Future church begins with God

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Rev Steve Francis, moderator of the Uniting Church WA, and Rev David Kriel mission planner at the Uniting Church WA, recently travelled to Cape Town, South Africa, for the International Fresh Expressions Conference. Steve shares his reflections with Revive.

You have probably heard it all before; declining aged congregations, faithful people, financial struggles, a lessening capacity to give, tired building, green shoots of new life, signs of decay, and glimpses of hope. Too often the church in Australia is a good news/bad news story without any real focus on the future and where God may be leading us.

How stimulating to go to a conference where the focus is on the future church. A conference that gets is cues not from the traditional patterns of the past, but from the new things that God is doing. Rev David Kriel, mission planner for the Uniting Church WA, and I were extraordinarily privileged to attend the third International Fresh Expressions Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, recently.

Before I go much further, I need to clearly state what ‘Fresh Expressions’ is – and what it is not. It is not ‘out with the old and in with the new.’ Every church, whether it is traditional or contemporary, meets in a cathedral or a warehouse, is called to be missional. Our music may be as far apart as Gregorian chants is from Hillsong, our preaching may be diverse in theological content, our clergy may dress in gowns or in denim. Styles and patterns of church vary greatly. God can use all kinds of churches to be beacons of light and conveyers of the Kingdom.Continue Reading

Church partnerships making a difference in Fiji

My husband, John, and I recently went to Fiji to see the partnership at work between the Uniting Church in Australia – through UnitingWorld – and the Methodist Church in Fiji. We travelled with two families from NSW; making a party of 12, with six adults and six young people aged between 12–19. We were very ably led by our team Leader, Megan Calcaterra, UnitingWorld’s projects and administration officer.

Whilst there we met with the president of the Methodist Church of Fiji, Rev Dr Tevita Banivanua and the general secretary, Rev Epineri Vakadenavosa, who spoke about the new changes and challenges within Fiji. The church has a new Constitution, and a new Code of Conduct to be implemented in 2016, and the changes to the logo are more in keeping with their ‘New Exodus’ theme as they move forward.

Due to the disruptions of Military Coups, there were no Conferences – their annual gatherings – allowed to be held in 2009, 2010 or 2011. Succeeding Conferences were of shortened duration, but now with a more stable Government, there is a strong emphasis on appropriate change as they look to the future. There is also a conscious effort to increase the involvement and training of women for and in ministry.

At Davuilevu Theological College we met the principal, Rev Anil Reuben, who is the first Fijian of Indian decent to be elected to that position. The college has one Bachelor of Divinity class and three Diploma of Theology classes and we were told that they can only take 25 new students each year, sometimes from 200 applicants.Continue Reading

Seeing with new eyes from the holy land

During Advent, a group of young adult Christians from Perth became pilgrims in the holy land. A month after their return, they gathered to reunite, filling the room with reflection and laughter as they shared stories, experiences, memories and photos from the trip.

The pilgrimage was led by Rev Dr Ian Robinson, chaplain at the University of Western Australia, and a group of volunteers, and was organised in partnership with Christian Pilgrimage – a Perth based organisation offering Christian pilgrimages in the holy land throughout the year.

The young adults, from a range of churches around Perth, including Carey Baptist Church, Nedlands Uniting Church and Uniting Church in the City, visited a range of ancient and holy sites as well  as experiencing life in modern Middle Eastern cities such as Amman in Jordan and Israel’s Jerusalem. They visited churches covered in ancient mosaics, also spending time at a mosaic workshop, learning about a program which gave employment opportunities to people who may not otherwise be able to find employment. They explored the ancient city of Petra, walking around and inside houses painstakingly carved into rocks thousands of years ago, and went four-wheel driving through the Jordanian desert.Continue Reading

Travelling the journey

My wife, Kay, and I recently travelled to the Kimberley with our friends, Howard and Carol. Howard, a retired Anglican priest, served with me as an Army Reserve Chaplain. As we each drove around in our Nissan Patrols, we jokingly referred to ourselves as ‘Padres in Patrols.’

My expectation of the trip was that we would enjoy camping and visit the many wonderful sights the Kimberly has to offer. I was surprised, however, by the great conversations we had with people we met on the way.

A major part of our journey included the Gibb River Road, notorious for its roughness and toughness on vehicles. Both of us managed to shred tyres and damage rims. After my first tyre damage experience, and knowing that I was only half way along the road, I was slightly anxious.Continue Reading

Spiritual pilgrimage growing students

Three brave Methodist Ladies’ College (MLC) students and a group of teachers embarked on a journey of strength, spirituality and community building in September, as they took part in the Camino alvado Pilgrimage. The pilgrimage begins at St Joseph’s Church in Subiaco and ends in New Norcia, and exists in the spirit of the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage through Spain and France.

Rev Hollis Wilson, a Uniting Church chaplain at MLC, with the help of a few teachers, led the pilgrimage, which required participants to walk for 20kms a day before being picked up and taken back to camp at Swanleigh, in the Swan Valley. Each morning they would drive to the starting point of the next 20km section, walking from about 9.30am–3.30pm for five days, before arriving at New Norcia.

The surroundings provided a great space for the students to engage with each other, their teachers and their spirituality. Continue Reading

Exchange of hope in Tanah Papua

“We cannot forget the value of this program for both the Australian and Papuan communities involved,” Rev Brian Thorpe, minister at the Scarborough and Waterman’s Bay Uniting Churches reflected as he sat waiting for his plane back to Perth. “It truly is an exchange program through which everyone benefits.”

Brian is a member of the Black Pearl Network, a multi-congregation network of the Uniting Church WA dedicated to supporting the work of our church partners in Papua. He recently returned from a trip to Tanah Papua, the eastern most province of Indonesia, along with Kerry Povey from Trinity North Uniting Church, Lee-Anne Burnett from All Saints Floreat Uniting Church and myself, justice and mission officer for the Uniting Church WA.

The beautiful and sometimes troubled province often referred to as ‘West Papua’ has become lodged firmly in the hearts of this small, but dedicated group. Through the Black Pearl Network (a name given to the group by the Papuans they work with), the Uniting Church WA supports a number of projects run by our partner church, Gereja Kristen Injili Indonesia (GKI). This trip was yet another chance to strengthen these relationships and continue the mutual learning the partnership provides.Continue Reading

GKPB: nurturing in faith

I recently returned from my third visit to the Gereja Kristen Protestant Bali, the Protestant Church of Bali (GKPB). During these trips, and with visitors from Bali coming to Perth for short and  long-term stays, I have made many friends. It was wonderful to catch up with them and to make new ones.

My latest visit was as chairperson of the WA Uniting Church Adult Fellowship (UCAF), with Jane Robertson, our WA UCAF Secretary. We enjoyed an itinerary prepared by Dr Debora Murtha,  chairperson of the GKPB Women’s Fellowship.

We all know Bali as a popular tourist destination for Australians; luxury relaxation is available at bargain prices and airfares are more affordable than to Sydney. Balinese people are graceful and  gracious, welcoming and courteous. Balinese markets are fun, beaches are beautiful and scenery is sensational. Happy hour lasts for hours and mocktails and cocktails are cheaper than at home.  Balinese lifestyle seems to flow like the traffic – without haste or jostle, with conventions for rightof- way and give-way gently absorbed with the culture.

Balinese society has many faith traditions and religious observances are visible everywhere. Festivals are frequent and acceptable; some businesses closing and others opening on various days of  the week, or weeks of the year, and everyone manages without inconvenience. It is not uncommon to see Christians setting off every evening for Bible study, Buddhists meditating in parks during the morning, or Muslims praying throughout the day on street verges. The predominant religion of Indonesia is Islam. However, in Bali, the majority of the population is Hindu. It is delightful to  see the Hindu flower and food offerings freshly placed each morning on doorsteps or footpaths, and Hindu sculptures occupy privileged positions at gateways, on pedestals, and even in the centre   of road intersections. Daily Hindu rituals demonstrate dedicated devotional time spent morning and night to thank the good spirits and conciliate the bad spirits. Continue Reading

Emerging faith leaders calling for action on climate change

Jessica Morethorpe, First Third specialist for the Metro West Region of the Uniting Church in WA, recently travelled to Rome to join hundreds of other faith leaders in thanking Pope Francis for  his encyclical, Laudato Si’. She shares her experience with Revive.

We came from all over the world, from many faiths and many countries, but with one cause and one message: we need to act on climate change. We came to thank Pope Francis for taking leadership in this area by releasing Laudato Si’ (his teaching letter on care for our common home – the Earth), and to ask world leaders to prepare to take action at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s supreme decision-making body, COP climate negotiations to be held in Paris in December. We brought our stories of the effects of climate change we are already experiencing in our countries, and our hopes and dreams for a better future for ourselves and our children than currently seems possible.

We had come to Rome for the Emerging Leaders Multi-Faith Climate Convergence (ELMCC), a meeting of about 100 delegates chosen from over 400 applications worldwide to discuss the climate  crisis and what we can do together to create change. To launch the convergence, on 28 June we joined about 5000 people to march from Piazza Farnese to St Peter’s Square, with a range of signs  and artistic symbols telling a story of what needs to happen. We also handed out large leaves with quotes from major faith leaders about climate change on them. They were so popular the whole  square turned green for the Pope’s weekly message. Continue Reading

Papuan students experience WA’s wheatbelt

Eleven students who took part in the Australian Papuan Cultural Exchange Program, hosted at All Saints Floreat Uniting Church, took a weekend away from their studies to travel up to the northern wheatbelt town of Coorow in March and experience some of Australia’s rural lifestyle. The program hosts students from West Papua in Perth while they build up their English skills.

Inez Davies, a member of Coorow All Saints Uniting Church, learnt about the program whilst attending a Summer Spirit event years ago in Perth. The Coorow congregation, a joint Anglican and  Uniting Church, have followed its progress and offered support – this year by hosting the group in their home town for some time out from their busy schedule. The students arrived for  lunch on Saturday 29 March at Inez’s farm, followed by a drive around the property to see some of their crops. Dinner was provided in town by the congregation before an evening of music and  joy.

“We were all just sitting around talking and they all burst into song,” said Inez. “My son took his guitar and he yodelled for them and they were absolutely ecstatic.” Continue Reading

Pilgrimage of a lifetime

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In November and December this year, a group of twenty Christian young adults will travel to the Holy Land on an adventure and spiritual journey like no other – and you could be part of it. For  two weeks the group will be visiting historical and biblical sites, and will return home forever changed by the experience.

The Young Adult Pilgrimage to the Holy Land will be jointly led by Rev Dr Ian Robinson, chaplain at the University of Western Australia (UWA) and spiritual retreat leader; Rick Morrell, First  Third co-ordinator at the Uniting Church in WA; and Rev Dr Emanuel Audisho, multicultural ministry co-ordinator at the Uniting Church in WA; with the help of John Snobar from Christian Pilgrimage Inc.

Beginning in Jordan, the pilgrimage will travel through Israel and Palestine, touring ancient cities and visiting significant sites such as where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, where Jesus met  the woman at the well, and Capernaum, where Jesus based his public ministry. Along the way, the group will be meeting a range of people, from locals to fellow pilgrims, and encounter new  cultures and languages.

Ian Robinson has been on such a pilgrimage five times, and is excited to share the experience with a new group of young Christians. He believes the trip will be a life  changing experience for those who are up for it. Continue Reading