Image: Trinity icon donated by Regina Madden, Cana Communities (see 7.3.). Flowers from Eden Garden, arranged by Svetlana.
Redacted Report to Church Council
September 24, 2022
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
“We are capable of the greatest atrocities and the deepest sufferings, all culminating in a vast, collective grief. This is our shared condition.
“Yet happiness and joy continue to burst through this mutual condition. Life, it seems, is full of an insistent, systemic and irrepressible beauty. But these moments of happiness are not experienced alone, rather they are almost entirely relational and are dependent on a connection to the Other – be it people, or nature, or art, or God. This is where meaning establishes itself, within the connectedness, nested in our shared suffering.
“I believe we are meaning-seeking creatures, and these feelings of meaning, relational and connective, are almost always located within kindness [hesed]. Kindness is the force that draws us together – despite our collective state of loss, and our potential for evil, there exists a great network of goodness, knitted together by countless everyday kindnesses.
“These often small, seemingly inconsequential acts of kindness, that Soviet writer Vasily Grossman calls ‘petty, thoughtless kindness’, or ‘unwitnessed kindness’ bind together to create a subterranean and vanquishing Good that counterbalances the forces of evil and prevents suffering from overwhelming the world.
“We reach out and find each other in the common darkness. By doing so we triumph over our collective and personal loss. Through kindness we slant, shockingly and miraculously, toward meaning” (Nick Cave, September 2022).
1.1. It has been an eventful month or so. Although tired, I feel deeply thankful for much kindness and wisdom. When we say that the Eucharist is “at the heart of our life together”, we mean at least this – that practising thankfulness in the Spirit with Jesus centres and sustains us amid life’s storms and challenges.
1.2. From the altar-table, as we gather and circle/spiral within the sanctuary, we remember gifts of bread and wine, social and ecological commentary, music, labour, liturgy and poetry, journalism, community service and advocacy … we acknowledge sovereign and unceded land, unfinished (sorry) business, calls to live justly and wisely.
1.3. As we circle/spiral within the sanctuary, we remember gifts of friendship – a communion of saints and so much potential, including new offers of partnership with presbytery and neighbouring congregations/communities. Anne, Miriam and I have compiled a set of questions to help discern the way forward in relation to partnership options …
1.4. Regarding mission planning and discernment, the Rev. Dr Peter Walker, principal at United Theological College, would be happy to offer ministry as a theological listener. He sends his greeting to church council – with thanks for creative and faithful ministry …
1.5. Our God keeps us safe and strong in thanksgiving, whatever may happen, as we circle/spiral within and beyond the sanctuary – through the streets and parks, from friend to friend – a congregation in a community in a garden … a congregation for the community with a garden … This is the promise and vision of “real presence”.
1.6. I’m excited by ways this vision continues to inspire activity and actualisation – music lessons, rehearsals and concerts, market stalls, art workshops and annual prizes … bush tucker talks, working bees, fruit tree planting, poetry books and book sharing, life-giving community events …
2.1. Blessings upon Garden Shelter volunteer Leigh Conrad Jorey whose funeral was held in the church (standing room only) on Friday September 16. With thanks to Julie, Regina, Lorraine, Bec and all our friends at Cana Communities, and to Abner for loving ministry and liturgical leadership. “Leigh knew hardship … and Leigh loved his neighbour, which, according to Jesus (Mark 12:28-34), means he loved God – he loved with the faithfulness of God who says: ‘I will cover you with my pinions; under my wings you will take refuge; my faithfulness will shield you’ (Psalm 91:4) … ‘Because you’re mine, I walk the line’ …”
2.2. Blessings upon Catherine’s good friend, Megan Sara Purcell (Mex), whose memorial is held tonight (Monday) at Love Supreme on Oxford Street. I first met Mex in Redfern 15 years ago and she was always an engaging and encouraging neighbour. An avid photographer and social justice activist, she supported the work of the SSH and the SSUC community. Mex regularly attended art openings at the Orchard Gallery, and showed respect to all participating artists, curators and musicians.
2.3. Prayers with Robbie …
2.4. All elders and ministers, as well as congregational leaders (Naomi, Pamela …) are invited to attend Pastoral Care meetings. Please let me know any further recommendations.
2.5. Pamela has led our pastoral care meetings over many years. Our meetings in August and September (10-11.30am on the 2nd Saturday of the month) were held in hybrid mode – in the hall and via Zoom – according to a trusted pattern: Acknowledgement of Country; Welcome/Confidentiality; Scripture Reading and Reflection/Meditation; Theological/Pastoral Input/Case Study; Short Break (5 mins); Prayers; Benediction.
2.6. Our August meeting focused on Confidentiality, with three short case studies and questions for reflection. The group’s statement on confidentiality now reads: “A reminder that this is a safe space for sharing – that we respect the dignity of each other and of each and every person with whom we share ministry and life in South Sydney … each and every person to whom we refer as we seek to give and receive care. While noting any matters of broad community concern, we hold in confidence what is shared at this meeting.”
2.7. Our September meeting focused on Teamwork, with a longer case study from www.oncourseworkshop.com/. We will complete discussions on Teamwork in October, writing a list of guidelines for teams to follow – paying attention to communication, participation, give and take, leadership, organisation, preparation, procedure, kindness, capability, commitment and progress. Please find resources here (and please let me know if you’d like an opportunity to lead a Pastoral Care meeting).
2.8. Teamwork is a vital theme for us – it may be helpful to develop this case study and discussion in some way. For the congregation? For working groups? In relation to prospective partnerships with presbytery and neighbouring congregations/communities?
2.9. I rejoice that Cathie has returned home and has enjoyed time with close family …
2.10. Former student in placement, Andy, sends his love to all. Andy continues to serve with Act for Peace as a researcher, writer and fundraiser. Andy’s contributions as a preacher, pastoral carer, meditation guide and gardener are remembered and valued.
2.11. Pastoral Care meetings offer monthly opportunity for prayer together. Our Wednesday night Vespers (online) offers weekly opportunity. All welcome to attend (and take turns leading) each Wednesday, 6 for 6.15pm start (thanks to Miriam, Cathie and Abner for leadership). Please find liturgy and Zoom link here.
2.12. Elders, ministers and leaders recently enjoyed a Spiritual Retreat with three facilitators from the Ignatian Spirituality Centre (on Saturday August 20). Thanks to the Rev. Brian Woodhouse for arranging space for the retreat at the Lucan Care Community Centre in Lilyfield. It was wonderful to meet in person with Megan! It was wonderful to share in conversation (according to the First Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola 1491-1556), nourishing veggie soup (thanks Cathie and Miriam), fruit and muffins – prayer and silence. Our three exercises focused on Inner Peace, Re-Creation and Encouragement. I have several copies of the retreat booklet if you would like one.
2.13. The retreat inspired a song, “Strong Arms to Roll Me”, which I will attach to this report.
2.14. Debbie dela Paz expressed joy in meeting with us again (we last met in 2019), and is keen to continue the relationship with SSUC. In response to a question about payment, Debbie writes: “We FSE Givers would be happy with just a thank you card. In the FSE Ministry, we have received freely (our training) and so we give freely. Donations are welcome, however, because the FSE Ministry comes under Jesuit Ignatian Spirituality Australia (JISA), it is best that you make a donation using this link: www.jisa.org.au/give/.”
2.15. Melinda has continued to faithfully explore a sense of call to ordained ministry. She took part in Synod Selection Panel interviews at UTC on Saturday September 17 …
2.16. New members Dalcy and Karen continue to lift our hearts – we also welcome Greg, Jasmin and Megan, Nigel and Tan, Sally, Ruslan and Turkan, Kelly and Corey, Kate, Ruth and Brett. Welcome back Viktor and Biggie, Colin and Katie, Duncan …
2.17. I note that Jane and Polly request reaffirmations of baptism at Yarra Bay (La Perouse) as part of relationship-building with First Peoples and the Reconciliation Church (Aboriginal Catholic Ministry).
2.18. Craig and Gill Robson will renew their marriage vows on October 8.
3.1. Thanks, as always, to elders and leaders for contribution as liturgists, musicians and singers, preachers, tech hosts, projectionists, readers, servers and safe gathering facilitators. I’m mindful of opportunities to share liturgical leadership roles – Megan served recently as liturgist and Julie will soon do so, too. Please check the worship roster regularly for opportunities (I will upload the October template this week).
3.2. Our worship continues in hybrid mode, with a celebration of the Eucharist on the 3rd Sunday. Musical interludes help to transition from liturgy to morning tea and announcements. Thanks to Cathie, Naomi and Karen for recent suggestions, which are also included in the weekly eVine.
3.3. Thanks to Eli for continuing to provide gluten-free bread for our Eucharist, and Dorothy who gives creative thought to our table setting each Sunday.
4. GOSPEL CONVERSATION & 12PM ACTIVITIES
4.1. Gospel Conversation is held on the 1st Sunday and 2nd Thursday. Resources can be found on the church website.
Recent study: ‘My soul magnifies …’ (Luke 1:46-55) – protest, reversal, solidarities … with commentary from Dr Anne F. Elvey and D.L. Mayfield, art by Ben Wildflower and Julie Dowling.
4.2. Greg led our September Gospel Conversation on Job 38:1-18 and Luke 5:1-10, noting points of similarity and difference – in both texts a divine figure recalls a person of faith to pursue Wisdom. The ocean/deep shapes and reshapes questions of life and justice. Thank you, Greg!
4.2.1. Gospel Conversation on the 2nd Thursday in September saw Chris and Norrie at the manse, with Jane joining online. It was great to be back at the manse table after so long.
4.3. Gospel Conversation may proceed according to three simple questions on three aspects of religion: Poetics (What qualities of language or expression do we notice? Are there key words, phrases or images? What is the tone or feeling of the text?). Ethics (Whose calls for help, whose calls to justice do we perceive? How will we respond?) Metaphysics (Are we offered insights regarding the world? How might we describe or come to experience this world we live in?)
4.4. Thanks to Miriam for devising and leading excellent Liturgy Resource group sessions (on the 3rd Sunday) in recent months (on the Lord’s Prayer). Ruth led our Liturgy Resource activity on September 18 – workshopping an Auslan paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer which we will use in coming weeks.
4.5. Engaging the scriptures and composing prayers together is richly rewarding (and fun). Prayer is primary theology (lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi). See resources here.
4.6. Greg has also led wonderful Lectio Divina meditations in recent months. See resources here.
4.7. Music Selections continue to surprise and sustain. There is scope for diverse musical expression in worship, including familiar hymns and songs, new and original compositions, chants and prayer settings. Thanks to all our musicians. Please let Heather or Miriam know if you’d like to be involved. We welcome singers, percussionists, guitarists and ukulelists, players of brass and woodwind instruments. Hannah from the Cooperative youth opera company contributed a glorious gospel acclamation on July 24 and will join us again next week for Cosmos Sunday celebrations.
4.8. Music Jam sessions resume – in the church on the 3rd Friday at 3pm. Please let me know if you’re interested to join or lead.
4.9. Social Events on 5th Sundays …
5. CHILDREN’S MINISTRY
5.1. Thanks to Anne and Naomi for ensuring there are always art and craft materials at hand.
5.2. I remain committed to developing skills re integration of liturgical prayers and readings, sacraments and children’s activities. Announcing a simple theme at the start of worship and inviting young artists to engage the theme by way of making prayer cards may yet prove effective – especially if done in a way that appeals to children of all ages. Faith/prayer can be expressed through colours, shapes, pictures, textures, symbols, words, Bible verses … and be of benefit to all. I will maintain this practice – and try handing out cards and pens at the beginning of our worship service. Please let me know if you have ideas to contribute.
5.3. Kate has expressed interest in this approach to ministry with children.
6. EASTER BANNER PROJECT
6.1. On Easter Saturday 2021 our liturgy included a creative activity – weaving textured bands of black cloth on the loom (thanks Abner and Brian). Lyn has since stitched together the woven bands, which represent corporate grief, and stabilised the cloth.
6.2. On Easter Day 2022 our liturgy included a creative activity – drawing shapes inspired by native flowers. Jane has since made large and small tracings of the shapes, and Catherine will create a composition symbolising new life. We can then consider cutting out shapes in lilac, lime and fuchsia felt (thanks Cathie), and stitching/embroidering to toile overlay (see epigraph above). A possible social activity for our Congregational Meeting on October 30 …
6.3. The banner can be installed in the church as an expression of faith in resurrection, and hope for justice in solidarity with First Peoples (acknowledging the reference to a lilac, lime and fuchsia flag in Jazz Money’s 2021 poem, “we rise”).
7.1. John and Rachel have kindly donated three pieces of art by Marg. The treasures include a Resurrection painting (Stations of the Cross) and two traditional Icons. The first is an icon of Saint Paraskeva of the Balkans, an ascetic female saint of the 10th century.
7.2. The second is entitled “Our Lady of Vladimir”: One of the most famous and most beautiful of all icons of the Mother of God, also known as the “Virgin of Vladimir”. She is depicted cheek to cheek with the Divine Child, whose arms caress her, yet the image is strong and noble in workmanship, completely free from “sweetness” and sentimentality. The name of the iconographer is unknown. It was probably painted in Constantinople in the 12th century, but is first heard of in Kiev in about 1131, whence it was taken in 1155 to the city of Vladimir. According to tradition, the horses pulling the cart taking the icon to Kiev stopped in Vladimir and refused to budge from that spot. The Assumption Cathedral was built there in honour of the Blessed Virgin, and to house her image.
7.3. Regina from Cana Communities has kindly donated a canvas print of Andrei Rublev’s 15th-century Icon of the Holy Trinity, which depicts the three angels who visited Abraham and Sarah at the Oak of Mamre (Genesis 18:1-8) – the embodiment of spiritual unity, peace, harmony, mutual love and humility.
8. WEBSITE & COMMUNICATIONS
8.1. Please let me know if there are pages or features you’d like to see on our website. Our designer Robert Young will add a prominent donation button to the homepage – an additional menu item. This will function in the same way as Pin Payment buttons on the SSH site (allowing supporters to donate using credit cards).
8.2. We currently have Instagram and Facebook accounts dedicated to the SSH; Facebook pages for SSUC; an Instagram account dedicated to Eden Garden. The Instagram account @sundayssuc contains 434 images (mostly liturgical) posted during Covid lockdowns. I’d love to hear your thoughts on creative ways to commemorate this significant period in the history of the parish.
8.3. We have apx. 80 subscribers to our weekly eVine newsletter. With thanks to Alicia, Miriam and Cathie for attention and contributions – notices, photos, poems, reflections, music clips …
8.4. Ideally, a small group (3-4 people) might commit to working together on the weekly eVine. The work would entail gathering news items (from working groups and wider church) and compiling a Word document (on Tuesday evenings) for Alicia to upload and send via Mailchimp (on Wednesday evenings). There is a template for the Word document. A couple of people have expressed interest and I will follow up in coming weeks (apologies for delays with this). Please let me know if you’d like to help.
8.5. On the Vine quarterly issues are edited and designed by Pamela. They are available in print and for download.
9.1. I continue to enjoy mentoring Gloria (Mascot Beckenham UCA) as part of her Period of Discernment (which she aims to conclude in December). Gloria, who was a Blak & Blu prize-winner in 2021, is completing watercolour artworks in response to all 150 psalms. She has now completed 100 artworks! The suite of paintings will comprise a valuable spiritual resource. I imagine various applications.
10.1. I look forward to discussing my placement details in the context of SSUC re-structure and mission plans. I remain focused on ministry here with you – and thoroughly enjoy each day.
10.2. Further to comments in my July report, and in the event of any extension of placement, I am open to vacating the manse and finding alternative accommodation in the area. This may allow for needed renovations at the manse as well as encouraging thought towards “creative” use of 173 George Street – some kind of mixed or shared accommodation?
11.1. I have received notification of the need to secure professional supervision from someone independent of the UCA. I have three months to arrange this. The Rev. Dr William Emilsen will continue to offer me support as a mentor.
Recommendation 16.45. Consistent with Child Safe Standard 5, each religious institution should ensure that all people in religious or pastoral ministry, including religious leaders, have professional supervision with a trained professional or pastoral supervisor who has a degree of independence from the institution within which the person is in ministry.
Grace and peace,
STRONG ARMS TO ROLL ME
Ask me what brings me the deepest joy
Some work impedes relaxation
The moon tossed about in the sea like a toy
In stop motion animation
Sister Corita moves letters around
The bones in the valley are rattling
But for our breathing we don’t make a sound
Silence is better than prattling
You look at me with creativity
I’ll be a stone rough or radiant
An angel arrives with strong arms to roll me
Looks at me with real encouragement