Review: Summer in the Forest

Directed by Randall Wright, Heritage Films, 2018

This review was published in the April 2019 hardcopy edition of Revive. Sadly, Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, passed away yesterday. We keep all those who knew and loved him in our thoughts.

In this heartfelt documentary, we are invited to spend time in a L’Arche community. This film is not so much the life story of Jean Vanier, but a peek into his everyday life and the community he founded.

The L’Arche community was founded in France in 1964 and aimed to do away with institutions for people living with disability and build life together instead. People with varying levels of ability live together in community, sharing day-to-day activities and becoming friends – equals – rather than residents and staff.

After visiting an institution for people living with disabilities in 1963 France, Jean was deeply affected by the suffering of those who lived there. He left his job teaching at the University of Toronto and moved to France to live with the people he met, helping to revolutionise the care system in the western world.

The violence, he says, was hard at first, but over time it became a place of peace. 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

Policy change cut Ministers’ retirement incomes

“I remember being taught that if you did something wrong, you should admit it and try to make it right again,” says Rev Neil Wilkinson. “But will politicians follow this rule?”

Neil is referring to the unfair treatment of Uniting Church Ministers whose retirement incomes were slashed by Scott Morrison as Minister for Social Services in the Abbott government in 2015.  The move was touted as reining in “public service fat-cats” who enjoyed generous superannuation as well as some aged pension. The policy change affected the way in which ‘defined benefit’ superannuation pensions were assessed for Centrelink purposes.Continue Reading

Life is sacred, be it short or long

Living can be a full time preoccupation these days.

Alex is anxious about the kids’ lunches, torn school uniform and the rash on the cat. Teenage Roy is torn between sporting practice, hanging out with mates and updating his new My e-Health Record. Jace is juggling part-time jobs with uni studies and keeping up with friends.

Elena and Jorge are busy juggling work rosters (one FIFO), paying off the mortgage, keeping up with a parent in hospital and finishing off a gardening project. Laurie is battling telecommunication hiccups between his new NBN connection and an ageing computer that keeps hanging – whilst trying to juggle medical appointments and an aching body. Continue Reading

Review: Outspoken: The life and work of the man behind those signs

By Father Rod Bower, Penguin Books, 2018.

Born to a young unmarried mother through to his adoption, Father Rod Bower shares his struggles to establish his identity in the midst of bullying and his stepfather’s early death. He finds acceptance within Anglo-Catholicism, eventually going to seminary, ordination and appointment to the Gosford Parish with a deep passion for social justice.

His theology of billboard signs reveals a deep empathy for Jesus’ mission to the marginalised which in the modern context involves challenging attitudes towards ‘illegal’ asylum seekers, Islam, LGBTQ and climate change. Fr Rod Bower demonstrates how billboards gives the church a platform for sharing the Gospel in the public square, exposing the ethical failings of Parliament. Continue Reading

Review: Burke and Wills: The triumph and tragedy of Australia’s most famous explorers

By Peter FitzSimons, Hatchette Australia, 2018

When the Murray-Darling River system is news, raising questions about how well we know our own environment, Peter FitzSimons’ Burke and Wills has particular relevance. FitzSimons tells of their expedition from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1860–1861. He makes it possible to have an empathetic response to the participants, with their strengths and weaknesses, hubris and  blindness.

Australia is a very urbanised nation, despite traditions about the ‘bush’. Part of the romance of the bush is that others go there and we did not have to learn the hard lessons about the  environment they faced. Europeans also mostly had closed minds to what Indigenous Australians could teach them. It remains so.

Given the jealousies and characters of the participants, it is amazing that the expedition managed to achieve its goal. The party had separated and established a base camp at Cooper’s Creek, so a  smaller group could travel faster and reach the goal. It was tragic to miss the rendezvous (by hours) which led to the deaths of Burke and Wills. They were so close. 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

Editorial: Have your say!

As some of our readers may already know, there have been many changes in staffing at the Uniting Church Centre over the last few months, with a number of redundancies.

The Media and Communications Team will, sadly, farewell Andy Reavell as our Production Officer at the end of April. Andy has been working at the Uniting Church WA for more than ten years and has been instrumental in the production of Revive, as well as loads of other Uniting Church WA publications and design work. Continue Reading