Review: Growing Up Uniting

Edited by William W Emilsen and Elizabeth A Watson, MediaCom Education Inc, 2021

If you were asked, ‘What are the distinctive characteristics of the Uniting Church?’ How would you respond?

Twenty young people aged from late teens to mid-40s from around Australia were invited to talk about their experiences growing up in the Uniting Church. These are their stories.

They represent the first two generations who were born into and grew up in the Uniting Church. As a guide, they were provided with some non-obligatory suggestions relating to their experience of church, such as the distinctive characteristics of the Uniting Church, its future, factors that have kept them in the Uniting Church and those that would tempt them to walk away from it. The writers incorporated these in quite different ways. Their stories are a joy to read.

Their experiences have been varied, positive and negative, but throughout their stories are many common markers.

Multiculturalism in the Uniting Church, its covenanting with First Nations people and the courage of the church to speak out publicly on contemporary social and political issues were acknowledged. Detailed comments on mentoring of young people stands out as most important, but declining levels of commitment and support for young people’s ministry is seen as a concern. Continue Reading

Review: Eyes in the Sky

Surveillance for Survival, by Henry Houghton and Richard Smith, Green Hill Publishing, 2021

Henry Houghton, past Director of Mapping and Surveys and Surveyor General of Western Australia, and Richard Smith, Earth Systems Scientist, coauthored this copiously illustrated history of satellite imaging and interpretation particularly focussed on Western Australia.

They tell of the early days and development of the science and technology, which is in itself fascinating to science professionals and laypersons alike. ‘Make do’ solutions and interaction between world agencies to make this new 1960’s technology accessible to the public led to expertise in interpreting sometimes obscure data for the benefit of planners, agriculturists, mineral exploration and the general public, spinning off the back of early weather surveillance satellites. This history is recounted in a way to interest both the  professional and general reader.

Perhaps the most compelling narrative running through the book is the way economic considerations override the invaluable, but maybe not as easy to quantify in return for dollar, long-term ecological implications of the Earth observations from space. This led to the Leeuwin Centre for Earth Sensing Technologies and other scientifically valuable consortia being closed even with very successful contributions to the science, after relatively short existence (less than 25 years for Leeuwin Centre), and the government of the day having no compunction in deconstructing the satellite imaging centre attached to Department of Land Information. Continue Reading

Looking forward, looking back

One of the great pleasures I have enjoyed in my first year as Moderator has been the opportunity to travel outside the metropolitan area into the wide expanses of this great state, and being able to meet with so many community leaders andcongregations. Often, I have been overwhelmed by the tenacity and improvisation evident in people’s lives. Even in the midst of flood, fire or cyclone, fatalism and defeat take a back seat to picking up the pieces and starting all over again. Continue Reading

Can we be reconciled?

It is often said the two highlights of the Christian calendar are Christmas and Easter, that in many ways could be described as ‘bookends’, coming at the beginning and end of the Jesus story.

However, as we all know, it is what came afterwards that is critically important, not only for the life of the church, but for our individual lives as well. Personally, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which we now celebrate, is at the core of my understanding of the Christian faith.

Continue Reading

Review: What Can Love Hope For?

Questions for Faith Seeking Understanding, by William Loader, Cascade Books, 2020

This recently published book was written by William (Bill) Loader, a well-known and respected New Testament scholar. The book is subtitled ‘Questions for Faith Seeking Understanding’, hoping to address how the New Testament should be interpreted.

The book is dedicated to people “who love their faith and want to take it seriously and engage their minds to embrace it.” It comprises of three major sections about faith, hope and love, looking at it from the perspective of love, with Jesus being the main focus throughout.

Faith – what can love believe? Hope – what can love hope for? Love – what can love do?

At the end of the book is an afterword, which gives the reader a look into William’s journey of faith and scholarship with a link to an earlier published book called ‘Dear Kim, this is what I believe: explaining the Christian faith today’.Continue Reading

Review: Any Ordinary Day

by Leigh Sales, Penguin Group Australia, 2018

Any Ordinary Day, written by ABC’s 7.30 news and current affairs host, Leigh Sales, explores blindsides, resilience and what happens after the ‘worst’ day of your life.

Sales gives an honest account of what Juliet Darling, Stuart Diver, Louisa Hope, Walter Mikac, Hannah Richell, James Scott and Michael Spence went through and tries to honour their experiences  and the lives of those who were loved and lost.

In Any Ordinary Day, Sales explores with in-depth interviews and extensive research the effect of life-changing events and the strength, hope and humour which assisted ordinary people, on ordinary days, to navigate their way through an extraordinary event. She asks the questions we’re often too afraid to ask, but we all think about.

Some of those interviewed are people of faith and they share how their faith played a role in working through the event. Whether they’re people of faith or not, it’s the resilience and optimism of human nature, as well as those around them, that shines through. Continue Reading

Moderator’s column: Is it the journey or the destination?

As a child growing up in India, I was fascinated with trains because India’s railway network is one of the most intricate and extensive in the world, covering more than 120 000 kilometres of track, predominantly on what is commonly known as ‘broad gauge’ of 5 feet 6 inches. It has a long history, with the first service commencing in 1853.

Two great positives from the British colonial era have been the railways and the use of the English language. Each, in its own way, has become the ‘glue’ uniting one of the most populous, religious and culturally diverse nations on God’s Earth. Continue Reading