Gifts, goats and God this Christmas

“You got me a what?”

Uncle Graham is squinting at your card, breath a little yeasty from the Christmas pudding. Frankly, he’s disappointed. It was socks he wanted. Or a fishing magazine. He also had his eye on a new case for his iphone.

You got him a goat from UnitingWorld’s Everything in Common ethical gift catalogue. Worthy, but clearly not his favourite.

“Well, it’s for a family in Zimbabwe…” you tell him, a little flustered. “They’ll breed the goats and with the money they can get for them at the market, they’ll send their children to school. It’s pretty cool, actually.”

Uncle Graham looks skeptical. He doesn’t actually say it, but you can see what he’s thinking: “So you got me nothing. You got them goats, but you got me nothing.”Continue Reading

Support and training for long-term recovery in Fiji

Cyclone Winston, the strongest storm ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere made landfall in Fiji on 20 February, flattening entire villages with torrential rain, storm surges and winds of more than 300 km per hour.

More than 40 people were killed and thousands of homes damaged. Hospitals, schools, crops, livestock and water supplies were hit and thousands of Fijians were forced to shelter in schools, churches and community buildings. Many remain there today. Thanks to a generous response to UnitingWorld’s emergency appeal – gifts of almost $200 000 – UnitingWorld were able to respond quickly. Funds are being used to assist the Methodist Church in Fiji, a partner church of the Uniting Church in Australia, to work alongside the Fijian government and provide humanitarian relief to thousands of people throughout affected communities.

In particular, providing food, shelter, water purification tablets and cooking utensils, which are critically important for preparing the type of food that is distributed in emergencies and for purifying potentially contaminated water. These materials are being bought in non-affected areas of Fiji, helping to buoy the local economy and sustain the livelihoods of local people.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

Act, reflect, connect: Getting the balance right

At 11.45 every morning, three soothing bells chime out from my iPhone. “Do you want to meditate?” comes the helpful enquiry from my screen, sent each day without fail by my ‘Mindfulness’  app (with handy alerts and tools to track my progress as an enlightened member of the human race).

I glance at my screen. “Seriously? Meditate now? I’m driving/typing/hanging out washing/reading at my child’s school/masterminding the incoming reign of peace and justice for the world.  Maybe later…”

The philosopher Socrates famously suggested that the unexamined life was not worth living. It’s a pretty bold statement. Are we all to be philosophers, floating through life clad in yoga pants, clutching our Mindfulness apps and gazing earnestly at our navels? Or did Socrates have something more balanced in mind?

Church communities have typically been big on reflection – worship, preaching, Bible study and prayer all encourage us to examine our lives carefully. For me, no matter what chaos the week  has held, our lay preachers seldom fail to produce the gem of an idea to polish throughout the week. Too often, though, nothing much happens beyond mental activity. I find it relatively easy to ponder. It’s harder to act. And there’s been no shortage of criticism fired at the church over exactly this tendency.

How do we get the balance right between thought, belief and action? Continue Reading

Share with others around the world this Christmas

It’s easy at Christmas to get caught up in our own lives, giving peace, joy, hope and love to those around us. But it’s just as easy to extend that joy of giving to people around the world, remembering that while we celebrate and live with excess, others are struggling to get by day-to-day. There are so many ways you can help others globally, through development, peacebuilding and aid agencies.

UnitingWorld – Everything in Common

Over the past five years your gifts of goats, chickens and bees have created a buzz in the lives of people from Tonga to Timor, helping break the cycle of poverty and bring about peace. More than $1.3 million generated through the Uniting Church’s very own gift catalogue, Everything in Common, has been injected into community development, ministry and leadership projects that give people the power to take control of their futures.

Everything in Common is based on the example of the early Christians who literally held ‘everything in common’ so that no one would be in need. Every gift you give through this program goes directly to projects that support Uniting Church partners in some of the most challenging parts of our world.

There are so many stories of hope coming from projects supported by UnitingWorld’s Everything in Common.Continue Reading

Hope and hardship: the gift of clean water

Two weeks ago I was in Papua New Guinea visiting a UnitingWorld water and sanitation project in a picturesque village at the eastern-most point of the mainland. Whenever I travel, I  always find it quite jarring to see such beauty and such struggle co-existing together. The people of Papua New Guinea are strong and resilient, their country one of the most beautiful  and resource-rich in the world. Yet, we’ve heard much in the Australian media recently of their many challenges. While the tension between hope and hardship may be an ongoing  reality for humanity, the lives of many of our Papua New Guinean neighbours could easily be improved. Continue Reading

The gift of being UnitingWorld national director

In April, I conclude seven years as National Director of UnitingWorld to take up congregational ministry. As I look towards that role, one of my first thoughts concerns how I will  enable the congregation to engage globally.

How will I support children and adults who have been baptised to meet, at least in their imagination, their brothers and sisters in faith across the globe? How I will I help those coming for confirmation to have a deep sense of being bound to people beyond their locality? How will I help nourish disciples to act with the  people suffering injustice not reported in popular media? How will I guide the congregation in experiencing God beyond the constraints of Western culture? Continue Reading

Give it UP for Lent

Georgina Garrett, Jemima Taylor and Imogen Senior from Picton Uniting are Giving it UP for Lent in 2014 with new youth resources.

Georgina Garrett, Jemima Taylor and Imogen Senior from Picton Uniting Church are Giving it UP for Lent in 2014 with new youth resources.

UnitingWorld’s Lent Event provides opportunities for people of all ages to – as their motto says – connect, reflect and act. Connect with overseas communities; reflect on your faith  and act, by giving up everyday items and donating the money to vital relief and development projects instead.

This year Lent Event includes a new, youth-inspired addition – Give it UP for Lent. Running over one weekend from March 7–9, Give it UP for Lent is the result of collaboration  between UnitingWorld and South Australia’s Uniting Young People. It includes a full range of youth group resources, video and bible study materials.  Continue Reading

More than a guest

Following a visit to Scarborough in 2012 from UnitingWorld representative Lee-Anne Burnett, the Scarborough and Waterman’s Bay Congregations agreed to sponsor a student  from the Indonesian province of Papua to be a part of a group of students undertaking a three-month intensive English language course in Perth early in 2013. A good grasp of English enhances the employment prospects for Papuans.Continue Reading

Relief for the Philippines

When Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in early November, thousands of people were killed, and many more injured, displaced and left to rebuild their lives.

Since launching the Philippines Typhoon appeal not long after the tragedy, UnitingWorld has received over $30,000 from the generous support of individuals, businesses and congregations within the Uniting Church in Australia.Continue Reading