things that are ultimately important.
As a very different 2020 lives out its final days, we will turn naturally to Advent. It is a time when the lasting ‘Good News’ is announced; news that is not false or manufactured, but the essence of that which has sustained the people of God through many vicissitudes for 2 000 years.
Many commentators are saying that life post-COVID-19 will be very different. That which was regarded as essential in former days, will in the aftermath of the pandemic, change. Many see such change as change for the better.
To my way of thinking, such change following a time of great calamity and social disruption is not all that different to the advent of Jesus into the life of the world at a time of great social and political upheaval. That advent changed the life of the world for the better and it still continues to do so.
The perfect gift and amazing hope – the hope of the whole world was wrapped up in this child. It is that mystery which stands at the heart of the Christian faith, and that mystery to which we must hold fast in Christ Jesus, and of the love which we have to all.
I trust that you will join me on this journey of rediscovery as to how to be the people of God, open to the future we are all being called to during this Advent and Christmas season. I wish you every blessing in your preparation, contemplation and celebration during this Advent and Christmas. May God’s blessings be given to you, your family and friends, and may God bless all your hopes and aspirations for 2021.
Moderator, Uniting Church WA
Top image: Susy Thomas, Moderator of the Uniting Church WA lays hands on Rev Dr Sonny Rajamoney (kneeling) with Bob Hunt, Chair of the Presbytery of WA, during Sonny’s Induction into Northway Uniting Church in November.