Edited by William W Emilsen and Elizabeth A Watson, MediaCom Education Inc, 2021
If you were asked, ‘What are the distinctive characteristics of the Uniting Church?’ How would you respond?
Twenty young people aged from late teens to mid-40s from around Australia were invited to talk about their experiences growing up in the Uniting Church. These are their stories.
They represent the first two generations who were born into and grew up in the Uniting Church. As a guide, they were provided with some non-obligatory suggestions relating to their experience of church, such as the distinctive characteristics of the Uniting Church, its future, factors that have kept them in the Uniting Church and those that would tempt them to walk away from it. The writers incorporated these in quite different ways. Their stories are a joy to read.
Their experiences have been varied, positive and negative, but throughout their stories are many common markers.
Multiculturalism in the Uniting Church, its covenanting with First Nations people and the courage of the church to speak out publicly on contemporary social and political issues were acknowledged. Detailed comments on mentoring of young people stands out as most important, but declining levels of commitment and support for young people’s ministry is seen as a concern. Continue Reading
Surveillance for Survival, by Henry Houghton and Richard Smith, Green Hill Publishing, 2021
Henry Houghton, past Director of Mapping and Surveys and Surveyor General of Western Australia, and Richard Smith, Earth Systems Scientist, coauthored this copiously illustrated history of satellite imaging and interpretation particularly focussed on Western Australia.
They tell of the early days and development of the science and technology, which is in itself fascinating to science professionals and laypersons alike. ‘Make do’ solutions and interaction between world agencies to make this new 1960’s technology accessible to the public led to expertise in interpreting sometimes obscure data for the benefit of planners, agriculturists, mineral exploration and the general public, spinning off the back of early weather surveillance satellites. This history is recounted in a way to interest both the professional and general reader.
Perhaps the most compelling narrative running through the book is the way economic considerations override the invaluable, but maybe not as easy to quantify in return for dollar, long-term ecological implications of the Earth observations from space. This led to the Leeuwin Centre for Earth Sensing Technologies and other scientifically valuable consortia being closed even with very successful contributions to the science, after relatively short existence (less than 25 years for Leeuwin Centre), and the government of the day having no compunction in deconstructing the satellite imaging centre attached to Department of Land Information. Continue Reading
Inspired by COVID and Inspired by Seniors By Phil Ridden, Edwest Publishing, 2020
I recently read two of the volumes from Dr Phil Ridden’s ‘Reflections on Faith’ series: Inspired by Covid and Inspired by Seniors. Phil is a retired Head Teacher and now works as a consultant and writer, based in Joondalup, Perth WA.
Questions for Faith Seeking Understanding, by William Loader, Cascade Books, 2020
This recently published book was written by William (Bill) Loader, a well-known and respected New Testament scholar. The book is subtitled ‘Questions for Faith Seeking Understanding’, hoping to address how the New Testament should be interpreted.
The book is dedicated to people “who love their faith and want to take it seriously and engage their minds to embrace it.” It comprises of three major sections about faith, hope and love, looking at it from the perspective of love, with Jesus being the main focus throughout.
Faith – what can love believe? Hope – what can love hope for? Love – what can love do?
Any Ordinary Day, written by ABC’s 7.30 news and current affairs host, Leigh Sales, explores blindsides, resilience and what happens after the ‘worst’ day of your life.
Sales gives an honest account of what Juliet Darling, Stuart Diver, Louisa Hope, Walter Mikac, Hannah Richell, James Scott and Michael Spence went through and tries to honour their experiences and the lives of those who were loved and lost.
In Any Ordinary Day, Sales explores with in-depth interviews and extensive research the effect of life-changing events and the strength, hope and humour which assisted ordinary people, on ordinary days, to navigate their way through an extraordinary event. She asks the questions we’re often too afraid to ask, but we all think about.
Some of those interviewed are people of faith and they share how their faith played a role in working through the event. Whether they’re people of faith or not, it’s the resilience and optimism of human nature, as well as those around them, that shines through. Continue Reading
A seeker’s reflections on the rooms of Christian living, by Kevin Treston, Coventry Press, 2019
Kevin Treston, based in Brisbane, has written many books to assist adult faith formation within the Australian Catholic church. This is a short, readable book that is ideal for any Christian discussion group or for individual reflection.
The eleven ‘doors’ are different aspects of Christian living. Each chapter opens with a key question, such as “how does your faith life touch your everyday happenings?” “How might our Christian faith be fully integrated within the whole web of life in the universe?” “What are key issues in Christian moral teachings today?” “How is your membership of the church significant or not significant in your faith life now?” And “How do you see the role of a Christian in the world today?”
Each chapter ends with group conversation starters and is well written and bound to provoke discussion. Indeed, it is amazing how much content is packed into each short chapter. Continue Reading
by Nelson Varcoe, Adelaide Congress Ministry, 2020
Nelson Varcoe remembers his Uncles singing old gospel songs around the camp fires at Point Pearce Mission, Yorke Peninsula, the music echoing across the plains on hot summer nights. As a 12-year-old, he salvaged choke wires from an old Model T-Ford to cobble together his first guitar. “It sounded pretty good,” he says.
Now, after a lifetime of ministry and service, Nelson has published his first collection of 25 original ‘Godinspired’ songs in country-gospel style, dedicated to his mentors: “Aboriginal Christian Pioneers who travelled all across this country on the smell of an oily rag, to bring the gospel to our people.”
Melody lines, guitar chords and full lyrics are included in the book, but the CD brings the songs to life and makes the music accessible to all people, regardless of their musical skills. Nelson’s lyrics arise from a range of faith experiences: a retelling of the story of Nehemiah, or the disciples in a storm, a longing for ‘a Moses-moment’ on the mountain, the reassurance of the ‘Shield [of the] Most High’ for someone running ‘like a rabbit in the field’ or the call to stop and meditate in the quiet beauty of ‘Meroo’.
The title song: ‘Gift of Music’ – a catchy tune like so many of the others – expresses Nelson’s personal joy and gratitude for the gifts God has given. These songs have grown out of Nelson’s ministry as a pastor and chaplain, educator and artist. In the Foreword, his colleague writes, “Nelson has the capacity to tune into what is going on in the atmosphere of a certain event, confrontation or encounter, and to find music and words which somehow embody, enunciate or express the deep things of that moment.” Continue Reading
A Memoir of a body, born again, by Anna McGahan, Bible Society Australia, 2019
Anna McGahan’s book, Metanoia, is a gift to Australia and the Australian church.
The first recorded words of Jesus’ ministry included the command to ‘turn’, ‘change’ or ‘repent’. The Greek noun for this is ‘metanoia’. In her book, Anna tells of her own metanioa – a transformative change of heart. Her story is raw, engaging, exciting, true and above all, real.
Anna tells us how she arrived at “the safest place” and “the most dangerous place” she has ever been. She tells not only of the pain of sickness, loneliness, alienation, relationship breakdowns, missteps and of the right and wrong choices in her life, but also of her story of commitment, empathy, love, and her yearning for, and finding, ‘something more’.
Anna tells of how she eventually heard and responded to the Spirit’s gentle call. Anna learned to trust Jesus, and was, like all of us, loved into the discovery of the peace, joy and hope for which she was made. Continue Reading
The Struggle for Justice: Conversations with John Bottomley about transforming church community services, by Kate Dempsey, Coventry Press 2020
The Uniting Church, according to this book, is both “shrinking and ageing”. The congregational side of it certainly is. But the community services side is expanding. I have argued in my PhD on the Uniting Church’s future that if the Uniting Church’s community services were amalgamated and “quoted” on the Australian Stock Exchange, the new Uniting entity would be one of the exchange’s largest companies. As governments continue to privatise their welfare services, so the Uniting Church will be among the not-for-profits scooping up the additional work. Continue Reading