Image: A striking congregational photo! Thanks to Murray for donating and installing the Rainbow flag. Murray has offered to provide a larger double-sided flag for next year – so there will be opportunity to pose for a new photo soon!
Redacted Report to Church Council
March 12, 2022
“[T]here is an imperative at play within our interactivity, a demand that we treat others with the noncoercive care with which we want to be treated” (Catherine Keller, On the Mystery, 2008).
“Transforming a culture of coercion into a culture of consent can reshape what it means to be human … If men and women and everyone else of every gender can move through this trauma together, can build something like justice together, then we might actually have a shot at a bright future – for all of us, this time …” (Laurie Penny, Sexual Revolution, 2022).
“The readiness to translate back and forth between ourselves and strangers – without collapsing the distinction between host and guest languages – is … one of the best recipes to promote nonviolence and prevent war” (Richard Kearney, Anatheism, 2011).
“The icon speaks to the inner world while reminding us of the sacredness of the natural world” (Mary M. McDonald, It Draws Me, 2012).
1.1. Church is an opportunity, again and again, to practise family. In caring for one another, acknowledging wounds and weaknesses as well as gifts and accomplishments, we are made and remade as family, as the body of Christ. I celebrate the care I experience all around, glad of the MET’s discernment of care as a core strength at SSUC.
1.2. In face of difficult and daunting tasks, may we continue to commit, consult, create, forgive and make room – for one another, for newcomers. Eucharist (thanksgiving) is the key term, the incarnate Word. By grace we are encouraged …
1.3. Worries over leadership demands and property management are weighing heavily upon us. The pandemic has both exhausted us and brought out the best in us. I’m inspired, too, by the mission planning process and the ways it has brought new focus and resolve – our ministries are inclusive, caring, creative and centred on justice (our mission statement has real resonance). Firm strategies, I pray, will soon bring release. As Covid restrictions ease, we will see many opportunities to exercise ministry – with regulars and newcomers – in a prophetic Spirit of boldness and joy.
1.4. My prayer for the congregation is that we all experience this joy. In my reflective reading this week (see epigraphs), wisdom (Christian and other) delineates a divine call and leads to life. (Again, I strongly recommend Catherine Keller’s On the Mystery … theology as practice in poetics, ethics and metaphysics).
2. BIBLE STUDIES/GOSPEL CONVERSATIONS
2.1. Gospel Conversations this month focus on Luke 4:1-13 – “Tempted/tested by greed, power and pride”. Sunday’s conversation saw seven participants in the church and online.
2.2. Our friends at Paddington UC will join us on March 10 and 24, and we will keep a record of the conversations as a Bible study resource (thanks Andy for note-taking, theological listening). The Christ in the Wilderness artworks by English painter Stanley Spencer will again be included.
3.1. Thanks to Pamela for strong and gentle leadership of our Pastoral Care group. Vespers (online), offers regular time and space for prayer and the new-look On the Vine includes prayer points, theological reflection, parish profiles and ministry details.
3.2. Thanks to Naomi for animated celebrations each month (it always means so much).
3.3. We continue to uphold Dorothy in our prayers, with love for Lindy, Melissa, Bertie and all the family … Thanks to Julie and all for messages of support … Dorothy’s prayer for Nehumi and his family was deeply appreciated.
3.4. We express love and gratitude for Cathie … with prayers for strength and healing …
3.5. With heavy hearts we gathered with Virginia and Tano, Nau and children, Sini, James and Netta, to mourn the passing of dear Nehumi Holameitonga (1948-2022). Nehumi’s funeral, in the church and at Northern Cemeteries (Macquarie Park), comprised several rites over two days. I was honoured to be part of this, to share with Eliesa, Anne, Miriam, the Rev. Timote and others, to experience the love of family and community. I learned a lot about grief as a collective process of remembering, thanksgiving and healing, and was reminded again how precious a part each person plays in the life of our parish.
3.6. The memorial service for Terry James Irving (1970-2021), at the Park Café in Redfern on February 15, attracted 40 or more friends and neighbours. It was an honour to sing and play with Miriam and Abner, to bear witness to Terry’s faith and friendship, to stand with Aunty Melva, Aunty Narelle and Aunty Nita, with Uncle Colin, musicians Owen and Dee, Heather and John, health professionals, café owners Peter and Elly, and many more. Aunty Melva (“Nan”) scattered some of Terry’s ashes in the park garden. We will send a copy of the March SSH, which carries a front-page story about Terry’s memorial, to Terry’s family on Bundjalung Country.
3.7. We have received a request for infant baptism …
4. MEDITATIONS/LITURGY RESOURCE
4.1. On the second Sundays of the month we meet in the church and online for meditation at 12pm, and Visio Divina (Divine Seeing) is proving a rich and rewarding form. Andy led the meditation in February, with a focus on a still by performance artist Latai Taumoepeau.
4.2. Our Liturgy Resource group meeting in February considered ways we might together practise Lenten disciplines. I’ve shared the group’s wisdom by way of the SSH faith column. As regards almsgiving, thanks to Andy and team at Act for Peace for organising an appeal in support of Ukraine. Act for Peace prayers for Ukraine featured in our Ash Wednesday liturgy.
4.3. Thanks to Miriam for leading our March Liturgy Resource group meeting.
5. HOLY WEEK
5.1. Holy Thursday (April 14). Service (hybrid), including a liturgy of foot-washing, at 6pm. Holy Thursday will also bring opportunity to invite a “faithful witness”, either in word/image or in person. Friends from Paddington UC have been invited to join us too.
5.2. Good Friday (April 15). Service (hybrid) at 9am, with friends from Cana Communities. Prayers for the Presentation Sisters, Lismore.
5.3. Holy Saturday (April 16). It would be apt to mark this holy day with a vigil (hybrid) in the church at 6pm. Much of the service will be held in silence. The liturgy will conclude with a lighting of the Easter candle.
5.4. Easter Day (April 17). Service (hybrid) at 10am, including celebration of the Eucharist – and joyful musical items (let’s consider woodwind, brass, strings, percussion!). Andy’s placement will conclude on this day.
6. SEASON OF DISCERNMENT
6.1. Lent is a traditional season of discernment, and we will again make time and space for discernment re spiritual gifts of all members, as well as nominations for the ministries of Elder, Congregational Chairperson and Secretary, and Presbytery Representative. Invitations, also, to consider baptism and reaffirmation of baptism during the Easter season.
6.2. In keeping with previous years, I propose the following dates and details for our acknowledgement, nomination and election process:
March 13: Discernment process begins with liturgy and homily focused on spiritual gifts and opportunities to serve and share (participation in working groups and formation groups). Discernment process outline shared, including date for congregational meeting and elections. Short silence for prayer (five minutes). Announcements to include “positive reasons to join our working group or formation group” – adding symbols to our altar-table.
March 16: eVine includes hyperlink to acknowledgement and nomination form.
March 20: Acknowledging the ministries of Elders and office bearers, convenors and members of various groups (giving thanks). Distribution of acknowledgement and nomination forms (in church). Acknowledgement means recognising gifts of ALL members – gifts may include the ministry of music, art, hospitality, social action, pastoral care, administration, property and maintenance, children’s education, gardening and conservation, prayer and meditation, writing and photography (storytelling). Short silence for prayer and completion of form. Dorothy and Andrew to receive and collect forms. Announcements to include “positive reasons to join our working group or formation group”.
March 27: Short silence for prayer and completion of acknowledgement and nomination form. Dorothy and Andrew to receive and collect forms.
April 3: Deadline for nominations (via email or hard copy). Melinda will be our preacher.
April 10: Announce candidates for ministry of Elder, Chairperson, Secretary and Presbytery Representative (Andrew and Dorothy). Candidates asked to provide short statement of call to ministry. Prayers.
April 13: eVine includes hyperlink to ballot paper (instructions re completing and posting ballot, eg. name must be on back of envelope for vote to be valid).
April 17 (Easter Sunday): Prayerful consideration/discernment before congregational meeting on April 24.
April 22: Deadline for postal votes.
April 24 (Easter 2/Orthodox Easter): Congregational meeting and elections.
May 1: Commissioning of Elders and office bearers; blessing of working and formation groups.
6.3. Elders’ Orientation will take place in the month of May – I’m keen to make enquiries with the Ignatian Spirituality Centre about an Elders’ retreat to follow orientation.
Proposal: That church council adopt the dates for our Season of Discernment.
7. CHURCH WEBSITE
7.1. We are excited to have launched our new church website – an inclusive platform for storytelling (the story of our parish and people goes on) as well as a means of sharing resources and inviting participation in diverse ministries. I am excited by the trinitarian structure/symbolism of congregation, community, garden! And website angels Abner and Norrie … as well as Adrian’s flamingos and garden rooftop succulents.
7.2. Please visit the website regularly and let me know suggestions to improve it. Thanks to Julie, Warren and Vanessa for volunteering to join a new Communications Task Group … More helpers needed and welcome!
7.3. A big thanks to Susan who built our first church website and maintained it for more than 10 years. Her contribution has ensured a rich archive of resources – homilies, liturgies, reports and more.
7.4. In recent months Anne has uploaded homilies each week, and kept our Covid-safety notices up to date.
7.5. Thanks to all who have helped imagine into being our new site, including Catherine, Claire, Norrie, Pamela, Heather, Cathie and Miriam.
7.6. The new site was designed by Rob Young at Gasoline Group in Redfern. Rob has also refreshed the eVine template so that colours and type fonts are consistent with the new site. He will soon add “donation” buttons to various pages on the site, including the home page (with thanks to Miriam for liaising with Pin Payments).
8. WEEKLY FUN & FITNESS
8.1. This is an activity we affirmed in 2021. Might there be interest in meeting at Redfern Park on Fridays from 5-6pm – for walking, gentle exercise? Perhaps we could invite some fitness enthusiasts to join and help lead the activity?
9. MINISTRY COMMITTEE
9.1. I have enjoyed convening the Pastoral Relations Committee’s Ministry Committee over a couple of years, but will resign from that position this month. I will remain an active member, with meetings via Zoom and in person on the second Thursday of each month. The Ministry Committee oversees the Period of Discernment (POD) program and candidates for ministry within the Sydney Presbytery.
9.2. Melinda has completed her POD, congratulations! Melinda will preach on April 3, with a focus on Jesus the Teacher and her own experience as an English teacher … – “As I reflect on the art and theology of teaching, in light of Jesus the Teacher, I value …”
Proposal: That church council nominate a time to meet with Melinda.
9.3. POD mentee, Gloria, is a Chinese-Australian artist who practises both traditional Chinese and modern watercolour painting. She is working on 150 paintings in response to the psalms – a very exciting project that fills me with joy! Reading paras 5 and 11 of the Basis of Union, we have developed an approach to reading the Bible that affirms critical and creative appropriation of the text – generating new texts/images for sharing … Perhaps an exhibition at the Orchard Gallery?
10. STUDENT PLACEMENT
10.1. Andy has exercised ministry among us throughout an intensely challenging period. He has shown real commitment on Sundays, both 10am and 12pm activities, pastoral sensitivity and faithfulness, as well as leadership in the Eden Garden ministry space. Andy, we stand with you as the (shed) walls come down and a new era dawns – for you and for us. Every blessing to you …
Finding my voice, again and again, in ministry with you all. I share these lines, one for each of the 28 days I spent on the south coast in January – prayers for SSUC.
FEATHERS IN THE CLAY
I learned how not to quit, not to shirk
How to find nourishment within the work
How to depict a storm on its way
The black swans in their nest yesterday
I looked into the mirror, saw an eel
Head and tail, a sudden cloud conceal
And to the west, to the silver skies
Raised my right hand to protect my eyes
Ah, you always think the best of me
Show me the virtues of uncertainty
Sit there gazing into the abyss
Did you miss your moment? You won’t miss!
Light and shadow before the leap
White-faced heron at an angle steep
When I hold back, you hold back too
When I commit, there’s nothing you can’t do
But what if I weren’t here to persist?
Would you notice the objects that exist?
The rocks on the bank, blocks of time
My feet on fire, my feet in slime
If you’re tempted to blame or blaspheme
Remember this short report of a dream
Sunset most lovely on the last day
Under the water, feathers in the clay
In the middle where the big fish feed
Paddle on through the seagrass and weed
Make it clear, keep it rough, keep my balance
In, through the laws of wind and chance
Grace and peace,