Moderator’s column: Celebrating 40 years and asking the hard questions

Some people who hit 40, experience a midlife crisis; if they are affluent they might buy a red sports car or go on a big European trip. But, 40 years of living often also prompts us to look back with thanks and gratitude and it can be a time to ask oneself some hard questions.

For some, the questions are about weight gain, career dissatisfaction, parenting struggles or financial worries. For others, it is a time to deal with regrets, missed opportunities, failed relationships and broken dreams. After the big 40 celebrations are over, midcourse evaluations begin and new hopes for the future start to emerge.

This year marks 40 years since the Union of the Uniting Church, and it is first and foremost a time to celebrate. Forty years ago, we tended to be defined by which denomination you came from  (Methodist, Presbyterian or Congregational). Now, that is in the past and is not as important as who we are in the present: Uniting. Continue Reading

Hope for a promised land

Rev John Barendrecht, Manager of Pastoral and Placements for the Uniting Church WA, is retiring from his placement on Sunday 30 July, after taking long service leave from Friday 9 June. As the Uniting Church in Australia approaches its 40th anniversary, John reflects on his 39 years of ministry.

I began my training for ministry as a student from the Congregational Church, and finished with the Uniting Church. My first placement was at Dalwallinu in 1978.

After 39 years of active ministry I will retire in July 2017, meaning I have been in placements for nearly all of the forty years that the Uniting Church anniversary celebrates this year.

I began my journey of ministry with all the hope and enthusiasm that the church I was part of was indeed a hopeful sign of how to live the message of Jesus in a contemporary way. Those who have been in the Uniting Church as long as I have will remember early days where the mainstream and church-based press referred to the Uniting Church as the ‘Australian’ church.

My ministry has always been both as an outsider who is looking in, and at the same time, an insider looking out.

Called into ministry with a congregational setting, I felt like an outsider within my own faith tradition. I saw worship styles and ecclesiastical habits which made no sense to me, yet mattered more than life itself to my congregations. Tradition mattered more than mission, and to this day I still don’t understand why. Continue Reading

Editorial: 40 years of the Uniting Church

I often hear people in the Uniting Church talking about the denomination they were part of before the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches combined to form the one church. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, we all draw on our pasts as the formation of who we are.

I, however, wasn’t around yet when the Uniting Church was formed, so I don’t remember the journey to Union, or the celebration. I was raised in this church though, born five years after Union; I guess you could call me a Uniting Church baby.

As a small child, I spent Easter camps at Daybreak Camp Farm building mud creations and running through gullies. I remember walking across fields and over rocks to a morning tea of hot cross  buns. I attended KUCA Camps (now KCO) and waited eagerly each year for them to come around, much like my son does now. A huge highlight of KUCA for me, and I’m sure others, was the  KUCA ‘radio station’ where we could ‘shout out’ to our friends and congregations.Continue Reading

Archie Roach on creating a whole new story


It’s clear from this year’s Sorry Day concert that Archie Roach’s fans are a dedicated bunch. Commemorating 20 years since the handing down of the Bringing Them Home Report, the multi-award winner took to the stage with local Indigenous supporting acts on Friday 26 May at the Astor Theatre, Perth.

It was a night of storytelling, remembering those affected by the Stolen Generations. As a non-Indigenous Australian, I was there to listen.

Beni Bjah opened the event with his hip hop single ‘Survivor,’ accompanied by traditional dance. The song took out the WAM Song of the Year award in 2016, making him the first Indigenous artist to win the award.

Other acts included Gina Williams, whose gorgeous voice filled the theatre as she sung stories in her Nyungar language. Her performance was a soulful celebration of culture and a highlight of the night for me.

Leading into her track ‘Bindi Bindi’ (Nyungar for ‘butterfly’) she said to the crowd, “They tried to stamp out our language and our language has been reduced to a whisper. Bindi Bindi the butterfly, she’s not weak; she keeps a strong heart. She’s looking to her future.” These words resonated with me, and throughout the song it was as if you could hear the Bindi Bindi, through the music, fluttering around the theatre. Continue Reading

Messages from the aether: World Health Day

In light of World Health Day, 7 April, Elsa Samuel has hand-picked these online goodies to boost your happiness and wellbeing.

Zen Habits
Visually, this blog is bad. You won’t find pictures with motivational quotes here. Leo Babauta, the creator of Zen Habits has done this on purpose. What you will find are posts presented in a fuss-free layout on behaviours and habits you can adopt to live a happier life. The simplicity of his blog highlights the true value of his posts about love, money, relationships, happiness or career. It’s not surprising he has over 2 million readers and has emerged as one of the top blogs in its niche. Recommended reads: Handbook for life: 52 tips for happiness and productivity and A mini-guide to not being frustrated all the time.

Fulfillment Daily
Inspiration for living your happiest life backed by science – this is what Fulfillment Daily (FD) is about. Unlike Zen Habits’ simple layout, FD is aesthetically pleasing, with posts on happiness, wellbeing and other related mental health topics. What I like about this blog? Each post has a limited word count and a summary at the start of the post – meaning you don’t waste too much time. The blog features posts from guest writers, so you get a range of experts sharing their thoughts on niche topics. Recommended posts include: 6 ways your living space affects your happiness and 10 simple habits to grow a positive attitude.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin is a New York Times bestselling author who’s achieved international acclaim with books such as The Happiness Project. Her podcast is just as super; named in iTunes’s lists of ‘Best Podcasts of 2015’ and was named in the Academy of Podcasters ‘Best Podcasts of 2016’. It’s great for those looking for new ways to cheer up their lives as her podcasts draw on research and ancient wisdom about building good habits and a happier life. I recommended listening to: A little happier: one of my favourite images for letting go of grief and A very special episode on the ‘Essential 7’ for happiness and good habits.

Review: The Art of Interfaith Spiritual Care: Integration of Spirituality in Health Care Regardless of Religion or Beliefs, by Walter Blair Stratford

Walter Stratford explores spirituality as a common thread across all religions. As a retired Uniting Church Minister, he experienced how creedal boundaries tend to exclude, but discovered as a hospital chaplain and ecumenist, ways to breach these boundaries for spiritual care to be provided to those from different faiths and cultures. Spirituality, which he considers cannot be easily  defined, derives from our being deeply connected to and dependent on the natural world. He considers fostering this sense of connection as vital to spiritual care, but all too often neglected.

The book emphasises the importance of imagination and openness; the lack of it, leading to the exclusion and dogmatic inflexibility of fundamentalism. It led me to conclude that it is deeds and  not creeds which validate the faith that achieves peace through acts of justice, instead of the quasi-peace through acts of rhetorical violence that blights our present age.

This book may help the church adapt to the millennial generation that has left in increasing numbers, to welcome new comers and counter the fear of those we perceive different from ourselves.

Richard Smith