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.
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.
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.
I began 2020 as your Moderator-elect wondering what would unfold during the course of the year and how I might be guided by God to effectively lead this wonderful Church when I assumed office.
When the day of the Opening Worship of the 44th Annual Meeting of the Synod of WA and my Installation arrived on 11 September, the world was a very different place indeed, unlike any other we have experienced in our lifetime.
Rev Steve Francis will step down as Moderator of the Uniting Church WA on Friday 11 September. He reflects on his time in this role over the last six years.
As my time as Moderator is coming to a close, I was asked to write a reflection looking back over the past nearly six years and looking forward into the future.
When I was first elected Moderator at Synod in 2014 someone shook my hand and said “Condolences”. It was like they thought I got the booby prize in a raffle or worse. The experience of being a two term Moderator has had some dark and deep disappointments. There have been moments when I felt something of the pain and struggle of being a church that is in slow decline and in danger of reaching a tipping point when renewal seems almost out of reach.
Rev Steve Francis, Moderator of the Uniting Church WA has shared his Easter message for 2020. Steve reflects on the troubled times we are currently living in, and the hope which the death and resurrection of Jesus brings us.
Watch the video, or read the transcript below.
Many years ago I was invited to speak to a group of students at an art college.
The meeting was arranged by one of the art lecturers who thought art students should be aware of some of the ways Christianity had influenced the arts over many centuries. Most of the students were Marxists, materialists or agnostics. I gave a short address and then engaged in a ‘question time.’ After some vigorous debate I was asked what was core or central to Christian belief and practice. All I could think of was two words “the cross”.
Save the planet’, ‘care for creation’, ‘love the environment’ are some of the slogans we hear as the voice of concern gets louder for our beautiful, yet plundered and polluted planet.
Behind these concerns for our ecology there is a deeper question; is there a purpose, a plan or indeed a mind behind the solar system? Are we just the result of freak accidents of cosmic collisions or is there more?
We live in a time where obsessions abound; fabulous fashion, funky food, fierce football and flourishing finance. We may argue that these obsessions are fairly harmless and mere cultural shifts in an ever changing secular society.
May I invite you to consider another obsession that I think is bringing with it some negative consequences to our quality of life and the common good? I am referring to the current obsession with the body.
When I bought my first car, I was encouraged to do regular checks on key components of the car. Checking the water, oil and tyres is standard practice to maintaining a healthy functioning car.
Just as my car needs regular attention, so do other aspects of my life. I try and go to the doctor and the dentist at regular intervals, so that my physical and dental health is in good shape. In more recent months, I have been thinking about how I check my levels of empathy.