Volunteers Making History

Every Monday and Friday, the Uniting Church Archives Centre comes alive. The front doorbell rings, volunteers arrive, archive materials are brought out and their contents spread across working tables, the rhythm of keyboard clicks punctuates the air, telephones ring – and laughter and camaraderie echo across the Centre.

At the core of this simmering activity are volunteers – Betty, Reg, John, Nancy, Joan, Julie, Di, Linley and Brian – who, led by Marissa Krajcar, Archivist and Archives Co-ordinator, manage and drive the organisation and preservation of Western Australian Uniting Church materials and objects for posterity.
Many of the team have been volunteering together for over 10 years, some for 30 years, and several still remember when the Archives Centre was located at Westminster House on Pier Street. Since then, and after a grand move co-ordinated by many of the volunteers who still help out today – the Archives are housed in spacious, purpose-created premises in the Uniting Church Centre on Edward Street, Perth.

The Archives Centre receives and collects materials and artefacts associated with the Uniting Church, its agencies, schools and former missions in Western Australia. On a regular basis, records and items which are no longer in use are sent in for depositing from church ministers, congregations and other affiliates. Some materials at the Centre are contemporary in nature and others much, much older – dating back from the Church’s origins in the Swan River colony, its existence as separate Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches, Union as the Uniting Church in 1977- right up to the present day.

A browse of the Centre’s dedicated library and display cabinets reveal a fascinating array of collectables, including vintage bibles, published biographies on Church founders, original history books, vintage hymn books, local Church histories and books on the institutions of the Church.

The Archives volunteer team researches and identifies materials of significance, prepares them for archiving, then categorises, collates, digitises and registers the information as required. The diverse range of items coming through the Centre over the years include: birth, marriage and death certificates, church baptismal rolls, wedding registers, parish newsletters, minute books, annual reports, journals, diaries, local
church histories, church title deeds, architectural plans, sheet music, vintage Bibles, old handwritten letters, historic photos, and artefacts such as stained-glass windows, vestments and antique communion trays.

Every year the Archives Centre sends an annual deposit of archival materials to the Battye Library, the repository for documentary heritage material relating to the history of Western Australia. This year, volunteers produced some 17 boxes of history to add to the Uniting Church’s Collection at the Library – the largest private collection. The Collection is open to any researcher, however some records have restricted access due to personal and sensitive reasons and until enough time has elapsed for them to be accessible to the wider community.

Whilst the Archives Centre is not open to the public, except by special request, Archives Co-ordinator,
Marissa explained, “We receive all sorts of enquiries by phone or email from interested persons – for family history records, for information on the architecture of our historic church buildings and their pipe organs, and to help identify documents. The public and church community have also assisted our appeals on social media to identify bygone buildings and people in photos.”

“We are proud to be part of such a wonderful enterprise,” said Betty Pearson, Archives volunteer researcher. “Over the years, volunteers have come from a wide range of backgrounds and interests. Some of us are motivated by a love of history or genealogy, others by our long association with the Uniting Church and wanting to remain of service and others by the longstanding friendships we have formed here.” Current and former volunteers include retired ordained ministers, librarians, schoolteachers, a headmaster, an electrician, an economist, lay preachers, secretaries and writers. “Many bring with them a detailed knowledge and background of Uniting churches from all over the state because they have attended a church at one location as a child; and then as an adult, have gone on to worship at Uniting churches in other places,” Betty finished.

Over the years, the Archives Centre has worked with WAGS (the WA Genealogical Society, now called Family History WA),the WA Newspapers, Redress WA and the Battye Library. Some major projects included: creating a digitised record of more than 72,000 baptisms from 1840 to 1999; Archive volunteers assisting at the WA Newspapers to identify and list old photographs relating to the Church; assisting the Battye Library to accession archival material that the Church has deposited there; and a more recent
project of one year to record names of children who had lived at former missions of the Church.

In this edition of Revive, we acknowledge volunteers and contributors to the Archives, both past and present – for their dedication and commitment to document, shape and preserve the history of the Uniting Church. “We would like to thank all individual volunteers, previous voluntary committees, former
honorary archivists and others who have contributed to the success of the Archives Centre,” said Marissa. “Without their determination, commitment and creativity over the years, we could not have succeeded.”

Tracey Paul

A Special Memory of Betty Matthews

Kalamunda Uniting Church was recently privileged to hold the memorial service to celebrate the life of Rev. Betty Matthews – her own church, St Martin’s Forrestfield, being seen as too small to cope.

Indeed, the Kalamunda Church was packed! Those attending heard eulogies from her son, her grandchildren, her friends in the Deacon community, a representative from YWCA, and a wonderful speaker who had been a refugee from Africa. The Tongan community spoke lovingly of Betty and then sang, a cappella, a very moving song.  (There may have been other speakers as the Zoom recording I viewed a few days later was incomplete.)

We heard of Betty’s passionate involvement with an enormous range of pursuits such as refugee advocate, YWCA executive director, very efficient organiser of conferences of all sorts of groups and, above all, a deacon, a role she had over many decades.

Betty worked very much in tandem with her husband, Rev. Alan Matthews. Both were committed to seeking justice, building bridges, seeking the truth.

A phrase used during the service, summing up so much of Betty’s motivation in life was “seeking the transformation of our broken world”. In following in the footsteps of Christ, this was her aim.

I well remember Betty and Alan doing something most ministers of religion would avoid like the plague! They organised a political meeting in the lead-up to a Federal Election, probably 2010!

Organisational skills were very evident. All candidates were invited and all attended at a small Forrestfield venue. The public was invited to meet their candidates and ask questions.  There was standing room only. This event had the potential to be truly incendiary!

Those attending were encouraged to write on paper the questions they wanted to be answered. These were collected and while the eight candidates each gave a short, timed summary of their lives, the questions were sorted into themes.

Alan then read out the question and again each candidate gave a strictly timed answer. The mood was surprisingly respectful probably in deference to the elderly couple who were the organisers.

We went home pleased to have seen and heard from all our Hasluck candidates.

It was only later I thought, “How on earth did Betty and Alan Matthews pull that off so successfully”.

 It was just one of their efforts to seek truth, seek justice, build bridges and assist in the transformation of our broken world.

Well done, Betty. Alan, you can be proud of your joint achievements.

The link for the Zoom recording of Betty’s Memorial Service is available from Kalamunda Uniting Church.

Marcia Maher

Reflection – A Tribute to Adam


Last Wednesday, I had the privilege of visiting Good Sammy Enterprises (GSE), an agency of the Uniting Church which provides training services and meaningful work for people with a disability, through retail and social enterprises across Western Australia. The occasion was a sad one – Adam Blair, an invaluable member of the team who participated in retail collections and deliveries, had died. His death was sudden, unexpected and a devastating blow to all those who knew him.

It was an honour to meet and speak with staff and volunteers there, both individually and in groups.  GSE has in total some 600 working in the agency. Many were reflective and still coming to terms with the reality that they would never see Adam, as he was to them, again.

Adam was a 42-year old man who had worked at GSE for the last 20 years. He worked on the Good Sammy trucks, collecting pre-loved goods and clothing from collection points and delivering them to the Good Sammy shops.

From my conversations with his colleagues, I gathered that Adam was “the encourager” and “the supporter” in his team. He would exuberantly tell his colleagues how good they looked and how well they worked. He had a contagious, confident smile – he inspired, he exuded life and vitality.

It was good to learn more about GSE where Adam had spent his working life. It is an impressive enterprise of academy training programs, confidence-building initiatives, inclusion, employment and some 25 pre-loved clothing shops all focussed around improving the lives of people with a disability and using their gifts for the betterment of the community. GSE nurtures their talents and capacity to reach their goals and aspirations. It includes people with a disability in the social and working infrastructure of our world.

I visited the GSE warehouse and watched clothing deliveries arrive from the yellow Good Sammy community collection bins scattered around Perth. Men and women with a disability received them, sorted them and packed the useable clothing and other goods for onward delivery to the Good Sammy stores which we all know and recognise in areas like Fremantle, Mandurah, Booragoon, Subiaco, Ellenbrook, Wanneroo and Butler. It is a very well-run enterprise and it would be after some 60 years of operation.

As I chatted with Adam’s colleagues, I got the distinct impression of the wonderful creation of God he was and how much joy and purpose he brought to those around him. He was love, he was loved, he was included and he was a vital part of a living and working community. To see him gone was a loss to all those who knew him. Perhaps as you are reading this, you are feeling his loss too.

While talking with Adam’s colleagues, many of them were philosophical about life and death. Some were Christians of different faiths and had an outlook of eternal life. One of them burst into tears – he told me that he knew that, one day in heaven, he would meet Adam again.

I ask you to pray for Adam, his mother Carol, his family, his team of colleagues and for the CEO, staff and volunteers at GSE who are so deeply affected by his loss. Not only was Adam a part of GSE, he was a part of the Uniting Church through GSE, and thus a part of us all.

Although it was short, we give thanks for the wonderful life of Adam.

In closing, the words of Jeremiah 31:13 give comfort and hope:

I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

Susy Thomas

Moderator, Uniting Church WA

Leading with creativity and hope

When Rev Sharon Hollis was named President-elect of the Uniting Church in Australia, the world was a different place.

It was pre-COVID-19. Before mandatory check-ins, the ubiquitous hand sanitiser, the mask-wearing emoji and we all got used to WFH.

On 17 July, Sharon was installed as President of the Uniting Church in Australia, the third women to hold the position and the first ordained woman in the role. However, she will do so in a global context no one might have predicted. Continue Reading

Building a culture of safety

Since the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the Uniting Church WA has responded to more than 100 claims of historical child sexual abuse within our former institutions, and colleges. For some this might be a hard thing to comprehend, but it is important to acknowledge if the church is to live out its faith of caring for the vulnerable and working towards justice.

This September marks Child Safe Week, Sunday 5 to Saturday 11.

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Keep our kids out of prison: Raise the Age

Most Australians don’t realise that we put kids in prison. In a public opinion poll by the Australia Institute, 73% of Australians had no idea that children as young as ten are currently locked up in our prison system.

It’s not surprising, since most people imagine kids at that age to be, well… kids.

But the facts tell us that for some, this is not the case. The Commissioner for Children and Young People in WA reports that in 2018-2019, 143 children in WA spent time in unsentenced detention. This unsentenced detention can range from an average of 25 days for non-Indigenous children and 46 days for Indigenous children – keeping in mind that 78% of kids in detention are Indigenous.

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Yuko Tonai-Moore: Keeping the light on

Yuko Tonai-Moore often brings fresh air to Uniting Church WA gatherings. She’s bright, kind and gentle, and passionate about her journey with God.

Growing up in Japan, Yuko came to Perth, Australia, with her family as a teenager. She didn’t grow up Christian, but her childhood was influenced by Buddhism, Shintoism, and Christianity.

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