Review-The Men in the Window, by Judith Amey

As she sat in the pews at St Aidan’s Uniting Church in Claremont, Judith Amey’s gaze would often fall on the stained glass window on the eastern wall during Sunday service.

At the base of the window were 16 names inscribed in the stained glass, men who had died in the First World War. It was an honour roll of men from the Claremont district, many of them with families connected to the church.

Amey began to wonder who they were; what was their background, who were their families, when and how had they died in the war?

Amey decided to investigate further. Her research has resulted in a slim, but evocative book, The Men in the Window.

Typical of the 16 men was Lieutenant Gordon Gemmell, whose Irish family moved from Melbourne to Perth in 1900. Gemmell trained as a teacher at Claremont Teacher’s College and was among the first intake of students at the University of WA. Gemmell saw action at Yypres in 1917, and in 1918 was leading a charge of his men in the final assault against the Germans when he was killed by machine
gun fire.

Coincidentally, Gemmell’s 15-year-old great great niece in Queensland, Meg Gemmell, won the 2015 Premier’s Anzac Prize for high school students for her essay on her relative, which won her a trip to Gallipoli.Continue Reading

Thinking the Faith, Living the Faith: An introduction to Christian Theology, by Chris Walker

A ministry colleague and friend tells me that only theologians are interested in theology, and many of the introductory books are heavy in both weight and terminology. By contrast, this very readable book is relatively short, conversational and reliable. Perhaps just as significantly, it makes clear the relationship between theology as thinking about faith, and theology as living out that faith in everyday ways.

As an experienced disciple, minister, teacher and leader, Chris Walker is well placed to write this introduction to theology from the context and perspective of the Uniting Church.

The book enables conversations by providing questions for personal reflection and group discussion. Instead of seeing such questions as a test, view them as an invitation into the conversation with Chris, and with the Christian faith. Chris writes with confident hope in the good news that Jesus Christ still offers – afresh in each context and time – to a desperate, broken and hurting world. Living out this good news is the task of every disciple, and of faithful communities together, and this introduction to theology helps us navigate the challenges of the contemporary world in thoughtful ways.

Rohan Pryor

Messages from the aether

As the Uniting Church Centre is still buzzing with excitement about its shiny, new website, Elsa Samuel, Digital Communications Officer at the Uniting Church WA, shares some neat image enhancing tools to help create a visually stunning website.

Fotor.com

According to British researchers at Northumbria University, a website with poor visual appeal creates a bad first impression to its visitors. Solve the issue of stretched, skewed or dull photos with Fotor.com, a free photo editor. Fotor’s capabilities are no match for Photoshop, however it’s fast and simple to use. Colour correct photos, create a photo collage or resize images and much more. I use Fotor.com to crop and resize website photos on the Uniting Church WA website and blog at unitingchurchwa.org.au.Continue Reading

Practising Reformation

By the time you read this the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Reformation may well have faded from your memory.

For a week or so in late October and early November, suddenly we were made aware of our history. Most Protestant churches paused to remember what a mild mannered Augustinian German monk did on 31 October 1517. He nailed, some argue pasted, his defiant ‘95 Theses’ to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg.

He brazenly charged the church with corruption. He fiercely objected to the practice of the faithful throwing a coin or two in a coffer to buy their way out of purgatory or worse. He probably had no idea of the seismic effects his protest would have on the European church and politics. Continue Reading

Editorial

So much has been going on in Australian politics in the lead-up to printing this edition of Revive. In a landslide victory, Australia has voted yes in the marriage equality postal survey, and crazy things are happening around our Federal MPs concerning dual citizenship.

But a horror situation is also unfolding on Manus Island.

I’ve struggled to keep up with news on this situation, I think because I feel utterly helpless. But as Revive goes to print, around 600 men have been abandoned by the Australian Government at the Manus Island Detention Centre. They fear for their safety if they leave. Their food, power and water has been cut and I can’t even imagine the mental anguish they must be going through.Continue Reading

Divine Directions: 7 Divine Directions: 7 decisions that will change your life, by Craig Groeschel, Zondervan Publishing

I was invited last year to join a group to preview the new book Divine Directions, by Craig Groeschel. Craig is the founder and Senior Pastor of Life Church, one of the largest churches in the USA and which produced the YouVersion Bible App which has been downloaded over 200 million times.

Craig points out that each decision we make, including some small and trivial choices, can change the complete direction of our life. Using biblical stories and great illustrations, he outlines seven principles for guiding our lives.

He begins with guidelines on how to stop those things which hinder and moves on to show how to start a new habit to redirect
our path.

He helps us understand where we should stay committed to a place or direction, and when we should go forward, even if it seems easier to stay. The book also includes criteria to build confidence in making the right choice, and principles for trusting God with the decisions we make.
This book is available now and is well worth a read.
David de Kock

Elemental, by Amanda Curtin, The University of Western Australia Publishing

My heartstrings were tugged on several occasions reading Elemental by Australian author, Amanda Curtin. This novel was a generous read, spanning 444 pages telling the story of Meggie Duthie Tulloch. Meggie decides to gift her life story in a series of notebooks for her granddaughter, Laura, affectionately known as lambsie, to preserve her memory before she dies.

Her notebooks are named for the elements, ‘Water’, ‘Air’ and ‘Earth’ narrated from Meggie’s perspective in the 1970s, and a coda ‘Fire’ told from Laura’s perspective.

Meggie is the youngest child in a family of fishermen, in Roanhaven, Scotland. You would assume to read about men suffering as fishermen tackling the roaring seas, but instead we are educated with hardships faced                                                      by women of the sea, which I found horrifying.

Women toil from dawn to dusk, sometimes with their salt bitten wounds looking after their men who fish at sea; cleaning their nets, finding bait and even carrying them on their backs from boat to shore so their boots are kept dry.

From an early age Meggie and sister, Kitta are drowned in chores and drilled to believe women must follow in their mother’s footsteps. Meggie rejects this and makes the promise
to herself: ‘I would carry no man on my back.’ Neither would I Meggie!

Things change for Meggie when she lands a job as a herring quine at the age of 14. Though not her dream job, Meggie experiences life outside Roanhaven and thrives on the sense of freedom the job offers. During this time, entersMagnus Tulloch, Meggie’s first love. Meggie and Magnus eventually marry and migrate to Fremantle, WA in hope of a better life.

Thirty years after Meggie’s death, Laura receives her notebooks. Here the book changes voice and pace in the final element, aptly called ‘Fire’ where Laura and her daughter-in-law, Avril, narrate the accounts of son and husband, Cooper, a firefighter burned from rescuing a child. Laura and Avril stay by Cooper’s bedside as they bond over Meggie’s journals.

Out of the elements, ‘Water’ was the focal point in this book. The sea is made to be both the hero and the villain of Meggie’s life. Despite many tribulations and tragedies that strike Meggie and her family, she is proud of the life she has been given, she tells her granddaughter.

Meggie tells her story using Scots, Shetland and Doric words, making her narration poetic and brimming with Scottish authenticity. I found this writing style difficult at first, but Curtin manages to help me value this endearing side to Meggie.

Yes Elemental was a sad and poignant read, but engrossing enough to add to your reading list.
Elsa Samuel