The Elephant in the church, by Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner and Mary Lynn Dell

Elephant in the churchWritten by a pastoral theologian and a psychiatrist, both ordained, this book brings pastoral sensitivity and psychological awareness to factors that can ‘kill ministry’. It is addressed  particularly to ordained ministers; however, it would be useful for anyone in leadership in a congregation, and especially those who are leading congregations without placed ordained  ministers. It explores how congregations often avoid facing difficult aspects of their history or hard decisions about their futures and how leaders might respond.

In this book, “Elephant stands for an obvious truth or issue that is ignored or unnamed, yet is allowed to occupy a large amount of space in the hearts and minds of those who tiptoe  around it.”

The authors point out that finding the elephants is not always as easy as may be imagined – like seeking the cleverly hidden Wally in the Where’s Wally books. Continue Reading

Editorial: Sharing life

How life-giving is the Uniting Church? It’s a pretty big question. I mean, what is a church if it isn’t life-giving?

In a declining church it might be hard for those on the outer to see the life. But for those within it, it can be the source of their joy. As Rev Karyl Davison writes on page 8 of the hard copy of Revive, the church is at its best when it’s  living and serving amongst the community. Rev Bronwyn Elvery writes on page 17 that we are perhaps the most life-giving when we are amongst those “on the discarded edges of community.”

When are we not life-giving? Often we hang onto things by a bare thread because we don’t want to lose the joy in something we once had. But when that something becomes a drain on the church or a congregation, it could be best to let it go. At that time and place, it is no longer life-giving. The joy of letting something go is, it’s likely something amazing will jump up in its place.Continue Reading

Choose life

It seems to me that the notion of some choices being ‘life-giving’ and others being the opposite is pretty well established in our secular context. I have heard the expression used in relation to lifestyle choices  concerning such aspects as diet, recreation, vocation and voluntary service towards others. Sometimes actions can be described as life-giving in the most literal sense, as when someone is rescued or revived  from an accident of some description, or helped to turn back from a path of self-destruction. Here, we do well to remember that many people have been robbed of all that is life-giving by the abusive actions of others towards them. In such circumstances, it may be something as simple as the  unconditional acceptance by another that is life-giving.

Through the gift of faith, and the guidance of scripture, we can learn much about the Christian understanding of what is life-giving. What we find  there is striking affirmation of these understandings that are widespread in the secular context. It is as if, as human beings, we are hard-wired to know what is good. The difference is, of course, that in the Christian understanding the source of life is God and that which is life-giving is that which accords with the kind of life that God intends for us. We find this spelled out in the book of Deuteronomy as Moses  speaks with the Hebrew people about how God expects them to live when they enter the Promised Land. “Choose life”, he concludes, “so that you and your descendants may live ….” (Deuteronomy 30: 19b) Continue Reading

Editorial: Taking action, promoting peace

Last month I participated in Pace e Bene’s week-long interfaith nonviolence course in Melbourne. It was such a huge week for me and helped with the inspiration for the theme for this  Revive. Despite non-violence sounding pretty laid back, action is a huge part of this movement. Non-violence is not about non-confrontation, but about the way we confront. It’s about  taking action in ways that promote peace, both within us and for our wider communities.

A big part of the course was focused on the way we treat ourselves; how can we show love for others if we don’t love ourselves? Continue Reading

Moderator’s column: Prayerful action

The focus for this edition of Revive concerns Action! The Uniting Church in Australia has a strong reputation in the community for action, especially in areas of social justice and  rightly so, although I have the feeling that for many of us a lot of that action is by proxy. On the whole I think we are pleased to see election resources published, wellinformed critique  made of public policy by the President and the occasional public demonstration such as that in which the 13th National Assembly engaged on the steps of Parliament House  in Adelaide nearly two years ago. I think more widespread in the Uniting Church, as far as the practical engagement of members is concerned, is quiet, behind-the-scenes service to  those in need through our many and varied community services.

So why does the church engage in such action? Is it coincidence that those who are committed to church membership are also concerned about the struggles of those who are doing it  tough? Or is there a fundamental connection? I think it is the latter.Continue Reading

Messages from the aether: Time to act!

What are people blogging?

Being in motion vs taking action

It’s a trap we all fall into. The rush of excitement we get when we make the decision that we’re going to take action. We map our course, write lists and think of ways to put our plans  into action. James Clear writes a practical article on the difference between us being in motion to reach our goal vs taking action to actually achieve it.Continue Reading

Lanterns at Dusk: Preaching after Modernity, by Bruce Barber

Lanterns at DuskBruce Barber is a Uniting Church minister and selfconfessed preacher. The title of this book is a reference to Nietzsche’s Parable of the Madman from The Gay Science of 1887 in which  a madman lit a lantern at noon and ran to the marketplace crying that he was looking for God. The parable announces the death of God under the auspices of the Modern age.

Bruce’s  analysis is genealogical in that he traces the changes that have occurred in Christian theology from the early church to the Medieval  to the Modern and, for the lack of a better term, the post-Modern. This does not mean that there are no people who now understand theology in the mode of the preceding eras, but it does point to a succession in which theologies outlast their usefulness. This genealogy of ideas goes some way towards explaining why, in our day of the Modern-post- Modern cusp, preaching has become largely unintelligible and  alienated from general discourse. Continue Reading