Editorial: Symbols of peace

As I write this, my 16-year-old nephew is on the trip of his lifetime (so far) on a school exchange in Japan. It was just over a year ago that my family and I were also holidaying in Japan, having an awesome time.

Japan is truly an amazing place. We went during cherry blossom season and there were trees blooming everywhere. We rode bikes through Kyoto, sang karaoke in Osaka and played video games all day in Tokyo.

We also visited the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima. It was there that I was reminded of the story of Sadako Sasaki, the 12-year-old girl who made over 1 000 origami cranes from her hospital bed. Those cranes are now recognised as an international symbol of peace. Continue Reading

Moderator’s column: When God seems silent

Some years ago I received several prank  calls, the ones where the phone rings and there is no one on the other end.

It was rather unsettling to answer and find silence, when I expected a voice. For some of us, there are times when God appears silent. Maybe we have made an emergency call to God in the form of a desperate prayer and God didn’t seem to answer: we didn’t get the job we hoped for; the health of a loved one did not improve; or the conflict we faced got worse, not better.

In wrestling with God in prayer, we must recognise that God is not a divine Santa Klaus whose main job is to favourably answer all our requests. God is not at our beck and call. Disciples of Christ are invited to serve God and others, rather than behave like religious consumers who think that God should always be serving me.

Sometimes, I think that prayer is paradoxical; God answers prayer and God does not answer prayer. Jesus taught us to have a faith that will move mountains, not just smile at them. In the garden of Gethsemane, perhaps Jesus’ darkest moment before the cross, he agonised about doing God’s will. His trust in God is amazing, he cries out, “Abba Father, all things are possible for you”. Continue Reading

Review: Marathon Wheeler

Marathon Wheeler, by Heather S Coombes, Westbow Press, 2014

Now retired with the leisure of hindsight, Heather Coombes reflects upon her marathon journey in a wheelchair for the purpose of enriching life for those obliged to follow a similar rocky path.  Born with cerebral palsy, Coombes traces her family background to acknowledge the strength and inspiration she has received from the family into which she was born.

The author reflects on her adolescent turmoils in the years of her childhood and adolescence. Despite her father being the parish minister, her teenage thoughts were her own as she tried to make sense of being born into a body with physical disadvantages. Continue Reading

Review: Never again

Never Again: Reflections on environmental responsibility after Roe 8, edited by Andrea Gaynor, Peter Newman and Philip Jennings. UWA Publishing, 2018

The Roe 8 Highway extension and the related Perth Freight Link was a hugely contentious public issue in the lead-up to the 2017 WA State election. Never Again outlines, purely from the perspective of the project’s detractors, the reasons why they believe it should never have happened and, as the title suggests, why it should never happen  again.

Whilst it is narrowly focussed on the Roe 8 project, the implications of the discussion broaden its scope. Significant questions (and solutions) are raised about the state of our democratic  processes, transport planning, environmental protection and respect for Aboriginal culture and heritage. Some of the chapters, contributed by an impressive array of leading academics, give serious pause for thought across all of these issues. There is also an account of activist strategies, legal proceedings and citizen wildlife monitoring revealing how politicised the project became.Continue Reading

Editorial: 15th Triennial Assembly

With the 15th Triennial Assembly Meeting of the Uniting Church recently held in Melbourne, this edition is jam-packed with news from the event. I didn’t attend myself, but as I watched along from home here in Perth I could see there was plenty of passion for the church in that meeting room.

Big news coming from the meeting which has gained a lot of attention is that Uniting Church ministers will be able to marry couples of the same gender if they wish to. Whatever your opinion on the issue, I think we can all agree that the Uniting Church has made history in Australia. Continue Reading

Unity of the Spirit

Most of us have probably had the experience of going through the security checks before boarding an aircraft. The routine goes something like, keys and coins out of pockets, belts off, laptop out of bag and all items placed in trays before they are x-rayed for any security risks.

I was recently at an airport going through this routine when out of the blue a security man looked at me and said, “What is the Uniting Church’s view on homosexuality and what is your personal view?”

He caught me completely off guard. Not wanting to hold up the queue or totally avoid the question, I said something like, “We are engaged in respectful conversations about this sensitive issue, and at this moment, I am not prepared to share with you my personal view.” Continue Reading

Review: Joy Interrupted: A memoir of depression and prayer

by Geoffrey Lilburne, Garratt Publishing, 2018

Statistics say about one in eight men and one in six women in Australia experience depression at any one time, and this number rises in older people. Yet, many sufferers feel shame, even in the church.

The stigma about depression in the wider community is also present in the Christian community. This ought not to be. Depression exists and people live with it, still having full and accomplished lives.

In his book, Geoffrey Lilburne shares his story of depression and how he has managed as a Christian. Geoffrey frames his discussion in the context of faith and shapes his reflections using Psalms. Many Psalms allow a person suffering from depression to find, in Scripture, familiar feelings and thoughts. Continue Reading

Review: The Good Place

The Good Place, season one (2016) and two (2018) streaming now on Netflix

I started to watch The Good Place while wanting something light and fluffy to watch in the evenings which I didn’t have to think about too much. From its bright and happy promo pictures I honestly thought it would be just another over-the-top American sitcom.

Oh how I was wrong.

The Good Place, starring Kristin Bell and Ted Danson is not only hilarious, its twists and turns are completely unexpected. The show centres around main character, Eleanor Shellstrop who finds herself in ‘The Good Place’ after her unexpected death on Earth. However, she fairly quickly realises there’s been a case of mistaken identity and that she should actually be in ‘The Bad Place.’ Of course she makes a number of friends along the way, all with their own back stories, and hilarity ensues. Continue Reading