Rev Dr David Ferguson, Presbytery Officer for the Uniting Church WA, shares some biblical reflections on leadership during times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 outbreak we are currently experiencing.
What does Christmas mean for Christians, or Christ’s ones? Is the celebration of Christ’s birth central to our faith or can we do without it?
Two of our four Gospels do not include the story of Jesus’ birth and Matthew and Luke – which do – tell the story from significantly different perspectives. It seems that the celebration of the birth of Christ in a special day or season only commenced two or three hundred years after the time of Christ and the earliest church.
During September, the Uniting Church WA supports the Season of Creation through Sustainable September. You can get involved by downloading and using resources, available online at ecochurcheswa.net/worship.resources
As one of the Biblical scholars intimately involved in The Earth Bible project, Rev Dr Vicky Balabanski shares her thoughts on Christian faith and its connectedness to all of creation.
One of the great challenges of the work of Uniting Church school chaplains and school principals is to be receptive to God’s Spirit moving in their communities. Our schools are full of the joy of children and the energy of youth. When you meet at a school you can feel the vitality of youth throbbing through the culture of these important places.
However, schools are not only celebrations of youth and places for learning. Clearly, learning is central to the work of schools; however they are also places where the Spirit of God moves among the community. We know God moves ahead of us and that faith and the values of the Gospel are gifts and graces from God (Eph 2: 1 John 4).
I’m not a great one for formulas and creeds when it comes to shaping my Christian faith. Rather, give me a good story, a character, or a song. You know, the concrete stuff of lives lived; that’s where I feel most at home.
Take for instance the eternal Lord God, who may well exist as ‘one being in three persons, the Blessed Trinity’ that our various creeds declare. Who am I after all to argue with centuries of learned debate?
But such a doctrinal formula is almost meaningless to me. What does speak to me though are stories and images: Lady Wisdom calling to me from her door; the creative Spirit hovering over a restless sea; Saul being confronted by a voice and blinding light along the road; the image of a loving father running down another road to embrace me; the jilted lover in Hosea; a potter forming me like clay from Jeremiah; the stern face of the judge separating the sheep from the goats; the playfulness of a child from Proverbs; a pillar of fire and cloud guiding the people; the water of life springing from the rock… Here is God for me, in these and a myriad of other images, parables and songs.
Rev Alison Gilchrist, Presbytery Minister Mission at the Uniting Church WA, is inviting Uniting Churches in WA to turn on a Light in Every Street. LED lights and postcards are available for churches to gift to members of their communities this Christmas. Alison shares her thoughts around what this campaign can offer.
‘Tradition’ has become somewhat of a dirty word in church circles. The last thing most churches want to be recognised as is ‘traditional’.
This understanding, or misunderstanding, has been a thorn in my side as both a church minister and as a missioner, so I have read extensive research and engaged in provocative missional discourse in this area to good avail in terms of church vitality and growth, and seen its beneficial results in many congregations.
What actually comes to mind when folk refer to ‘traditional’ is their particular version of what they like or are accustomed to, and not necessarily the broader or larger Christian tradition, where the neverchanging Gospel has always found a voice in ever-changing cultures. It’s a conversation I’m always up for, but that’s for another day. Suffice to say ‘tradition’ fares far better in other arenas.
Of the many who are investigating the benefits of traditions to promote better emotional adjustment, Dr Steven Wolin, a psychiatrist at the George Washington University, says, “If you grow up in a family with strong rituals, you’re more likely to be resilient as an adult.”
Traditions play an important role in shaping personal identity.
Another researcher, psychologist, Dr Marshal Duke, found those who have an intimate knowledge of their family’s history are typically more well-adjusted and self-confident than children who don’t. There’s something about understanding your past and knowing you belong to something bigger than yourself that instills confidence.
Traditions also have the ability to offer comfort and security providing the
antidote to the harried feeling that comes from our fast-paced and everchanging world. There’s comfort in having some constants in your life.
Traditions impart and reinforce values, as well as adding to the rhythm and seasonality of life, which is composed of cycles big and small. Sunrise and sunset; winter, spring, summer, autumn; Christmas, Easter, Pentecost; and traditions tap into the desire to follow this natural rhythm that is embedded deep within us, but which has been flattened out by a contemporary society that creates its own unremitting 24-hour timetable, concentrating only on the now.
Traditions provide a unique way to connect generations especially in the area of lasting memories. Positive childhood memories help make happier and more generous adults.
Psychologists used to consider nostalgia a sign of depression. Fresh research, however, has shown that reflecting fondly on those things in our ‘nostalgia repository’ actually provides a myriad of positive benefits including counteracting loneliness, boosting generosity towards strangers, and staving off anxiety.
As I said at the outset, tradition has fared well, and proven itself valuable, despite our church based misgivings.
The Church’s DNA includes being a catalyst for positive family and community values, we see it modelled in the New Testament and in our history through the ages.
A Light on Every Street has been developed for us to continue in that great tradition in a small, but not insignificant way, and to share something of the Good News of the hope of our faith, by offering a Christmas gift that has the potential to keep giving as those receiving it frame their own new tradition.
More information and resources for A Light on Every Street are available from
Alison by emailing Alison.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 9260 9800. To read
more visit revivemagazine.org.au/2018/10/31/a-light-on-every-street.