MED Project: it changed our worlds

Two years ago, Rowan and Jenny Berger set off to Vanuatu to work in the local medical industry. Jenny is a registered nurse, Rowan a paramedic. Revive reported about their plans with MED  Project prior to their leaving, in June 2015.

The couple had originally planned to stay in Vanuatu for a year, but after receiving amazing support from individuals and churches they were able to stay 18 months, plus donate remaining funds to two local community projects: a domestic violence centre and a youth centre with a free sexual health clinic. A large proportion of funds raised was thanks to their own church, Victoria Park and Districts Star St Uniting Church, who put in a major effort for the entire 18 months, led by congregation member Dianne May.

Rowan and Jenny agreed that being able to spend an extra six months on the island was a great help, as it took around that same amount of time to settle in. Continue Reading

Unearthing gold and God in the west

A recent advertisement in a church newsletter for free accommodation in return for providing Sunday services sparked an adventure from Queensland to regional WA. Ruth Duncan reflects on her experiences moving westward and how she struck gold in the faith community.

A small advertisement in a newsletter from the Uniting Church Queensland late last year popped up the day after hearing my last lecture in New Testament within the Lay Preacher’s course at Trinity College Queensland. The ad offered free accommodation in Kalgoorlie in return for providing Sunday services. What a great opportunity to see a different part of Australia and practise  what I’d been learning over the course.

Among the jaw-dropping from my local congregation members, they managed to ask questions like, “Where will you stay?” and “What is the congregation like?”

To these questions and more, including those that were in my mind, I had to say, “I don’t know.” I just heard the voice of God saying, “Come and see.” Continue Reading

Experiencing Perth through the eyes of Mowanjum’s youth

The January school holidays were a special time for 16 students from Derby District High School who spent 11 glorious days in sunny Perth. The students were members of the remote, Indigenous community of Mowanjum.

This is the fourth time Derby students have travelled from the West Kimberly to Perth to experience a different way of life, away from the bush. Their journey to Perth is a long one – 4 500km on a bus with several stops, which included an overnight stay at Port Hedland Uniting Church and Karalundi School in Meekatharra, before reaching their destination: Ern Halliday campsite at  Hillarys, Perth.

The excursion was hosted by the Boab Network based at All Saints Floreat Uniting Church, which have been running school holiday programs in Mowanjum for 10 years. There are many reasons  why the trip is important for Mowanjum. Continue Reading

The presence of Christ in the Middle East

A delegation of Uniting Church leaders travelled to Lebanon in January with the aim of building relationships with churches in the region.

The delegation included Stuart McMillan, president of the Uniting Church in Australia, Rob Floyd, national director of UnitingWorld, and three Uniting Church ministers from the Middle East,  including Rev Dr Emanuel Audisho, multicultural ministry co-ordinator for the Uniting Church WA.

The group met with the leaders of the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East, the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon and the National Evangelical Church of  Beirut. They also visited a range of historical sites, including one of the ancient jars from the biblical story of the Wedding at Cana (John 2) and one of the earliest memorial sites of the Armenian  Genocide in Antelias.

While in Lebanon, the group also spent some time at Fondation le Grain de Ble, a program for local refugee children which provides camps, clubs, sport, literature, games and entertainment for  refugee children in Lebanon, with an aim to share God’s love. Continue Reading

Reflections on Micah

The annual Micah Australia Voices for Justice Conference provides an opportunity for people to engage on justice issues with politicians in Canberra, from a Christian context.

Attendees from Christian communities all over the country participated in the conference, held in November last year. In our nation’s capital they were invited to pray, worship and speak up to influence our Parliament to work towards achieving goals in the direction of Australia becoming a better global neighbour.

The three-day event included advocacy training, lobby groups, Biblical teaching, worship and prayer, meetings with politicians in Parliament House, practical workshops and kids and youth programs.Continue Reading

Russia with love

In the last week of September a very special event took place in Moscow. For the very first time, a hundred scholars came together in Russia to focus on the New Testament and its meaning for faith.

The largest contingent came from Russia itself, predominantly from the mighty Russian Orthodox Church. Alongside them were Orthodox scholars from a range of Eastern European countries, including Greece, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Belarus, Ukraine, as well as Catholic and Protestant scholars from Finland, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Britain, USA, and Australia.

I made the journey from afar as secretary for International Initiatives of the Society for New Testament Studies, working with its Eastern European Liaison Committee. The Society was able to win the support of Metropolitan Hilarion for the event, who generously hosted us on behalf of the Russian church.

This was a major development in the opening up of the discussion of how New Testament scholarship relates to faith. Some whose faith is nurtured and sustained by the ancient Orthodox liturgical tradition have been reluctant to look beyond it to the world of New Testament scholarship; to ask questions about history and identify diversity, as well as unity among the New Testament writings might undermine faith. We know such fear also from western fundamentalism.Continue Reading

Parables from the edge

Port Hedland looks like a dot on the north-western edge of this large red country. I arrived there with no answers for Port Hedland and my questions were a jumble. In my backpack was the poster I had made to  remind me of why I had come: “Go, not to collect experiences, but to be transformed.”

I was sent to Port Hedland for a supervised rural placement from mid-July to early August, the best time in the year because that was when it was cool. Eight months of the year, temperatures soar, starting from 38 degrees. The harsh environment has been said to draw more than the average share of misfits, mercenaries, mavericks and missionaries – people who were running away from something or someone, debts, crime  and failed relationships.

It was as I expected: Martian landscape, remote, sparsely populated and industrial.

What caught me by surprise was its strange beauty, an immense, seemingly empty space, suffused with untamed, quiet power. At the beach at Cooke Point one morning, the moist sand bore the contours of the  waves. The sky sent an echo in scallops of white cloud. At my feet, shallow streams of water gargled softly. I could have just walked across the water to the next little patch of sand, but didn’t – rather, couldn’t. Almost shouldn’t. Continue Reading

Honouring our diversity

Every two years Uniting Network Australia (UNA) hosts a national conference, commonly known as ‘Daring’.

UNA is the national network for lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and transgender people, their families, friends and supporters within the Uniting Church in Australia. The theme for this year’s event in Melbourne was ‘Daring to Reach Out – Honouring Our Diversity’.

‘Daring’ may seem like a funny name for a church conference, but it comes from a time when it was not particularly safe to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, intersex and queer – (LGBTIQ) people in the church, or society for that matter.

The first conference ‘Daring to speak – Daring to listen’ in 1994 was an important moment, a safe space created to discuss faith and sexuality, and to network and support each other in life and ministry. Since that first Daring, people connected to UNA have continued to gather every two years for much the same purpose.

This year’s conference, held from 10–13 June in Melbourne, aimed to hear from diverse voices from a range of cultural and faith backgrounds. We learned about different understandings of family and kinship. We heard the experiences of people from multicultural and cross cultural networks in understanding and connecting with people of diverse sexualities and the importance of a theology of hospitality in understanding and working through our differences.Continue Reading

Standing on holy ground

Rev Eira Clapton recently visited Sri Lanka with UnitingWorld staff, to see the work of the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka, which is supported by a partnership with the Uniting Church WA. She shares stories from her trip with Revive. 

I start a new notebook for this Sri Lanka trip, because a pen and paper are quickly accessible when you want to make notes in a foreign country. On the title page I write the words: “What if we were standing on holy ground?”

Holy ground is difficult to get to. For us it involves a very early start. At 3.51am, I climb into a small bus and we set off on crowded roads out of Colombo to the more remote north-east of the country. These are the areas which have been devastated by the double disaster of civil war and tsunami. There are fewer people to do the work in these areas – many of the young were killed in the war or the disaster, or left disabled by them. The roads are poor so the villages are hard to get to, isolated from each other and from government services. The bus rollicks over dry creek beds and picks its way at a snail’s pace around deep potholes.Continue Reading

Black Pearls shine brightly in dark times

The Uniting Church WA Black Pearl Network has just returned from another fascinating trip to the land of Papua, a place of both hopeful and troubling developments. Geoff Bice, justice and mission consultant at the Uniting Church WA recently traveled to West Papua with the Black Pearl Network. He reflects on his journey.

Whenever we say we are going to West Papua, people often think we mean Papua New Guinea (PNG), but we don’t. It’s close in a number of ways, but an entirely different place. It’s on the same landmass, its people are of a shared ethnicity, and it’s roughly equivalent in size to PNG; but it lies within the borders of Indonesia.

Whenever we go we do so at the invitation of our partner church – Gereja Kristen Injili Indonesia (GKI) di Tanah Papua – an amazingly courageous and gentle collection of Christians who are always wonderfully friendly and hospitable to us.

Whenever we come back we are always a little bit different. In a good way.

As always, it was a delight to meet with previous students from the Australia Papua Cultural Exchange Program (APCEP). We are always sure to take up a selection of children’s English books for them to use in running their own English classes with other young Papuans. It is so encouraging to see our small contribution multiplied by the students as they pass on their knowledge to others in their community.Continue Reading