More than a job: Celebrating 60 years of GSI

John Knowles, CEO of Good Samaritan Industries (GSI), welcomed me into his office with a big smile and an even bigger heart before announcing we needed to step out for a minute to sing happy  birthday to a staff member.

Out in the foyer, staff (and me) gathered for cake and well wishes, while a group of high school kids wandered in to one of the meeting rooms for job training. In the warehouse, employees sort and pack all sorts of donations, from clothes to bedding to shoes and accessories. And in the canteen staff are busy preparing food.

The place is a hive of activity where people genuinely seem to love their jobs. Continue Reading

Learning lessons and making peace

As a General Practitioner in the medical field, Dr Sue Wareham has long held compassion for her fellow human beings. When she began learning of the effects and scale of global nuclear weapons in the late 70s and early 80s, she became passionate about ridding the world of them.

Since then, she has worked tirelessly to campaign for the abolishment of nuclear weapons through the Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW) and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Sue has been awarded an Order of Australia, and last year, ICAN was recognised with a Nobel Peace Prize.

Dr Sue Wareham will be one of the speakers at the upcoming conference, ‘Making Peace: exploring the practice of peace in today’s world’, held from Saturday 10 to Sunday 11 November, at St George’s Cathedral, Perth. The conference is organised by the Social Justice Commission of the Uniting Church WA, and will be held over the centenary of the Armistice of the First World War.

Sue has been involved with MAPW since its foundation in 1981. She said the aim of the association is to draw attention to the health implications of warfare and armed conflict.

“We draw attention particularly to the health impact on civilians, partly because civilians form the majority of the victims of war these days,” Sue said. “When we go to war, modern warfare is often  an attack on civil society itself. So it’s absolutely imperative to find other ways to resolve conflicts.” Continue Reading

Deidre’s discipleship

Dr Deidre Palmer chooses her words carefully when asked about her call to church leadership.

“I’m probably more called to discipleship than leadership,” she says. “As an educator, as someone who contributes to people’s formation in faith, I see leadership arising from inviting people into a deeper relationship with God. So, I actually think leadership grows out of discipleship.”

Youth worker, Christian educator, academic, theologian, social worker, counsellor, Assembly Standing Committee member, Working Group Chair, Moderator. From 8 July 2018, Dr Deidre Palmer will extend her invitation to discipleship to the whole of the Uniting Church in Australia and beyond in the role of President. When Deidre receives the symbols of ministry from outgoing President Stuart McMillan at St Michaels Collins St in Melbourne, she will become the Uniting Church’s 15th President and the second woman to take-up the role. Dr Jill Tabart being the first, serving as President from 1994 to 1997.

‘Abundant Grace Liberating Hope’ is the theme Deidre has chosen for her term. Continue Reading

Louise Pekan: living the love of Christ everyday

Pastor Louise Pekan loves babies, families and communities. She’s also passionate about encouraging others to be leaders in their own contexts, so it’s no surprise she’s begun working with families and children in and around Melville as the new Community Engagement Pastor at Melville Uniting Church.

After hearing at a Presbytery of WA meeting recently that the Uniting Church WA has been in steady decline for a number of years, Louise – alongside the Melville congregation – is ready and  prepared to try a new way of being church. While these ideas may be new to some, Louise has already seen the success of community engagement projects she’s run in Perth, as well as been a part of in Chicago in the United States of America, where she lived on and off for five years.

As Melville Uniting Church started thinking about selling up and joining other nearby congregations, Louise, with the help of Rev Mark Illingworth, Pastoral Relations and Placements Co-ordinator at the Uniting Church WA, will instead work with them to create meaningful networks with the local community. And as I sat with her over coffee, it was pretty clear she not only has the  experience to do this, but also has a deep passion for hospitality and building a space where all are welcome. Continue Reading

A new church of humility

Summer Spirit, a Uniting Church WA event, will be held on Saturday 17 February at All Saints Floreat Uniting Church. This year, the event will explore ‘A  different church for a different world,’ in response to the Uniting Church WA’s new Strategic Plan.

Rev Lindsay Cullen, one of the new National Consultants in the Assembly Resourcing Unit of the Uniting Church in Australia, will be sharing his thoughts and expertise on how the Uniting Church WA can become that different church at this year’s Summer Spirit.

The world has indeed changed a lot over the last 40 to 50 years. Lindsay explained that in the Western World, the church has gone from having a strong  voice in the community, to now having a voice more on the margins.

“I think we see all around us that the world is constantly changing. And in particular, in the last 40 or 50 years, we’ve seen not only the changing of western societies, but also the changing place of the church in society,” he said. “In the past, the church was seen as one of the central pillars of society and a natural place where people congregated and where people would turn for spiritual sustenance or to ask big questions of life. I think, we’re seeing very clearly, that is changing and shifting and the church finds itself much more on the margins of society. Continue Reading

A heart for encouragement

Priya Cooper is a Paralympian World Champion Swimmer who also earned the title of Young Australian of the Year for Sport in 1999. She won an amazing nine gold medals spanning Paralympic Games in Barcelona in 1992, Atlanta in 1996, and Sydney in 2000. She’s also competed in a range of other sporting events, winning medals and breaking world records across the globe.

Since her time on the swimming circuit, Priya has become an inspiring leader in disability services, having sat on a number of high profile boards and as an Ambassador for various organisations. She is currently Deputy Chair of the Disability Services Commission, part of this role has been working with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS); President of WA Disabled Sports Association; and on the Board of the Ability Centre.

She is also a Perth suburban mum of two with a heart for encouraging mothers to live their best lives.

Born with Cerebral Palsy, Priya has had limited use of her legs for her whole life. Cerbral Palsy is a neurological disorder which affects a person’s movement. It can affect people in many different ways and there are also many different types of the disorder.Continue Reading

God’s love breaking confines of the church

The 2016 Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey, which released its  findings in February this year, found that Australian school principals are increasingly under stress due to their workloads. YouthCARE, a WA organisation providing chaplaincy in our public schools, is looking to address this problem through its new pilot program aimed at providing chaplaincy to principals.

There are currently two School Principal’s Chaplains employed in this program, both in regional areas of WA. Jill Clements is one such chaplain, working in the mid-west region; the other is based in the Great Southern. The pilot program began in term three of 2016 and will run until the end of2017, when it will be reassessed.Continue Reading