Tuesday, December 31, 2013

for the New Year

Happy new year - God's blessings to you all for 2014!

 New year prayers.004

New year prayers.003

I have a small grain of hope—
one small crystal that gleams
clear colors out of transparency.

I need more.

I break off a fragment
to send you.

Please take
this grain of a grain of hope
so that mine won't shrink.

Please share your fragment
so that yours will grow.

Only so, by division,
will hope increase,

like a clump of irises, which will cease to flower
unless you distribute
the clustered roots, unlikely source—
clumsy and earth-covered—

of grace.

(For the new year, by Denise Levertov, 1981)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Congratulations to Deaconess Sarah Johnson

Photo: Rejoicing in the consecration of Sarah Johnson as a deaconess of the Lutheran Deaconess Association. We are so proud of you Sarah! Congratulations! 

Sarah was consecrated as a deaconess of the Lutheran Deaconess Association (LDA) in December 2013. Congratulations!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Vale, Nelson Mandela, Madiba.


All around the world people feel the loss of Nelson Mandela.

(Read his speech here that he made from the dock at the opening of his trial on the charge of sabotage, Supreme Court of South Africa, Pretoria, April 20, 1964)

US President Barack Obama
eulogized him as “a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.” Speaking shortly after South African President Jacob Zuma announced Mandela’s death, Obama called the man for so long known as Prisoner 46664 as “one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth. We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again — so it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set: to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love, to never discount the difference that one person can make, to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.”

Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has released a prayer for former president Nelson Mandela:

Go forth, revolutionary and loving soul, on your journey out of this world,
in the name of God, who created you, suffered with you and liberated you.
Go home Madiba, you have selflessly done all that is good, noble and honourable for God’s people.
We will continue where you have left off, the Lord being our helper

At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with Nelson Mandela's family, and for the nation of South Africa mourning his loss as 'father of the nation'. His passing will also have a profound impact on diaconal brothers and sisters in South Africa (Methodist Diaconal Order), and in other parts of Africa, for whom Nelson Mandela was an example and inspiration, and  we hold them all in our thoughts and prayers.

Members of DIAKONIA World Federation in Africa
Cameroon - Communauté de l'Emmanuel
Egypt: The Coptic Orthodox Community The Daughters of St. Mary
Kenya: National Deaconess Association of ELCK
Madagascar: Fiaraha Miaima Amim Bavaka MAMRE FJKM Mamre Community
Malawi: Churches of Christ in Malawi
Nigeria: Deaconess Order Methodist Church Nigeria
Rwanda: Communauté des Diaconesses “Abaja bakristo” Rubengera
South Africa: The Methodist Diaconal Order
Tanzania: DAYOSIS YA KASKAZINI Ushirika Wa Diaconia Faraja
Tanzania: KARAGWE Diocese Umoja Wa Masister, TumshubireNamarila Mother House E.L.C.T.-HWD
Zambia: Deaconesses of the United Church of Zambia



Independence Day, Finland (December 6th)

Finland is a republic which became independent on December 6th, 1917.

Terttu Pohjolainen (Ev. Lutheran Church of Finland) posted on Facebook DIAKONIA:

"Today is the 96th Independence Day of my country, Finland. In the evening we have two candles in the windows of our homes".

The church celebrated with an ecumenical service in the Dom Church of Helsinki.

The students and war veterans laid a wreath at the Heroes' Memorial at Hietaniemi Cemetery at 17, which was followed by a traditional torchlight march from the cemetery to the Senate Square.

Terttu adds, 'We are so happy to have peace in our country'.
A brief history includes these facts about Finland:  
In 1155, the first missionaries arrived in Finland from Sweden, and Finland became part of the Swedish realm.
In 1809, Sweden surrendered Finland to Russia. The Czar declared Finland a semi-autonomous Grand Duchy with himself as constitutional monarch represented by a governor general.
In 1917, Finland declares independence from Russia on December 6. The new state is first recognized by the Soviet Union, France, Germany and Sweden.
In 1919, the present constitution was adopted and Finland became a republic with a president as head of state.
In 1939-1940, the Soviet Union attacks Finland and the Winter War is fought.
In 1941-1944, fighting between Finnish and Russian forces resumed in the campaign known as the Continuation War. A massive offensive by Soviet forces in summer 1944 forced the Finns to sue for peace. Some territory was ceded to the Soviet Union but Finland was never occupied and preserved its independence and sovereignty.
In 1955, Finland joined the United Nations.
In 1995, Finland became a member of the European Union. 

We join in grateful thanks for the peace that exists in Finland.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Dec 3 - International Day of Persons with Disabilities

December 3rd is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This celebration, created by the United Nations, seeks to celebrate the over one billion people worldwide living with some kind of disability. Disability is so natural, that this number equals 15% or more of the total population of the world. We don’t celebrate disability, but the ability that is hidden within, and makes uniquely able all of those who live with a disability. Pause to remember those who are as whole in their human identity as everyone else, but can find themselves treated as lesser beings.

A prayer for all God's people
Let us pray for all God’s people. For people who are blind and cannot see, and for those who can see but are blind to people around them.
Lord, in your mercy help us touch each other.

For people who move slowly because of accident, illness, or disability, and for those who move too fast to be aware of the world in which they live.
Lord, in your mercy help us work together.
For people who are deaf and cannot hear, and for those who can hear but who ignore the cries of others
Lord, in your mercy help us respond to each other.

For people who learn slowly, for people who learn in different ways, and for people who learn quickly and easily but often choose ignorance
Lord, in your mercy help us grow in your wisdom.

For people who have chronic illness for which there is no known cure or relief, and for people who live in unholy fear of developing a chronic illness.
Lord, in your mercy help us and heal us.
For families, friends, and caregivers who serve people with disabilities, and for those who feel awkward in their presence
Lord, in your mercy help us see each other with your eyes.

For people who think they are worthless and beyond your love, and for people who think they don’t need your love,
Lord, in your mercy help us accept your love.

For people who feel isolated by their disabilities, and for people who contribute to that sense of isolation
Lord, in your mercy change our lives.

For all the people in your creation, that we may learn to respect each other and learn how to live together in your peace
Lord, in your mercy bind us together.


Kate Chipps, adapted by Ginny Thornburgh

Monday, December 2, 2013

Rosa Parks

On December 1, 1955, after a long day's work at a Montgomery department store, where she worked as a seamstress, Rosa Parks boarded the bus for home. She took a seat in the first of several rows designated for "colored" passengers. Though the city's bus ordinance did give drivers the authority to assign seats, it didn't specifically give them the authority to demand a passenger to give up a seat to anyone (regardless of color). However, Montgomery bus drivers had adopted the custom of requiring black passengers to give up their seats to white passengers, when no other seats were available. If the black passenger protested, the bus driver had the authority to refuse service and could call the police to have them removed. As the bus Rosa was riding continued on its route, it began to fill with white passengers. Eventually, the bus was full and the driver noticed that several white passengers were standing in the aisle. He stopped the bus and moved the sign separating the two sections back one row and asked four black passengers to give up their seats. Three complied, but Rosa refused and remained seated. The driver demanded, "Why don't you stand up?" to which Rosa replied, "I don't think I should have to stand up." The driver called the police and had her arrested. Later, Rosa recalled that her refusal wasn't because she was physically tired, but that she was tired of giving in.

Her story has inspired many to non-violent ways to seek change.

Walter Brueggeman reflects on this remarkable woman (p.151 Prayers for a Privileged People):

Rosa is dead....but not forgotten!
Rosa is dead....but remembered.
Remembered by us here as a witness to your truth.
Remembered by those who have sat too long at the back of the bus,
and now have moved forward a couple of rows but still have no free ride.
Remembered by
     those accustomed to sitting up front,
     those who have begun repentance that is still unfinished
     those so in control that relinquishment is not easy and mostly done with a grudge.
Rose is dead....but remembered,
     to be retold after and long among us,
     retold because the tale we tell of her is an item in your large story
          of freedom,
          of justice,
          of resurrection,
          of transformation,
          and finally - not too soon - forgiveness.
As we remember Rosa, we recall your big story
     in which we are situated -
     the wonder of the sea miracle,
     the miracle of homecoming from exile,
     the astonishment of Easter emancipation.
We remember the day the hills danced in resurrection and the waters answered in new creation.
We remember.....and so we hope,
for your new miracles so urgently awaited,
miracles of redemption and release,
of still more back-of-the-bus people brought to newness.
We give thanks for Rosa and Martin and Nelson and Desmond
and all those who have trusted your goodness.
Let us walk in Rosa's parade, which is a segment of your Easter parade.
In remembering and in hoping, open us to your new world that is coming soon - even now!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Rev April Casperson - reflections on the ministry of deacon

Rev April Casperson speaks about what it means to be in deacon ministry (with the United Methodist Church, USA).

In discerning a vocational call to ministry, 'I realized that while I love the local church, I tended to teach and preach about some key themes over and over again:

Education - the need to learn in order to grow in one's faith
Vocation - what is it that God is calling you to be and to do?
Justice - what does it mean to seek God's justice and to transform the world?

I struggled for a while - I still felt called to ordination, but I no longer saw myself as a pastor. I was called to ministry, but it had a different flavour - one of justice and compassion, beyond the local church. And then I started learning about the order of deacon.

Ordaining deacons means that the UMC is affirming the work of the deacon in the church and the world, and making a commitment to support ministries of compassion and justice.

You can read a longer version of her presentation here.

And an excellent article by April here on 'deculturalization' - 'when persons from a minority group (this can refer to race, gender, sexuality, age, theological stance…lots of options) are welcomed into a group comprised of the majority. Their presence is welcomed…as long as they then conform to majority norms'.

Deacon C. Christian Klein retires

Congratulations to VEDD (Verband Evangelisher Diakonen - Diakoninnen und Diakonatsgemeinschaften in Deutschland e.V) on 100 years, celebrated this week.

And also to C.Christian Klein who retires this week as Chairman for the German Deacons. His contribution has been significant, and especially in a time of significant change for the church and the social reality in Europe. He played a major role in the success of the DIAKONIA World Assembly in Berlin this year. We all know how much work goes on behind the scenes to organize a conference of the size and scope of DIAKONIA World Assembly, and we are endebted to C.Christian Klein's leadership, and his encouragement of the planning team.
Best wishes to C.Christian Klein for the future!
VEDD leadership team - Diakon C. Christian Klein on right

Friday, November 15, 2013

Connections with the Methodist Church in Fiji

Rev Marion Gledhill (Deacon) and Rev Malcolm Gledhill (Minister of the Word) are retired Ministers in the Uniting Church in Australia. They are currently serving as volunteers through Uniting World with the Methodist Church in Fiji, based in Suva. They are assisting the church with practical and important tasks: developing a code of conduct and revising their constitution. Marion has had excellent contacts with the Deaconesses in Fiji during her stay, and with the students. The Methodist Church in Fiji is a partner church with the Uniting Church in Australia and it's great to see Marion and Malcolm contributing in as volunteers in furthering the mission and ministry of the Methodist Church in Fiji.

I was interested to read this article by Bruce Mullan (Uniting World), with a statement prepared by the Methodist Church in Fiji on the occasion of Fiji Day on October 10th, 2013. It gives a flavour of the church and the context in which Deaconesses serve.

Methodists call for justice on “Fiji Day”

In another signal of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma’s commitment to be part of the renewing of the nation of Fiji, the church has made a significant statement to the nation on “Fiji Day” which celebrates the forty-third anniversary of Fiji’s independence from Great Britain. Methodist Church President, Rev Dr Tuikilakila Waqairatu points out that liberation is a continuous action that requires people to recognise and respect differences in ethnicity, culture, ability and how faith is expressed.
This is the text of the statement:
The Methodist Church in Fiji wishes all Fijians a happy and blessed “Fiji Day”.
As we commemorate the forty-third anniversary of Fiji’s independence from Great Britain, it is important that we not only celebrate, but reflect on the life of our nation and pray for her future.
Methodist Church President Rev Dr Tuikilakila Wagairatu
“Fiji Day is an opportunity for us to reflect on the meanings of nationhood and independence,” said Methodist Church President, Rev. Dr. Tuikilakila Waqairatu.
“On October 10, 1970 we became independent from the British Colonial administration. However liberation is a continuous action. We need to liberate ourselves from oppressive structures that hold us back from reaching our full potential as human beings and as a nation of love, peace and tolerance.”
“A peaceful and prosperous Fiji will emerge as a result of a just and compassionate Fiji,” he added. “We must not only be a self sufficient nation, we must be a people who care for each other, share with each other and empower each other.”
“This means recognising and respecting our differences in ethnicity, culture, ability and how we express our faith, and focusing on our commonality as human beings, each created in the image and likeness of God and in our common desire to live in peace and fellowship with each other.”
Methodist Church General Secretary, Rev. Tevita Nawadra Banivanua, said that along with Fiji Day, the church would this week also be commemorating the anniversary of the arrival of the first Wesleyan Missionaries in Fiji.
“This year we will celebrate the anniversary of the arrival of Revs William Cross and David Cargil and their wives in Lakeba, Lau and the establishment of the Methodist Mission in Fiji on the 12th of October, 1835.”
“The arrival of the Good News in these islands 178 years ago ushered in a new age for the i-Taukei people and in the development of Fiji, through formal and vocational education, medical and social welfare missions. As a community of faith we know that the work begun back then still continues as we strive for personal and social holiness in Fiji.”
Rev. Banivanua added that the journey between this Fiji Day and the next would be an important one for our nation.
“As a faith community, we are guided by our theology and praxis. The people called Methodists in Fiji recognise that this nation needs leaders who empower the people rather than ruling them; who will maintain our unique identity in our unity in diversity and provide the platform for all Fijians to understand and engage with important issues for true independence which upholds dignity of all, human rights, freedom and peace.”
“As the national anthem is sung let us remember that it is essentially a prayer for God’s blessings on our islands and people. Let us sing it, pray it and live it out in our daily lives,” he said.
“May God continue to guide Fiji in the paths of righteousness, protect and bless Fiji and all her people with a just, compassionate and peaceful society.”

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A prayer of intercession for the Philippines

Almighty God, we come to you with our hearts full of thoughts that cannot be put into words. But you are our refuge and strength, the light in the darkness, and so with confidence we offer our prayers to you.
Lord hear us/ Lord hear our prayer.

At a time like this we stand in awe of the power of nature with its terrible forces above the earth, and we are reminded of our vulnerability as human creatures. We bring to you our humility, our questions, and our trust in this hour of need.
Lord hear us/ Lord hear our prayer.

We pray for those who grieve the loss of family, friends and neighbours, for those who are injured, separated, and traumatized. We ask for your healing presence in their lives and we commend to your love all those who have died.
Lord hear us/ Lord hear our prayer.

We give to your care all those who have been involved in rescue operations, medical personnel in the field and the injured in hospitals. Be with church organizations and government forces as they support their people. Sustain them through this time of tremendous loss and stress.
Lord hear us/ Lord hear our prayer.

We commend to your care those who are searching for life in the debris. We pray for those who are burdened by the unimaginable loss, and for those who have found themselves like refugees in their own locality. We ask that the generous aid and the emotional and spiritual support already offered by local communities and from around the world will encourage and lift their spirits.
Lord hear us/ Lord hear our prayer.

We pray for the homeless millions. May this disaster bring together people around the world to rebuild their lives. May we bring them peace and healing.
Lord hear us/ Lord hear our prayer.

We pray for Filipinos in this country who feel far away from loved ones and their land of birth at this time; those who are still trying to get in contact with family. Comfort families across the distance.
Lord hear us/ Lord hear our prayer.

We give thanks to God for the blessing in our lives, especially the gifts we so often take for granted until they are in danger of being taken away from us - the gift of family, friends, a home, our possessions. Most of all we praise God for the gift of life itself.
Lord hear us/ Lord hear our prayer.

God of light over darkness, order over chaos, life beyond suffering, come into our hearts in the moment of now. Come to transform our sorrow over the dead into blessings to the living. Come to reassure us your eternal truthin the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Life is always stronger than death.
Lord hear us/ Lord hear our prayer. Amen.

(Adapted from prayer for 2004 Asian Tsunami by Homebush Uniting Church)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Philippines typhoon

Over the past couple of days, the island nation of The Philippines has suffered what many are calling the worst typhoon in the recorded history of mankind, Super Typhoon Haiyan.
The storm hit land in the upper northern half of the nation, made up of 7,107 islands two days ago, with heavy rains and winds in excess of 200 mph. Much of the region has already suffered calamity this year in the way of other typhoons, flooding, and even earthquakes. The region certainly was in no condition to be hit by another natural disaster. The number of casualties in Philippine storms are never truly known and are always much higher than estimates claim.
Much of the country is populated by squatters who live in over-populated shanty villages, in which accurate populations are hard to account for, as are accurate accounts of how many people go missing at times like these. Many of the squatter villages are built along the banks of streams for better access to water sources, and entire villages have often been swept away in the dead of night during flash floods. The nation sits barely above sea level, and when it rains hard, as is the case when typhoons roll in, there is simply no place for the water to go, and it often rises faster than people can send an alarm, or even be awakened.
“This is destruction on a massive scale. There are cars thrown like tumbleweed and the streets are strewn with debris,” Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, a UN disaster management team member said. “The last time I saw something of this scale was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami,” he continued, recalling the 2004 disaster that claimed nearly a quarter of a million lives in Indonesia. 

More than 2.1 million familes have been affected by typhoon Yolanda (Internationale codename: Haiyan), according to the Philippine government's latest estimates.
This equates to around 9.53 million individuals, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as of 12nn Sunday, November 10.
DSWD also estimates that some 96,039 displaced families with 449,416 individuals are staying in 1,790 evacuation centers. Some 36,600 other families composed of 182,379 individuals have sought shelter in homes of friends and relatives.It may be weeks before a more accurate number of casualties is known, if ever. Some initial reports circulating is that entire islands have vanished. With every island in the Philippines being heavily populated (total land mass of the entire country is only half the size of the U.S. state of Texas, yet there is a population of nearly 100 million), whatever number is finally determined, it is not going to be pleasant.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Philippines - another massive typhoon

One of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded, Haiyan (known in the Philippines as Super Typhoon Yolanda) slammed into the Philippines today (Friday 8th November), cutting communications and blocking roads in the centre of the country amid worries of serious damage and casualties. Officials in Cebu province have shut down electric service to the northern part of the province to avoid electrocutions in case power pylons are toppled.  Telephone lines appeared down as it was difficult to get through to the landfall site 650 kms (405 miles) southeast of Manila where Typhoon Haiyan slammed into a rural area of the country. Weather officials said that Haiyan had sustained winds at 235 kilometers (147 miles) per hour, with gusts of 275 kph (170 mph) when it made landfall.
"There aren't too many buildings constructed that can withstand that kind of wind," said Jeff Masters, a former hurricane meteorologist. He said the storm had been poised to be the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded at landfall. He warned of "catastrophic damage." Ten million people are estimated to be in the path of the typhoon and half a million people have already been evacuated.
Weather forecaster Gener Quitlong said the typhoon was not losing much of its strength because there is no large land mass to slow it down since the region is comprised of islands with no tall mountains.
The typhoon is the 24th serious storm to hit the Philippines this year.

Enhanced satellite image of Super Typhoon Haiyan showing the telltale "donut" appearance of an intense tropical cyclone. Credit: U-Wisconsin-CIMSS via Twitter/@Ryan_Maue.

Climate scientists continue to search for insight into how humans contribute to global warming, which is increasing sea surface temperatures along with changing air temperatures and the amount of moisture in the air, and may be altering tropical storm systems like Haiyan. Sparse historical data of Pacific storms has made it more difficult for scientists to detect long-term changes to storms in that region, but in the Atlantic at least, global warming is expected to increase the prevalance of the strongest storms, while making storms produce more rainfall.

Please pray for the people, and consider ways you can offer support - prayerfully, pastorally and financially.

God of compassion,
We give thanks for those who care
Those who listen for the needs of others and decide to make a difference
We give thanks for those who give their time and energy to reach out and assist those in need
We give thanks for organisations and groups which gather people around the cause of making a positive difference in people’s lives.
We give thanks for the opportunities that they create for us to get involved
For the hope that they bring and the love that they help to share.

God of compassion,
We pray for those who struggle in life,
Those who struggle to find justice
Those who just can get a good break
Those who are lonely and left out
Those for whom there is not enough money to meet basic needs
We pray that they may be empowered
We that they might find hope and encouragement for now
But we prayer that the time will come when no one will need such prayers,
We pray that we might find ways to change our society to make it better,
To make it more just
More compassionate
And where no one need suffer poverty, injustice, discrimination loneliness or illness.

God of compassion,
May we shake off discouragement or apathy, so that we may we join with all who work for such things.
This we pray in the name of the Christ who lived to teach us these lessons.

(source: Jon Humphries)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Diakonia Korea sisterhood

On the weekend, when WCC delegates had the opportunity to visit Seoul and be hosted by the churches in Seoul, or to join in day trips around Busan, I headed west to Mok-po to visit a small community of sisters in Diakonia Korea. I am so glad the visit was able to be arranged with the kind support of the leading sister, Sr. Ree. The hospitality and the warmth of the welcome was wonderful, and I learnt a great deal about this remarkable community. I will upload information about the Diakonia Korea community on the DWF members website (a work in progress, just begun) with information about the work of the sisters. Inspiring! 

Pictures to come.....

Monday, November 4, 2013

DIAKONIA - a living community

Pieter van Rijssell, immediate past Treasurer of DIAKONIA wrote about the way he followed up on the DIAKONIA World Assembly, using worship resources and stories. He posted the following on the DIAKONIA Facebook site:

On the 20th of October there was a so called Anders-dan-Anders service in our church. I belong to an open ecumenical community. This year they experiment with 7 services that were different than normal. After the Assembly I was invited to prepare the service. I used texts and songs of Berlin. Few people new anything about the history of deaconess work. At the end, we listened to the song of South Africa Siyahamba (here's the words and a sung version) and sang 'We are marching in the light of God'. We finished with the photo on the steps of the Berliner Dom at the end.

And now, they all now DIAKONIA is a living community.

Friday, November 1, 2013

World Council of Churches 10th Assembly

I have set up a blog as a summary of my experiences at World Council of Churches 10th Assembly in Busan, so the President's DIAKONIA blog will be quiet for the next few days. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Remembering the faithful pioneers 

(from Deac Lisa Polito) "Remembering in prayer our friends in the Deaconess community of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Diaconal Ministers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada at the death of Sr. Ginger Patchen* who belong to both of those communities. Also for the Deaconess community at the death of Sr. Bernice Peterson**. Well done, good and faithful servants".

At times like this, I am always reminded of Hebrews 11 and the great roll of those who acted in faith. It ends with this:

39-40 (The Message) Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.

that their faith and our faith.....would come together to make one completed whole.....their lives of faith not complete apart from ours..... 

Our lives of faith and service are integrally connected with our spiritual ancestors and those who who been faithful to the call of God on their lives. And, as we celebrate and honour those who have lived among us and with us - pioneers and witnesses to the faith in word and witness and service - so we continue in our work and witness and service, their lives an example set before us.

And our lives an example to those who will follow us......

(*Sister Ginger Patchen, although born in the United States  spent most of her ministry in Canada as a pre-school educator. She was  Head of the Epiphany Children’s Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba from 1976. Sister Ginger was invested as a Deaconess April 1, 1973 and consecrated as an LCA deaconess July 17, 1977. She held degrees in social work, psychology and mental health and completed Graduate Studies in Religion. Source: An Undefinitive History of the Lutheran Canadian Diaconal Ministry: A Work in Progress by Judy Whaley)

(**Sister Bernice Peterson, 1918-2013, was a deaconess with the Grace Lutheran Church. She was born in Colorado Springs in 1918. The family homesteaded in Ellicott, CO during the late 1800's. Her family was among the founders of the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church. They later moved to Colorado Springs where they helped found Bethany Lutheran Church, which later merged with Grace Lutheran Church.Source:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Diakonia Biennial Assembly

Emma Cantor, President, DIAKONIA Asia-Pacific (DAP) region (second from left) sends greetings as the 16th National Biennial Assembly of Diakonia Philippines in Puerto Princesa Palawan (Southern Philippines) begins tonight (October 23rd to 26th). There are 125 participants coming. The business meeting will be held on October 25th.
My own experience at the DAP Conference held in the Philippines is remembered with pleasure at the joy, laughter and warmth of the deaconesses. Please hold them in your prayers as they meet together.

DAP Regional Conference 2012

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Australia - ministry in the vastness of the inland

Australia is a huge country - and much of the central area is desert, with isolated communities. Rev (Deacon) Peter Wait commenced a ministry placement in Tennant Creek in May, but spends much of his time on the road travelling across the north of the Barkly region - 600,000km of the Northern Territory, almost three times the size of the state of Victoria in southern Australia. It extends 200km south of Tennant Creek and north to Daly Waters. The region is known for its large cattle stations and rich connection to the local Aboriginal people. The history of the Tennant Barkly Patrol dates back to 1915 when Frontier Services’ predecessor, the Australian Inland Mission, first sent a Patrol Padre to the region.
Peter will spend his time visiting people in hard-to-reach places, and offering a listening ear and a helping hand. He will offer emotional and practical support to people across the Patrol, providing a source of spiritual care and trust that otherwise might not be there. He will also be a part of the community in Tennant Creek and support the local Uniting Church congregation.
Coming from Adelaide, Peter said he felt called to his new role in the outback with Frontier Services. “It is privilege to serve in the tradition of Frontier Services and Uniting Church in remote Australia. I look forward to meeting people and having conversations about significant things.
Peter has moved to the NT after spending five years working with church congregations in Adelaide. He has been a prison chaplain and is a former biochemical researcher and teacher. He worked as a teacher for two years in Barunga near Katherine and has spent time in Arnhem Land.
Like his work as a prison chaplain, Peter said the role of a Patrol Minister was simply to be there for people.
“We call it an incarnational ministry. We send a message by our physical presence. When we are there for people in hard to get places we embody God’s love for them.”
Peter's placement is one example of diaconal ministry in the Uniting Church in Australia, and certainly an example of ministry beyond the four walls of the church and into the community. 

Not in My Bed (contribution from Rev (Deacon) Denise Savage, Uniting Church in Australia

Friday, October 18, 2013

From Australia......devastating bushfires - and it's only the start of spring

Devastating fires in New South Wales, Australia - hundreds of homes destroyed

The Sydney skyline blanketed by smoke from the fires
Hundreds of homes may have been lost as New South Wales, Australia, suffered one of its worst bushfire days in recent memory. Intense fires yesterday were fanned by ferocious wind conditions and high temperatures, darkening Sydney's skies with smoke and ash. Temperatures hit the mid-30s and wind gusts reached 90kph earlier today, with no respite expected in conditions. Thousands of New South Wales residents had to be  evacuated as emergency warnings were put in place for bushfires burning out of control near Lithgow and the Blue Mountains, Muswellbrook, Newcastle and Wyong. There are scenes of "utter devastation" as dozens of bushfires continue to burn out of control across the state. This morning (Friday) 100 fires are still burning, more than 30 of them out of control.

This reflection from Rev Denise Savage (Deacon, Uniting Church in Australia)
As I go to close my eyes tonight, I am conscious of many who will not have their bed to sleep in, children without parents and a safe place to call home. Firefighters on the east coast, families whose life is held in ashes. I am conscious of families fleeing to find a safer place, and families in other countries who have experienced natural disaster without adequate resources for quick recovery. May God hold each one who tonight won't have their bed to sleep in. . . .

A prayer in time of Bushfire (slighted edited, Anglican Church of Australia's A Prayer Book for Australia)
All things look to you, O Lord,
to give them their food in due season:
look in mercy on your people,
and hear our prayer for those whose lives and possessions are threatened by fire.
Give protection and wisdom to fire fighters and other emergency service personnel.
Encourage our generosity to those who suffer loss.
In your mercy restore your creation and heal our land.
So guide and bless your people,
that we may enjoy the fruits of the earth
and give you thanks with grateful hearts,
through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Anti-trafficking and anti-slavery

Today, October 18th, is recognized as Anti-Trafficking Day in the European Union and Anti-Slavery Day in the United Kingdom. You may know that human trafficking has been a particular focus for the DIAKONIA Executive over the last four years (scroll down to end for resolution and prayer), and highlights an ongoing issue around the world.

In a report released this week from the Walk Free Foundation, an estimated 30 million people are enslaved around the world. The Australian based group presented its findings on Thursday 17th October in its first Global Slavery Index (click on link to download) ranking of 162 countries by their prevalence of modern slavery. In compiling the index, researchers considered crimes such as human trafficking, forced labor and the exploitation of children. From forced labour on cannabis farms in the UK to the child workers in the cocoa industry of Côte d’Ivoire, an estimated 29.8 million people are enslaved today.

African nations comprise half of the group's top 10 rankings on index by prevalence, which also includes Haiti, Pakistan, India and Nepal in the top 5.

In a separate index, the foundation ranks India, China and Pakistan as the countries with the highest numbers of enslaved people within their populations. India is estimated by the index to have the highest absolute number of modern slaves. The nation of 1.2 billion is thought to include a whopping 14 million people who live in slave-like conditions, which include forced labor, forced marriage, exploitation of children and debt bondage.

The foundation found that Asia is home to about 72 percent of the world’s slaves.  China and Pakistan came in second and third behind India. China is thought to have about 2.9 million slaves. Pakistan, whose population is 1/7 that of China’s, has a stunning 2.1 million slaves.

Countries with high levels of slavery share poor development, corruption, poverty and conflict. Also, researchers noted, around the world, women are disproportionately affected by slavery, partly because of the prevalence of forced marriage and child marriage.

And the experience of girls and women slaves almost always has another, horrifying element - for almost every woman in slavery, there will be a sexual assault. It can be field, factory, working as a domestic servant or whatever. That's why the enslavement of women is particularly harsh. 

Foundation researcher Kevin Bales:

The foundation says the role of government in addressing modern slavery, a human rights violation, is "paramount." The group says only governments have the authority to enact and enforce laws against slavery.

Resolution on Human Trafficking
(from Executive Committee of DIAKONIA World Federation, 2011)

Human Trafficking is a worldwide problem and infects almost all countries and all economic systems. It is a form of modern slavery and the biggest money making system in the world. The DIAKONIA World Executive at its annual meeting in Moshi,Tanzania in July 2011 was confronted with the wideness of this reality. As an organization of people involved in diaconal ministry in 34 countries of the world we feel very much connected with the victims of this crime. We want to raise our voice to the elimination of the conditions that lead to and perpetuate human trafficking. We ask our member organizations and the churches we which we belong to raise awareness of human trafficking in everybody’s surroundings and do as much as they can to overcome this inhuman practice.

We ask you to join in our prayer:

Loving God, The broken creation yearns for wholeness. Many are sold for sex, in bondage and exploited in factories and fields. Many are starving and thirsty. Many are homeless and refugees. Many are fearful, distraught and hopeless. Many cry out for food, for shelter, for safety, for protection, for worthiness, for respect... for wholeness of body, mind and spirit. Forgive me for closing my eyes and ears to the cries and suffering around me. I commit to you my helplessness and ask you to open my eyes and ears that I can respond to the cries. Make me willing to be an instrument of your love and peace. Help me to take action so your love and peace become real in this world. Amen.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Philippines - floods in Manila, now earthquake and hundreds of aftershocks in Visayas......

Basilica of the Holy Child, Cebu City, after the earthquake
Tuesday was a national holiday in the Philippines, to mark the beginning of Eid ul Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, a Muslim festival commemorating Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac. What would have been a day of rest and rejuvenation for many, spent at home or in shopping malls, quickly turned into a day of devastation and terror spent in the streets.

(The following report is from The Australian newspaper)
A POWERFUL earthquake on Tuesday this week killed at least 93 people in the Philippines as it generated landslides that buried homes, triggered terrified stampedes and destroyed historic churches.
Fifteen of the confirmed fatalities were in Cebu, the country's second most important city and a gateway to some of its most beautiful beaches, the national disaster agency reported. Cebu, with a population of 2.5 million people, is the political, economic, educational and cultural centre of the central Philippines.
The 7.1-magnitude quake killed another 77 people in the neighbouring island of Bohol, famed for its rolling “Chocolate Hills”, while one other person died on nearby Siquijor, which attracts tourists with its pristine white sands. Authorities said the death toll could still climb, with officials struggling to assess the extent of the damage in the worst-hit areas of Bohol where roads remained impassable and power was cut at nightfall. One of the worst affected areas was the coastal town of Loon, where at least 18 people were killed by landslides that buried houses along large stretches of highway.
Ten churches, some of which have crucial links to the earliest moments of Spanish colonial and Catholic conquest in the 1500s, were also badly damaged on Cebu and Bohol. The limestone bell tower of the Philippines' oldest church, Cebu's Basilica Minore del Santo Nino, was in ruins. Other limestone churches that were built in the 1700s and 1800s on Bohol had crumbled completely, prompting grieving for the loss of some of the Philippines' most important cultural treasures.
“It is like part of the body of our country has been destroyed,” Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua, a history lecturer at De La Salle University in Manila, told AFP.
Aside from its beaches, Bohol is famous for its more than 1,000 small limestone “Chocolate Hills” that turn brown during the dry season. One of the main tourist venues there, the Chocolate Hills Complex, was severely damaged, according to Delapan Ingleterra, head of a local tourist police unit. “There are huge cracks in the hotel and there was a collapse of the view deck on the second floor,” Ingleterra told AFP, adding that no-one was injured at the complex.
Tuesday's quake was followed by hundreds of aftershocks, at least four aftershocks of which measured more than 5.0 in magnitude.
The Philippines lies on the so-called Ring of Fire, a vast Pacific Ocean region where many of Earth's earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.

Prayer points include:
  • Disaster relief teams who are assessing the damage.
  • Rescue teams and those providing emergency services
  • Grieving families and friends, and communities in shock
  • Safety from the continuing aftershocks
  • The work of churches and diaconal ministry agents in responding to the situation
Gracious and compassionate God, we ask your comforting and strengthening help for the people of the Visayas. Comfort those whose loved ones have died, bring swift rescue for those who are missing, and strengthen those who are injured. In all of this crisis, empower your people with your Holy Spirit as they bring Gospel love and courage to their community. Keep us steadfast in prayer until this season of trial has passed for our brothers and sisters. All these things we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (adapted from a prayer by Archbishop Robert Pittsburg, Christchurch) 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Cyclone Phailin in eastern India

Cyclone Phailin is the most powerful storm India has faced in more than a decade. Phailin is a Category 4 cyclone, one notch below the most powerful Category 5 super storm like the one that hit Odisha in 1999 for 30 hours, killing almost 10,000 people.
Satellite images showed the storm, in the Bay of Bengal, was  about half the size of India. Eye witness reports said the powerful winds on Saturday snapped trees like matchsticks, swept away rooftops besides flattening paddy crop across a large swathe of farmland, and uprooted trees. It caused large-scale power and communications outages and shut down road and rail links, and was expected to have caused extensive damage to crops.
Thankfully the cyclone began to wane on Sunday morning local time, nearly 12 hours after it made landfall. Strong winds and heavy rains continue to lash the coastline, threatening floodings and inundation of low-lying villages. Thankfully casualties  have been limited, with more than half a million people evacuated prior to Cyclone Phailin reaching land in what is said to have been the biggest peacetime human movement in the country in 23 years. 
Please pray for the diaconal ministries in India, particularly those in the eastern part of India in the affected areas. There are three associations: Methodist Deaconess Ministry India, Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church Bethania Deaconess House and CSI Order of Women in the Church of South India Women's House. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Today's sermon (at Pilgrim Uniting Church, Adelaide)

Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
17 As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, 19 thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.
This is the last Sunday in this Season of Creation series…..
A new report from the IntergovernmentalPanel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released in Stockholm on Friday, the result of 7 years work by more than 600 scientists and researchers, as well as policy makers. It stated there is now a 95% probability that humans are responsible for global warming. When 97% of scientists say there’s now a 95% probability than humans are responsible for global warning, we should sit up and take notice. We may need to reposition ourselves though, to move from an anthropocentric view of the world – where humans are the centre and everything else is at their disposal, to an eco-centric view of the world where the welfare of the earth takes seriously the intrinsic value of all life. What is good for the earth will also provide for the welfare of human persons but we may need to move our attention from ‘things’, to live with simplicity and contentment, so that life on earth is sustainable for humans.
The IPCC report presents a number of different scenarios of how climate change may unfold over the next century. It is predicted the sea-level will rise anywhere between 26 and 98 cm by 2100. It will bring disaster to our Pacific neighbours and many other parts of the world. The temperature is predicted to rise anywhere between 2 - 4.8 degrees Celsius. The report states that many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed. The amounts of snow and ice have diminished. The sea level has risen and concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon says, "The heat is on. Now we must act". 
The passage in our reading from 1 Timothy seems to have little to do with this – yet everything to do with some of the underlying causes…..
This passage was written in the context of the Roman Empire, but the words leap off the page in an era dominated by materialism, consumerism and acquisition. There is an insatiable desire for ‘things’. It seems we can never have enough. It’s an endless cycle of acquiring more, in the vain hope of finding contentment, meaning, identity through acquisition. This is particularly so in western countries.
The passage has a great deal to say about one’s attitude to money, to acquisition. It invites us to reflect on the connection of godliness and contentment - for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. Anthony de Mello's  contented fisherman  so effectively juxtaposes the attitude of relentless acquisition with the fisherman who has enough and is contented. The word “contentment” (from the Greek term autarkeia)  conveys the important Stoic concept of not being bothered by external circumstances. We don’t need ‘things’ to find that contentment.
Contented Fisherman
One lazy day the rich man found the fisherman lying beside his boat smoking a pipe. The rich man was horrified. “Why aren’t you out fishing?” the rich man asked. “Because I have caught enough fish for the day,” the fisherman answered. “Why don’t you catch some more?” the rich man demanded. “What would I do with it?” replied the fisherman.“Earn more money. Then you could have a motor fixed to your boat and go into deeper waters and catch more fish. That would bring you money to buy nylon nets, so more fish, more money. Soon you would have enough to buy two boats... even a fleet of boats. Then you could be rich like me,” explained the rich man. “What would I do then?”  asked, the fisherman.“Then you could really enjoy life,” the rich man asserted. “What do you think I am doing now?” said the fisherman. The rich man fell silent and shook his head. 
Richard Rohr in his daily devotional email this week reflected:
“We are all complicit in and benefitting from what Dorothy Day called “the dirty rotten system.” That’s not condemning anybody; it’s condemning everybody because we are all complicit in and enjoying the fruits of domination and injustice. (Where were your shirts and underwear made? What wars allow us to have cheap food and gas?) Usually the only way to be really non-complicit in the system is
to choose to live a very simple life. That’s the only way out of the system!
Thus most of the great wisdom teachers like Gandhi, Saints Francis and Clare, Simone Weil, Dorothy Day, Jesus and Buddha—lived voluntarily simple lives. That’s almost the only way to stop bending the knee before the system. This is a truly transfigured life in cultures which today are almost always based on climbing, consumption, and competition (1 John 2:15-17)
Once we idealize social climbing, domination of others, status symbols, power, prestige, and possessions, we are part of a never-ending game that is almost impossible to escape. It has its own inner logic that is self-maintaining, self-perpetuating, and self-congratulating, as well as elitist and exclusionary. It will never create a just or happy world, yet most Christians never call it into question. Jesus came to free us from this lie, which will never make us happy anyway, because it’s never enough, and we never completely win”.
It makes sense then that those who have riches “are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life” (1 Timothy 6:18-19). Without that generosity and preparedness to share, greed for money may well plunge others into poverty and ruin.
Rev Dr Jason John (Deacon in the Uniting Church in Australia) is a passionate advocate for eco-justice. He says the double-edged call of eco-justice is premised on the view that the human degradation of nature, of which greenhouse gas emissions and global warming are but a symptom, is fundamentally linked to the social patterns and social institutions that oppress human beings. We cannot address one without the other. Poverty is an ecological problem, just as violations of natures biodiversity and the biosphere have exacerbated the extent of global poverty. So, eco-justice assumes that to address environmental degradation in our world we must also challenge the exploitation of the poor. In other words, one part of the world cannot live in an orgy of unrestrained consumption while the rest destroys its environment just to survive.
The passage concludes (6:17-19) with wisdom about using one’s wealth effectively. Freed from the need to accumulate as the means of finding meaning in life, people can turn their attention beyond themselves to the welfare of others and learn to love effectively with the means they have. As we intentionally go deeper into our connection with God, into the heart of love, generosity, compassion, justice and peace, we will then find freedom to connect meaningfully with others, and to our world - and to the best we seek for ourselves – the path of contentment and joy. May it be so.