Message from the General Secretary

Message from the General Secretary

With so many weeks since our last newsletter, one might expect that I would be early with my message, But such is not the case. There is much happening with the National Council of Churches in Australia and as I try to catch up on what was not completed last year, and try to prepare for the coming year, I find that there are many issues before me, and many ideas floating around.

Last October the leaders of Churches came together. They came together primarily to support each other and for conversation together. Part of their time focused on the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse. Francis Sullivan, the CEO of the Catholic Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Commission spoke to them on the proposed redress scheme. Importantly, they decided that the first Sunday of Lent, 5 March 2017, will be a Day or Prayer and Fasting for Refugees and Asylum Seekers. Consequently, in the past two weeks, I have kept alert to resources that could be shared with churches. Rightly or wrongly, I thought that it would be appropriate to provide some material for reflection and prayer as well as some sources for reading and study.  Naturally, I turned to the web.

In doing this search, I found that people speaking of their experience had a most powerful impact on me. I have just viewed Australian Story , The Road from Damascus that told of the experience of a Syrian, Khaled Naanaa and his family. This program is available until 7 February, so, if you have not already seen it, why not prepare for the Day of Prayer and Fasting for Refugees and Asylum Seekers by viewing the program. If you miss this program, you might like to look at the web-site of UNHCR  to hear more people, or you might like to look at the website of the Refugee Council of Australia to obtain more information.

Belatedly but timely, I have just read for the first time the Christmas letter to the Churches around the world of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Reverend Justin Welby. While written for Christmas, his message is fitting for this time:

The measure of a Christ-like community is the extent to which it holds the vulnerable and marginalised of the world at the centre of its life. Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, helped the Primates of the Anglican Communion to see this at our meeting in January [2016]. He has said elsewhere: ‘To live with Jesus is to live with the poor; to live with the poor is to live with Jesus’ (Community and Growth 1989). More than ever, we have a strong sense of the unity of Christians. God hears the prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ that we ‘may be one, so that the world may believe that you have sent me’ (John 17. 21) and even now is fulfilling his prayer. While we are deeply conscious today of the ecumenism of blood, we also live in the ecumenism of hope and we are called to an ecumenism of action. To live with the vulnerable and marginalised, with Jesus Christ at the centre of our communities and at the heart of our ecumenical relations, to act together out of love and in love, love that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit is also to live as those who sow hope. Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life’ (John 8.12). John the Evangelist … strengthens us with this message: ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it’ (John 1.5).

May Christians unite in prayer and action to bring life and hope to people seeking to live in peace and with dignity.

Sr Elizabeth Delaney sgs
General Secretary

 

 

Tveit (General Secretary of World Council of Churches) reflects on hope, reformation and salvation in New Year’s sermon

 

Tveit reflects on hope, reformation and salvation in New Year’s sermonNew Years’ Day in the Church of Ås, Norway. © Linda Janson-Haddal/Ås Kirke

05 January 2017

World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit preached on New Year’s Day in the Church of Ås in Norway. Tveit not only observed the first day of 2017 but also commemorated the 150th anniversary of Ås Church, as well as 500 years of Reformation.

In addition, Tveit marked the new relations between the Church of Norway and the state. The Church of Norway and the Norwegian government went their separate ways on 1 January 2017 after almost 500 years of being together.

In the sermon, Tveit noted how Jesus came into the world in circumstances that make for a normal family story with a few highly unusual aspects.

“This fine, little, freshly washed mortal boy, one of the many children on the Earth, was born just as vulnerable and loved by his parents as children of parents in Syria or other countries in this area today,” Tveit noted.

“In other words, he was born into a family that faced challenges, into a cultural and religious context that was in the process of change, in a political landscape with strong and partly oppressive forces in place, into a historical moment of unrest – but also with hope of change, reformation and salvation. Many children are born under such circumstances – in all time periods.”

He also addressed Norway’s separation of church and state. “This is a unique situation and around the world, people are looking on, wondering how we have managed to maintain a national church for so long and how such a beneficial organisation can be voluntarily dissolved in this way,” he said.

“We now hope that they will be able to witness with wonder and joy that it is possible to have an active community open to different views of life in which religion and religious institutions are valued and play an important part in society, with a good economic basis for the work to be done.”

The Church of Norway has an episcopal-synodal structure with 1,215 parishes; 11 dioceses and since 2011, one area under the supervision of the presiding bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien

Christmas Message from the Moderator of the Uniting Church in Western Australia

Good will hunting at Christmas and beyond

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It is sometimes said “where there is a will there is a way”. May I rephrase it slightly and say “where there is good will there is a good way forward”. One of my favourite films is Good Will Hunting with Matt Damon and the late Robin Williams. I love the story-line because it emphasizes what we can so easily forget, that seeking the good will of another can lead to really good outcomes all round. It is a theme that is picked up in the Christmas story. The angel’s announcement of the birth of Christ includes the declaration of intent “Peace on Earth and good will to all people” (Luke 2:14 KJV). It is hard to imagine peace without goodwill. Yet as Christmas draws closer there seems in some sections of our local and international community a distinct lack of good will.

Yesterday we had the government’s financial report. As a nation we are continuing to live beyond our means. Our debt is huge and something must be down. But as I listened to both sides of the political spectrum there was little good will on display. Both major parties blamed each other for the problem and neither side seemed prepared to give ground in order to help solve our economic problems. Remember the fruit picker’s tax? It took months and months of bitter haggling and point scoring before a last minute solution was brokered. Fruit farmers were beside themselves; so much for good will. I was also deeply saddened by recent events in Jakarta where the Christian Governor Purnama is on trial for blasphemy. Hundreds of thousands have protested on the streets for several days against him when it appears he has not been intentionally offensive. Not much tolerance.  Not much good will hunting.

My heart also goes out to the refugees stuck in Aleppo, Syria. Once again as men, women and children live on the edge of starvation the evacuation of the  city has been painfully slow. There is an urgent need for good will to prevail to halt the horrendous suffering of innocent people. There was simply insufficient good will.

The birth of Jesus reminds us afresh that good will or seeking the good of others is fundamental to human community functioning well. God acts for our good in sending God’s Son, Jesus, to our self-absorbed world. Jesus role models the good life with special attention to those who were so easily forgotten and forsaken. Like peacemaking, good will hunting is a beatitude that needs daily practice. Part of the good news involving doing good. I love the description of Dorcas, “she went around doing good” (Acts 9:36), in other words she was good at good will hunting. And what about you and I? Are we good will hunters or do we just hope that good will will come to us? Over this festive season it would be valuable to spend a few moments thinking about someone who we need to express a special dose of good will to. It could make the world of difference. Happy hunting.

Blessings,

Rev Steve Francis

2016 Christmas Message by Catholic Archbishop of Perth, Timothy Costelloe OBD

ArchbishopTimothyDec16

Download the full text in PDF

“When I see the heavens, the work of your hands, and the moon and the stars which you arranged, who are we that you should keep us in mind – mere human beings that you care for us?”

The question which these beautiful words from Psalm 8 pose, find an extraordinary answer in the mystery of Christmas. As Saint John expresses it in his Gospel, “God loved the world so much that he sent his only Son that all who believe in him might not be lost but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).

We live in an age where the unimaginable power, beauty, wonder and vastness of creation, are known in ways that our ancestors could never have believed. For us as Christians, this extraordinary universe is not an obstacle to belief in God: rather it is a stimulus to a deeper, almost overpowering understanding of the greatness of the creator, who gives existence to all that exists and who keeps everything in existence, through endless ages.

How can we do anything other than stand in awe at the creation, and even more in the presence of our creator? The psalmist is right to say, “who are we, O Mighty God, that you should keep us in mind?”

In Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, God responds by saying to us, “in the extraordinary vastness and complexity of my creation, you are the ones whom I have created and chosen to enter into a relationship of profound and intimate love with me.

“So much do I love you, and want to be one with you, that I have, in my Son Jesus, become one of you and one with you. In a world in which it is so easy to lose sight of me, misunderstand me, or even forget me, I have given you my Son, so that in him you might hear me speak, see me reach out with compassion, recognise me as the one who heals and forgives, and see me, in his suffering and death, as the one who will go to any lengths to save you – because I love you.”

This extraordinary encounter between God and his people begins with the conception and birth of Jesus. This tiny, fragile baby, is the presence of the mighty creator, God among us. He will grow and develop as we all do, and his life, free from sin and totally given to his Father and to us, will reveal to us what real, fully human living, is meant to be.

As we celebrate Christmas this year, I invite you to gaze with wonder on this helpless baby, lying in his manger. Recognise in him, the extraordinary love God has for you. Allow that love to be the foundation of your lives, a source of strength and hope in times of struggle and sorrow, and an inspiration for that reaching out to others with compassion and care, which is the defining characteristic of life lived to the full, of life lived as a disciple of Jesus.

I wish you and all your loved ones a very happy, holy and joy-filled Christmas.

Signature

Message from the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches

Description: Sr Elizabeth Delaney sgs

Dear friends

As I write this last message for 2016,the words of Dag Hammarskjold, come to my mind, For all that has been, Thanks, for all that will be, Yes!  There is so much for which to be thankful.  2016 has been a very significant year in the life of the national Council of Churches in Australia. Our forum took place giving us a new President, a new constitution, a new Board of Directors, and a new Assembly. Our commissions and networks continue to commit to ensuring our churches work together and grow in understanding of each other. The NCCA staff is beavering along – with generosity and commitment. Act for peace are completing the requirements for accreditation. These few sentences completely understate what we are doing together. To each person who is involved, who has gone the extra mile, Thank you.

As I look back on the life of NCCA, I think of our member churches. I’m guessing that many churches when they look back on the past year, thoughts may be less positive. I appreciate that churches have faced a number of troubling issues. Perhaps the issue that continues to distress us most is the situation of people suffering persecution for their faith, people seeking refuge and asylum.  Our hearts ache for them. Our hearts grieve for our nation. I give thanks for the many people who are giving voice to many people whose voices are not heard who are striving to enable people be at home.

People seeking asylum and refuge especially speak to me of hope. as the situation of so many comes to mind, I think of the hope that must enable each to leave all they know, to leave home, to move into the unknown, facing innumerable difficulties, so that they may have a home that is safe.

As God’s people we are called to make Christ’s message of hope real for them. WE are God’s hands, feet, heart.  May we have the courage to be a reason for hope for many.

As we live Christ’s message each day – living it in the reality of our homes and communities, saying ‘Yes’ to God in the ordinary and the extraordinary – may we know Christ in our lives in ever new ways.

May we be at home in Christ as he makes his home in us.

 

Sr Elizabeth Delaney sgs

General Secretary

Message from the President of the National Council of Churches

 

Description: Bishop Philip Huggins

Just recently I witnessed the value of good friends. About 150 people turned up for lunch on Saturday last in Teasdale. The Revd Tim Smith and the Belmont parishioners were absolutely wonderful hosts, so well organised, gracious and kindly, opening their doors and hearts to a number of recently arrived Iraqi Christians. It was truly beautiful to see the happiness surrounding our Iraqi friends. They had come from such desolation and misery and shared with us what ISIS has done to their former homes and Church.   We sang “We three kings of orient are”, and noted the legend that Iraq is where the magi came from, following the Bethlehem star. A number of clergy present have written to me since to say how much they valued their conversations with our guests.

One next contribution is to link these Iraqi Christians with folk who can help with English conversation, matching families with kids around the same age, to assist with conversational language skills. We all know that the acquisition of the local language is crucial to education, employment outcomes and belonging. We are awaiting information in order to make these connections. One of the Revd Will Orpwood’s Highton parishioners is happy to coordinate this and also swimming lessons for these people who have never lived near the ocean.

Parishioners from Christ Church and Eltham areas are seeking to help in like fashion as similar families join their community. The practical goodwill and Christian care of our clergy and parishioners is vivid in all this. This has poignantly raised our ministry of reconciliation as “Ambassadors of Christ”. Reconciliation, the love of Jesus compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14-20), reconciled and reconciling, “a sign of the coming unity of the whole human family”. (World Council of Churches): That is our high calling as Church, disciples of Jesus! The necessity for our ministry of reconciliation, in the grace of Jesus, could not be plainer, not only amongst our-selves but as agents of reconciliation in the local, national and international community. Wherever one turns, the necessity for deep reconciliation is vivid. If we look at the world through the eyes of children, what do we see?

My suggestion is that we make Reconciliation an Advent theme for study and prayer. It fits with the deep themes of Advent – life, death and eternity. To this end, ahead of the normal time, can I commend the 2017 worship and study material for the World Council of Churches Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Produced by the German Churches, with their parallels to our Australian setting in the context of the Reformation Anniversary, it is a timely and insightful resource.

As we read in 2 Corinthians 5, God in Christ has reconciled us and now gives us the ministry of reconciliation. We are given this ministry of reconciliation and it is entrusted it to us! “So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making God’s appeal through us.” (v 20) Yes, the love of Jesus for the whole human family compels us to give our all to this high calling.

In the past week I have been attentive to various parish conflicts whilst also, like you, being aware of sadness in Syria, South Sudan, amidst our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and also the fears sparked by news of a new global arms race, including in South Asian our Region (the opportunity cost of which will cause more of the poor to starve).

You will have your own litany of other sad and unreconciled matters. The point is, Advent is a season for going deeper. Our prayer, fasting and acts of reconciliation are needed. “The love of Jesus compels us.”  May I commend this theme to you and those for whom you care.

Bishop Philip Huggins

President

National Council of Churches in Australia

 

Uniting Church WA Synod Appoints New General Secretary

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6 February 2016

Dear Members of Synod, Congregations, Schools and Agencies

Thank you for upholding the church in prayer in the lead-up to the Special Meeting of the Synod of Western Australia, Uniting Church in Australia as we gathered today, Saturday 6 February to discern God’s will for us.

I am delighted to announce that the Synod decided by at least a two-thirds majority to appoint Rev David de Kock as general secretary of the Synod of Western Australia.

David is currently in placement at Lighthouse Uniting Church in Geraldton, a member of General Council and the chair of the Pastoral Relations and Placements Commission (PR&PC). He also served at Merredin Uniting Church for five years.

General Secretary Elect, Rev David de Kock

General Secretary Elect, Rev David de Kock

David brings to the role a life of prayer, a love of people, a desire to ignite passion in others to use their gifts and skills, implementation of programs in planning, strategy and direction, and proven experience in keeping financial costs and budgets in balance.

David has been admitted as an ordained minister from the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA). He holds a Bachelor of Theology and a Bachelor of Commerce, as well as a Master of Business Administration. Prior to entering ministry, David worked in senior leadership positions, including as Managing Director, of large companies.

David is married with three adult children and moved from South Africa eight years ago.

At the 39th Western Australian Synod meeting held in September last year, I gave a verbal report as the General Secretary Selection Committee convenor and advised that the search for the best person to fulfil the duties, functions and responsibilities for the role of general secretary would continue.

Since September 2015, the Committee again advertised the position nationally and conducted interviews.

Members of the General Secretary Nominating Committee: Rev Cathie Lambert; Margaret
Martin; Dr Alec O’Connell, Scotch College headmaster; Rebecca Cody, principal, MLC; Vaughan Harding, Juniper chief executive officer; Rev Dr Andrew Williams, General Secretary NSW/ACT, advisor; and in consultation with Rev Sealin Garlett, Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, have worked diligently on this important appointment and I thank them for their significant contribution.

Since the conclusion of Kay Dowling as General Secretary on 1 July 2014, we have given thanks to God for the faithful people, lay and ordained, staff and volunteers, who have been generous with their gifts and skills, as they have faithfully served the church in their local community, as well as through Synod, Presbytery and Assembly. In particular, Bob Seinor who prepared the extensive background work for General Council.

I also acknowledge the enormous contribution of those that have acted in the role of general secretary over the last eighteen months: Rosemary Hudson Miller, Rev Dr Ian Tozer, Rev John Dunn and Rev Rick Morrell. In particular, Rosemary Hudson Miller acted in the role throughout 2015, as well as for numerous months in 2014. Rosemary has sacrificially given her time, gifts and skills throughout.

There are many dimensions to the role of General Secretary as they walk alongside and share the love, faith and hope of the wonderful people within the Uniting Church family: congregations and faith communities; schools and colleges; agencies; boards, committees and commissions; as well as our partner churches and other faiths.

We pray this appointment will bring renewed life, health and unity within the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Western Australia. We ask for your prayerful and practical love and support of David as he grows into the role of General Secretary.

Grace and peace

Rev Steve Francis
Moderator

Churches’ Week of Action on Food

11  -  18 October 2015 Worldwide

The Churches’ Week of Action on Food is an opportunity for Christians and others around the world to act together for food justice and food sovereignty. It is a special time to raise awareness about farming approaches that help individuals and communities develop resiliency and combat poverty. The Food for Life Campaign places a particular emphasis on sustainable agricultural practices and the situation of smallholder producers and their access to, and control over, natural resources such as land, water and seeds.

21st Anniversary of the Inauguration of National Council of Churches in Australia

3rd July was the 21st anniversary of the inauguration of National Council of Churches in Australia. We are celebrating this anniversary with the launch of our new website. I hope that you will Like us – and pass the link to others. It is a work in progress. Please let us know if you wold like us to add any news, request from your church or NCCA activity. Many will recall the event in St Christopher’s Cathedral in Canberra.

 

Margaret Roberts, one of the artists involved in making the mantle, wrote: The biggest thrill for me was the impact the mantle had on the service. It was indeed very moving to witness the mantle being processed in, unfolded, passed from the representative of the Australian Council of Churches to the representative of the National Council of Churches and then unfurled further and in the hands of the dancers to flow over the heads of all those in the cathedral. This was accompanied by the most wonderful music of the ecumenical choir and instrumentalists singing ‘You are my inheritance, 0 Lord’.

May we continue to give thanks for the blessings received and continue to strive to fulfil the hopes expressed on that day. Peace Elizabeth

Elizabeth Delaney SGS General Secretary National Council of Churches in Australia

Web: www.ncca.org.au

Mail: Locked Bag Q199 QUEEN VICTORIA BUILDING NSW 1230 Australia 

 

 

Act for Peace – Christmas Bowl – Thank You

 

Thank you to churches and individuals in W.A. who generously supported our 2014 Christmas Bowl Appeal.  Real change is taking place – please watch our short video, share it with others and your church congregations to see the difference that your support has made to the lives of people affected by conflict and disaster this past year. http://www.actforpeace.org.au/Give-Now/Thank-you-for-being-there