Carols for Climate Action – Perth faith groups join criticism of new gas projects.

Members of the WA chapter of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) gathered outside the Wesley Uniting Church in the City on Friday 17 December 2021 to sing reworded Christmas carols to highlight the need for stronger climate action.

Geoffrey Bice, President of ARRCC WA said people were keen to get creative with the words of well-known carols as a fun way to make an important point.

“While we may be singing some light-hearted carols today, we hold deep concerns about the lack of action in WA to prevent the worst climate impacts.

“WA has major expansions of the gas industry on the cards, while at the same time the International Energy Agency this year called for no “new fossil fuel supply projects” and the IPCC modelling requires an immediate decline in the use of gas to keep within a 1.5 °C temperature rise.

“How then is it morally responsible to forge ahead with expansions of the gas industry? When will the WA Government draw the line and stop approving new fossil fuel developments?”

The Uniting Church have always held particular concerns about the most vulnerable in the community as well as minimising impacts on the environment.

Susy Thomas, Moderator of the Uniting Church WA said, “How can we justify to our children, to the people of the Pacific, to the vulnerable in our community who will continue to suffer through heatwaves and other weather extremes, that it is morally ok to expand a practice we know is going to cause harm?”

Ann Zubrick, Presiding Clerk of Quakers Australia, said that, “Perth plays host to head offices for some of the biggest polluters in the country. It is disturbing to us and to many Western Australians that, on the back of international climate talks, Woodside have announced their plans to open a huge new gas field.”

The group said they were encouraged by the recent news that the WA Government are soon to set 2030 targets for its own activities, particularly in relation to emissions from the South West Grid. However, the group fears that any gains made in reducing emissions will be simultaneously undermined if approval is also given to open new fossil fuel developments like Woodside’s Scarborough gas proposal.

Ann Zubrick said, “We are here today to show that people of all stripes in our community take the climate crisis really seriously. We are representatives from diverse faith groups and we, along with many Western Australians, want to see our state become a global leader in renewable energy, not a laggard of fossil fuel expansion.

“We have already seen with fires and floods what happens when the science of climate change is not heeded.”

“By contrast, we’ve seen during this pandemic that good outcomes are achieved when scientific advice is followed, but when governments do the wrong thing it’s the poor who are hurt the most.”

Geoffrey Bice

5 minutes with… Rev Dr Andrew Williams

Rev Dr Andrew Williams will be the new General Secretary of the Uniting Church WA, beginning his role on 1 January 2022. From his current role as General Secretary of the Northern Synod, he spends 5 minutes with Revive to introduce himself.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about ministry – I have been in ministry all my adult life and it has been the driving force and constant reference point that I can hold on to. Also, I like riding my bike. It has been a good day when I ride my bike and at the moment that is far too infrequent.

Who do you look up to?   

I would name St Francis of Assisi as top of the list; he is a constant source of inspiration. It was a high point in life to visit Assisi a few years ago.

Second would be Desmond Tutu. I first encountered him in 1987 at a NCYC (National Christian Youth Convention) in Ballarat. I was left with the impression that being a minister was a good life choice. Every subsequent meeting with him has left me equally inspired.

How would you describe your journey in ministry?

Convoluted is the first word that comes to mind! WA will be the fourth Synod I’ve worked in, as well as two stints in overseas roles. I often say I could not have written the script of my life that worked out this way. Local church ministry, Synod roles, General Secretary roles and overseas mission engagement work – it has been varied to say the least. I have seen the world, and I have always had the feeling that one role has led on to the next and I could build on experiences learned.

What are your hopes for your time as General Secretary for the Uniting Church WA?

This is the hardest question. I will need to get to know the Synod and earn people’s trust. Our moment in the church is difficult on many fronts – a reality which has been brought home to me as I have undertaken the interim General Secretary role here in the Northern Synod. I hope that the church can reclaim some boldness rather than stagnating or merely marking time.

That will need courage. I hope to find a courageous, risk-taking church in WA.

Maid

Netflix’s ten-part series Maid is an uncomfortable watch, portraying what feels like a hopeless cycle of poverty and family abuse. While set in America with its very different welfare systems to Australia, the underlying themes of hardship certainly ring true here too.

Adapted from the 2019 memoir of Stephanie Land, the series casts real-life mother and daughter, Andie MacDowell and Margaret Qualley, in what comes across as an honest portrayal of the relentless hard work living in poverty can be.

What struck me about this show was the way it tackled issues around emotional abuse – abuse that doesn’t leave any physical scars. Alex becomes a single mum with a two-year-old daughter after fleeing her abusive boyfriend in the middle of the night. When offered a space at a domestic violence shelter, she is genuinely surprised that her experience is classed as abusive because her boyfriend, Sean, never physically attacked her.

The series explores why women return to abusive partners, without judgement, but with a sensitivity that teaches the viewer compassion and understanding of a highly complex situation.

On top of dealing with an unreliable mother who suffers undiagnosed bipolar disorder, her ex, unstable living conditions, and the laborious work of cleaning rich people’s houses for minimum wage, Alex is met with red tape in the welfare system at every turn.

As soon as she makes some progress in one area, she is knocked back in another. We can literally see her bank balance decline on screen as she makes a purchase or pays a bill, and feel her confusion of legal language as the fate of her daughter’s care rests in the hands of a lawyer and judge who’s fast-talking make for even faster decision-making.

The series does also portray hope, while sparing the viewer of a traditional ‘happily ever after’.

Alex meets some amazing women through a domestic violence shelter she lives in with her daughter who give this story something to hold onto.

While trying not to give too much of the ending away, she also makes friends with a wealthy client after supporting her through her own struggles. Highlighting the all-true concept of ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’, Alex’s hope for a brighter future only begins when her wealthy client offers to help  with legal support.

Maid is beautiful, hard, viewing, which led me to the verge of tears too many times to count.

Heather Dowling

Be part of the kindness revolution: Summer Spirit 2022

Summer Spirit, a continuing education and discipleship event of the Uniting Church WA, will be held on Friday 18 and Saturday 19 February 2022. This year’s event will explore values, as the Uniting Church WA goes through it’s own process of considering its values for its next strategic plan. 

Included in the line-up of speakers is Hugh Mackay AO, Australian psychologist, social researcher and author of 22 books, including The Kindness Revolution. Hugh will be sharing insights from this new book, as well as from his book, The Inner Self: the joy of discovering who we really are and will encourage guests to think about the kinds of values that Australian society aspires.

Hugh believes that through kindness, we can create a better world.

“I would define kindness as anything we do to show another person that we take them seriously – and that can be anything from a friendly smile or wave to an offer of a meal, a helping hand in a crisis or, most particularly, our commitment to being attentive and empathic listeners,” he said.

“In The Kindness Revolution, I’m suggesting that whenever we face a crisis – like the pandemic, or fires, floods, wars, etc – we always rise to the occasion and act in ways that are true to the best of our human nature.

“We are kind to friends and strangers alike. We look out for the most vulnerable people in our communities. We rediscover the importance of neighbourliness. We make sacrifices for the common good.

“The question is: why don’t we go on acting like that, even when the crisis has passed?

“The answer is that our innate capacity for kindness, because we belong to a social species that needs social harmony to survive, can easily be overlooked in favour of more selfish, Hugh believes that churches have a lot to offer when it comes to kindness. He said the best way for Christians to be part of the kindness revolution, is to read the Sermon on the Mount, and then put it into practice.

“If Christianity’s role is not to foster kindness and compassion, then it’s hard to see what its social purpose is,” he said.

“When churches let dogma and doctrine – or even ‘religious identity’ – get in the way of serving others and responding to the needs of a wounded society, their true mission is lost.

“By influence and example, Christians can help bring about the transformation into a culture built on kindness and compassion. What if Australia became known as ‘the loving country’ rather than simply ‘the lucky country’!  

“Kindness is the purest form of human love, because it involves no emotion or affection. We can be kind to people we don’t like, couldn’t ever agree with, and don’t even know – this is how we make sense of Jesus’ injunction to ‘love your enemies’.

“As Samuel Johnson wrote: Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.” 

Summer Spirit will also feature two afternoon workshops with staff of the Uniting Church WA: Rev Hannes Halgren, Associate General Secretary (Strategy); Rev Dr Christine Sorensen, Presbytery Minister (Formation and Discipleship); Rev Rob Douglas, Presbytery Minister (Mission); and Dr Elaine Ledgerwood, Presbytery Minister (VET).

These sessions will work through the values of the Uniting Church WA, as a Christian community of hope, justice, creativity, compassion, integrity, accountability and compassion.

Guests can also join a discussion exploring how they can live out their values in their own contexts.

Summer Spirit will be held on Friday night 18 to Saturday 19 February at All Saints Floreat Uniting Church. All Uniting Church members, leaders, ministers and friends are invited to join.

Registration is $120 per person, or $100 early bird before 31 December 2021. Register five people and get the sixth free!

For more information or to register, visit eventbrite.com.au/e/summer-spirit-2022-tickets-200697380267 or email PA.Education@wa.uca.org.au

Accessibility and the church: creating a community of faith, love and inclusion

We celebrate International Day of People with Disability on 3 December, but how inclusive are we really in the church – spiritually, physically and online?

Accessibility in churches reaches beyond the physical barriers, and can also be about social inclusion and good theology around disability.

Robbie Muir, from Maylands Mount Lawley Uniting Church, lives with hearing and sight disabilities and feels it is important to teach the church how to be more inclusive. He also works with Good Sammy Enterprises, volunteers with Revive packing, and sits on the Uniting Church WA Disability Royal Commission Synod Task Group. He has presented his thoughts to Presbytery of WA meetings in the past, to encourage churches to become more accessible.

“A lot of my experience has been trying to teach the church what to do,” he said. “It’s alright for people to say ‘oh yes we care for the disabled’, but if they haven’t got things in place, it’s no good.”

Robbie encourages congregations to use overhead screens that are clear to see and free of backgrounds or busy images; make available large print copies of texts; provide hearing loops that are down the front of the church; have good lighting; have minimal steps or provide ramps; and have bathrooms that are easily accessible.

He thanked the church for its progression in this area, but also said he would like the church to be more aware of the issues that affect people with a disability and their inclusion in church.

“Quite often we’ve had to come up with ways to get around things,” he said. “I have an IrisVision that I can put on and see the overheads, but for a few weeks we had somebody who couldn’t do the overheads and we had sheets – and no one enlarged the hymns for me.

“It makes you feel a bit useless and that the church isn’t for you. It makes you feel isolated and excluded.”

He also encourages people to talk to members of their congregation who have a disability, and ask them what would help their experience at church.

“I think a lot of people don’t talk to the disabled because they think they’re stupid or don’t understand. Ask the disabled person [what they need], don’t just think ‘oh well they’ll manage’. Ask them. We’re not dumb, we’re not stupid.”

Dr Scott Hollier, CEO of The Centre for Accessibility Australia, is passionate about supporting organisations to create accessible digital spaces. He is also legally blind, and a member of Kalamunda Uniting Church.

Scott said that creating accessible spaces, and therefore inclusion, for people living with disability, is easier than we think. With some intentional thinking and planning, we can all get better at creating an accessible environment.

“Look at the quick wins,” Scott said. “You don’t have to solve every disability issue instantly; it will be a journey. But once the key pieces are in place it becomes a different way of doing things, rather than extra work.

“For example, once you’ve got that slide template high contrast, well, every slide will be high contrast. 

“Quite often it is just about an awareness. Once people are aware of it and people are happy to do it, then it just happens after that point going forward.”

Melanie Kiely, CEO of Good Sammy Enterprises, a Uniting Church WA agency providing employment solutions for people living with disability, agrees that our digital  and physical spaces need accessibility, and that we can go further on inclusivity.

“It’s so much more than just space and physical accessibility. If we just focus on that then we’ve lost an opportunity here,” Melanie said. 

“It’s about inclusion, it’s about welcoming and embracing everybody – regardless of their ability and their background – into a church environment.

“It’s what we cover in the sermon, it’s the language we use, it’s the hymnbooks we use. Obviously, it’s the ramps and what have you, but it’s more than that.

“It’s about running churches that embrace everyone.

“We should be having people with disability in every church service as part of everything we do in the church. And they should feel completely included and we should learn from them, as much as they can learn from us.

“We’re about creating a community of faith, love and inclusion – that’s what I would like to see.

“Include everyone in the sermon, let them talk about their experience. Let’s include them in the choir, playing music and in the art. Include all levels of creativity, so that we’re embracing the differences of all our people in our congregations. 

Melanie said that living with a disability does not have to be a negative thing. All people are unique and have gifts and skills, which should be welcomed and celebrated.

“We shouldn’t assume people  with disability are flawed. We’re  all different, we all have abilities  of different natures and we shouldn’t assume that people  need to be fixed,” she said.

“We should accept people and embrace people with all their  unique and special characteristics.

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (Royal Commission) was established in April 2019 and is still ongoing. It is likely that the Uniting Church WA will be affected by the Royal Commission. However, the church has a longstanding belief of inclusiveness, and works towards this end.

Dr Scott Hollier said that the Royal Commission is an opportunity for us to learn from the past.

“I think the Royal Commission has revealed that people with disability have not always been treated well in the church, and that needs to be acknowledged,” he said.

“I think the Uniting Church has done well in acknowledging the issues and trying to put processes in place going forward, and I think that’s a good thing.

“That said, my focus, and the focus at the Centre and as a legally blind person, is that we need to learn from the past.  The Royal Commission has been important in understanding what has happened.

“Accessibility – whilst certainly that type of exclusion is nothing on the scale of physical abuse and spiritual abuse – does tap back into the importance of inclusion and equity moving forward.

“I would see accessibility as one more mechanism where we can focus going forward on making sure everyone is included in a worship space, and have that opportunity for full participation.”

Melanie Kiely, believes the Royal Commission is a good thing for Australia.

“It’s going to be a good thing for everyone,” she said. “You take the lid off the can of worms nd we can improve and stop bad behaviour and get better. We’ve got to keep improving.

“We’re not about protecting ourselves and we’re not about covering things up. We’re about learning from our past mistakes and moving on and not making them again.

“What we’re aiming for is a society that truly embraces diversity and inclusion, and that includes people with disabilities, and adapt the model of what we think perfect is, to be one that is beautiful diverse and imperfect.”

Melanie said the Royal Commission will be felt throughout the church – in our agencies, schools and congregations.

“I would see accessibility as one more mechanism where we can focus going forward on making sure everyone is included in a worship space, and have that opportunity for full participation.”

“I think it’s right across the board and I think it may or may not include an element of redress,” she said.

“It’s very wide reaching, and at this stage it’s going to go for another two years. There’s going to be a lot more hearings on a lot more topics.”

Dr Elaine Ledgerwood, Uniting Church WA Presbytery Minister – Education and Training, is a theologian with past experience in Occupational Therapy. Having worked with people with disabilities and listening to their stories, mixed with studying and continuously learning about God’s all-inclusive love, Elaine believes we are all vulnerable to disability throughout our lives.

“You are only temporarily able,” Elaine said. “For many people, this is likely to change.

“People with disabilities are like the rest of us – we all have our different hopes and fears, different personalities and different understandings of faith. One

day you might have a disability too; when that’s the case, I am sure you would like others in your congregation to ensure you are included in their activities.”

Theologically, Elaine said that sometimes people can make comments about a disability which may be in good faith, but which can actually be quite harmful.

“Spiritual abuse is a problem, such as when people get told they need to pray harder for healing,” Elaine said. “Instead, ask questions to help people find their own connection between their faith and disability. 

“Using disability as a metaphor for the bad things in life – for example, talking about the Pharisees being ‘blind’ – can often be experienced as being judgemental about disability. Yes, it is something the gospel writers did, but we now understand the harm this can cause.

“Disabilities can be part of someone’s identity. So, saying things like ‘in heaven you’ll be walking’, or similar, is not always helpful. How would you feel if a key part of your identity was dismissed as not being important? Remember the resurrected Christ still carried the wounds of the crucifixion.”

However, living with disability does not always define a person, and Elaine said we should not make assumptions about anyone and their abilities.

“Disabilities do not define people. Just because you’ve known someone else with the same disability doesn’t mean you know this person. Get to know each person as an individual.”

Dr Scott Hollier believes that we have come a long way in Australia towards creating more accessibility, but that there is still a way to go.

“There’s been a generational shift around views and attitudes of people with disability and inclusion in society. That’s not just a church thing, but more broadly,” he said.

“I think as we continue to move forward with more awareness and education of the rights and needs of people with disability, that across society, and that includes religious organisations, that will get better.

“One of the great things about church is that it is a really supportive and inclusive environment. The lack of accessibility has never suggested to me that people don’t care or that people aren’t wanting to provide support – often it’s a lack of awareness.

“It’s been my experience that once people understand what the needs are, they’ve been very willing to make those accommodations. There’s a lot of great people who are willing to do great things to support equity, and it’s just a matter of letting people know about it.”

Tips for being an accessible church

Dr Scott Hollier shares these great tips for how your church or organisation can become more accessible in digital and physical spaces.

  • Make sure overhead slides have large font with good colour contrast, eg a dark background with white text. If people are still unable to see the slides, having devices (like an iPad) available with a link to see them can also be helpful.
  • Make sure videos have captions.
  • Distribute electronic versions of meeting documents before meetings.
  • Make sure PDF documents and newsletters are digitally accessible.
  • It is an Australian requirement that websites are compliant with the WCAG 2.1 AA standard, which has a range of key components. When building a new website, make sure to read up about these requirements or ask your web designer to work them in. 
  • Make sure physical access to, from and around the building is clear and open, giving thought to things like space, handrails, and clutter.

Resources for more information about how to get your congregation on board with accessibility can be found on the website for the Centre for Accessibility Australia at accessibility.org.au.

The Centre for Accessibility Australia can also work with congregations and organisations as they commit to this journey. Contact them for more information on 0466 099 101 or email admin@accessibility.org.au.

Heather Dowling

Green Rider

If you are looking for a stocking filler for Christmas or just to fill in some relaxing time over the break, then this captivating heroic fantasy adventure is for you.

Green Rider, the first book in the Green Rider series, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. Following the success of this book another five were added to the series – First Rider’s Call, The High King’s Tomb, Blackveil, Mirror Sight, Firebrand and a novella, The Dream Gatherer. On 14 September 2021, a seventh book called Winterlight  was released.

The Green Rider series is suitable for both young adult and adult readers, falling into the categories of supernatural/classic fantasy. The underlying message of the series is that running away from a problem does not solve it and choosing to do ‘nothing’ at times is also an action.

The book begins with our protagonist, Karigan G’ladheon, a merchant’s daughter, who has fled from school following a duel in where she bested a wealthy aristocrat, an incident that will likely lead to her expulsion. As she makes her way through the deep forest, a galloping horse pounds up to her, its rider impaled by two black-shafted arrows.

With his dying breath, he tells her that he is a Green Rider, one of the legendary elite messengers in the king’s service and makes Karigan swear to deliver their message he’s carrying. Giving her his green coat, with its golden winged horse brooch, the symbol of his office, and whispers on his dying breath, “Beware the shadow man…”. This promise given changes Karigan’s life forever.

Pursued by unknown assassins and following a path only her horse seems to know, Karigan unwittingly finds herself in a world of deadly danger and complex magic, compelled by forces she cannot understand. Karigan is hounded by dark beings bent on seeing that the message, and its reluctant carrier, never reach their destination.

In a world with kings, elves, and monstrous creatures emerging from a breach in the wall, this book manages to step outside of the typical cliche fantasy without losing its heritage. All in all, it is a great read.

Andrea Garvey

Shout out to all our Church Councils and Elders!

The Commission for Education for Discipleship and Leadership (CEDAL) is offering training for Uniting Church WA Church Council Members and Elders.

These leaders bring a wealth of knowledge and wisdom from their own faith, life experience, professional skills, community participation, and involvement within the church.

They give their time, energy, enthusiasm and so much more, so that our congregations, and the broader church, can run effectively. Yet, rarely do we take the time to help them shape what they bring for leadership into the specific demands and context of leadership in the councils of the church.

Within the Uniting Church constitution, we ask church councils and elders to do spiritual oversight and pastoral care, build-up the congregation in faith and love, sustain its members in hope, and lead them into a fuller participation in Christ’s mission in the world. The training starts looking at the DNA of the Uniting Church. We also consider the language we have to talk about spirituality for ourselves, with the people in our congregations, and the communities beyond. We also think about the dynamics in church meetings, and how participating in Christ’s mission requires taking time to consider our communities and how we might connect, and how to develop new ways to engage.

We have now run this program twice, with great feedback. Participants have enjoyed the interactive space and the chance to develop deeper background into the work of leading our churches.

CEDAL will be running this program again in 2022 at a place near you! To host the training for Uniting Church WA congregations in your local area, get in touch by calling CEDAL at the Uniting Church Centre on 9260 9800,  or email cedal@wa.uca.org.au.

PLC Pipe Band celebrates 40-year anniversary

The Presbyterian Ladies’ College (PLC) Pipe Band is celebrating 40 years since its first performance and its unique status as the first girls’ school pipe band in Australia.

Historically, pipe bands have been an all-male pursuit, however, thanks to the foresight of PLC’s then Musical Director, Eric Page, the introduction of the PLC Pipe Band has gone from strength to strength and is now a source of immense pride for the school.

Throughout its four decades, the PLC Perth Pipe Band has been a  regular feature at events throughout Perth, including ANZAC Day Parades  in Perth city, the Perth Royal Show,  Lilac Hill cricket matches, and many military events.

Marking this momentous occasion, a book has been published, celebrating the 40-year milestone.

Historian, Old Collegian and current parent, Lucy Hair has researched four decades of the PLC Perth Pipe Band to bring together an amazing collection of photographs and stories about the origins of the band, its tours and awards and fascinating insights from across the 40 years.  Lucy has also compiled a comprehensive list of every pipe band member since its inception in 1981.

To purchase a copy of this piece of history visit trybooking.com/events/landing?eid=752222&

Intentional relationships bring new life across the church

Some members of the St Martin’s Forrestfield and Kalamunda Uniting Church’s combined Covenant Yarning Circle with a copy of the A Guide to Congregations in WALKING TOGETHER AS A FIRST AND SECOND PEOPLES.

Life is better when it’s shared with others.

This is true for us as individuals, and can also be applied to our groups and organisations. Working in collaboration and partnership is a foundation of the Uniting Church.

In this vein, some Uniting Church WA congregations are finding support and renewed life by creating mutual partnerships. Our congregations are diverse geographically, culturally and theologically. Each has its own gifts that they bring to life, which through an intentional relationship could be shared for the benefit of others.

St Martin’s Forrestfield and Kalamunda Uniting Churches have, for over ten years, held a Memorandum of Agreement for a shared arrangement. Included in this is a Joint Co-ordinating Committee, which consists of members from each congregation whose role is to facilitate the process, as well as encourage opportunities for shared ministry and for growth in leadership. The two congregations work together in mission, share ministry costs, have two joint social justice groups, share discipleship and formation studies, and hold regular joint worship services.

Noranda and Margaret River Uniting Churches have also recently formed an intentional relationship, holding a virtual joint worship service where pre-recorded elements were played out in each congregation’s worship. Other congregations, both metropolitan and rural have also enjoyed these kinds of relationships.

The Presbytery is encouraging congregations to consider whether they too are called to develop relationships with another – not as an amalgamation, but as an intentional partnership which works for the benefit of both congregations.

Alison Xamon, Chair of the Presbytery of WA, said there are an exciting range of reasons for congregations to form intentional relationships with each other.

“We’re quite excited about what intentional relationships can offer for congregations,” Alison said. 

“It’s an opportunity for meaningful relationships beyond their immediate congregations with other members of the Uniting Church. And to learn different ways of worship, to gain ideas about different ways to do mission and an opportunity to deepen connections across the Uniting Church.

“This is an opportunity to expand, strengthen and grow congregations through increased connection.”

The Presbytery of WA is offering to support congregations as they discern if this is something they would like to pursue, by connecting congregations who might be a good fit for each other.

Alison invites all congregations to prayerfully consider how they might be able to connect in this way and whether this is something they would like to pursue. If your congregation would like to know more, contact Rev Dr David Ferguson, Presbytery Officer for the Uniting Church WA, on 9260 9800 or email david.ferguson@wa.uca.org.au.

What will Christmas look like around the world this year?

Some of UnitingWorld’s partners have let us know!

Irene in Bali

I spent last Christmas watching the livestream of our Christmas service home alone in my flat, and it felt really hard to be honest.  I really hope things are different this year, but I’m not sure they will be. I think there’ll still be restrictions on gatherings and maybe on travel back to our home towns as well.

With most people in Bali being Hindu, the Christian festival is celebrated in shops with music and decorations, but present giving isn’t really a tradition. Instead, we all travel home to our family villages where we’d usually have a potluck lunch with traditional Balinese food and some western treats that the kids enjoy like apple and pumpkin pie.

For me, Christmas is all about remembering Christ’s life come to Earth as a human because of his love for us. I start listening to Christmas carols in September. I love them – my favourite is ‘Angels we have heard on high’ and ‘The First Noel’.

Samson in India

Most things are opening up in Punjab at the moment and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to

travel back to our home villages this year – it’s been a long time!

Christmas Day is about a family outing – maybe lunch in a restaurant with cakes and sweets that families prepare for the day. Even though Christianity isn’t the main religion, there’s a big focus on buying and displaying lights, decorations and Christmas trees. I learnt the Christmas song ‘Mary did you know?’when I was at school and it’s still my favourite.

The main thing I celebrate at Christmas is the love we’ve received and how we can share that with others. It’s not just the worship, but about forgetting yourself and sacrificing time for others in need. It’s the tradition of our diocese to spend time at Christmas going to bus stations, to the streets where people live and giving out blankets and food.”

Joy in The Solomon Islands

Usually at Christmas I would go home to my village from Honiara.  In the months before Christmas, all the families plant their gardens with enough extra to harvest for the returning families. They will go and hunt pigs so we can feast together on pork, fish, potatoes, cassava and bananas.

On Christmas Day we go to church in the village and then we celebrate by going house to house to sing for everyone and take small gifts like soap or matches. It’s also a chance for us to give messages about Jesus that encourage people to receive him as a new birth into their lives.

Music is a big part of our tradition – my favourite song is ‘Jingle Bells!’ In two weeks’ time the Women’s Fellowship will hold its traditional choral competition and this year we have chosen ‘Good Christian Men Rejoice’ – the best choir will win, and we look forward to that very much.