Fostering a Child through Uniting WA – A Rewarding Experience for All

Our thanks to Uniting WA for this article.

It’s always heart-warming to hear happy news about the children we support at Uniting WA but even more so in the lead up to Christmas. At the end of last year, a 9-year-old child who had been living in a Uniting WA family group home moved into the home of his new foster carer just before Christmas.

The new carer came onboard with Uniting WA after a foster care recruitment campaign, which ran in November and December 2020. The person completed the application and assessment process and was approved to become a foster carer a month or so before Christmas.

At the same time as the carer’s recruitment, it was determined that a foster care placement would be more suitable for the child who needed one-on-one support. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The child and carer were introduced and spent time getting to know one another before moving into the carer’s home.

Their first meeting was held at a park where they played football, and they eventually progressed to visits to the carer’s home. The child fell in love with the carer’s dog and was given their own wooden bed to decorate. The carer and child formed a strong bond, and both asked if the child could move in earlier.

The carer has an interesting background, having worked as a paramedic and teacher, and now as a drug and alcohol counsellor. A calm and nurturing person, the carer is skilled in managing stressful situations and helping people through challenging times – ideal qualities and skills to support the child with a trauma background.

There was much positive collaboration behind the scenes with our Family Group Homes and Foster Care teams, working together to organise meetings and to ensure both parties felt supported through the journey.

Christmas was a special time for the child and carer who enjoyed a family celebration.

Have you ever considered fostering a child with a disability or high support needs? If you’re interested in learning more about foster care placement, please contact Fiona Cafferty on 9355 9149 or at fiona.cafferty@unitingwa.org.au.

5 minutes with… Rev Dr Andrew Williams

Rev Dr Andrew Williams will be the new General Secretary of the Uniting Church WA, beginning his role on 1 January 2022. From his current role as General Secretary of the Northern Synod, he spends 5 minutes with Revive to introduce himself.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about ministry – I have been in ministry all my adult life and it has been the driving force and constant reference point that I can hold on to. Also, I like riding my bike. It has been a good day when I ride my bike and at the moment that is far too infrequent.

Who do you look up to?   

I would name St Francis of Assisi as top of the list; he is a constant source of inspiration. It was a high point in life to visit Assisi a few years ago.

Second would be Desmond Tutu. I first encountered him in 1987 at a NCYC (National Christian Youth Convention) in Ballarat. I was left with the impression that being a minister was a good life choice. Every subsequent meeting with him has left me equally inspired.

How would you describe your journey in ministry?

Convoluted is the first word that comes to mind! WA will be the fourth Synod I’ve worked in, as well as two stints in overseas roles. I often say I could not have written the script of my life that worked out this way. Local church ministry, Synod roles, General Secretary roles and overseas mission engagement work – it has been varied to say the least. I have seen the world, and I have always had the feeling that one role has led on to the next and I could build on experiences learned.

What are your hopes for your time as General Secretary for the Uniting Church WA?

This is the hardest question. I will need to get to know the Synod and earn people’s trust. Our moment in the church is difficult on many fronts – a reality which has been brought home to me as I have undertaken the interim General Secretary role here in the Northern Synod. I hope that the church can reclaim some boldness rather than stagnating or merely marking time.

That will need courage. I hope to find a courageous, risk-taking church in WA.

Perth faith groups join global demonstration for climate justice

Increasingly impatient that governments, corporations, and financial institutions have not addressed the climate crisis despite decades of warnings from scientists and mounting climate impacts, the Uniting Church WA joined with the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) and diverse faith communities around the globe in a co-ordinated action under the banner of Faiths 4 Climate, in October.

Ann Zubrick, Presiding Clerk of Quakers Australia joined the Western Australian branch of ARRCC as they gathered outside the office of Federal Member

for Swan, Hon Steve Irons MP. Supporters in Bunbury also gathered outside the office of the Federal Member for Forrest, Hon Nola Marino MP.

“We have already seen with fires and floods what happens when the science of climate change is not heeded,” Ann said.

“By contrast, we’ve seen during this pandemic that good outcomes are achieved when scientific advice is followed but, when governments do the wrong thing, it’s the poor who are hurt the most.

“Climate scientists are urging the strongest action possible to mitigate climate change, hence our call for much stronger action by 2030. Governments like Australia’s need to wake-up out of their complacency.”

Geoff Bice, Executive Officer: Social Justice for the Uniting Church WA and President of ARRCC WA said, “Western Australia needs to play its part in reducing emissions too. There have been some encouraging developments in renewable energy, but the State Government seems to avoid talking about emissions from the gas industry which is by far our biggest polluter.”

The action in Perth was part of a global series of events organised by the GreenFaith International Network, a global, multi-faith alliance. Actions took place all over the world, including in New York City, London, Jakarta and Sydney.

The worldwide action gave voice to a set of demands developed by grassroots people of faith which surpassed those included in a statement issued by the Vatican and high-level religious leaders on 4 October.

These demands include: an immediate end to new fossil fuel projects and tropical deforestation; universal access to renewable energy; policies creating green jobs and a just transition for impacted workers and communities; support for those forced to migrate due to climate impacts; and reparations from countries and industries responsible for the lion’s share of historic greenhouse gas emissions.

Over 200 high-level faith leaders and 100 religious groups representing more than 100 million members have signed onto these demands.

Find out more about ARRCC WA on their Facebook page.

Hospitality fundraiser for the IDPC – Leeming Uniting Church

The Uniting Church WA International Partnerships and Development Commission (IDPC) is engaged with four key partners: in West Papua, Timor Leste, West Timor, and Sri Lanka.

During COVID-19, all the partners have had to adapt to the crisis to promote health advice, support access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and basic sanitation and hygiene, as well as support access to emergency food supplies due to broken supply lines. With the impact of COVID-19 on our international partner churches, there was a call for more support.

Leeming Uniting Church responded by donating the money from our annual fundraising dinner to be held in February to this worthy cause. The congregation also agreed to match all money raised dollar for dollar.  Sadly, due to a COVID-19 shutdown this was postponed to later in the year. Due to the need for urgent funds, Leeming donated $2 500 in anticipation of raising that amount. 

The event was eventually held on Saturday 9 October with Rev Brian Thorpe and Lyn Callaghan, members  of the IDPC, speaking at our service prior to that, inspiring us with stories of IDPC projects.

At our annual fundraising dinner, held at Leeming Uniting Church member’s Shirl and Roy Francis’ home, we normally aim for 60 guests where we serve a three-course meal with alternate plate drops. We ask for a minimum donation which is collected on an honour basis. With raffles and the generosity of those attending who enjoy their meal and are willing to pay more, we are usually able to raise a generous amount of money. 

Although this is a fundraiser it is also an opportunity for us to build relationships with those in the community as we invite our friends, family and neighbours to share a meal with us. A team of volunteers under the co-ordination of Shirl Francis work hard to make this happen. We have chop-slice-dicers, those who help set-up, those who plate up, serve, clean-up and of course those who spend the time to invite their friends – as without that we would not raise much money. 

Our attendance numbers were down to 41 in October due to many various circumstances. All we could do was place it in God’s hands and hope that we could raise the $2 500 already gifted.

God never disappoints. Despite our low numbers we exceeded all expectations and made a profit of just over $3 200. This means that the IDPC can expect the balance of about $3 900 shortly.

Thank you to all those that attended and helped, and to Brian, Jan and Lyn who volunteered to help serve. Never underestimate the gift of hospitality. God can use that in a powerful way.

Aussie Divinity Candy

Christmas is just around the corner! This Australian version of an American treat makes for great, sugary homemade gifts, or addition to the Christmas spread.

The ‘Divinity’ candy is believed to have originated in the south of the United States of America as early as 1915, when corn syrup started to become widely used as a substitute for sugar.

It’s unclear where the name came from, but a popular theory is that when first tasted it was declared to be ‘devine’. We invite you to make up this sweet treat and experience the sugar rush for yourselves! 

Ingredients (makes 16):

1 large egg white

1 1/2 cups castor sugar

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup glucose syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup macadamia nuts, roughly chopped

1/2 cup glace cherries, roughly chopped

rice paper sheets (optional)

Method

Place egg white in bowl and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare mini cupcake tray with mini patty pans, or line the bottom of a loaf pan with rice paper, cutting to fit.

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and glucose syrup; bring to the boil, stirring constantly to dissolve sugar. Cook, without stirring, over medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 146°C.  Just before the temperature is reached, beat egg whites on medium speed until stiff peaks form.

Slowly add hot sugar mixture in a thin stream over egg white, beating constantly and scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Add vanilla. Beat until mixture holds its shape, about 5-6 minutes. (Do not overmix or mixture will get stiff and crumbly.) Immediately fold in macadamias and cherries.

Quickly drop heaped teaspoons onto prepared patty pans. Let stand at room temperature until dry to the touch. Store between baking paper in an airtight container at room temperature. If using rice paper, pour into prepared pan. Press firmly into the base. 

Top with the remaining rice paper sheet. Set aside in a cool, dry place for 4 hours to set. Turn candy onto a chopping board and cut into 3cm squares to serve.

Alternative:

Use chopped Turkish Delight and pistachios instead of cherries and macadamia nuts.

We want to share your recipe! If you have a recipe you’d like to share, send it in to  revive@wa.uca.org.au.

Maid

Netflix’s ten-part series Maid is an uncomfortable watch, portraying what feels like a hopeless cycle of poverty and family abuse. While set in America with its very different welfare systems to Australia, the underlying themes of hardship certainly ring true here too.

Adapted from the 2019 memoir of Stephanie Land, the series casts real-life mother and daughter, Andie MacDowell and Margaret Qualley, in what comes across as an honest portrayal of the relentless hard work living in poverty can be.

What struck me about this show was the way it tackled issues around emotional abuse – abuse that doesn’t leave any physical scars. Alex becomes a single mum with a two-year-old daughter after fleeing her abusive boyfriend in the middle of the night. When offered a space at a domestic violence shelter, she is genuinely surprised that her experience is classed as abusive because her boyfriend, Sean, never physically attacked her.

The series explores why women return to abusive partners, without judgement, but with a sensitivity that teaches the viewer compassion and understanding of a highly complex situation.

On top of dealing with an unreliable mother who suffers undiagnosed bipolar disorder, her ex, unstable living conditions, and the laborious work of cleaning rich people’s houses for minimum wage, Alex is met with red tape in the welfare system at every turn.

As soon as she makes some progress in one area, she is knocked back in another. We can literally see her bank balance decline on screen as she makes a purchase or pays a bill, and feel her confusion of legal language as the fate of her daughter’s care rests in the hands of a lawyer and judge who’s fast-talking make for even faster decision-making.

The series does also portray hope, while sparing the viewer of a traditional ‘happily ever after’.

Alex meets some amazing women through a domestic violence shelter she lives in with her daughter who give this story something to hold onto.

While trying not to give too much of the ending away, she also makes friends with a wealthy client after supporting her through her own struggles. Highlighting the all-true concept of ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’, Alex’s hope for a brighter future only begins when her wealthy client offers to help  with legal support.

Maid is beautiful, hard, viewing, which led me to the verge of tears too many times to count.

Heather Dowling

Making room for all the colours of Christmas

What is the colour of your Christmases past? 

As a child, the Christmas colours I recall are mainly green, red and white. There were cards with snowy scenes, holly and evergreen trees and table decorations in these colours.  Most people decorated pine trees. Santas were red and white (influenced by Coca-Cola).

I was still a child when I knew a person who bucked the trend. He had an orange flowering Western Australian Christmas tree, or Moodjar. 

Not everyone approved. It seemed that most people thought we ought to use northern hemisphere – English and North American – colours.

The colours of our Christmases may not suit us as we conform to family expectations or traditions which we might otherwise not follow. 

What colour do you associate with Christmas present? 

For many, Christmas this year is bright. 

In some places, especially where it is celebrated in the shadow of COVID -19, Christmas is muted or dark.

This may affect us if presents do not arrive because of world supply chains and the sheer volume of post and parcels. This may affect us if those dear to us have had a hard time or continue to live with deprivation, uncertainty or consequences of the times that are hard to manage.

I know some for whom a dominant Christmas colour is blue.

‘Blue’ symbolises Christmas being sad or hard, including for those feeling losses keenly or a particular reminder of some distressing experience, such as a gap in our gatherings for Christmas. 

Not everyone finds this a ‘wonderful time of the year’. Over time, a deep blue Christmas may become lighter, yet never stop having a bluish tinge. One Christmas letter I received last year said the person had known over 20 people who had died in 2020.

The message of Christmas is for those for whom Christmas is blue.

What colour do you associate with Christmases yet to come? 

The good news of God’s work is that the season when we celebrate the coming of the light has the power to encompass all the colours of the spectrum. 

At times the colours shift and different ones dominate – that is inevitable. A time that is bright for us may not be bright for everyone around us. John’s gospel reminds us that the light of Christ shines in the darkness and the darkness will never overcome it. 

So, we hold to the Christmas hope, peace and joy whenever we can and remember that the core of the season is a message of God’s love for all. This is a gift we can always offer each other.

“Joy to the world… Let every heart prepare him room…”

The love of God which is embodied in Christ and the Christmas stories has a particular focus in the gospel for this year.

For Luke, God was revealed not to the powerful, the confident or comfortable, or people central to social life or the power structures, but to those whom others saw as inferior or not to be included in the circle. 

‘Shepherd’ in some minds in the first century meant ‘unclean,’ dirty, smelly, crooks and cheats, even when the poverty they lived with was beyond their control. In Luke’s story, these are the ones who have a central place. 

There are many ways of experiencing being outside the circle. It may be that our colour doesn’t fit with some others’ expectations, it may be that we feel unable to share what is really going on with us. 

There are many versions of Christmas, many experiences of Christmas. Different versions speak to different people. 

Some enjoy the frills, and some prefer plain. Some may attract us, and some repel. As there are many different colours of Christmas, there are many dimensions to  be explored. 

What about you?

We are invited to come with hearts prepared to make room – for the joy – and for whatever is real for us, whatever colour or combination of colours are ours this year.  Making room means allowing for God to reveal new dimensions of Christmas to us.

Rev Ian Tozer

Be part of the kindness revolution: Summer Spirit 2022

Summer Spirit, a continuing education and discipleship event of the Uniting Church WA, will be held on Friday 18 and Saturday 19 February 2022. This year’s event will explore values, as the Uniting Church WA goes through it’s own process of considering its values for its next strategic plan. 

Included in the line-up of speakers is Hugh Mackay AO, Australian psychologist, social researcher and author of 22 books, including The Kindness Revolution. Hugh will be sharing insights from this new book, as well as from his book, The Inner Self: the joy of discovering who we really are and will encourage guests to think about the kinds of values that Australian society aspires.

Hugh believes that through kindness, we can create a better world.

“I would define kindness as anything we do to show another person that we take them seriously – and that can be anything from a friendly smile or wave to an offer of a meal, a helping hand in a crisis or, most particularly, our commitment to being attentive and empathic listeners,” he said.

“In The Kindness Revolution, I’m suggesting that whenever we face a crisis – like the pandemic, or fires, floods, wars, etc – we always rise to the occasion and act in ways that are true to the best of our human nature.

“We are kind to friends and strangers alike. We look out for the most vulnerable people in our communities. We rediscover the importance of neighbourliness. We make sacrifices for the common good.

“The question is: why don’t we go on acting like that, even when the crisis has passed?

“The answer is that our innate capacity for kindness, because we belong to a social species that needs social harmony to survive, can easily be overlooked in favour of more selfish, Hugh believes that churches have a lot to offer when it comes to kindness. He said the best way for Christians to be part of the kindness revolution, is to read the Sermon on the Mount, and then put it into practice.

“If Christianity’s role is not to foster kindness and compassion, then it’s hard to see what its social purpose is,” he said.

“When churches let dogma and doctrine – or even ‘religious identity’ – get in the way of serving others and responding to the needs of a wounded society, their true mission is lost.

“By influence and example, Christians can help bring about the transformation into a culture built on kindness and compassion. What if Australia became known as ‘the loving country’ rather than simply ‘the lucky country’!  

“Kindness is the purest form of human love, because it involves no emotion or affection. We can be kind to people we don’t like, couldn’t ever agree with, and don’t even know – this is how we make sense of Jesus’ injunction to ‘love your enemies’.

“As Samuel Johnson wrote: Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.” 

Summer Spirit will also feature two afternoon workshops with staff of the Uniting Church WA: Rev Hannes Halgren, Associate General Secretary (Strategy); Rev Dr Christine Sorensen, Presbytery Minister (Formation and Discipleship); Rev Rob Douglas, Presbytery Minister (Mission); and Dr Elaine Ledgerwood, Presbytery Minister (VET).

These sessions will work through the values of the Uniting Church WA, as a Christian community of hope, justice, creativity, compassion, integrity, accountability and compassion.

Guests can also join a discussion exploring how they can live out their values in their own contexts.

Summer Spirit will be held on Friday night 18 to Saturday 19 February at All Saints Floreat Uniting Church. All Uniting Church members, leaders, ministers and friends are invited to join.

Registration is $120 per person, or $100 early bird before 31 December 2021. Register five people and get the sixth free!

For more information or to register, visit eventbrite.com.au/e/summer-spirit-2022-tickets-200697380267 or email PA.Education@wa.uca.org.au

Accessibility and the church: creating a community of faith, love and inclusion

We celebrate International Day of People with Disability on 3 December, but how inclusive are we really in the church – spiritually, physically and online?

Accessibility in churches reaches beyond the physical barriers, and can also be about social inclusion and good theology around disability.

Robbie Muir, from Maylands Mount Lawley Uniting Church, lives with hearing and sight disabilities and feels it is important to teach the church how to be more inclusive. He also works with Good Sammy Enterprises, volunteers with Revive packing, and sits on the Uniting Church WA Disability Royal Commission Synod Task Group. He has presented his thoughts to Presbytery of WA meetings in the past, to encourage churches to become more accessible.

“A lot of my experience has been trying to teach the church what to do,” he said. “It’s alright for people to say ‘oh yes we care for the disabled’, but if they haven’t got things in place, it’s no good.”

Robbie encourages congregations to use overhead screens that are clear to see and free of backgrounds or busy images; make available large print copies of texts; provide hearing loops that are down the front of the church; have good lighting; have minimal steps or provide ramps; and have bathrooms that are easily accessible.

He thanked the church for its progression in this area, but also said he would like the church to be more aware of the issues that affect people with a disability and their inclusion in church.

“Quite often we’ve had to come up with ways to get around things,” he said. “I have an IrisVision that I can put on and see the overheads, but for a few weeks we had somebody who couldn’t do the overheads and we had sheets – and no one enlarged the hymns for me.

“It makes you feel a bit useless and that the church isn’t for you. It makes you feel isolated and excluded.”

He also encourages people to talk to members of their congregation who have a disability, and ask them what would help their experience at church.

“I think a lot of people don’t talk to the disabled because they think they’re stupid or don’t understand. Ask the disabled person [what they need], don’t just think ‘oh well they’ll manage’. Ask them. We’re not dumb, we’re not stupid.”

Dr Scott Hollier, CEO of The Centre for Accessibility Australia, is passionate about supporting organisations to create accessible digital spaces. He is also legally blind, and a member of Kalamunda Uniting Church.

Scott said that creating accessible spaces, and therefore inclusion, for people living with disability, is easier than we think. With some intentional thinking and planning, we can all get better at creating an accessible environment.

“Look at the quick wins,” Scott said. “You don’t have to solve every disability issue instantly; it will be a journey. But once the key pieces are in place it becomes a different way of doing things, rather than extra work.

“For example, once you’ve got that slide template high contrast, well, every slide will be high contrast. 

“Quite often it is just about an awareness. Once people are aware of it and people are happy to do it, then it just happens after that point going forward.”

Melanie Kiely, CEO of Good Sammy Enterprises, a Uniting Church WA agency providing employment solutions for people living with disability, agrees that our digital  and physical spaces need accessibility, and that we can go further on inclusivity.

“It’s so much more than just space and physical accessibility. If we just focus on that then we’ve lost an opportunity here,” Melanie said. 

“It’s about inclusion, it’s about welcoming and embracing everybody – regardless of their ability and their background – into a church environment.

“It’s what we cover in the sermon, it’s the language we use, it’s the hymnbooks we use. Obviously, it’s the ramps and what have you, but it’s more than that.

“It’s about running churches that embrace everyone.

“We should be having people with disability in every church service as part of everything we do in the church. And they should feel completely included and we should learn from them, as much as they can learn from us.

“We’re about creating a community of faith, love and inclusion – that’s what I would like to see.

“Include everyone in the sermon, let them talk about their experience. Let’s include them in the choir, playing music and in the art. Include all levels of creativity, so that we’re embracing the differences of all our people in our congregations. 

Melanie said that living with a disability does not have to be a negative thing. All people are unique and have gifts and skills, which should be welcomed and celebrated.

“We shouldn’t assume people  with disability are flawed. We’re  all different, we all have abilities  of different natures and we shouldn’t assume that people  need to be fixed,” she said.

“We should accept people and embrace people with all their  unique and special characteristics.

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (Royal Commission) was established in April 2019 and is still ongoing. It is likely that the Uniting Church WA will be affected by the Royal Commission. However, the church has a longstanding belief of inclusiveness, and works towards this end.

Dr Scott Hollier said that the Royal Commission is an opportunity for us to learn from the past.

“I think the Royal Commission has revealed that people with disability have not always been treated well in the church, and that needs to be acknowledged,” he said.

“I think the Uniting Church has done well in acknowledging the issues and trying to put processes in place going forward, and I think that’s a good thing.

“That said, my focus, and the focus at the Centre and as a legally blind person, is that we need to learn from the past.  The Royal Commission has been important in understanding what has happened.

“Accessibility – whilst certainly that type of exclusion is nothing on the scale of physical abuse and spiritual abuse – does tap back into the importance of inclusion and equity moving forward.

“I would see accessibility as one more mechanism where we can focus going forward on making sure everyone is included in a worship space, and have that opportunity for full participation.”

Melanie Kiely, believes the Royal Commission is a good thing for Australia.

“It’s going to be a good thing for everyone,” she said. “You take the lid off the can of worms nd we can improve and stop bad behaviour and get better. We’ve got to keep improving.

“We’re not about protecting ourselves and we’re not about covering things up. We’re about learning from our past mistakes and moving on and not making them again.

“What we’re aiming for is a society that truly embraces diversity and inclusion, and that includes people with disabilities, and adapt the model of what we think perfect is, to be one that is beautiful diverse and imperfect.”

Melanie said the Royal Commission will be felt throughout the church – in our agencies, schools and congregations.

“I would see accessibility as one more mechanism where we can focus going forward on making sure everyone is included in a worship space, and have that opportunity for full participation.”

“I think it’s right across the board and I think it may or may not include an element of redress,” she said.

“It’s very wide reaching, and at this stage it’s going to go for another two years. There’s going to be a lot more hearings on a lot more topics.”

Dr Elaine Ledgerwood, Uniting Church WA Presbytery Minister – Education and Training, is a theologian with past experience in Occupational Therapy. Having worked with people with disabilities and listening to their stories, mixed with studying and continuously learning about God’s all-inclusive love, Elaine believes we are all vulnerable to disability throughout our lives.

“You are only temporarily able,” Elaine said. “For many people, this is likely to change.

“People with disabilities are like the rest of us – we all have our different hopes and fears, different personalities and different understandings of faith. One

day you might have a disability too; when that’s the case, I am sure you would like others in your congregation to ensure you are included in their activities.”

Theologically, Elaine said that sometimes people can make comments about a disability which may be in good faith, but which can actually be quite harmful.

“Spiritual abuse is a problem, such as when people get told they need to pray harder for healing,” Elaine said. “Instead, ask questions to help people find their own connection between their faith and disability. 

“Using disability as a metaphor for the bad things in life – for example, talking about the Pharisees being ‘blind’ – can often be experienced as being judgemental about disability. Yes, it is something the gospel writers did, but we now understand the harm this can cause.

“Disabilities can be part of someone’s identity. So, saying things like ‘in heaven you’ll be walking’, or similar, is not always helpful. How would you feel if a key part of your identity was dismissed as not being important? Remember the resurrected Christ still carried the wounds of the crucifixion.”

However, living with disability does not always define a person, and Elaine said we should not make assumptions about anyone and their abilities.

“Disabilities do not define people. Just because you’ve known someone else with the same disability doesn’t mean you know this person. Get to know each person as an individual.”

Dr Scott Hollier believes that we have come a long way in Australia towards creating more accessibility, but that there is still a way to go.

“There’s been a generational shift around views and attitudes of people with disability and inclusion in society. That’s not just a church thing, but more broadly,” he said.

“I think as we continue to move forward with more awareness and education of the rights and needs of people with disability, that across society, and that includes religious organisations, that will get better.

“One of the great things about church is that it is a really supportive and inclusive environment. The lack of accessibility has never suggested to me that people don’t care or that people aren’t wanting to provide support – often it’s a lack of awareness.

“It’s been my experience that once people understand what the needs are, they’ve been very willing to make those accommodations. There’s a lot of great people who are willing to do great things to support equity, and it’s just a matter of letting people know about it.”

Tips for being an accessible church

Dr Scott Hollier shares these great tips for how your church or organisation can become more accessible in digital and physical spaces.

  • Make sure overhead slides have large font with good colour contrast, eg a dark background with white text. If people are still unable to see the slides, having devices (like an iPad) available with a link to see them can also be helpful.
  • Make sure videos have captions.
  • Distribute electronic versions of meeting documents before meetings.
  • Make sure PDF documents and newsletters are digitally accessible.
  • It is an Australian requirement that websites are compliant with the WCAG 2.1 AA standard, which has a range of key components. When building a new website, make sure to read up about these requirements or ask your web designer to work them in. 
  • Make sure physical access to, from and around the building is clear and open, giving thought to things like space, handrails, and clutter.

Resources for more information about how to get your congregation on board with accessibility can be found on the website for the Centre for Accessibility Australia at accessibility.org.au.

The Centre for Accessibility Australia can also work with congregations and organisations as they commit to this journey. Contact them for more information on 0466 099 101 or email admin@accessibility.org.au.

Heather Dowling

Green Rider

If you are looking for a stocking filler for Christmas or just to fill in some relaxing time over the break, then this captivating heroic fantasy adventure is for you.

Green Rider, the first book in the Green Rider series, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. Following the success of this book another five were added to the series – First Rider’s Call, The High King’s Tomb, Blackveil, Mirror Sight, Firebrand and a novella, The Dream Gatherer. On 14 September 2021, a seventh book called Winterlight  was released.

The Green Rider series is suitable for both young adult and adult readers, falling into the categories of supernatural/classic fantasy. The underlying message of the series is that running away from a problem does not solve it and choosing to do ‘nothing’ at times is also an action.

The book begins with our protagonist, Karigan G’ladheon, a merchant’s daughter, who has fled from school following a duel in where she bested a wealthy aristocrat, an incident that will likely lead to her expulsion. As she makes her way through the deep forest, a galloping horse pounds up to her, its rider impaled by two black-shafted arrows.

With his dying breath, he tells her that he is a Green Rider, one of the legendary elite messengers in the king’s service and makes Karigan swear to deliver their message he’s carrying. Giving her his green coat, with its golden winged horse brooch, the symbol of his office, and whispers on his dying breath, “Beware the shadow man…”. This promise given changes Karigan’s life forever.

Pursued by unknown assassins and following a path only her horse seems to know, Karigan unwittingly finds herself in a world of deadly danger and complex magic, compelled by forces she cannot understand. Karigan is hounded by dark beings bent on seeing that the message, and its reluctant carrier, never reach their destination.

In a world with kings, elves, and monstrous creatures emerging from a breach in the wall, this book manages to step outside of the typical cliche fantasy without losing its heritage. All in all, it is a great read.

Andrea Garvey