The presence of Christ in the Middle East

A delegation of Uniting Church leaders travelled to Lebanon in January with the aim of building relationships with churches in the region.

The delegation included Stuart McMillan, president of the Uniting Church in Australia, Rob Floyd, national director of UnitingWorld, and three Uniting Church ministers from the Middle East,  including Rev Dr Emanuel Audisho, multicultural ministry co-ordinator for the Uniting Church WA.

The group met with the leaders of the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East, the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon and the National Evangelical Church of  Beirut. They also visited a range of historical sites, including one of the ancient jars from the biblical story of the Wedding at Cana (John 2) and one of the earliest memorial sites of the Armenian  Genocide in Antelias.

While in Lebanon, the group also spent some time at Fondation le Grain de Ble, a program for local refugee children which provides camps, clubs, sport, literature, games and entertainment for  refugee children in Lebanon, with an aim to share God’s love. Continue Reading

English immersion for global communication

Two female ministers from the Gereja Kristen Protestant Bali, the Protestant Church of Bali (GKPB), are visiting Perth from 30 July to 8 October as they take part in a ten-week English immersion experience.

Rev Ayu Wandira and Rev Betha Meidywati had quite a large English vocabulary when they arrived in Australia, but needed assistance to put those words into full sentences. With support from the WA Uniting  Church Adult Fellowship (UCAF) and the GKPB Women’s Fellowship, Ayu and Betha have grown immensely in their English language skills while staying in Perth.

Rev Janelle McGregor, chairperson of the WA UCAF, has been teaching the pair English using work sheets, exams, Bible reading and other methods. Janelle has a teaching background with experience in teaching  English as a second language (ESL). She said that the recent Bishop of GKPB has been keen to support women in ministry. Bishop Suama has taken on the role in September, and is equally as supportive.

“He’s particularly conscious of the fact that women, female clergy, don’t have the professional development opportunities that men have because women have all those sorts of social issues in a very patriarchal  society, even as professional women. So he is very keen to have an ongoing program,” Janelle said. Continue Reading

Emily Evans elected to WCC Executive Committee

The Uniting Church will be represented by a youthful voice at the World Council of Churches (WCC) with the election of Emily Evans to the WCC Executive Committee.

The Executive Committee is the top governance body of the WCC and implements strategic objectives set by the Central Committee. It meets twice a year and oversees council finances, monitors ongoing program work and appoints leadership staff.

Emily was one of 11 new members elected to the Executive Committee at a meeting in Trondheim, Norway in June. She has worked with the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania’s Justice and International Mission unit and has been a member of the WCC gender advisory group. She was elected to the Central Committee in 2013 and is on the WCC’s ECHOS Commission, which consists of 20 young Christians involved in the ecumenical movement.

During the week-long meeting, the Central Committee approved a range of reports and decisions. These included statements on the global refugee crisis, the human rights situation in West Papua and a call for prayer following the recent Brexit vote. As a relative newcomer to the international ecumenical movement, Emily hopes to achieve greater understanding of the role and responsibility of the WCC.

“This includes learning about the lives and lived experience of other member churches, gaining a deeper understanding of what true Christian unity means in the world today and bringing back to the UCA new learnings and insights,” she explained.Continue Reading

Standing on holy ground

Rev Eira Clapton recently visited Sri Lanka with UnitingWorld staff, to see the work of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka, which is supported by a partnership with the Uniting Church WA. She shares stories from her trip with Revive. 

I start a new notebook for this Sri Lanka trip, because a pen and paper are quickly accessible when you want to make notes in a foreign country. On the title page I write the words: “What if we were standing on holy ground?”

Holy ground is difficult to get to. For us it involves a very early start. At 3.51am, I climb into a small bus and we set off on crowded roads out of Colombo to the more remote north-east of the country. These are the areas which have been devastated by the double disaster of civil war and tsunami. There are fewer people to do the work in these areas – many of the young were killed in the war or the disaster, or left disabled by them. The roads are poor so the villages are hard to get to, isolated from each other and from government services. The bus rollicks over dry creek beds and picks its way at a snail’s pace around deep potholes.Continue Reading

Standing on Holy Ground

 

Rev Eira Clapton recently visited Sri Lanka with UnitingWorld staff, to see the work of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka which is supported by the partnership of the Uniting Church in Australia Synod of Western Australia

I start a new notebook for this Sri Lanka trip, because a pen and paper are quickly accessible when you want to make notes in a foreign country. On the title page I write these words: What if we were standing on holy ground“?

Holy ground is difficult to get to. For us it involves a very early start. At 3.51am I climb into a small bus and we set off on crowed roads out of Colombo to the more remote north and east of the country. These are the areas which have been devastated by the double disaster of civil war and tsunami. There are fewer people to do the work in these areas – many of the young were killed in the war, or the disaster, or left disabled by them. The roads are poor so the villages are hard to get to, isolated from each other and from government services. The bus rollicks over dry creeks beds and picks its way at a snail pace around deep potholes.

I visit a Church hall in Muthur, where some tiny children have gathered to greet us with their mothers and preschool teacher.  They place garlands of flowers around our necks as we enter. This is a Church run school for those who can’t afford to send their children to government run preschools. One mother explains that she sells goods to provide for her family. Sometimes there is money for education, sometimes none. In this place everyone is welcome to come – it is a multi-faith school.  The preschool turns no-one away, even though the Church has no funding to support it.  The teacher has not been paid for months, and the only food provided to the children comes from what the parents can bring.

The children sing us a song, which sounds like ‘Heads and shoulders, knees and toes’, and we all smile at each other.

Eira’s Law of Spiritual Economics says “you know you are getting close to the kingdom of God when there is not enough money to do the work”. I conclude that we are very close today.

In the next district we visit more preschools in which teachers work for next to nothing and the churches provide emergency aid type nutrition packs for children, as the whole population is under-nourished. We are treated as special guests each place we go.

If you feel jaded about the church, visiting the projects that your church supports with funds, and meeting the passionate workers at the other end, will make you feel better.

In my notebook I write that I am thinking of all the faithful donors to appeals, and wishing they could have been with us.  We are thanked over and over by each preschool community, but of course they don’t mean to thank us personally -we just represent the Australian churches.

Anyone seen the kingdom of God? Maybe they could start looking around here.

Rev Eira Clapton

 

If you want to be part of sharing the work of the Kingdom of God in this place, you can support the preschool project by donating to:

BSB 036-001  Account 92-1834 Uniting Church in Australia

Reference Sri Lanka Preschools

Cheque – made payable to Uniting Church in Australia

Send to: Social Justice Unit, Uniting Church Synod of WA, GPO Box M952, Perth WA 6843

or email social.justice@wa.uca.org.au

Please note that donations to this appeal are not tax deductible.

 

 

 

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Support and training for long-term recovery in Fiji

Cyclone Winston, the strongest storm ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere made landfall in Fiji on 20 February, flattening entire villages with torrential rain, storm surges and winds of more than 300 km per hour.

More than 40 people were killed and thousands of homes damaged. Hospitals, schools, crops, livestock and water supplies were hit and thousands of Fijians were forced to shelter in schools, churches and community buildings. Many remain there today. Thanks to a generous response to UnitingWorld’s emergency appeal – gifts of almost $200 000 – UnitingWorld were able to respond quickly. Funds are being used to assist the Methodist Church in Fiji, a partner church of the Uniting Church in Australia, to work alongside the Fijian government and provide humanitarian relief to thousands of people throughout affected communities.

In particular, providing food, shelter, water purification tablets and cooking utensils, which are critically important for preparing the type of food that is distributed in emergencies and for purifying potentially contaminated water. These materials are being bought in non-affected areas of Fiji, helping to buoy the local economy and sustain the livelihoods of local people.Continue Reading

Church partnerships making a difference in Fiji

My husband, John, and I recently went to Fiji to see the partnership at work between the Uniting Church in Australia – through UnitingWorld – and the Methodist Church in Fiji. We travelled with two families from NSW; making a party of 12, with six adults and six young people aged between 12–19. We were very ably led by our team Leader, Megan Calcaterra, UnitingWorld’s projects and administration officer.

Whilst there we met with the president of the Methodist Church of Fiji, Rev Dr Tevita Banivanua and the general secretary, Rev Epineri Vakadenavosa, who spoke about the new changes and challenges within Fiji. The church has a new Constitution, and a new Code of Conduct to be implemented in 2016, and the changes to the logo are more in keeping with their ‘New Exodus’ theme as they move forward.

Due to the disruptions of Military Coups, there were no Conferences – their annual gatherings – allowed to be held in 2009, 2010 or 2011. Succeeding Conferences were of shortened duration, but now with a more stable Government, there is a strong emphasis on appropriate change as they look to the future. There is also a conscious effort to increase the involvement and training of women for and in ministry.

At Davuilevu Theological College we met the principal, Rev Anil Reuben, who is the first Fijian of Indian decent to be elected to that position. The college has one Bachelor of Divinity class and three Diploma of Theology classes and we were told that they can only take 25 new students each year, sometimes from 200 applicants.Continue Reading