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

Manea College a sea of purple

Students from Manea Senior College in Bunbury rallied together on Wear it Purple Day to support sexually diverse peers and raise money for UnitingCare West’s True Colours program. Wear it Purple Day  was held on Friday 29 August, building awareness around issues that many young sexually diverse people might face.

The College became a sea of purple as students were invited to dress up for the occasion. They also held a presentation at lunchtime including information on the concept behind the event, performances, a  best dressed competition and berry smoothies made by the college’s Health Committee throughout the day.

Lauren Baxter, youth worker at the college, said that the year 12 Student Executive Team wanted to be proactive on the issue and run the event to highlight to the community that they offer an inclusive  environment.

“It was student led and it just makes it more relevant to the students,” Lauren said. “We’re aware that there are going to be students that are sexually diverse and we want the students to know that we are  supportive and there are services in Bunbury that they can go to.” 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

Editorial: Australian poverty – closer than you think

During Anti-Poverty Week quite some years ago, I attended an event which I was reporting on for Revive. At this event, I was told that homelessness comes in many forms and its definition was basically a  lack of stable accommodation. I was, at the time, staying at my brother’s house, sleeping in my niece’s room while my children slept on mattresses on the floor. After a relationship breakdown, we ‘crashed’ at my brother’s house with his family for a month while I found a way to get back on my feet.

It was quite confronting; I’d just finished my degree, I had a great job, and here I was writing an article about the unseen side of homelessness while realising I was ‘homeless’ myself.

Anti-Poverty Week is  from 12-18 October. It’s aimed at building awareness around poverty in Australia and around the world. Globally, we see so many images of impoverished communities. When my brother, my kids and I went to India a few years ago, we saw poverty on the streets everywhere we went. We saw mothers and their children lie down to bed on pedestrian islands in the middle of busy roads.  We saw people washing themselves at public taps on the streets of Kolkata.

In Australia, poverty is much more hidden, silent and solitary. But it is there. The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) found in a 2014 report that 12.8% of people in Australia are living below the  poverty line. Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 19.3% are living in poverty. Continue Reading

Moderator’s Column: Listen with the ears of God

It has happened. The deed is done. No going back. On Thursday 11 September, by the grace of God, the leading of the Spirit and the goodwill of the Uniting Church in WA, I became the moderator. One of the  questions I have been frequently asked over the past few months is what a moderator actually does.

In starting out, one of the things that I am trying most to do is to listen and I am even trying to listen deeply. Listening is often the first step in the healing process. Listening to words, listening to sighs,  listening to heartbeats and heartbreaks are part of the art of listening. Listening to tone and to tenor as well as to what is said and not said. Being a disciple means to listen without judgement and prejudice.  Listening attentively is one of the most powerful ways to connect with another human being. When we listen to the deepest hurts and hopes of another, we affirm his or her very personhood.

Jesus was the best listener of all. He often listened to others before doing much talking himself. We see this after his resurrection when two of his followers were walking and talking on the road to the village of  Emmaus. Jesus “came up and walked along with them” (Luke 24 v 15). Luke then adds “they were kept from recognising him” (v16). Finally, Jesus joins the conversation without them recognising who  he was. He listened to the two travellers, but they didn’t seem to listen to him. Continue Reading

Messages from the aether: Voices for the voiceless

What people are blogging

A God who gambles

Genesis Chapter 1 offers an insight into the bigger picture of the function of every believer. In this article, J Barrett Owen likens God to Martin Luther King, famous for his “I have a dream” speech. Martin  Luther King visualised the potential of the vast, seemingly barren expanse before him. Much like God, he deliberated over the problem and the potential, visualising a solution. Knowing that he did not have  his dream, just for the sake of it, he chose to take a risk on top of that dream, and he did this with others in mind. That is really the message of salvation in a nutshell and the mandate of every follower of Jesus Christ. We are put on this earth for others. To speak out and act on behalf of those who are incapacitated and unable to fight for themselves. 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

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

Adult literacy: A silent struggle

For most people who’ve done reasonably well at school, reading and writing becomes a natural part of life. But, unlike the spoken word, there’s actually nothing natural about it. Written word is a social construct which has only fairly recently, in historical terms, been so widespread.

Literacy is an ‘enabler’ – we learn a lot of other things through it, especially while we’re still at school. So for many, struggling with literacy can actually make them feel excluded from the world around  them, which is centred around numeracy and the written word.

In 2013, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranked Australia fourth out of 24 countries in literacy, in their First Results from the Survey for Adult Skills. Comparatively,  in 2013 The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that 44% of Australians are at or below level two in their literacy skills. Level three is considered to be a reasonable functioning level for Australian  society.

While you don’t have to be living in poverty to struggle with literacy, findings show that it is people from a low socioeconomic background who often suffer the most. If you don’t struggle with it, you may  never actually realise just how much reading and writing connects us to our surrounding world. 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