Changing and growing on a life-long journey

Although he’s just started in a newly created role, Craig Mitchell is no stranger to the Uniting Church, having worked in the organisation in various ways for over 30 years.

As the new national director for Formation, Education and Discipleship (FED) at the Uniting Church in Australia, National Assembly, Craig’s job is to resource synods, presbyteries and congregations in their journey as lifelong communities of discipleship. Engaging people in a lifelong journey of faith has been something the Uniting Church has struggled with over recent decades – it’s part of the reason the church is declining.

Craig is hoping to turn that around into the future, building a Uniting Church with members who are active and thoughtful in their faith, from the cradle to the grave.

And it’s no easy task.

Craig said that a culture change is needed in the way the Uniting Church approaches faith formation.

“It’s not just about Sunday school or just about raising the next generation of church members,” he said. “Let’s have a more dynamic view of people growing in faith to be on about what Gods’ on about in the world.”Continue Reading

GKI on the move

One of the outcomes of our recent Annual Meeting of the Presbytery and Synod of the Uniting Church in WA was the commitment to continue our partnership with the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI).

The partnership began over two decades ago and has led to the growth of the GKI Perth Uniting Church congregation in Mosman Park and a special Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that points to various ways we can co-operate and learn from each other.

IMG_0043Rosemary Hudson-Miller, acting general Secretary of the Uniting Church in WA, and I, moderator of the Uniting Church in WA, were very privileged to be able to visit Indonesia in September to  attend the GKI West Java Synod and sign the MOU. This was a tremendous privilege and richly rewarding for us. We were able to witness a church that is growing and dynamic in many areas of its life.

We stayed in the climatically cool Zuri Resort and Convention Center, owned by GKI, about three hours out of Jakarta, near Bogor in the mountains. It was very special being part of their synod  meetings. About 270 members attended from eight presbyteries across West Java.Continue Reading

Christians and Muslims: 100 years of love

Uniting Church leaders from across Australia have joined interfaith and ecumenical friends in a statement of solidarity with Australia’s Islamic community. Uniting Church in Australia President, Rev Prof  Andrew Dutney, is one of thousands of faith and community leaders who’ve signed on to a declaration that “We’ll Love Muslims 100 Years.”

The statement was a reference to the banner headline in the Weekend Australian on 9 August “We’ll Fight Islam 100 Years.”

“Recent public statements and media coverage about Muslim-Australians in some sections of the Australian media have been inflammatory and divisive,” said Andrew.

“In our multi-faith society, Jesus’ call to love your neighbour means that Christians are called to meet, befriend and care about our neighbours who are Muslim.” Continue Reading

Adult literacy: A silent struggle

For most people who’ve done reasonably well at school, reading and writing becomes a natural part of life. But, unlike the spoken word, there’s actually nothing natural about it. Written word is a social construct which has only fairly recently, in historical terms, been so widespread.

Literacy is an ‘enabler’ – we learn a lot of other things through it, especially while we’re still at school. So for many, struggling with literacy can actually make them feel excluded from the world around  them, which is centred around numeracy and the written word.

In 2013, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranked Australia fourth out of 24 countries in literacy, in their First Results from the Survey for Adult Skills. Comparatively,  in 2013 The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that 44% of Australians are at or below level two in their literacy skills. Level three is considered to be a reasonable functioning level for Australian  society.

While you don’t have to be living in poverty to struggle with literacy, findings show that it is people from a low socioeconomic background who often suffer the most. If you don’t struggle with it, you may  never actually realise just how much reading and writing connects us to our surrounding world. Continue Reading

Loving our neighbours through language learning

I first met Purwanto when he helped me translate an interview I was conducting with a minister who had just moved to Australia from Indonesia. He helped me out a lot and the interview may not have  been possible without him. I quickly learnt that he’s helped many people in his time, from all walks of life in his role as an interpreter and translator.

Dr Purwanto Danusugondo grew up in Java, Indonesia and as a child learnt Javanese, Dutch – which his parents spoke in the home – and Indonesian. English is his fourth language, but he speaks a total of seven languages in all.

Having now travelled and studied all over the world, Purwanto didn’t actually leave Java until after completing his first degree, in 1963, when he was offered a job in Melbourne working for the ABC’s Radio  Australia program, English for You. Since then, he has also studied in Hawaii – where he completed a PhD in German – Texas and Indiana.

As a translator, Purwanto has worked with large companies including mining and insurance companies, as well as helping people in a range of ways within the local community, usually translating English  to Indonesian or vice versa. Continue Reading

How do you travel around the world in seven days?

You go to the World Folk Festival in Springville, Utah!

In July this year, eight students from the Gorna Liyarn Indigenous dance group of Presbyterian Ladies’ College (PLC) spent two weeks in America to attend the World Folk Festival. Whilst there, they shared their  culture with people from all over the world, including spending time with a Native American group. Hanna Chulung shares her experience.

I am so honored to have represented my country and culture at the World Folk Festival in Utah. It was an incredible experience shared with many other countries. And to be able to do so through songs,  stories and dance was just unbelievable.

It was such a humble experience to have collaborated with the Native American group, Morning Star, at the festival and to have performed for the public and the owners of the Chumash Museum in Los  Angeles (LA). I was able to find out some of the history of Native Americans and compare Aboriginal culture with theirs. It was interesting to see how they lived, what their customs were, their beliefs and so  much more. I had a lot of fun at the Chumash Museum because we were given a tour around the land that they owned and we were given special access to see a cave, where villagers would have gone on a hot  day or where pregnant women would have gone to give birth. Continue Reading

Yearning for nature: Is there respect?

In Australia’s cities, it’s so easy to spend days or weeks without really connecting with the natural environment. Not only that, but how many of us actually know how the ecosystem works, or where our place in it is? Even in rural areas, it could be said that we dominate the land without really living with it.

Over time we’ve lost a vital connection to the earth and the natural system with which we once lived. Rev Dr Geoff Lilburne has a passion for theology of the land and has published works in the areas of contextual and eco theology. Geoff said that while we place a lot of importance on our history – or timelines – we also should be thinking about the space that we exist in.

“In our western tradition we have tended to think time and history are important, but we haven’t tended to think of ‘space’ or ‘place’ as important,” he said.

He continued, saying that it is important for churches to develop a sense of place by living locally and taking care of the spaces that we inhabit.

Part of thinking about this local space  means looking into how we consume our food. While the food we eat is possibly one of the most direct ways we interact with our natural environment, many of us have no real sense of where it has come from and the work and resources that have gone into producing it. We may rationally know that our beef is dead cow or  that our apple has grown on a tree, but for most of us, our minds simply don’t comprehend what that actually means for the producers, the economy and the planet. Continue Reading