Summer Spirit: Growing in discipleship

Craig Mitchell’s workshop at Summer Spirit in February was both inspirational and entertaining. Craig is the national director of Formation, Education and Discipleship for the Uniting Church  in Australia.

His two sessions looked at congregations as learning communities and mission-shaped discipleship. Effective ministry leadership was about building relationships both within the congregation  and in the larger community. Examples of how to do this were shown in video clips from a Formation, Education and Discipleship (FED) study: Creative thinking was necessary even when it  challenged people’s comfort zones. I liked the example given of a minister who shook up his Church Council meeting by hiring a bus and taking them all to dinner in a city restaurant. They had a  bird’s eye view of the casino carpark and the minister challenged them to think about how to get the church carpark just as full. Continue Reading

Developing assets for a brighter future

Training for the 40 Developmental Assets in a congregational setting will once again be taking place in Perth. The First Third team present this valuable training, which will help people  understand the qualities that young people need to grow into caring, responsible and productive adults. Researched by the Search Institute and released in 1990, the 40 Developmental Assets  is changing the way people work with and relate to young people around the globe. This research is regularly being extended and deepened to stay trustworthy and current.

The assets outline a range of qualities that will help young people as they develop, such as support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, time management, commitment, positive  values, social competencies and positive identity. Leading the training will be Rick Morrell, First Third Ministry co-ordinator of the Uniting Church WA and Rick Pekan, young adult and small  group coordinator at Nedlands Uniting Church. Both are experienced leaders and  trainers in the ‘Asset’ approach.

Rick Morrell believes that the training will be immediately accessible by those who are present. Continue Reading

Adnyamathanha pilgrimage: Look, listen, there are no straight lines

“You asked about how to approach Aboriginal people,” Aunty Denise Champion picks up our conversation from several days ago. “This is how,” she says as together we step onto a path leading  to a low circular monument.

Nothing would have kept me from walking directly to the sinuous rust stone carving that mimicked the two snakes of Ikara (Wilpena Pound), the vast geological monument that surrounds us.  There were no barriers, no instructions, no protocols, just a stone marker at the mouth of the path announcing, “Ngarlparlaru yata”.

“This is our country,” Denise translates as we walk the two-toned gravel walk that wound its way to the centre. In the Aboriginal world, nothing is direct, the subtleties confound.

I am saved by the saying ‘relationship before stories before questions’, a way so counter-intuitive to the journalist in me. At the brown centre of the monument, however, on a grim grid, no  words were minced, “We lost our traditional way of life to pastoralism and our land to pastoralism–and adapted to an alien culture, a new language and religion.” “My dad couldn’t vote, he was  under the Dog Act. I felt so bad.” “If the missionaries heard us kids speaking our language, they would refuse to sell our mother groceries at the store. She would have to wait for the next week  or travel to the next town to buy flour and sugar.” “After years of pastoral settlement, our traditional life has disappeared.” Continue Reading

Editorial: TLC – Mission accomplished

I’ve previously written in Revive about my connection to Trinity Learning Centre (TLC) as a past student when my son was a baby. It was a sad day for many other past students, teachers,  classroom supervisors, crèche staff, congregation members, committee members and volunteers when TLC closed its doors on Saturday 28 February this year. TLC, a program of UnitingCare  West, originally began out of Trinity Uniting Church (now part of Uniting Church in the City) providing education and support to pregnant and parenting young mothers. I’ve written about the  impact TLC had on my life before, so I won’t get into that again. I have a better story to tell…

At the farewell, Sue Ash, CEO of UnitingCare West, spoke about the sadness and anger people felt at the news that this amazing program was ending. She then reminded us of the success of TLC  – not just for the women who graduated, but also for the church as it filled a need. When TLC began, almost 30 years ago, there was nothing like it in Perth. Dr Harry Cohen recognised a need  for young mothers to have an opportunity to finish high school, through his work at King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, which has a dedicated adolescent maternity ward. Continue Reading

Moderator’s column: We are who we eat with

Someone once said, ‘we are what we eat.’

I am not so sure. Maybe we are who we eat with.

I have shared two meals recently that made me think more deeply about the faith we are called to practice every day. One meal was a breakfast. There were over 100 homeless people present; it  was a fried breakfast, the best kind. It was at Tranby Day Centre, a service provided by UnitingCare West on Aberdeen Street, Perth, just around the corner from the Uniting Church Centre.

It was a Friday summer morning and most of those enjoying the bacon and egg had spent the night out in the park, on a bench or in a shelter if they were lucky. I witnessed an outstanding  ministry that demonstrates in practical ways the care of God and the compassion of Christ. Everyday, God calls us to care about others, especially those who are so easily forgotten or  neglected. One of the traps of living in an affluent and materialistic society is that we can so easily overlook people on the fringes and only eat with people who are like us. Jesus demonstrated a  radical hospitality, dining with all kinds of people. Continue Reading

A space for all to share their gifts

Several times I have heard Rev Prof Andrew Dutney, president of the Uniting Church in Australia, speak of paragraph 13 of the Basis of Union with young people. I get excited every time he  brings it up because it challenges my imagination, pushing me towards a vision of the future church that I sense lying in wait, not quite revealed.

The paragraph reads:

Basis of Union paragraph 13 – Gifts and Ministries

The Uniting Church affirms that every member of the Church is engaged to confess the faith of Christ crucified and to be his faithful servant. It acknowledges with thanksgiving that the one  Spirit has endowed the members of Christ’s Church with a diversity of gifts, and that there is no gift without its corresponding service: all ministries have a part in the ministry of Christ. The  Uniting Church, at the time of union, will recognise and accept the ministries of those who have been called to any task or responsibility in the uniting Churches. The Uniting Church will thereafter provide for the exercise by men and women of the gifts God bestows upon them, and will order its life in response to God’s call to enter more fully into mission.

There are several points of interest in Paragraph 13. Firstly, there is an affirmation that “every member of the church” is to be engaged in confessing Christ and faithful service. This is a  reminder that the first third, people aged 30 and under, are not just Christians in waiting, but members of the body of Christ with the same responsibilities to serve and confess as older members  of the church. Secondly, there is the point that the Spirit has given a diversity of gifts to members of the church, and “there is no gift without its corresponding service”. This is a  fascinating idea. If the call is for all gifts to be used in service then it becomes imperative, not only for us to identify the gifts of everyone in our congregations, but to help them use them to  serve the church, each other and the world. Far from the humility often pushed upon us, this call links back to the idea of not hiding our light under a bushel, suggesting that it might in fact be a  sin to fail to use our gifts for the good of others. Continue Reading

Suter set to visit Perth

Keith Suiter speakingIn December last year, Revive published an article using Dr Keith Suter’s research looking to the future of the Uniting Church, which stirred a lot of discussion. Uniting Church members will  have an opportunity to further that discussion in May, when Keith leads two events in Perth on the theme of ‘Choose your future wisely.’

On Thursday 7 May Keith will speak at an evening function followed by a Q and A session. It is open to anyone associated with the Uniting Church WA and will be an important discussion on the  scenario  planning technique as applied to the Uniting Church in Australia. During the morning on Friday 8 May, Keith will lead a workshop for members of commissions and committees of  the Uniting Church WA.

Rev David Kriel, strategy and mission planner at the Uniting Church WA, said that as this is Keith’s area of expertise, the events will be a stimulating discussion for everyone who is passionate  about the Uniting Church and its future. Continue Reading

Diaconal ministry: Faith at work in the everyday

While kangaroo tails are cooked and smoke billows above an inner city church courtyard on a balmy summer’s evening, stories are told by indigenous people. During morning worship, chairs are stacked in a haphazard pile to express sorrow over injustices experienced by the marginalized. Encouragement is given through Biblical stories of women and men who show their faith in Christ by listening, serving and forming new worshipping communities.

These are a few examples of the diverse and enriching experiences of the Deacon Intensive (for candidates) and the national DUCA (Diakonia in the Uniting Church in Australia) Conference that was held in February in Adelaide over two weeks.

The candidates were a diverse group, including two indigenous leaders, an Irish pastor, a Filipino journalist and an African-American woman, as well as several Australians, all with long experience of diaconal ministry. The candidates in the first week participated in worship, Bible studies, discussions, and immersion visits to a prison, refugee place of welcome and a community garden. Evening sessions, facilitated by Rev Dr Steve Taylor, Principal of Uniting College and Senior Lecturer at Flinders University, further extended their engagement with mission and community service.Continue Reading