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

The perfect gift and amazing hope

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. Continue Reading

Moderator’s Column: Looking back, looking forward

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. Continue Reading

Moderator’s column: The cross at the core

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”. Continue Reading

Moderator’s column – A house and a garment: hope for the planet

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? Continue Reading

Moderator’s Column: The body – sacred, soiled and sold

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. Continue Reading

Checking our empathy

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. Continue Reading

The ‘how’ of caring

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In the church, we talk a lot about loving and caring. It is core to the message of the gospel.

God cares, Jesus modelled compassionate care, and we are called to follow his example.

In recent months, after the death of my daughter, I have been reflecting on the care I have received and the carelessness of some forms of caring and non-caring. It seems to be that sometimes when we think we are caring we are in fact bruising people. Caring is an art; let me give a few examples. Continue Reading

Moderator’s column: You will have trouble

The Nobel Peace prize winner Alexandr Solzhenitsyn knew first-hand the harsh realities of suffering.

He spent over ten years imprisoned in a Soviet gulag. It seems that the daily deprivations of prison life were somehow able to stimulate a creative genius in him. His books are now literary classics.  His novel, One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich, the book Solzhenitsyn considered his best, focuses on a prisoner, Shukov. This remarkable man accepted horror, pain and suffering as normative. A  typical day would consist of forced labour, tiny rations and brutal guards, with disease and death never far away. Continue Reading