South Mandurah Uniting Church turns 21!

It was an exciting day on 20 August 2000 in Wannanup. The Uniting Church WA Moderator at the time, Elizabeth Burns, along with the help of a very young Jaren Picking, turned the key on the new South Mandurah Uniting Church front door and led the congregation and visitors into the service for the commissioning of the building.

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Social Justice Church: Living the Gospel every day

Years ago, Alison Xamon began to envisage a new kind of ministry. A church community that would be truly welcoming and safe for all. A group that would see the fight for justice as simply part of being Christian.

It was a type of worship that Alison longed for, but over time it became clear that if she really wanted it to happen, she would have to make it happen. So, she did.

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Donate now to Uniting WA’s Winter Appeal

Uniting WA are proud to support hundreds of people experiencing homelessness every day, but there are still up to 900 people sleeping rough across Perth every night and more than 9 000 people experiencing homelessness in WA. 

With Winter and the cold weather now upon us, it has never been more important to support people experiencing crisis and homelessness.

Uniting WA’s recently renovated Tranby Engagement Hub provides all the basic services you would expect from a homelessness service, as well as some you might not.  It’s the first purpose-designed-and-built crisis intervention space in WA that supports an active referral and engagement service model for people experiencing homelessness. 

A simple: “How can we help you?” to every person that walks through the door marks the beginning of a support journey that includes all the basic services you’d expect, as well as some you might not.  As well as access to food, showers, laundry and medical support, the Tranby Engagement Hub also provides customised support that’s focused on understanding the individual needs of each person we meet and working with them to identify the challenges they need to overcome to move forward in their lives.

But together, we can do more

Your donation will help Uniting WA provide more warm breakfasts, showers and wellbeing packs, and enable them to support more people with the understanding and support they need to achieve positive outcomes that drive long-term change in their lives.

Learn more about how you can help and donate today.

Sock appeal

Did you know that socks are the #1 requested item at homelessness centres globally? A clean pair of socks can make the world of difference to someone experiencing homelessness. And they’re in short supply.  Uniting WA are welcoming socks for men, women and children in all sizes, which can be donated at your local Uniting Church.

To learn more about the Uniting Sock Appeal, visit the website.

Ministry Expo: space to explore

Ministry Expo is an annual event organised by the Candidates for Ministry Committee to promote a culture of call in our church. This year’s event was held in May at St Andrews Uniting Church in East Perth and attracted about 30 people.

The purpose of the evening is to provide snap shots of a variety of ministry opportunities within the Uniting Church WA.

Rev Lorraine Stokes spoke of the immense privilege of being a Minister of the Word, walking alongside members in their growth in faith and discipleship. Rev Andy Broadbent shared how, as a Deacon, he has focussed his congregation on responding to the needs of the local community. Julie Ridden talked about her role as a Pastor, working with children and families within the Nedlands congregation. Shirley Francis shared how her studies to become a Lay Preacher had deepened and enriched her faith and her confidence in preaching. And Rev Steve Francis emphasised the importance of loving others, children, staff and parents within the context of being a school chaplain.

Anyone wanting to further explore their gifts and calling to ministry are encouraged to undertake a Period of Discernment (POD). Susan Sydney Smith, who has just completed a POD, shared how affirming this experience had been for her, allowing her time to deepen her relationship with God and explore her calling through conversations with her Mentor.

Samuel Annan, who has just begun formation to become an ordained minister, talked about the affirmation he had received from others as he explored his calling and how he was “learning new things every day” as he engaged in formation. Rev Herman Neinaber shared his journey from the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa into the Uniting Church WA and what he appreciated about the Uniting Church.

Finally Rev Dr Anne Wright outlined various courses available, including everything from short intensives, to full theology degrees, and emphasised the wide range of styles of ministry options in the Uniting Church WA, including working in remote areas, chaplaincies in prisons, hospitals, aged care and schools, resource and pioneering ministry.

The evening promoted a lot of conversation which continued over a wonderful supper. The next day, left over food was donated to Uniting WA’s Tranby Centre in East Perth.

Please encourage members of your congregation to attend the next Ministry Expo which will be held in May 2022!

Rev Bev Fabb, Chairperson of the Candidates for the Ministries Committee

Explore your calling at this year’s Ministry Expo

Are you looking for fulfilling work that spreads the Christian gospel of justice, love, and hope? Do you feel God may be calling you to ministry in the Uniting Church WA?

The Ministry Expo will provide you with information on the various possibilities for ministry for both lay and ordained in the Uniting Church.

At the expo, you will hear meet people who have walked the path or who are currently in ministry formation. You will learn about the various ministries of the church, what they involve and what it is like to serve in that ministry. You will also learn about how to engage in a Period of Discernment – a year-long journey of seriously considering God’s call on your life.

You can read more about Rev Sione Lea’aetoa’s experience doing a Period of Discernment here.

This year’s speakers are as follows:

  • Rev Sione Lea’aetoa, newly ordained minister will welcome us to St Andrews Uniting Church
  • Rev Lorraine Stokes will speak about being a Minister of the Word
  • Rev Andy Broadbent will speak about being a Deacon
  • Julie Ridden will speak about being a Pastor
  • Shirley Francis or Mary Riley will speak about being a Lay Preacher
  • Rev Steve Francis will speak about being a school chaplain.
  • Susan Sydney Smith will speak about doing a Period of Discernment
  • Samuel Annan will speak about the process of candidating and beginning formation.
  • Rev Dr Herman Neinaber will speak about transitioning from another church into the UCA
  • Rev Dr Anne Wright will speak about education opportunities available through CEDAL.
  • Susy Thomas will lead the closing prayers.

Are number of videos about the types of ministry in the Uniting Church WA are available to watch on YouTube, which congregations are encouraged to to share within worship over the coming weeks. Pastor Lindsay Ginn shares his experience as a Pastor; Mary Riley shares her experience as a Lay Preacher; Rev Andy Broadbent shares his experiences as a Deacon; and Rev Lorraine Stokes shares her experiences as a Minister of the Word.

There are also videos available from Carolyn Ebell, talking about the Period of Discernment, and Rev Hannes Halgren, sharing his experience as becoming a Uniting Church WA Minister from another denomination.

The Ministry Expo 2021 is a free event that will take place from 7.00 to 9.00pm on Thursday 20 May at St Andrew’s Uniting Church, Perth. RSVP by Monday 17 May to candidates.ministry@wa.uca.org.au.

You are also welcome to join the event via Zoom and will be sent a link following registration. Please advise whether you are joining in-person or via Zoom when you register.

Find out more information and download a flyer on the Uniting Church WA website.

Working together to end loneliness

While it is true that recent COVID times have led to people feeling more lonely, loneliness was prevalent in our communities even before the pandemic put people around the world into lockdown – or kept us from travelling to see loved ones interstate. It has been reported that loneliness can have similar health effects on the body as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. Which is part of the reason UnitingCare Australia have recently joined the Endling Loneliness Together initiative.

Ending Loneliness Together includes a range of community groups and organisations who recognise the huge impact loneliness plays in people’s lives across the country, and who are working together on this issue.

Dr Michelle Lim is a clinical psychologist, senior lecturer at Swinbourne University and the Chair of Ending Loneliness Together. She said while there is a connection between social isolation and loneliness, they are two different issues.

“Loneliness is what we would typically say is a subjective construct,” she said. “Feeling like you’re alone, feeling like you have no friends, that no one has your back, no one understands you.

“As opposed to social isolation where you have fewer people that you know. You might live in a more rural area, perhaps you’re less connected to others because you don’t have work. There’s a degree of social isolation that all of us hold as well.

“They are related in that the fewer people you know increases your vulnerability to feeling lonely, however it can occur independently as well.

“Lots of people who are highly integrated within social institutions very much say they feel lonely – so still feeling subjectively lonely despite being at work, university, with many friends, in vocational training.

“I guess one of the things we are trying to tease out is, how do we augment social care to not just  reduce social isolation, but also to reduce loneliness? Because just because you reduce social  isolation doesn’t automatically mean you reduce loneliness.”

Loneliness has no barriers

Often, we only think of elderly people experiencing loneliness, which can be true, but the whole truth is that anyone can experience it any time – though usually during a time of transition or challenge. There are age groups that are more vulnerable to feeling lonely however, including young people aged 18 to 25 and older people aged over 75.

“When you think about those groups, they are faced with more social challenges – for different reasons,” Michelle said.

Michelle said for older people, issues such as poor health, physical challenges, or their partner or friends dying can create more feelings of loneliness. Younger people can be challenged by starting their first job, making new friends outside of school or study, developing a sense of social identity or emerging mental illness. Spikes in loneliness can also be found in middle age.

“If there’s one thing we can say about loneliness, it’s that at some point our vulnerability will increase,” Michelle said. “I think it’s more about how we manage it, and to ensure that we are always managing it, as opposed to thinking, ‘okay I feel lonely, something is weird with me, something is wrong with me’.

“When we have that sort of mentality and stigma, the problem gets worse. You don’t seek the right help, you put barriers up for yourself and you’re not managing it as well.

“We know from the literature that when you feel lonely, you’re more likely to feel depressed. Then in six months down the line you’re more likely to feel socially anxious; six months down the line  you’re more likely to be paranoid.

“So, loneliness actually acts as a feeder to future problems, but yet we tend to keep on ignoring our loneliness.

“Loneliness is a normal feeling to have and if we don’t respond to it, it becomes distressing. Our brains process loneliness as a social stressor, and when we are stressed we have poorer health outcomes more generally.

“Loneliness has been associated with poorer cardiovascular health, lower ability to fight off infections, increased incidence of breast cancer in women – a multitude of physical health problems because it’s all related to stress.

“The reason why it’s so harmful for humans in general is because the way we are built is that we’re not meant to feel alone; we’re meant to function in groups and to have others to rely on.

“Overall, humans need to feel like we have a meaningful social connection with someone, and that someone has got their back. When we don’t feel that way, we are more stressed generally and therefore have poorer health outcomes, albeit physical or mental.”

Reducing stigma

At some point in our lives, we will all be touched by loneliness. Despite this, the stigma around it can cause more issues for people experiencing it. To work towards reducing loneliness in our communities, we need to be talking about the issue more so that stigma can be reduced.

“Even when you say the word ‘loneliness’ now, people don’t like to say, ‘oh I’m lonely’,” Michelle said. “They’re reluctant to say that even though it’s a normal feeling to have. “Then it becomes a cycle because a lonely person doesn’t want to reach out – they’re trying to protect themselves from being rejected.

“They send signals to other people suggesting they’re not willing to connect, even though they’re desperate to connect. And other people then just respond accordingly.

“One of the biggest things that is missing in the Australian context is that we don’t have a good community awareness campaign to actually destigmatise loneliness.

“It’s always been seen as something that is wrong with the person, and that is something we need to rectify immediately. We need government to invest in a national campaign that can tie into health outcomes.”

A place for churches

Claerwen Little, National Director of UnitingCare Australia, said churches have a huge role to play in this space. In fact, the Ending Loneliness Together initiative began out of a Uniting Church congregation friendship group in NSW. However, it’s not just the worship community or friendship and social groups which are tackling loneliness – any community service that is building  meaningful connections and trust with people who may be socially isolated is helping those affected.

“All our services deal with people who are lonely in one way or another,” she said. “For us, the link between the prevalence of loneliness and poverty is a really important factor in being involved.

“In communities where there’s a high incidence of poverty and unemployment, we often find many more people who are feeling lonely.

“If you’re experiencing homelessness, or if you’re a single parent on a single parent benefit, it’s really hard to get out to meet other people and engage with other people.

“It’s really hard for children whose families are living in poverty to have the same opportunities – the ability to go on excursions, or sporting activities or other extracurricular activities – if they don’t have the money to spend.

“There are many people in difficult circumstances who also experience loneliness as a result of compounding factors and complexities in their lives.”

There are certainly many Uniting Church WA congregations that are delivering services which help alleviate loneliness – as well as our agencies: Juniper, Good Sammy Enterprises and Uniting WA.  This is not to mention the benefits of belonging to a community group – such as a church.

“Our church, through its work and through our congregations does have an incredibly important role to play in addressing loneliness in our community,” said Claerwen. “Often churches are the only ones that are able to engage people, either through their services or local networks.

“At the end of the day, as humans we all need to connect with other humans. We need friendship. We need circles of support. We need friends and its often difficult for people who are isolated by other challenges in their lives.

“Some of our emergency relief programs in our community, the community hubs, but also the family centres, they all provide that really strong sense of connection for people.”

Creating change

The Ending Loneliness Together White Paper makes three key recommendations to address loneliness: invest and be informed by Australian-based research; develop and deliver system-wide frameworks; and connect and empower people to take action. Part of that empowerment to take action is to first be informed and understand the issue.

“There’s a huge scope but I think one of the things is to get providers to understand how to identify if people are lonely because it can be quite difficult and nuanced and it might not necessarily mean that someone is socially isolated, but they are lonely,” Michelle Lim said. “We need to understand and correct those misconceptions before actually taking action. If we don’t have the right information, we can sometimes do more harm than good.”

Michelle said it is important to keep up-to-date with the latest evidence from trusted sources.

“It’s important to equip yourself  with that knowledge before proceeding to make a difference, because when you do take action with that knowledge, you’ll make a much more sustainable impact as opposed to potentially causing harm without realising.”

Claerwen said there is a lot that churches can do to address this issue – firstly by reading the White Paper and joining the coalition.

“It’s important that we understand what it means to be lonely and to be able to see the signs of loneliness and then respond. It’s about policy responses and the role of government, but it’s also about the role of each of us,” said Claerwen. “There are some things the congregation can do, and if you have a capacity to do friendship groups or groups for people, reach out to the community.”

From a congregation perspective there are many, many ways in which you can address loneliness.

“In our service footprint, we do address loneliness in so many different ways around our service network.

“As a church, people can sign up, educate themselves on what loneliness is and how to identify the factors of loneliness and then find ways to reach out and address it in the community.”

For immediate support for yourself or someone you know, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Find out more and read the Ending Loneliness White Paper at endingloneliness.com.au

Find out more about UnitingCare Australia at unitingcare.org.au

Find links to Uniting Church WA caring agencies – Good Sammy Enterprises, Juniper and Uniting WA – at unitingchurchwa.org.au/our-family/caring-agencies

Many Uniting Church WA congregations also run community services. Find a Uniting Church WA congregation in your area at unitingchurchwa.org.au/local-church/find-a-church

Heather Dowling

Sand, surf and ice-cream

Young people from Trinity North Uniting Church and the remote Mowanjum Aboriginal Community, just outside of Derby in the Kimberley WA, spent an evening sharing stories over ice-cream in the January school holidays. The teenagers from Mowanjum were in Perth for a trip organised by the Boab Network, operating out of the Creative Living Centre at All Saints Floreat Uniting Church. The trip is part of their School Holiday Program, which engaged kids in fun activities when fewer activities are available in their area. Continue Reading