SHARE and humanity thrives

Rev Roy Surjanegara is the Minister at GKI Perth Uniting Church, an Indonesian speaking congregation in Mosmon Park. This edition, he writes about this year’s Family and Culture Month at their church.

September is the month to celebrate family life and Indonesian culture for GKI Perth Uniting Church. We call it ‘Family and Culture Month’. Each Sunday, one ethnic group is highlighted in the service through the use of the local languages for the Bible readings, songs, and prayers. Musical instruments, clothing, decorations, and traditional food also play an important part in creating the atmosphere of being in Indonesia for a day. This year, we celebrated the Batak culture of Sumatera, the Sunda culture of West Java, the Dayak culture of Borneo, and the Tionghoa culture of Indonesian-Chinese descendants. Continue Reading

No mistakes in Creative Endeavour

In the bushy surrounds of Perth’s hills, a Uniting Church congregation is bringing life to the community through art and creativity. Kalamunda Uniting Church’s Creative Endeavour program is reaching people in ways the congregation could not have initially expected.

“It’s all about the journey,” Elizabeth Bishop, founder and leader of Creative Endeavour, tells me. And what a journey it is.

There are many ways to appreciate art; but for those who are using artistic creativity for personal enjoyment, it’s the process – the journey – that often leads us to new places. Continue Reading

Community refugee sponsorship: a local solution for a global issue

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) forecast that 1.44 million people will be in need of resettlement across the globe in 2020. Meanwhile, last year less than 7% of people in need of global resettlement were settled into new homes.

Australia currently offers the Community Support Program to help resettle refugees into the country. Under this program, individuals or businesses can support refugees to begin their new lives in Australia. This may sound great, but critics point out that the program has some major flaws, and is actually inaccessible to most people.

As global conflict is creating more and more refugees each year, the Uniting Church WA is calling for a new compassionate and generous refugee sponsorship program in Australia; supporting the introduction of the Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative. Continue Reading

Doing it tough on the land: supporting our farmers

Farmers in WA are facing desperate drought conditions inland, while those in the north are still recovering from the floods of two years ago.

Inland, WA farmers are battling the impact of the worst drought in living memory. The grass is dead. The ground is barren. Hand feeding stock is relentless, physically demanding and it takes most  of the day and most of the farmer’s energy. Then there is the crippling financial pressure as feed and water prices soar. Continue Reading

Being a safe church is everyone’s business

Rev John Cox is the inaugural Director of the Uniting Church in Australia’s National Safe Church Unit. John previously served as Executive Officer of the National Royal Commission Response and Engagement Task Group, the group that guided the Uniting Church’s national response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

He shares some thoughts on his new role.

What is the background to the National Safe Church Unit?

The Uniting Church took a proactive stance to engaging with the Royal Commission and the work of the national task group was to make sure that the commission had what they needed from the church, and that the church learned from the commission.

In the last year of the commission’s work the national task group transitioned to be more forward facing—asking itself the question, how do we implement what we’ve learned in and through the life of the church?

The idea of a national safe church unit grew out of that. It’s a unique collaboration between all of the synods and the Assembly, so it is owned by the councils of the church, which gives it a level of responsibility to drive change in and through the life of the church.

What can we expect from the unit?

The new body is about cultural enhancement in the life of the church; how do we understand ourselves as church, what does safety mean and how do we live that out?

Our role is to resource the church to provide safe contexts in which people are nurtured and can engage the possibilities of faith in Christ. This is the call to be a Christian community. The unit’s work is intended to sit right across the church, not just the congregational life but also the agency and the school life of the church.

So, this work is about supporting the church to be who we are called to be through the creation of strong evidence-based policy frameworks and resources, further collaboration across the church to create consistency in processes and enhance our education and training, and sharing information to create the checks and balances the church needs to ensure safety.

Do most Uniting Church members accept the reality of abuse in our churches?

I think across the life of the church we have people in congregations, lay and ordained, whose experience and understanding is that this could never happen here.

The Royal Commission said one of the biggest hurdles to adequate reporting on child sexual abuse was the belief that the person working at the next desk could never do something like that.

That’s a challenge for the church, as we understand people of faith to be people of integrity as we know them in a particular sphere.

My experience is that it’s not so much the looking back and saying, ‘I don’t believe that’. The struggle I think is here and now—yes, we accept that that happened there and then—but that would never happen now!

The checks and balances certainly help, but in my view safe church culture rests with every member of the church owning a responsibility to ensure that it’s a safe space.

Helping the church to understand that a percentage of abuse is perpetrated by people intent on undertaking that behaviour but there’s also abuse that happens when boundaries are lax, when opportunities are presented—is going to help us to be that safe community.

What drives you to continue working in this difficult space?

The dissonance between what I heard and experienced at the commission and what I understand the church to be called to be—this is what drives me. You hear stories and you think to yourself, ‘how on Earth could we allow ourselves to not be who we were called to be, to allow that to happen?’

I understand some of the contextual differences that contributed to abuse, the power and position of leaders, the place of children… so I understand functionally how that happened. However, this has not magically stopped… and this is not who we are.

We have moved a long way since some of the stories I’ve heard—but I strongly believe that following Jesus involves being a community of Christ in which people are nurtured and loved by God and by each other, and that being a safe church is one significant part.

Top image: Rev John Cox, Director of the Uniting Church in Australia’s National Safe Church Unit

This article originally appeared in Journey, the publication for the Uniting Church QLD.

 

Diversity, inclusivity and humour in the Bible

We know that Jesus was a storyteller, but was Jesus funny? Is there humour in the Bible?

Rev John Bell, international theologian, musician and social justice advocate, thinks so, and will be in the country soon to tell us why. He’ll be setting off on an Australian and New Zealand tour in May. Despite the challenging time difference from WA, John shared some of his passions for the church, from his home base of Glasgow, Scotland.

John has been a member of the Iona Community for 50 years. On top of that he’s worked for the community as a resource worker in the areas of worship, spirituality and social justice. He’s also a published author, a regular radio broadcaster and a songwriter of many hymns – some of which we regularly use in worship here in the Uniting Church WA. Continue Reading