Uniting Church Minister explains why he protests

Anti-coal activists at the controversial open-cut coal mine at Maules Creek, near Narrabri, are at times surprised to find themselves accompanied by a Uniting Church Minister. Rev John Brentnall joined a blockade for the third time on 26 November, together with three Buddhists and another Christian, this time at the gate of a coal processing plant in Gunnedah. On a previous occasion he was arrested.

Why would a Christian Minister work in such unlikely ways? John explains: “Like many other Christians, I interpret the word ‘neighbour’ to include not just the people who live next door but all of humanity. Not just the ones who are alive now, but the ones in the generations to follow. I also include all living creatures.”

John cites the various objectionable impacts of the coal mine. He is concerned about the health impacts of toxic dust; the mine’s heavy use of water in a drought-prone agricultural area; the destruction of the last remaining intact Box Gum grassy woodland, habitat for dozens of endangered species; and the destruction of various sacred sites of Gomeroi Traditional Custodians.Continue Reading

Seeking God’s shalom for the world

For followers of Jesus, when it comes to speaking up for the rights of the marginalised, our voice should be as bankable as the presence of dreadlocks and bongo drums at a G8 rally. Proverbs 31:8-10, Psalm  82:3, Isaiah, 1:17 and Luke 4:18-19 are just some of the Bible verses that make our responsibility clear. However, in my opinion, it is not the verses that are compelling, so much as the vision for life that lies  behind them.

Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggemann suggests that in the pages of the Hebrew scriptures we see God’s chosen people, the Israelites, constantly faced with ‘either or’ decisions. In other words, they  can live according to the standards and values of the world around them or they can live according to God’s alternative reality – life with God at the centre where justice, humility and mercy are valued. This alternative vision for life finds its full expression in the person of Jesus. He demonstrates what life to the full looks like; life with God at the centre which he invites us to join in. This is the crux of the  Gospel. American theologian, Ron Sider says, “The vast majority of New Testament scholars today, whether evangelical or liberal, agree that the central aspect of Jesus’ teaching was the Gospel of the  kingdom of God.”

We don’t talk about kingdoms much these days, so the term can lack meaning, but the concept is pretty straight forward. A kingdom literally means a ‘king’s domain’ – it’s where the king’s values, attitudes  and ways of doing things hold sway. So what does God’s domain look like? The short answer to that question is, shalom. Continue Reading

Update: 5 Christian leaders arrested at MP Kevin Andrew’s office in Doncaster after prayer sit-in

Advocates for children suffering in detention have been arrested after sitting in the office of MP Kevin Andrews to request the release of all children and families from immigration detention.

Five church leaders have been arrested after a prayer sit-in in at Cabinet Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews’ electorate office. The group were requesting a timetabled commitment for the release of all children and families from immigration detention centres.  They asked that Kevin Andrews become a public champion for the immediate release of children and families. Despite an invitation to respond to their message, Kevin chose to remain silent and decided to arrest the church leaders and close his office early today at 3pm.

Those arrested included local clergy and Christians from different denominations. One of those arrested, former disability nurse Leonnie Wickenden had this to say about her participation in today’s action: “I’m here today because the evidence of over 15 years of bipartisan asylum seeker policies, show us that vulnerable children continue to be put at immeasurable and unacceptable risk of life-long developmental disruption. Having over 20 years of service to people with disability, my faith determines that we owe children immediate freedom from detention so they can thrive in all aspects of their development, away from the bars of hopelessness and despair.”

The group made this request of Kevin Andrews because he is both a Cabinet member and a vocal public advocate for children’s welfare.Continue Reading

Make your own phone!

See how far your voice can travel with this tin can phone. It’s easy to make at home with bits and pieces from around the house.

You will need:

  • 2 washed tin cans. Get an adult to make sure there are no sharp edges. Tin cans work best, but if you’d prefer you can use plastic cups instead.
  • A decent length of string
  • A nail and hammer

Stand the tin cans upside down and poke a hole through the bottom of each one with the nail and hammer. Thread one end of the string through the hole in one of the cans and tie a knot at the end so that it  can’t come through. Do this at the other end with the other can also. With a friend, each take a tin can and walk far enough apart that the string is held taught. One person can talk into the can while the  other listens.

Why not see how soft you can talk while still being able to hear each other? And don’t forget to send us in your photos of you talking with your tin cans! Email them to revive@wa.uca.org.au.

Juniper salutes Senior Champion of the Year

A woman’s efforts to improve the lives of older Aboriginal people in the State’s far north have secured her WA’s premier seniors award.

Leading aged care and community service provider Juniper congratulated Ms Maureen Angus (62) who won the Juniper 2014 WA Seniors Champion Award on 8 November.

Maureen was elevated from a strong field of several category winners who in this year’s WA Seniors Awards were acknowledged for their service to older people.

From personal experience receiving at-home care Ms Angus knew others in her town could benefit from help, so she established a local community care service at Ardyaloon, a community of about 300 people located 2,446km from Perth on the tip of the Dampier Peninsula.Continue Reading

Five ways to give young people a voice

1. Invite them to run an event. If a young person in your community is passionate about something, invite them to hold a fundraising or awareness raising event at your church. If you have young people in  your congregation, invite them to lead a service every now and then. Keep in mind that it’s important to let them make their own decisions about the event, but also to resource them when they need it. A  balanced mix of giving young people advice as well as independence goes a long way to their own personal growth. If they’re not doing it the way you would, let it go! You may just be surprised by a new way  of looking at things. And if it doesn’t work out, that’s fine too. Be positive about what they did well and encourage them for next time.

2. Invite them to join councils, committees and working groups. If you have young people in your congregation, or associated with a group that your church is involved with, invite them to join in the  decision making for that body. Not only will you be helping them grow and mature, you’ll also have a chance to get to know them better and get new ideas for your group. Just make sure that if you do invite  a young person onto your council or working group, that you actually let them have a say and don’t just keep them as the ‘token young person.’ A bit of mentoring can also be a great thing. So tell  them when their ideas are good and work with them on improving others. Continue Reading

Uniting Church in Australia: Part of the fastest growing church on earth

The view from the pew in an Australian Uniting Church isn’t always inspiring. Many long-term congregation members are all too aware of empty seats, voices that waver on beloved hymns and the lurking spectre of a budget committee meeting when the service ends…

It’s true that church attendance in Australia is in decline, as it is throughout much of the Western world. But that’s not the full story. Globally, and particularly among our Asian neighbours, Christianity is still the world’s largest and fastest growing religion. In China, three new churches have been either re-opened or newly built every single day for the past thirty years. And as a global church, partnering with brothers and sisters throughout Asia, Africa and the Pacific, we’re renewed by this growth.

Through an historic new partnership with the China Christian Council, we’re also faced with a unique opportunity to shape the future of global Christian leadership.Continue Reading

Christians and Muslims: 100 years of love

Uniting Church leaders from across Australia have joined interfaith and ecumenical friends in a statement of solidarity with Australia’s Islamic community. Uniting Church in Australia President, Rev Prof  Andrew Dutney, is one of thousands of faith and community leaders who’ve signed on to a declaration that “We’ll Love Muslims 100 Years.”

The statement was a reference to the banner headline in the Weekend Australian on 9 August “We’ll Fight Islam 100 Years.”

“Recent public statements and media coverage about Muslim-Australians in some sections of the Australian media have been inflammatory and divisive,” said Andrew.

“In our multi-faith society, Jesus’ call to love your neighbour means that Christians are called to meet, befriend and care about our neighbours who are Muslim.” Continue Reading

WA’s newest faith community

With joy, members of the recent Annual Meeting of the Synod and Presbytery recognised and welcomed the Eaton Millbridge Community Project (EMCP) as the  Uniting Church in WA’s newest faith  community.

Almost three years ago, a fresh expression of church, the EMCP was planted as a form of church for our changed culture and primarily, for the benefit of people who currently have no connection to the  church. The EMCP practices incarnational mission through acts of loving service, listening and  radical hospitality in the community of Eaton and Millbridge. Regular events held in local parks, such as  Easter egg hunts, Movies by Moonlight, Christmas events and most recently a Spring Fiesta draw in crowds from the local community. Continue Reading

Loving our neighbours through language learning

I first met Purwanto when he helped me translate an interview I was conducting with a minister who had just moved to Australia from Indonesia. He helped me out a lot and the interview may not have  been possible without him. I quickly learnt that he’s helped many people in his time, from all walks of life in his role as an interpreter and translator.

Dr Purwanto Danusugondo grew up in Java, Indonesia and as a child learnt Javanese, Dutch – which his parents spoke in the home – and Indonesian. English is his fourth language, but he speaks a total of seven languages in all.

Having now travelled and studied all over the world, Purwanto didn’t actually leave Java until after completing his first degree, in 1963, when he was offered a job in Melbourne working for the ABC’s Radio  Australia program, English for You. Since then, he has also studied in Hawaii – where he completed a PhD in German – Texas and Indiana.

As a translator, Purwanto has worked with large companies including mining and insurance companies, as well as helping people in a range of ways within the local community, usually translating English  to Indonesian or vice versa. Continue Reading