Faith amongst pirates

For the last few years, Paul ‘Werzel’ Montague, a candidate for ministry with the Uniting Church WA, and Rev Chris Bedding, rector at Darlington-Bellevue Anglican Church, have been known  around town as Pirate Church. Since the comedy duo was created, many have caught the Pirate Church bug. The show has toured around the country, and in 2015 won Best WA Comedy at the  FringeWorld Awards.

On the back of Yurora NCYC 2017, the Uniting Church in Australia’s National Christian Youth Convention, and in the lead-up to the Perth Fringe Festival, Paul and Chris sat with Heather Dowling, editor of Revive, to chat life, faith, comedy and pirates.Continue Reading

CPE: no place to hide

Rev Michael Hertz came to Australia almost two years ago from the USA to a Uniting Church WA placement at Royal Perth Hospital (RPH). He co-ordinates the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Program there, and claims he has the best job in the world.

Michael describes clinical pastoral care as learning how to be present with someone in their spiritual distress. At Royal Perth Hospital, that can be during some of the most challenging experiences people will face.
“We don’t do surgery. We don’t do helping people have an appropriate hospital bed in their home. We don’t administer medications, but we’re part of all that activity and we’re right there providing emotional, spiritual, relationship and care,” he said.

As a young adult, Michael was working towards a career in medicine. But a moment of clarity about where his life was heading careened him in a different direction.

“I became the person I did not want to be in my attempts to get the top grades. I was taking the medical college admission test and I looked around the lecture hall and I realised I would not want to be cared for by any of the people I had been studying with and, worse than that, I would not want to have been cared for by myself.”Continue Reading

Walking together over the Rainbow

Over cups of tea, bickies and cake in a beautiful old Nedlands home, three dedicated women shared with me their passion for creating supportive, safe and open places for people living with mental illness, through  the Rainbow project.

Rainbow runs in five locations around Perth offering, fortnightly or monthly social gatherings, including lunch and a time of sharing.

Ruth Reid has been patron of Rainbow in WA since it began in 1998, and still offers her time each month, despite ageing into her 90s. Marian Hillam is the co-ordinator for the Claremont/Nedlands Rainbow   group, which has been running for around 11 years, and Sarah Robson is a new recruit, having recently started volunteering at Claremont/Nedlands.

Ruth and Marian are members of Nedlands Uniting Church, while Sarah found Rainbow through Volunteering WA. Sarah loves cooking, and was looking for a way to be able to share her gifts with people in the community – Rainbow provided that perfect space. Rainbow now comes under the umbrella of UnitingCare West, after its formation in 2006. Volunteers take on a range of roles and all receive mental health training.

According to Ruth, the Rainbow journey all began with a phone call from Rev Joyce Wilkins, who was minister at Manning Uniting Church at the time. Joyce and Ruth, along with Audrey Frances, another Rainbow pioneer, got together to discuss how to offer friendship and support to people in congregations, and the wider community who were feeling isolated, as a result of mental health issues. Ruth said that it started as a  place of friendship, which hasn’t changed. Continue Reading

Julie McCrossin: finding acceptance with the Uniting Church

Former ABC broadcaster Julie McCrossin is a familiar voice to the Australian public.

A self-described “refugee from Sydney Anglicanism”, Julie McCrossin has found a home in South Sydney Uniting Church. Her appearance on ABC TV’s special all-Christian Q&A panel and facilitation of the UnitingWomen conference Q&A discussion in April show her willingness to engage publically with theological issues in a fair and respectful manner.

Perhaps best known for her role on the comedy quiz show Good News Week, Julie has garnered a strong public profile from her work across radio, television and print journalism. However, to pinpoint her to one occupation would be a disservice. At 61, she is an in-demand emcee, comedian, activist and all-round passionate educator and student.

“I have an arts degree, a law degree, two educational qualifications and now I’m studying theology, so I’m crazy for university,” laughs Julie.

“I love the exchange of information and ideas with a group of people who are curious.”

Now self-employed, Julie has been everything from a board member of her alma mater SCEGGS Darlinghurst, to the voice inside your headset on Qantas’ Radio Q and an Australian Red Cross ambassador. She is also an elder, treasurer and church council member of South Sydney Uniting Church.Continue Reading

Ten years of growth

On 1 July this year, UnitingCare West will celebrate its 10th anniversary. UnitingCare West is an agency of the Uniting Church WA, delivering a range of community services to some of the most vulnerable people in WA.

The organisation has experienced a huge amount of growth in these years, and has become an important part of life in Western Australia. Of course, the history behind UnitingCare West goes back long before 2006, as many of the services run by the agency began their life in Uniting Church WA congregations. Some go back prior to the 1977 union of the Uniting Church in Australia.

In 2005, fourteen Uniting Church WA congregational community services considered joining together to become UnitingCare West, with eight finalising the agreement. Over the years, more have come on board and services have grown. Chris Hall was the first Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of UnitingCare West, with Rev Des Cousins the first chair of the UnitingCare West Board.

As our social environment changed, three of the original programs which came into UnitingCare West at its formation have ceased, two of which because government picked up the service and it was no longer needed.

Sue Ash AO, current CEO of UnitingCare West, came into the role in 2011. She explained that the formation of the organisation has been successful in its intention to grow service delivery in WA.Continue Reading

Love hurts; love anyway

In 2010, Revive interviewed Ashley Macmillan as a young teenager, after she and a friend had spent two and a half years raising $5,000 for a community in India, through TEAR. Since then, Ashley has grown as a person, living out her faith day to day, and is wise beyond her years.

As a co-convener for the refugee group of the Perth branch of Amnesty International, Ashley  as recently returned from a conference in Sydney, bringing together refugee advocacy groups from across Australia. She is often seen at community events handing out balloons and lollypops, and talking to people about Australia’s abhorrent treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.

Not only does she serve in this voluntary role, she also volunteers with Fusion, as a live in  house parent’ for teenage girls who can’t live with their parents; she makes regular visits out to the Yongah Hill Detention Centre in Northam; serves on the Social Justice Board of the  Uniting Church WA; and is studying a Masters Degree in social work, after having  completed an Undergraduate Degree in politics and philosophy. For paid employment, Ashley works in child care.

The weaving thread in all of Ashley’s work and passions is building relationships and loving people through all their pain.Continue Reading

A woman of influence: Deaconess Dr Cath Ritchie

This International Women’s Day, Revive asked three Uniting Church leaders to share their stories of the women who have influenced their lives. Rev Bev Fabb writes:

The woman who has had the most profound impact on my life is Deaconess Dr Cath Ritchie. Born to a farming family in Gippsland, Victoria in 1909, educated in a one teacher rural school, she eventually graduated from the University of Melbourne. Raised in a Scottish Presbyterian family, her Christian faith was always central in her life. In 1937 she responded to a call from the Foreign Missions Department to serve as a teacher missionary in Korea, then under Japanese rule. When Japan entered the war in 1941, all Australian missionaries were recalled from Korea.  Cath dreamed of returning once the war was over, but this was not to be. After a time as a youth worker in rural Victoria, riding her bicycle between towns, she was asked to become Principal of Rolland House, the Presbyterian Deaconess and Missionary training college. She remained in this position for 23 years.Continue Reading

A woman of influence: Mary Belshaw

This International Women’s Day, Revive asked three Uniting Church leaders to share their stories of the women who have influenced their lives. Rev Dr Alison Longworth writes:

My childhood recollection of Great-Aunt Mary Belshaw is of an old woman who was losing her memory. Ironically, I almost forgot Aunt Mary, and yet her influence in my life has grown since 1986 when my Mother showed me an article describing the unveiling of a memorial stone at the site of the former Badjaling Mission. The plaque commemorated two missionaries, Mary Belshaw and May McRidge and the thirty-nine Nyungar families who lived at Badjaling from 1930 – 1954. The following year I visited the site with my family. It was the beginning of my research in Australian religious history, focused initially on Belshaw and her encounters with Nyungar people.Continue Reading

A few great women: reflections on women of influence

This International Women’s Day, Revive asked three Uniting Church leaders to share their stories of the women who have influenced their lives. Rosemary Hudson Miller, associate general secretary (justice and mission), writes: 

International Women’s Day always gives me a chance to reflect on the women who have influenced me. My maternal grandmother Kathleen Annie so wisely spread the message of ecumenical tolerance in a time of great sectarian divide in country Australia of the 1950’s when my parents came from different denominations. She took up this stance well before Vatican 2 and continued to support her grandchildren as we engaged in a range of ‘Protestant’ activities.Continue Reading

Uplifted in faith and hope

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To coincide with International Women’s Day, Tuesday 8 March, Bindy Taylor shares with Revive the story of Khadija Gbla, executive director of No FGM Australia. Khadija will also be the keynote speaker at the UnitingWomen conference to be held in Adelaide this April.

Spending time with Khadija Gbla is an uplifting experience – she is as passionate and as vocal one-on-one as she is speaking to a gathering of 1,000 people. Khadija has squeezed a lot of life into her 27-years, and she feels compelled by God to share her life experiences, both the ups and the downs, to instill hope in others.

At the age of nine, Khadija underwent female genital mutilation (FGM), an unnecessary and cruel act of violence. At the time, Khadija had no idea what was happening to her, but she is now able to name it for what it is – human rights abuse, child abuse and sexual abuse. It is an experience she wants no other girl or woman to go through.

FGM, also known as female circumcision, has no known health benefits and is largely practiced in countries within Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Common reasons given for performing FGM include social acceptance, hygiene, ideas relating to female sexuality, purity and modesty, religion, and cultural identity. While it has been restricted or outlawed in many of the locations where it is practiced, FGM procedures continue to be performed. The dangerous act can lead to ongoing health problems, inability to conceive a child and complications during childbirth.Continue Reading