Seeing, naming and participating: the work of school leaders

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). Continue Reading

A story that unites

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. Continue Reading

A Light on Every Street

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.gilchrist@wa.uca.org.au or call 9260 9800. To read
more visit revivemagazine.org.au/2018/10/31/a-light-on-every-street.

15th Assembly theme: Abundant Grace, Liberating Hope

Newly installed President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Dr Deidre Palmer, outlines why she chose ‘Abundant Grace, Liberating Hope’ to be the 15th Triennial Assembly theme.

As the Uniting Church we have been greatly blessed by the abundant grace of God, calling us into being and shaping our life and mission.

For the 15th Triennial Assembly and the following three years, this theme, ‘Abundant Grace, Liberating Hope’ invites us to live by God’s abundant grace – reflecting God’s generous and overflowing love, in our relationships with one another, in our local community contexts and in our relationships in the wider world.

In a time where we could focus on scarcity – fewer people and less financial resources, God’s gift of abundant grace calls us to be a people who share our gifts, resources, time and energy generously. In a time where our world is overshadowed by violence, hatred and suspicion of the other, the church is called to live an alternative narrative of hope, reconciliation and love.Continue Reading

And God saw it was good…

At the very beginning of our scripture, we find God creating a world that is ‘very good’. It is clear from the first chapter of Genesis that God created a world for humans, plants and animals alike. God saw to it that all the creatures and human beings were provided for, with the human being charged with being a steward of God’s good creation. This is particularly clear in Genesis 1–2.

Keeping the creation as ‘good’ can be reasonably interpreted as not poisoning or polluting it, as giving due care to the natural needs of domestic food animals, and as preserving the habitat of wild animals. This is further reinforced in Genesis 8, where God makes the same covenant with animals as humans, promising never to destroy the earth again.

It is a sad truth that in our modern, civilised world, we have not kept the creation good. We have allowed synthetic created chemicals to poison our air and our waterways; we have destroyed natural habitats so animal and plant species face extinction; Indigenous peoples have been driven off their land to satisfy large corporations requiring mono crops and oil supplies; and we have allowed the over-fishing of many species. Continue Reading

Did Jesus survive Easter?

Of course he did! Easter celebrates the faith of the first disciples that Jesus’ death was not the end. God raised him to new life.

He did not survive in the sense of not really dying. For he died in one of the bloodiest ways possible, executed on a cross: dead for all to see. When, as the earliest records tell us, Peter reported that Jesus appeared to him in Galilee, despair turned to hope, disappointment to joy. It generated stories and experiences.

It was not that Jesus was to be found wandering around Galilee or Judea in flesh and blood. Rather they spoke of Jesus appearing and disappearing, clearly understanding his resurrection as like the spiritual resurrections expected at the climax of history.

But what did it mean that God raised Jesus from the dead? Continue Reading