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
Directed by Sean Hanish, 2020, Cannonball Productions
Saint Judy is a film based on real life events of lawyer, Judy Wood, who’s thrown in the deep end in her first immigration law case. Her belief that the truth and doing what’s right can overcome almost insurmountable obstacles to forever change asylum law in the United States of America, as well as the lives of those around her.
Judy represents an Afghani woman, Asefa Ashwari who’s betrayed by her Tribal Leader father, persecuted by the Taliban for ‘Crimes against God.’ She faces the certainty of being murdered by her own brothers in an honour killing if her fight for asylum in the United States is unsuccessful, because she encouraged girls to think for themselves and to get an education by opening a school for girls in her village. Continue Reading
How people of faith must work for change, by Rev Jim Antal, 2018, Rowman and Littlefield
The national synod of the United Church of Christ, USA, passed a motion in 2017 that: “The climate crisis is the opportunity for which the Church was born.”
Jim Antal’s book opens with historian Lynn White’s words from 1967: “More science and technology are not going to get us out of the present ecological crisis until we find a new religion or rethink our old one.” Continue Reading
A Trawloolway man reflects on Christian faith, by Garry Deverell
The Uniting Church has come a long way in its walk with Aboriginal people, but how deeply have we contextualised our theology in the full history of this place called Australia?
What colonial lenses do we still look at God and church through? What have we missed about our understanding of Jesus and the gospel by not fully appreciating Aboriginal perspectives?
These are some of the questions that Garry Worete Deverell, a Trawloolway man from northern Tasmania, has asked in this important contribution, to guide our reflection and practice of what being Christian means in the colonised land of Australia.
Deverell invites us, with a sometimes courageous vulnerability, to consider his own reconciling of Aboriginal spirituality and Christian scripture. He offers both profound insights and confronting challenges. Deverell turns a revealing light not only on our subtle and often unrealised Western dualism that can separate spirit from earth, but also on the reality of doing theology on invaded land. Continue Reading
By Gil Cann, 2018, Albatross Books
‘People don’t need more information, but more affirmation; not more training, but more recognition of the gifts God has already given them. They don’t need to be recruited, but released. They don’t need more courses, but more opportunities for ministry. They need to be valued and appreciated – they need your encouragement and prayer” (pg 121).
Based in Melbourne, Pastor Gil Cann is a frequent preacher and evangelist across Australia, including rural WA and speaking at CampFIRE, an annual camp run by the Pastoral Network of Evangelicals Uniting in Mission Action (PNEUMA).
His exploration of the most pressing issues facing the church and our society are both challenging and encouraging, making this a highly recommended read for anyone who continues to hope, pray and work for a future where the church is relevant and effective. My personal copy of this book is underlined and highlighted throughout, as Gil raises our gaze from the church as an organisation, where we are all about the same thing, to church as an organism – the body of Christ – where the same thing is in us… the Holy Spirit. Continue Reading
2019, a podcast from Social Reinvestment WA
Stories from the Inside is a podcast from Social Reinvestment WA, a coalition of WA organisations, including the Uniting Church WA, working to fix our broken justice system. Each episode features one person’s story from inside that system and how the people around them – their children, partners, parents and siblings – have been affected.
Storytellers are honest and open about their experiences, and not afraid to own up to their own behaviour. The real impact though, is the stories of how they ended up on the journey towards the justice system in the first place. Stories of trauma, violence and neglect.
There’s Tyronne, who grew up in foster homes and when reported sexual abuse was ignored, and was then punished by his abusers. Or Theresa, with almost her entire family spending time in prison. Or Jennifer, whose son was incarcerated for something as simple as unpaid fines.
Hearing Renna’s story in the first episode really made me think about just how terrifying her situation was. Renna was homeless and abusing alcohol. She needed assistance and support, but instead was met with aggression – something she’d come to expect from authorities. Continue Reading
by Dr Alison Atkinson-Phillips, 2019, University of WA Press
I was surprised by this book. I know Atkinson-Phillips’ work from previous associations, so it wasn’t the high quality readability that surprised me. It flows beautifully and carefully.
I also knew it would be compassionate. As she travels to survivor memorials around Australia, Alison records the persons involved with empathy and the aesthetics of each site with sympathy. I often found myself quite moved, not because of any journalistic milking of my sympathy, but in the competent record of the story.
Why was I surprised? I just didn’t think that I would like the book all that much. It is a survey of record and I thought it would be laborious in detail and philosophy. Yes, it records in detail who did what and why, as a good researcher should. Yet it is skilfully framed within a history of memorials.
I half expected that the subject of memorials might be irrelevant to where I am at. However, as the story was placed out and the distinction between memorial and monument emerged more clearly, I found parts of myself. Continue Reading
By Diana Butler-Bass, Harper One 2018.
Reading small chunks of Grateful has been my morning reading for the last month. Gratitude, I learnt, is often missing as a spiritual practice in a selffocused world.
More and more people are finding this experience of God beyond the walls of traditional religious institutions, but often miss the church community itself and its shared spiritual practices such as gratitude. Gratitude can easily get buried in rote liturgy with religious words that have lost their meaning. Many claim gratitude in their daily lives, but Bass finds that claim to be at odds with the discontent that permeates modern society and dominates our political discourse.
This highlighted a gap, she argues, between our desire to be grateful and our ability to behave gratefully—a divide that influences our understanding of morality, worship, and institutional religion itself. In Grateful, Bass challenges readers to think about the impact gratitude has in our spiritual lives, and encourages them to make gratitude a “difficult and much-needed spiritual practice for our personal lives and to inspire us to work together for a better world.” Continue Reading
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