Life in our time and place

My wife Deb and I moved to Como and joined South Perth Uniting Church just before the first Pandemic lockdown in 2020. Typically, such a transition would have involved spending time adjusting to our new neighbourhood and faith community. Instead, we had the unique opportunity to be part of a congregation that rapidly adopted to new ways of meeting online, on-site and adjusting to an influx of new people.

The challenge has been navigating through different expectations, styles of communication and age ranges that includes four generations. We experimented a lot, in order to deepen and grow fellowship together as followers of the ways, works and words of Jesus. The pandemic constricted all of us to local places, as well as accelerating a bunch of societal changes. How are we meant to think, talk and act as followers of Jesus in our ‘new normal’ time?

I often remind myself of Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit will teach and guide us at the right time with what needs to be said and done (for example, in Luke 12:12).

As I look back over the past 18 months, I’m struck by Bible stories, set in a very specific time and place, that we explored – and which became meaningful to us – in our time and place. Using the Godly Play material’s ‘core stories’ we started with Creation, Noah’s flood and Tower of Babel, before exploring the journeys of Abraham, Jacob and the Apostles, and finishing with the stories of saints like Eric Liddell, Amy Carmichael and John Wesley.

We have discovered that each of these witnessed to God’s presence, protection and provision and have acted like anchors in our own stormy season of change.

Is it strange that the unique experiences of people in their place and time can help us in ours?

Generation after generation have discovered and rediscovered the Bible as a valuable “light unto our path” (Psalm 119:105) with its ability to “equip (us) for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). One claim for the Bible’s power to bring peace and hope is that it’s God’s overarching revelation and explanation of history to humanity. We are the beneficiaries of that slow and intentional unveiling that culminates in Jesus, and is unpacked in the early church and subsequent disciples by the Holy Spirit.

Suppose when you die, you come to God with a list of questions regarding the point and purpose of creation and  specifically humanity. You might ask God:

  • why did you create us, particularly if you knew we were going to rebel and be so destructive? or
  • why did you not just wipe-out all the bad people and start again? or
  • why are there so many languages that makes communicating so hard between people? or
  • why didn’t you choose a good family to be your spokespeople on the earth? or
  • why didn’t you send someone to tell us directly what we are meant to do? And so on and so forth.

All these questions and many more are answered in the Bible. Of course, we might not like the answers and in that case we might want to read Job Chapters 38 to 41 and find God’s response to such a disagreement.

I wonder what stories from distant places and long ago times encourage, comfort and challenge you?

Its winter here in the Southern  Hemisphere, making it an ideal season to curl up with the mostpopular book in the world, the Bible, and refresh yourself for the days ahead.

You must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. Many of you have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true, and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.

God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. (1 Timothy 3:14-17)

Rev Mark Illingworth

Review: Reflections on Faith

Inspired by COVID and Inspired by Seniors By Phil Ridden, Edwest Publishing, 2020

I recently read two of the volumes from Dr Phil Ridden’s ‘Reflections on Faith’ series: Inspired by Covid and Inspired by Seniors. Phil is a retired Head Teacher and now works as a consultant and writer, based in Joondalup, Perth WA.

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With love in an app

With Love to the World: A Daily Bible Reading Guide, first published in 1976, is now available as an app that includes access to the daily biblical texts and commentary in an easy-to-use format.

Many people seek meaning, encouragement, and hope for life. With Love to the World has been meeting these needs for the past 46 years with its daily commentaries on lectionary and associated Bible passages, prayer suggestions, and questions for individuals and groups.

Designed to help users prepare for Sunday worship, nurture their faith, and strengthen us to live faithfully amidst the hopes and hurts of everyday life, With Love to the World is a resource for individuals, as well as for leaders of worship and small groups. It is widely used in the Uniting Church across the country, and in other churches.

“With Love to the World is an inspiring Australian resource which supports the daily practice of prayer and reflection on Scripture and the light it shines on our daily lives,” said Dr Deidre Palmer, President of the Uniting Church in Australia.

“I commend this resource to local churches and individual members of the Uniting Church.”

To subscribe to the app visit the App Store or Google Play Store. The cost is $24 per year. For booklets, email wlwuca@bigpond.com or call (02) 9747 1369. Visit the website at withlovetotheworld.org.au or email the Editor, Dr Peter Butler, at editorwlw@bigpond.com.

KCO dreaming

This year, Kids Camp Out (KCO) was postponed in March due to significantly lower registrations. Unfortunately, this was not unexpected as the number of campers have been noticeably declining over the past five years due to Uniting Church WA children growing up and being in high school, with some now being young adults.

KCO has been a Presbytery wide event for primary school aged children in the Uniting Church WA for around 40 years.

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Sharing stories for healing: NAIDOC Week at BKI

Beananging Kwuurt Institute (BKI), a Uniting Church WA Aboriginal community services organisation in Queens Park, Perth, held a NAIDOC Week storytelling event on Wednesday 7 July. Guests were invited to listen, learn, share, and enjoy kangaroo stew and damper together. This year’s NAIDOC theme is ‘Heal Country!’

In the 1930s, the site where BKI now stands was set up as Sister Kate’s Children’s Cottage Home, an institution for Indigenous children taken from their families, who are now known as the Stolen Generations.

Auntie Helen Skiadas, Board Member of Beananging Kwuurt Institute, spoke saying they are hoping to bring healing to people with a past connection to the site.

“We hope that as we slowly restore some of the land, it will heal some of the dark past,” she said. “We haven’t stopped dreaming of change here at BKI – and renewal – and we hope for happier times of joy and gladness for all our people.”

After a Welcome to Country by Kevin Fitzgerald, Board Member at BKI, and the raising of the Aboriginal flag by Tramaine Dukes, RAAF Indigenous Liaison Officer Flt Lt, Jo Abrahams shared some of the history of Beananging Kwuurt Institute and her personal connection to the place. Jo is a Ngarluma woman with ties to Roebourne. She has worked with the WA Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation, and has spent the last ten years reconnecting with her past.

Jo’s grandmother and great uncle were taken as children from their parents in the Pilbara region to be raised at the Sister Kate’s site. She said that Sister Kate’s intentions for the mission were well meaning, but with AO Neville’s government policy at the time, this is not how things played out.

“Children were selectively chosen for this place based on the colour of their skin,” Jo said. “Almost white children were actively targeted and slated for removal. These children were thought to have the best chance for assimilation into the dominating European culture.

“Generations of Aboriginal families in this state existed on a knife’s edge. The colour of a child’s skin making them a target of removal. Neville’s obsession with skin colour resulted in insulting, painful and ludicrous practices. Especially given that siblings of the same mum and dad could be graded differently by his designation, not actually by their bloodlines.

“Under his policies of assimilation, Aboriginality was something to be escaped, denied, watered down and eventually bred out. It sowed seeds of shame and guilt, self loathing and lostness.”

This policy of removal stayed in place until 1964, with amendments.

“What do we do now in WA with the hangover from previous generations? What have we inherited that needs to be disinherited?” Jo asked.

“One thing Neville didn’t factor on, is me and many others like me who are so proud of their Aboriginality. And that Aboriginality has got nothing to do with colour, and all to do with bloodline. We’re proud of our bloodline and where we’ve come from and the people who’ve come before us.

“There are still Aboriginal people who believe the lies that were told in this place – that they don’t matter. Be patient and understand there is a deep brokenness that’s hanging over from places like this.

“We don’t need more police officers in this space, we need more grief counselors to help us to deal with our brokenness, and support to give us spaces where we can come together and heal with each other.

“It’s a shared experience and understanding that brings space for healing.”

Susy Thomas, Moderator of the Uniting Church WA, blessed the gathering, before guests enjoyed a lunch of kangaroo stew and damper.

“May God bless you and guide you, and help us to walk alongside with you,” she said.

A Dreaming Session for BKI will be held on Wednesday 21 July, 10.00am to 4.00pm. Guests are invited to come along and share their dreams for what they would like to see happen at Beananging Kwuurt Institute, 188 Treasure Rd Queens Park, into the future.

Heather Dowling

Mission Plan starts with community connection

During its Mission Planning process in 2018 one of the disturbing learnings for Star St Uniting Church in Carlisle was that we were virtually invisible in our local community.

While our building is on a busy intersection, it is not immediately identifiable as a church – many locals thought it was part of a nearby nursing home, or a business or offices. A few years ago an attractive mural to symbolise our church had been created on an outside wall, but it was clear we needed more. Few local residents knew about our church, what we did or what we stood for.

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India’s ‘Corona Tsunami’

India’s COVID-19 surge has overloaded its struggling heath system and is causing thousands of deaths per day.

Uniting Church partners, the Church of North India (CNI), are not immune. Battling to keep people fed as a second lockdown wreaks havoc, and spreading critical health information to help beat the spread of the disease, they’re on the front-line of the response in their communities.

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