Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A prayer for renewal

A prayer for the year ahead......

God, who makes all things new,
Renew us.
Renew our faith.
Renew our compassion.
Renew our energy to follow your way.
Renew our passion for life, love and justice.
Renew our will to grow and develop.
Renew our humility to own our shortcomings.
Renew our grace in how we react to the shortcomings of others and the world as we have allowed it to become.
Renew our efforts in discerning our gifts and talents and those of others.
Renew our desire to listen to your call for us, others and our Community.
Renew us, Lord.
Reshape our living.
Revise our understanding.
Revamp our religion.
Reinvigorate our discipleship.
Reignite our love .
Christ who opens the way for renewal,
Renew us, Lord,
For we need your help to make the change in us.

This we pray may be so. Amen. (c) Jon Humphries

ELCIC Diaconal Ministry shirts

Check out our new ELCIC Diaconal Ministry shirts (modelled by Judy Whaley).

(Do you have photos of uniforms or t-shirts that your diaconal association uses?)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Day Sermon

(A Christmas Day sermon by Rev Sandy Boyce at Pilgrim Uniting Church for Christmas Day 2014)

Last week, Sydney CBD was shut down because of a siege in a cafe, which ended tragically with the loss of three lives. Even as the siege unfolded, reports spread quickly about the religious identity and nationality of the gunman, as well as the involvement of a black flag with the words of the Shehada, the Muslim affirmation of faith, on it. Anti-Muslim sentiment rose quickly in some parts of the community, with people quickly jumping to conclusions. The primary hashtag, #SydneySiege, came to embody the occasional and predictable ugliness of the internet, with xenophobic and anti-Muslim tweets. An ultra-right group, the Australian Defence League, threatened confrontations in the Muslim-majority Sydney suburb of Lakemba. The ABC Radio in Sydney received calls from Muslim listeners saying they were too scared to ride on public transport and to be in public places.

We live in a culture of fear. It fills the air, even in the Christmas season.

People of goodwill in Australia quickly realised how vulnerable Muslim people would be in any backlash.  

It was incredibly heartening to see how social media quickly enabled a wave of support, using the hashtag, #illridewithyou. The hashtag appears to have come from a Facebook post from Rachael Jacobs who was riding on a train, and noticed a Muslim woman quietly take off her head covering, the hijab, ostensibly out of fear of being targeted. In her Twitter post she said: "I ran after her at the train station. I said 'put it back on. I'll walk with you.” An act of compassion, solidarity and support.

Another woman took to Twitter and wrote: "If you regularly take the bus between Coogee to Martin Place, and you wear religious attire, and don't feel safe alone: I'll ride with you”.

In the face of overwhelmingly complex issues in our world, here was an opportunity to make a small practical gesture, responding to the sorrow that someone would ever feel unwelcome and unsafe in the community because of their beliefs. In a climate of fear and uncertainty, the Australian community has banded together to show their support for the Muslim population, which comprises less than 2% of the 23 million people in Australia but has a great deal more of unhelpful media attention.

The twitter hashtag, #illridewithyou, has gone viral around the world, prompting a social movement with many acts of kindness to strangers.

It prompted my own imagination. I’ll ride with you. I’ll walk with you. I’ll be with you.

The church proclaims Emmanuel on this day that indeed God is with us. The story of the Hebrew people is an endless rhythm of turning towards God and turning away from God. The rhythm echoes in our own lives. Turning towards God, turning away from God.

And the story we celebrate this day is that God was revealed most fully in the life of Jesus Christ, born as one of us, human in every way. It is as if God has said, I’ll ride with you. I’ll walk with you. Wherever you are, I’ll be with you.

The prophet Isaiah (57.15) had described God as "the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity," and by and large, though different language and symbols are used, all the major faiths of the world would tend to agree. Judaism calls God Yahweh. Islam calls God Allah. Buddhism and Hinduism use terms like Brahman-Atman or the Void or the One. All of them point to the ultimate spiritual Ground of existence as transcendent and totally other. The reality of God is so radically different from anything we know as real that in the last analysis we can say nothing about God except what God is not.

The essential message of Christmas - Emmanuel, God with us - invites these questions: Who is this God - and how is God with us?

To the first we may answer from our tradition, ”The high and lofty One who inhabits eternity”.

And the answer to the second question is the claim that Christianity makes for Christmas: that at a particular time and place God came to be with us. In a town called Bethlehem, a child was born who, beyond the power of anyone to account for, was the high and lofty One made low and helpless. The One who inhabits eternity comes to dwell in time. The One whom ‘none can look upon and live is delivered in a stable under the soft, indifferent gaze of cattle. The God of all mercies is placed at our mercy. The hope of the world, born into a culture of fear - fear of the Romans, fear of Herod, even a distorted fear of God.

Year after year the ancient tale of what happened is told - raw, preposterous, holy - and year after year the world in some measure stops to listen. It was a profoundly human event - the birth of a human being, by whose humanity we measure our own. It also gave birth to a movement that quenched retribution and hate with redemption and love

"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth," says the prologue to John’s Gospel (1:14). Or, as Eugene Peterson puts it, God moved into the neighbourhood.

Emmanuel. God with us. God who walks with us on our ordinary and sometimes complex human journey. God who rides with us through the storms of life. God with us. Emmanuel.

And this child would grow to be a man - God with us - who walked with people on those dusty roads, who ate with people, who wept with people, who laughed with people, who shared common humanity with people. A man who believed it to be true that there would be good news for the poor, that prisoners would find pardon, that the blind would recover their sight, and the burdened and battered freed (Luke 4). This man, who had the echoes of his mother’s song ringing in his ears that the proud would scattered, the mighty brought down and the lowly lifted up, and the hungry filled with good things. (Magnificat, Luke 1)

What keeps the wild hope of Christmas alive year after year in a world notorious for dashing all hopes is the haunting dream that the child who was born that day may yet be born again even in us.

In a sermon about Mary’s response to God, Barbara Brown Taylor once said: “If you decide to say no, you simply drop your eyes and refuse to look up until you know the angel has left the room and you are alone again. Then you smooth your hair and go back to your reading or whatever it is that is most familiar to you and pretend that nothing has happened…. Or you can set your book down and listen to a strange creature’s strange idea. You can take part in a thrilling and dangerous scheme with no script and no guarantees. You can agree to smuggle God into the world inside your own body. (From “Mothers of God ” in Gospel Medicine)

Smuggling God into the world, as Mary did. That others may recognise this God within each of us. That this Christ Child may be born and grow in us. That we may be the ones who smuggle God into the world in our own lives as we say to others, to the poor and lowly, to the vulnerable and those who have lost hope, to those seeking safety and comfort: I’ll walk with you. I’ll ride with you. I’ll be with you. May it be so. Amen. 

(This sermon includes media reports of the siege, and some of Frederick Buechner’s reflections)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Advent 4 sermon: 'I beg to differ'

It has been extra-ordinarily hard to prepare these reflections in the context of the tragic events that have unfolded this week. The story of Mary, her encounter with the angel, her ‘yes’, and her song of praise we know as the Magnificat, are a familiar pattern in our year as we head towards Christmas. I have read this story again in the context of the events of this past week and have been challenged by the story in new ways.

Mary’s was a song of praise and hope. Aspirational. A longing - and a confidence - that things could change, that God’s reign would upend the wealthy and powerful and the privileged in favour of the poor, the dispossessed. Her context was Roman occupation and her song was a song of defiance.

Someone once said, ”A candle is a protest at midnight. It is a non-conformist. It says to the darkness, 'I beg to differ.’"

I beg to differ. 

How long do we hold such hope? How long can we 'beg to differ'?

This week the world witnessed one sole, mentally unstable religious extremist gunman take hostages and force a lock down in the Sydney CBD. We saw the faces of the victims who lost their lives, Tori Johnson, the cafe manager, and Katrina Dawson, a lawyer and mother of 3 young children. The Sydney paper screamed the headline, ‘The day we changed forever’, determined to change our thinking and behaving, because this moment had, apparently, become a defining moment - even before we knew any details. Australian gun laws started to be discussed again - how might we protect ourselves from a repeat of such a tragic incident? Australian immigration policies were discussed again - how could he have been allowed into Australia? The judicial system was being discussed - how could he have been allowed out on parole? Domestic violence was discussed - again. The word ‘terror’ was used frequently, as if to link the Sydney siege with acts of terror that have happened so frequently in recent years, including the horrific actions of the Taliban in a school in the Pakistani city of Peshawar where at least 132 children and 9 staff were killed.

As some link the Sydney siege with acts of global terrorism, our world view begins to be defined and shaped by an alternate world view where fear rules the day.

For Mary, her context was ancient Palestine with Roman occupation. Today, ours is an 'occupation' of a different kind. Our world view and the things we value - our sense of community, our commitment to care for others - are now threatened by the occupation of alternate world views. As the Christian church finds itself increasingly marginalised in contemporary culture, the defining values, hopes and aspirations it has embodied are also marginalised. And into this vacuum, other values take their place including violence, xenophobia, and wild speculation in the media. In this alternate reality, the 'other' who is different to me must become the one who I must distrust. In this alternate reality, faith traditions that are different to mine must be those that are denigrated and demonised.

I beg to differ. 

The flowers left in Martin Place in Sydney began as a touching tribute to the innocent victims of the Sydney siege, but may now be considered indulgent. Tens upon tens of thousands of dollars will have been spent on flowers in a week when the Government announced further drastic cuts to the foreign aid budget. But the flowers are another form of protest, and say, ‘I beg to differ’. Of saying, we will gather with friends and strangers in a public place, and place our symbols of tribute and protest together as a way of saying: there is another way that is live-giving and hopeful and peaceful, and we will seek and follow that way and not be overwhelmed by sorrow and despair. We will stand with the stranger in our midst, and look for opportunities where the stranger may become a friend. The notes that have been left with the flowers  represent an expression of solidarity, comfort, unity and empathy. They are also in their own way an act of defiance - there is another way to that of fear, violence and retribution.

Thomas Zinn, partner of Tori Johnson, said when he visited the makeshift memorial he could “smell the flowers through Sydney”. He said, “I think it’s amazing that he has been able to make our city smell like flowers. There is no more beautiful thing that he could have imagined”. 

This week I went to the Marion Mosque, which was opened especially for prayers on the night of the siege, and also so that people of all faith traditions could gather to pray and to affirm solidarity in service and friendship across faiths. It was another ‘I beg to differ’ moment - that we were not prepared to make way for the occupation of an alternate world view where suspicion and violence would define relations between faiths. Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky was there and was invited to read a psalm from the Hebrew Scriptures. A woman, a Jewish rabbi, without a headscarf, reading a psalm from the ancient Scriptures sacred to Jews, in a Muslim mosque. The moment was breathtaking. She said, 'I wanted to show my support for the Australian Muslim at a time when I feared some would condemn this entire faith group. I hope and pray that Australians can distinguish between the perpetrator and a faith whose adherents in Australia are strong supporters of the values we share'.
“I wanted to show my support for the Australian Muslim community at a time when I feared some would condemn this entire faith group,” she said. “I hope and pray that Australians can distinguish between the perpetrator and a faith whose adherents in Australia are strong supporters of the values we share.”

Faiths pray for tolerance | The Australian Jewish News
“I wanted to show my support for the Australian Muslim community at a time when I feared some would condemn this entire faith group,” she said. “I hope and pray that Australians can distinguish between the perpetrator and a faith whose adherents in Australia are strong supporters of the values we share.”

Faiths pray for tolerance | The Australian Jewish News
n Adelaide, Beit Shalom Synagogue’s Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky took part in sunset services at the Marion Mosque. “I wanted to show my support for the Australian Muslim community at a time when I feared some would condemn this entire faith group,” she said. “I hope and pray that Australians can distinguish between the perpetrator and a faith whose adherents in Australia are strong supporters of the values we share.”

Faiths pray for tolerance | The Australian Jewish News
n Adelaide, Beit Shalom Synagogue’s Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky took part in sunset services at the Marion Mosque. “I wanted to show my support for the Australian Muslim community at a time when I feared some would condemn this entire faith group,” she said. “I hope and pray that Australians can distinguish between the perpetrator and a faith whose adherents in Australia are strong supporters of the values we share.”

Faiths pray for tolerance | The Australian Jewish News

They are small but significant moments of ‘I beg to differ’. If not for these moments, the vacuum in our global moral compass would allow for alternate world views based on division and suspicion to occupy and permeate our thoughts and minds and actions, our community, our nation and the world. And this alternate reality that is seeking occupation in our lives is as if we have chosen to say ‘no’ to God’s ways, and thus perpetuate the growing distance between the rich and poor, the unjust distribution of the world’s resources, and the destruction of the earth and its ecosystems. It is to give our ‘yes’ to greed and self-interest and neglect of the vulnerable and marginalized.

I was reminded about a wonderful children’s story book, The Never Ending Story by German writer Michael Ende. The film told the first part of the story, but it’s worth reading the whole book. I used to read it aloud to my classes when I was teaching. It was captivating with its imagery and ideas. Its central plot was the creeping nothing that was taking over the land, town by town. Person by person. One character described it this way: The creeping Nothing around you - and inside you - just grows and grows. It's the emptiness that's left. It’s like a despair, destroying this world. Because people have begun to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So the Nothing grows stronger.”

The vacuum left by the marginalisation of faith in our contemporary society allows for such a ‘creeping nothing’. And allows for that vacuum to be filled with groups based on radical ideology rather than transformational faith. The 'nothing' is 'something', but it is not the reign of God.

Perhaps this invites us to strengthen our resolve to live as those who live by the values of God’s reign, just as Mary’s testimony defined her living. And let’s be clear - not simply the values of a ‘civil society’ that has adopted core values from the Christian faith, but by the values of the reign of God as embodied by Jesus. Love your enemies, forgive others, serve others, welcome others, clothe the naked and feed the hungry etc. These values and practices are what define the lives of those who follow the Jesus way.

Like Mary, you and I are God bearers. We will therefore resist the steady and insidious occupation of other values based on fear, violence, suspicion and speculation. Our lives as followers of the Jesus way give testimony to the statement, I beg to differ. 

Thanks be to God. Amen.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

DIAKONIA News - 100th edition!

 I have just spent a very enjoyable time this morning reading the 100th edition of the DIAKONIA News.

This edition features reports from the DIAKONIA President, and the Regional Presidents, which gives an overview about what is happening in our DIAKONIA Regions.
There is a summary about the Executive Committee meeting in July in Kaiserswerth, Germany. One of the important decisions made was to make arrangements for the next DIAKONIA World Assembly to be held in Chicago, USA, after the planning team in the Philippines withdrew from hosting for reasons beyond their control. The Executive has committed to giving leadership to the planning and is developing the program around the theme, Shaken by the Wind.

There's a very positive report of the 2013 Assembly in Berlin. One of the graphs indicates a huge number of first time attendees. We do hope that many of these 'first timers' plan to attend the next Assembly, in Chicago, along with many more 'first timers' who will attend an Assembly for the first time.

There are dates provided for the DOTAC and DRAE Regional gatherings in 2015, which I plan to attend.

The Treasurer has outlined the financial decisions taken at the Executive Committee meeting, and an overview of finances.

As well, there is also news on the visits I have made this past year to South India and South Korea to visit diaconal associations. These visits have been wonderful - informative and inspiring.

And so much more........! What a feast of information and news! Many thanks to the English editor Laura Lazar and the German editor Ulrike Kellner. What a great team!

This 100th edition is also the last one to be distributed in paper form. Almost everyone on the mailing list now has a email address to which DIAKONIA News can be sent, saving considerable expense and time spent on preparing the mailing, and DIAKONIA News can be available in electronic form in libraries.

(We would love to hear from your association, to feature news in either/or the DIAKONIA News, the Regional Presidents reports, and this blogsite)

As you read this edition of DIAKONIA News, take a few moments to pray along the way for people and places and situations. Within these stories, may we discern God's Spirit weaving and dancing, and give thanks for God's blessings. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Yet another super typhoon bears down on the Philippines

 Hagupit: Infrared Satellite

Emma Cantor, DAP Regional President, writes:  In such a time like this... where and when Filipinos are bracing for another horrendous typhoon named Hagupit...we need prayers that this would slowly weaken and would not devastate any creation...and Yolanda will never be repeated again....
 "Because we become part of it.. The herbs, the fire tree, I become part of it. The morning mists, the clouds, the gathering, waters, I become part of it. The wilderness, the dew drops, the pollen, I become part of it."

Please pray for the people, and those providing emergency relief and shelter. Among the areas at risk is Tacloban, a city devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) just 13 months ago. The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) had declared Hagupit a "violent" typhoon, the highest classification on its scale, with 10-minute sustained winds of 130 mph and gusts to 190 mph - the highest wind speeds of 2014 in JMA's bulletins. Hagupit has since been downgraded to a "very strong" typhoon on JMA's scale with winds of 115 mph and gusts to 160 mph. Public storm warning signals have been issued for 36 geographic areas, spanning from southeastern portions of Luzon (the main northern island) through the Visayas (central Philippines) and northeastern parts of Mindanao (the main southern island).
The Philippines lives with great sorrow, including the deaths over the past 10 years from six separate tropical cyclones that have claimed lives in the Philippines, including:
- Haiyan/Yolanda Nov. 2013: Over 7,300 killed
- Bopha/Pablo Dec. 2012: 1,901 killed
- Washi/Sendong Dec. 2011: 1,268 killed
- Fengshen/Frank Jun. 2008: 1,410 killed
- Durian/Reming Nov./Dec. 2006: 1,399 killed
- Winnie Nov. 2004: 1,593 killed

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When Decemberisation Crucifies Christmas

I was appalled to hear on the news that Australians are expected to spend $30 billion for Christmas this year (in 2013 it was $18 billion). For a country of just over 23 million people, $30 billion is a lot of money. And a lot of money that could be more usefully directed to support people and projects in our global village. It would be staggering to calculate the spending for Christmas around the world. I am mindful of sisters and brothers in our diaconal community around the world, and especially those living in countries where life is a struggle.

David Mitchell
notes, 'Christmas extravagance only continues with our collective consent'. Brian Konkol writes: 'To call this all an unintended consequence of Jesus’ birth may be one of the greatest understatements in all of Christian history'.

The focus in the parable from Matthew 25 about the sheep and the goats from Sunday's readings serves as a sobering reminder about the way we as individuals and communities respond to the compelling need to feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit those in prison and welcome the stranger.

Brian Konkol has written a provocative article, When Decemberisation Crucifies Christmas, published on the Sojourners blog. I commend it to you for reflection. He writes:

One of the dominant dogmas of the season seems to be both loud and clear: Our value as human beings is often dictated by our capacity to contribute toward economic growth.

This is what happens when Decemberism crucifies Christmas.

One may define “Decemberism” as a state in which the value of human life is determined exclusively by our personal rates of production and consumption. We notice this condition most often, of course, in December. Decemberism is the predominant religious tradition of the so-called “holiday shopping season,” and the significance of Christmas is consistently crucified as a result.

As Victor Lebow states: “Our enormously productive economy … demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption … we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.”

In striking contrast to the Christmas ramifications of God’s incarnation, to be a human of any value in our current context is closely connected with supply and demand, even if it all leads to our personal and public self-destruction.

To appraise human value based solely upon production and consumption, as Decemberism does, is an explicit form of dehumanization. Specifically, “mechanistic dehumanization” is a way in which powerful systemic processes – such as our enormously productive and consumptive economy – strip away the dignity of human life by plugging us into mass mechanisms such as Decemberism.

Our culture of obedience to the so-called invisible hand of the market has a direct impact upon our sense of personal value (not to mention our public health), for the desire to belong and be validated in society seems directly related to whether we make offerings to the gods of gross domestic product. And so, because the highest rates of selling and spending typically occur during the final months of the calendar year, and due in part to our longing for communal acceptance, the Christmas season is — in many ways — a period of mechanistic dehumanization, for economic participation seems to be the accepted price of our personal justification. 

To call this all an unintended consequence of Jesus’ birth may be one of the greatest understatements in all of Christian history.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

G20 meeting in Brisbane, Australia

Pop Francis
Pope Francis: ‘There are constant assaults on the natural environment, the result of unbridled consumerism, and this will have serious consequences for the world economy.’ Photograph: Riccardo De Luca/AP
A prayer for the G20: God, we pray that policy makers from G20 countries will open their ears to the cry of the poor; we pray for tougher anti-corruption and tax transparency regulations to take place. And we pray that each nation would implement the new standards. In Christ Jesus we pray. Amen.

The G20 is taking place in Australia over the weekend, with world leaders meeting to discuss the world economy. The G20 is the premier forum for its members’ international economic cooperation and decision-making. This year they will discuss to discuss ways to strengthen the global economy and implement the key economic reforms that are needed in each member economy.

Today, Saturday 15th November, is the first official day of the G20 Leaders' Summit. Along with the leaders, approximately 4000 delegtes will also be in attendance to discuss global economic systems.

“The G20 is an opportunity to secure key agreements between governments of some of the world’s largest economies to help crack down on tax evasion, tax avoidance and corruption - activities which particularly harm developing countries.” Mark Zirnsak, Tax Justice Network, Australia

I've learned that it is customary for the Pope to send a letter to these kinds of gatherings of world leaders. In his most recent letter, Pope Francis has called on G20 leaders to be “examples of generosity” in meeting the needs of refugees, while also taking action against inequality and environmental attacks.

In a letter to the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who is hosting the G20 summit in Brisbane this weekend, the Pope emphasized the need for efforts to curb climate change, eliminate the root causes of terrorism and prevent financial system abuse.

The Pope told Abbott the G20 preparatory work highlighted “the fundamental imperative of creating dignified and stable employment for all”, but he urged leaders not to forget that many lives were at stake behind the political and technical discussions.

“Throughout the world, the G20 countries included, there are far too many women and men suffering from severe malnutrition, a rise in the number of the unemployed, an extremely high percentage of young people without work and an increase in social exclusion which can lead to criminal activity and even the recruitment of terrorists,” the pope said in the letter released by the Vatican on Tuesday.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Workshop at ACT Alliance assembly focuses on “diakonia”

(At the WCC Assembly in South Korea in 2013, I attended an elective on diakonia, and found that its use in the WCC relates more closely to inter-church social aid, and relief and development by church organisations. In 1967 the WCC established a diakonia desk for research and action attached to the WCC’s interchurch aid unit. In 1971, a restructure in WCC made it more difficult for members of diaconates to contribute to international ecumenical discussions about diakonia. More reading here).

(source: WCC)
“When we talk about assets-based ‘diakonia’, we mean building and strengthening fellowship among churches and their ecumenical partners,” said the Rev. Dr Dongsung Kim, World Council of Churches (WCC) programme executive for diakonia and ecumenical solidarity, in a workshop at the 2nd General Assembly of the ACT Alliance, held from 20 to 24 October in the Dominican Republic.
Workshop at ACT Alliance assembly focuses on “diakonia”
WCC programme executive Dongsung Kim at the ACT Alliance assembly in Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic
Diakonia is the Greek term used in the New Testament to describe Christian ministries of care and service, mission and support. It is the source of the English words “deacon” and “diaconal”.
“An assets-based diakonia would work as a crucial tool of welcoming the different gifts, skills and contributions from all levels in the ecumenical cooperation, including from the members of the congregations around the world,” said Kim.
“Exploring assets we have as ecumenical partners in diakonia is actually questioning how we can contribute to more robust ecumenical relationships,” Kim said.
The objective behind this activity was to stress the need for strong relationships between churches and specialized ministries. The workshop was coordinated by Kim and Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC associate general secretary, reflecting on diakonia as a key element in church relations.
The ACT Alliance, a partner organization of the WCC, has some 140 churches and affiliated organizations working in 140 countries to create positive and sustainable change in the lives of poor and marginalized people through humanitarian and development projects.
The workshop focused on the “assets-based approach to diakonia” as part of the discussions held at the assembly titled “join hands sessions”. The dialogue among participants focused on opportunities to share, learn and study new ideas while working for concerns significant for churches and societies. The participants included representatives of communities, groups and networks of ecumenical bodies.
In his remarks, Kim went on to say that “diakonia is an essential part of being a church and mission of the church.” He explained, “The concept of ecumenical diakonia of the WCC is not simply of service, but of taking on a transformative role. We are called to transform society.”
Through an assets-based approach to diakonia at the congregational level, it is possible to turn communities into agents of change and transformation, he said.
While the workshop was meant to suggest ways of making the ACT Alliance an even more robust body, it also discussed issues related to humanitarian work, advocacy and development.

Speech at the conference by Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC General Secretary here

Monday, October 6, 2014

Deacons show Christ to hurting world (UMC)

Just loved reading this article about the diversity of ministry of Deacons in the United Methodist Church. (Original article by Polly House in Interpreter Magazine here).

Rev Nick Nicholas is a deacon from Philadelphia, and serves as coordinator of United Methodist church with Volunteers in Mission (VIM). His secondary appointment is as a deacon for missional service at Arch Street United Methodist Church, where he reads Scripture, assists with Communion "and whatever else they need a deacon to do in either community or leadership," he says.
Rev Nick Nicholas
"As coordinator of VIM, I work with volunteer mission groups from churches. Through my jurisdiction, they can find out what mission sites are available nationally and internationally – anything from rebuilding on the East Coast after Hurricane Sandy, to cleaning up following the recent floods in the Midwest, to helping in Alaska with the Yukon River cleanup. We are still needed and helping in Louisiana from Hurricane Katrina."

Rev Margaret Crain
The Rev. Margaret Ann Crain, is a deacon and Professor Emeritus of Christian Education at Garrett. As a seminary professor, Crain has watched students as they discern their call to ministry.  
The Board of Higher Education and Ministry says, "Deacons exemplify Christian discipleship, nurture others in their relationship to God and lead church people to respond to the needs of the most needy, neglected and marginalized of the world."
Outside the walls of the church, deacons share the good news in word and in their advocacy for the poor, neglected, oppressed and discouraged; provide ministries of mercy; and invite Christians into these ministries.
Some deacons also serve as chaplains, denominational staff or administrators, among other roles.

Children's ministry, with Rev Cindy Yanchury
The Rev. Cindy Yanchury is a deacon at Advent United Methodist Church in Eagan, Minn. She has served on the church staff as minister of faith formation for 14 years, and was ordained a deacon in 1998. She oversees the ministries with children from birth through fifth grade, plus ministry to the children's families. "We help people grow in their faith, touching the heart as well as the head. We don't only educate our people; we also move them to step outside and get involved in loving and helping people."

Go to Global Board to discover more about deacons in The United Methodist Church.

Friday, September 26, 2014

DOTAC Central Committee

2014 DOTAC Central Committee
A great photo of the DOTAC Central Committee, meeting in Ashland, Nebraska this week.
Back row:
Sharilynn Upsdell, Larry Nicolay, Rick Tettau, Lisa Polito (President), Ingrit Vogt, Sister Mary Arie, Becky Louter, Margaret Robertson.
Front row: Pamela Nesbit, Jan Cherry, Gillian Wilson, Judy Whaley
What a great team!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Anglican Deacons in Canada gather

adapted from an article by Cydney Proctor

Anglican Deacons in Canada
A group of about 55 Deacons from the Association of Anglican Deacons in Canada (AADC) met in August to reflect on their ministry and support each other in their vocation, as part of the 2014 Conference, Servants by the Sea.

In the Anglican Church of Canada, there are about 340 ordained vocational deacons who work in the parish context and do not draw a salary. In the ordination process, the bishop sums up the role and duties of a deacon by saying, “God now calls you to a special ministry of servanthood…You are to study the Holy Scriptures, to seek nourishment from them, and to model your life upon them.”

The association was formed in 2003 after the need for a community of Canadian deacons became clear a few years prior to the 1999 meeting of the North American Association of the Diaconate (NAAD). It has since hosted five conferences across the country and its membership has grown to 77. Members of the AADC can also become members of its sister organization, the Association of Episcopal Deacons (AED), formerly part of NAAD. Five members of the EDC have joined the AADC to support their Canadian counterparts.

The 2014 conference, Servants by the Sea, opened with an address from the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, who spoke passionately about what deacons are called to do, including to struggle against poverty and inequality. “What I want to dwell on is your ministry in the name of the compassionate Christ,” said Hiltz. “In all you do, to those you tend, you are the feet, the hands, the heart, the voice of Jesus…you are that salt, that flavours for good. Thank you for all you do.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

UN Climate Summit 2014 - 23rd September

Climate change is not a far-off problem. It is happening now and is having very real consequences on people’s lives. Climate change is disrupting national economies, costing us dearly today and even more tomorrow.  But there is a growing recognition that affordable, scalable solutions are available now that will enable us all to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies.
There is a sense that change is in the air. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society to Climate Summit 2014 on 23 September to galvanize and catalyze climate action.  He has asked these leaders to bring bold announcements and actions to the Summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015. Climate Summit 2014 provides a unique opportunity for leaders to champion an ambitious vision, anchored in action that will enable a meaningful global agreement in Paris in December 2015.

Monday, September 22, 2014

International Day of Peace

How did you and/or your community mark/celebrate International Day of Peace on September 21st? 

In Fiji, the Methodist Church in Fiji, in partnership with ECREA and the UN created a space for a Ecumenical/Interdenominational Church Service to mark the 2014 International Day of Peace - Peace Sunday with worship and prayer. The theme for the service was “Living the Peace of the Kingdom”. 
'As we conclude our national elections and look to the future, it was a moving opportunity to come together to recommit this nation to being a just, peaceful and inclusive society, where God's shalom can flow freely'. Lot of photos here.

DOTAC Central Committee meets this week

Deaconess Lisa Polito, President, DOTAC
Please hold the DOTAC Central Committee in your prayers as they meet this week near Ashland, Nebraska. Deaconess Lisa Polito is DOTAC President, and will be leading the meeting this week.
Some of the DOTAC Central Committee meeting this week (photo: Judy Whaley)
Lisa has invited anyone living in the area to an afternoon of conversation with DOTAC and other diaconal ministry people on Thursday - a great way to connect, listen, get a sense of the 'big picture' of DOTAC responsibilities, and have your say about diaconal ministry.

DOTAC has membership from 12 associations in North America, South America and the Caribbean. It gives attention to ways to: 
* explore various perspectives on diaconal ministry
* make ecumenical and international links to diaconal groups
* network to share information of education and formation for diaconal ministry
* pursue common mission initiatives
* connect with others in ministries of service, justice and reconciliation.

Igrea Evangélica de Confissao Luterana no Brasil
Diaconal Ministers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, ELCIC
Diakonia of the United Church of Canada, DUCC
Wesley Diaconal Community of the Methodist Church in Caribbean and the Americas
United States of America:
Deaconess Community of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Diaconal Ministers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, ELCALutheran Deaconess Association
Association for Episcopal Deacons - The Episcopal Church
United Methodist Church Deacons and Diaconal Ministers
United Methodist Church Offices of Deaconesses, Home Missioners and Home Missionaries

Descriptors of diaconal ministry

I discovered these lovely images online by Deaconess Judy Whaley, descriptors of diaconal ministry - serving at the table, tending the door, footwashing, telling the story, and bearing the light.

It got me thinking about other descriptors for diaconal ministry.

The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) describes Deacons as those who:
* hold up service as an inescapable response to the Gospel
* encourage all God's people in their service of God inside and outside the church
* are advocates for justice, sharing in the church's justice ministries; standing beside people who are disadvantaged or oppressed, encouraging others to work for justice and calling the church to costly action
* are carers who offer support and encouragement, standing beside those who suffer, and encouraging others to use their caring gifts
* are pioneers serving on the fringes in areas of life where social, economic and political changes are exposing new needs which are frequently remote from the experience of church-goers
* are educators whose special task is to educate the church on justice issues and community needs
* are enablers who encourage other people to recognize and use their gifts of service
* are called to be prophets prepared to challenge injustice and offer alternatives
* are bridge builders between the church and the community

What other descriptors of diaconal ministry are there amongst member associations in DIAKONIA?

Ministry in a small congregation

Induction of Rev Naomi Rosenberg, Nairne Uniting Church
Rev Naomi Rosenberg is a Deacon in the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA). In September, Naomi was inducted as the Minister in a small congregation in a rural community on the outskirts of Adelaide, South Australia. Naomi is a former Registered Nurse, specialising in paediatrics and asthma education.  She worked on a paediatric ward for 10 years in Adelaide where she also specialised in asthma education. Naomi has had a significant ministry with seniors in aged care residences and in community programs, as well as serving in rural congregations.
In the UCA, 'Deacons are called to be, along with the scattered members of the congregation, a sign of the presence of God in the everyday world; to be especially aware of the places in the community where people are hurt, disadvantaged, oppressed or marginalised and to be in ministry with them in ways which reflect the special concern of Jesus for them; to recognise, encourage, develop and release those gifts in God's people which will enable them to share in the ministry of caring, serving, healing, restoring, making peace and advocating justice as they go about their daily lives'. (Report on Ministry in the Uniting Church 1991 Assembly). 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

International Day of Peace, 21st September

Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The United Nations General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.
It is 30 years since the UN General Assembly made the Declaration on the Rights of Peoples to Peace. The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 and the first Peace Day was observed in September 1982.
In 2001, the General Assembly by unanimous vote adopted resolution 55/282PDF document, which established 21 September as an annual day of non-violence and cease-fire.
The United Nations invites all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities during the Day, and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace.

And yet...... there are growing hostilities in many parts of the world.

Let us commit ourselves to be people of prayer, and to pray for peace in the world, and to affirm by our words and actions 'the right of peoples to peace'.

What are the stories that may be shared about peacemakers in the global diaconal community? 

God of grace and mercy,
   you look with great love on all your people
   of whatever race, culture and religion.
We ask you to bless us this day
   and send your Holy Spirit upon us
   and upon all the diverse peoples of our world:
   the Spirit of peace and justice,
   of understanding and reconciliation.
May people of violence
   allow themselves to be touched
   by the plight of those who suffer,
   and may your Spirit help broaden the horizons
   and deepen the understanding of us all.
We make this our prayer
   through Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Amen.

Nicholas Hutchinson, FSC
in Volume 1 of 'Walk In My Presence', a book of prayer services
ISBN 1-898366-60-8
(Matthew James Publishing, Chelmsford, England)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Embodying compassion

The Hebrew Scriptures reveal that compassion and mercy lie at the core of the character of God. Micah 6:8 reminds us of our calling to 'act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God'. Zechariah 7:9 reminds us that God wants us to show mercy and compassion to one another. It is a thread that weaves through the Hebrew Scriptures. And then, God is revealed in the flesh, living amongst us as a human person to show us what this means in practice. 'And God chose to reveal who God is by slipping into skin and walking among us as Jesus. And the love and grace and mercy of Jesus was so offensive to us that we killed him' (Nadia Boltz-Weber). And then, the work of compassion and mercy was handed to the disciples and followers of Jesus, where we are asked to embody compassion and mercy following his example. In the world of social media and the click of a button to support a cause, what does it look like to embody compassion and mercy?

The reflection below by Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) reflects on the way we are called to embody and reveal Christ's compassion and mercy.

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
 with compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Deacon ordinands in Methodist Church, Southern Africa

This coming Sunday, 21st September, five Deacon ordinands will be ordained. Please hold them in your prayers as they make their preparations. They will attend the final ordination retreat from Wednesday 17th September, and will appear before the Methodist Conference on Saturday 20th September to be received into full Connexion, before their ordination on Sunday.

The Deacon Ordinands are:
Richard Gwabeni
Talente Mngxali
Phina Njuze
Sheila Songelwa
Wendi Tiedt

Rev (Deac) Dr Vernon van Wyk, Warden of the Order of Deacons, writes: 'It will be wonderful if our colleagues world-wide will bless them with their prayers'. Please uphold these 5 Deacon ordinands in prayer.

The MCSA outlines the role of the Deacon in this way:
Deacons seek to be Christ's servants in the world and encourage the Church community to a ministry of servanthood. Deacons remind the Church of Christ's love for the poor and oppressed and strive to share Christ's love through service. They seek to help the Church respond to the needs of the wider community and may be engaged in work outside of the gathered worshipping community where they pioneer relevant ministry. Deacons are primarily enablers and encouragers and also help to grow church members in undertaking aspects of ministry within the local context.

Rev Dr Bill Loader offered these words in the 'charge' to a Deacon:

We have not ordained you to a life of faith and work,
for that is the life of Christ in all the baptised;
We have not ordained you to become engaged in the struggles for justice,
that light may shine in darkness,
for we are all to pray, 'Your kingdom come!'
We have not ordained you to hold the hand of the needy,
sit with the dying, weep with the bereaved,
for the Spirit everywhere urges the fruits of compassion.
You will do all these things.
We have ordained you
to lead the people of God in caring service,
to equip the people of God for their ministries,
to enable the people of God to discern the spirits of injustice and oppression.
We have ordained you to sound the trumpet of jubilee in the world.
We have ordained you as a Deacon in the Church of God.
Deacon ordinand Phina Njuze
Deacon ordinand Wendi Tiedt leading worship at Hillcrest Methodist Church

Friday, September 12, 2014

Methodist Church of Southern Africa

Vernon van Wyk is the Warden of the Methodist Order of Deacons. and oversees the training of deacons throughout the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA). The vision statement of the Deacons in the MCSA is: 'To share Christ's love through service, and to help the church respond to the needs of the wider community'. Deacons are service-oriented and build bridges between churches and communities.
Vernon is also the HIV/AIDS Coordinator for the Highveld and Swaziland District of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.  Education is high on its agenda, with 47 schools, mostly in Swaziland. AMCARE is one of its flagship programs. It was established by the Alberton Methodist Church as a community outreach program, with 8 social workers and 30 home-based care-givers. AMCARE feeds approximately 3,000 people a week.  It feeds and nurses over 350 HIV & AIDS patients, and cares for some 350 orphans and child-headed families.  The HIV Voluntary Counseling, Testing and Wellness Clinic has 2 registered nurses and 3 full-time counselors and locum doctors. Twice a week, AMCARE supplies about 400 litres of soup and 800 loaves of bread to 5 clinics and 240 children at 2 schools. Facilities also include a fully equipped training center, which accommodates up to 60 people and 3 large vegetable gardens to provide patients with fresh vegetables in food parcels. AMCARE also has a Victim Empowerment Shelter in Alberton which houses up to 20 abused women and children, and provides social work and early childhood development services. (Source: Game for the World). 

Please remember Vernon and his ministry in your prayers.

Recently, Vernon visited Deacons in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), comprising the Natal Coastal District and Natal West District, as part of his role as Warden of the Methodist Order of Deacons. Wendi Tiedt (see photo below) will be one of the Deacons ordained at the Methodist Church of Southern Africa ordination service on Sunday 21st September, 2014. She is involved in a number of mission and outreach projects including a primary school reading programme, a municipal clinic feeding scheme, AIDS Outreach, hospital library ministry, and economic empowerment, in addition to preaching and pastoral care and visitations. Please remember Wendi in your prayers, and especially as she prepares for ordination. 
Map showing the location of KwaZulu-Natal in the south-eastern part of South Africa
KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa
Back row (L to R): Harry Gerber, Ernie Nightingale (former warden), Vernon van Wyk (Warden). Front row (L to R): Jackie Foster, Wendi Tiedt (Ordinand) and Bruce Templeton (Probationer 2015);

Thursday, September 11, 2014



For the very many situations in our own lives, in our relationships, in our communities and in our global village that call us to prayer......

Pray much.
Pray always.
For without prayer, there is no faith;
Without faith, there is no love;
Without love, there is no gift of self;
Without the gift of self,
there is no help for people in distress.

(Mother Teresa)

It doesn’t have to be the blue iris, it could be weeds in a vacant lot, or a few small stones; just pay attention, then patch a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate, this isn’t a contest but the doorway into thanks, and a silence in which another voice may speak.
(Mary Oliver, Thirst)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

#Love Makes A Way

So, why is a Minister of the church, and President of World DIAKONIA, participating in a peaceful, non-violent protest vigil in a politician's office? Speaking out for the children held in immigration centres, most of whom have fled violence and war in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Sri Lanka, and others who are escaping oppression, and persecution. Currently immigration centres are a focus of attention in Australia, with the community continuing to ask questions about immigration policies and seeking a more compassionate response to those seeking asylum. On June 23rd, 2014, a group of nine religious leaders held a peaceful protest vigil in the office of MP Jamie Briggs in Mount Barker, asking 'when will the children be released from detention'?. It was part of the #Love Makes A Way movement. At the end of the day, all 9 were arrested for trespass. Pilgrim Uniting Church ministers Rev Jana Norman and Rev Sandy Boyce were part of the group. Although the Uniting Church has a Code of Ethics that forbids ministers to be involved in illegal activity, it makes provision for those involved in non-violent and peaceful protest. The Moderator of the Uniting Church in South Australia, Dr Deidre Palmer, was supportive, and provided a character reference for Sandy and attended court on the day to support her. About 30 others came to the court to express their support for Sandy, and for the group's action on behalf of children in detention. The following statement was prepared by Sandy for her court appearance last week. 
Rev Sandy Boyce with her husband Geoff
Your Honour, thank you for the opportunity to speak today, to give an account of myself in relation to the trespass charge.

I was part of a group of 9 people who gathered for a peaceful, non-violent action focussed on a common concern for children in detention, and asking the simple question, when will the children be released from detention? The group included a Jewish rabbi, a Quaker (Society of Friends), and 7 Christians including 4 Uniting Church ministers. We prayed, we sang, we shared stories, and found ourselves in remarkable company as we discovered common journeys and commitment. We each took a soft toy, and we left them in the office at the end of the day. The soft toy has become a symbol for the children held in indefinite detention - a symbol of a child’s innocence, as well as their vulnerability and need for comfort and consolation.

The rest of the group has already had the opportunity to address the courts, and I welcome the opportunity to share my own motivation.

Your Honour, the situation for children in Australian detention centres is of great concern, especially in offshore detention centres where hundreds of children are in mandatory detention, some without their families. United Nations guidelines clearly state that children seeking asylum should not be placed in detention for anything more than what is absolutely necessary for health checks and security checks. Instead, children are being held in indefinite detention, and the emotional, psychological and physical harm being reported should be of great concern to all people of good will. Some children are responding to their living conditions in ways that are pitiful - self-harm, insomnia, trying to poison themselves, illness and poor health, banging their heads against the wall, bed wetting long after toilet training, depression, even a young girl who tried to hang herself with her hijab. How heartbreaking to read the statement from a 15 year old on Nauru: ”This is a bad life. I fled from war in Iraq but got stuck in harsh jail in Nauru where is nothing but cruelty. We want justice. This is not fair. There is no standard in Nauru. This is a hell for children.” The former head of mental health services for detainees, Peter Young, has revealed the Immigration Department asked him not to report on the rates of mental distress and disorders among children and that the department was "concerned about what the figures are showing”. In the first 3 months of this year, the department's own data shows 128 children self-harmed. It is unacceptable. Immigration detention is no life for a child. All children are precious, and we share responsibility to ensure the welfare of children, which should not be dismissed as mere sentiment.

If children displayed these kind of behavioural responses arising from their living conditions in the wider community, it would be spoken of as neglect and child abuse. Yet this deplorable situation is allowed to continue in detention centres. Only last Friday, the Immigration Minister said that children in off shore detention centres would not be eligible for release because it was those conditions that were stopping ‘more children coming on the boats’. However one justifies children in indefinite detention, it is unacceptable. It goes without saying that the longer the children are held in detention, the more significant their mental suffering. Psychiatrist Peter Young has said, ”If we take the definition of torture to be the deliberate harming of people in order to coerce them into a desired outcome, I think it does fulfil that definition.” We desperately need an alternative to provide better care for these vulnerable children, and Australia has the capacity to positively support their well-being.

The peaceful, non-violent action in which I participated simply asked the question, when will these children be released from detention? Our group sought to highlight their plight and their vulnerability, and to urge that they be released into community care while their applications for asylum are processed. Indeed, a coalition of church agencies and not for profit organisations has offered to work with the Government to arrange community accommodation and appropriate support for families and young children while their applications are processed, but that offer has not been acted upon.

Christians are called to follow the example of Jesus and my Christian faith seeks expression in the way I demonstrate compassion and care, build peace and seek justice, and contribute to the common welfare. Faith is personal, but never private. In my work as a Minister in the Uniting Church, I seek to link the biblical narrative with the practice of faith. I am glad to be part of Pilgrim Uniting Church which from its beginning has been involved in seeking justice and working for the community good. This congregation has for many years actively supported refugees and asylum seekers, with regular visitors to detention centres, sponsoring family reunions, providing practical support and care, and building ongoing relationships. I am proud to say that the Uniting Church nationally has been involved in speaking out for the welfare of asylum seekers, and for children in detention, and challenging government policies that are cruel and harsh towards vulnerable people.

My action to bring attention to the plight of children in detention, was, in part, motivated by frustration with the degree of secrecy maintained in relation to those in detention, and the apparent unwillingness of government to work with the community on alternatives to children in detention and the punitive policies in place. A peaceful action - to highlight the dire situation of children in detention - seems a reasonable thing to do. Not to speak, and not to act, is to collude with what I believe is fundamentally a cruel policy in relation to children and their families in immigration detention.

Such an action was not out of the blue. I am not an accidental activist, but rather someone who has carefully considered ways to raise awareness about this important issue that affects the very character and soul of our nation. Who are we becoming as a nation if we simply turn a blind eye to the welfare of children in detention centres? How can this be allowed to continue? Not in my name.

I worked as a teacher in schools for 20 years, mainly with primary school aged children. We all know that these are critically formative years, when a child’s sense of worth and well-being is shaped, and when they are making sense of the world. For a child, these early years are the foundation which will inform their adult life, and when core values and attitudes are shaped. How can we expect children to develop into generous, kind, compassionate, and confident adults when they are struggling to survive in the midst of difficult living conditions? How can we expect children to be strong, joyful, robust, and resilient, when freedom has been denied, when they face indefinite detention through no fault of their own. How can we expect children to make sense of the world and grow into maturity when their education is spasmodic, when they are denied a stable home environment with emotional security, and when their sense of confidence for the future is compromised.

The actions undertaken by those who decided to sit in Jamie Briggs’ office was prompted by the one question, when will the children be released from detention? It is a reasonable question - with precedent. The Human Rights Commission report released in 2004 found mandatory immigration detention of children was inconsistent with Australia's international human rights obligations and that detention for long periods created a high risk of serious mental harm. Subsequently, the then Prime Minister John Howard released all children and their families from detention.

I am grateful to the staff in MP Jamie Briggs’ office who allowed the group to sit together in the office foyer. They were respectful and did not at any time ask us to leave, until the office was due to be closed at which point we were asked if we planned to leave. When the police were called, they were also respectful in the way they related to the group, and did their job professionally. None of the group I was with had been in such a situation before, so it was a new experience to find myself in handcuffs, being driven to the police station in a police car, and going through a somewhat alien process of fingerprinting, DNA swabs, photos, frisking, questions, and so on. It seemed to me that I had a tiny glimpse into the world of asylum seekers who undergo a screening process determined by Australian authorities. With language difficulties and limited access to legal representation, it is much harder for asylum seekers and the policy of indefinite detention is breaking people’s spirits. The children in detention long for freedom, to be children who can enjoy life with unbridled joy.

I welcome the announcement this month that 150 children under 10 in detention in mainland detention centres will be released into the community over the next 5 months - but the 331 children living in camps on Nauru and Christmas Island, and more than 400 aged over 10 on the mainland, will remain in detention. It is my hope that change can and must happen, that decisions can be made based on compassion and justice.

It is not illegal for people to seek asylum, regardless of how they arrive. 

Your Honour, thank you for the opportunity to share my story.

The magistrate, Special Justice Steven O’Sullivan, waived court fees and did not record a conviction, but did impose a small fine of $50. 

And to put the record straight, the group knew there was a risk of arrest, but that's not the same as 'wanting to be arrested' as was stated in the article based on the police prosecution allegation.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fijian peacekeepers captured/released

Update: Great news that the group of 45 Fijian peacekeepers have been released, two weeks after they were captured by Al Qaeda linked militants in the Golan Heights. All the peacekeepers are in a good condition.
Prime Minister Mr Bainimarama said his country would continue to be involved in the UN's peacekeeping efforts. "It is a noble mission, which we will continue to perform whenever we are called on by the United Nations to serve. For the families, as for all Fijians, it is a matter of great pride that our peacekeepers are able to make such a significant contribution to the wellbeing of others who are less fortunate than us – who are vulnerable living in places that have been torn apart by division and violence."Fiji currently has 734 personnel on UN peacekeeping missions, of which the majority are troops. Since independence from Britain in 1970, Fiji has sent more soldiers on UN peacekeeping missions than any other nation, on a per capita basis. The deployment provides Fiji's economy with much-needed hard currency and helps to bolster its global image.
Golan Heights observers
UN observers watch the Syrian side of Golan Heights, 31 August 2014. Photograph: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

The news about the capture of the UN peacekeepers from Fiji
It is distressing to hear the news that 45 UN peacekeepers from Fiji have been captured by Al-Qaida linked insurgents. In a statement posted online, the Nusra Front group published a photo showing what it said were the captured Fijians in their military uniforms along with 45 identification cards. The group said the men "are in a safe place and in good health, and everything they need in terms of food and medicine is given to them."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has spoken with the Prime Minister of Fiji and promised that the United Nations was "doing its utmost to obtain the unconditional and immediate release" of the Fijian peacekeepers. 
Meanwhile, the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma, and the Fijian Council of Churches, has held a prayer vigil for those who have been captured. Please join our brothers and sisters in Christ in Fiji in their prayers for the safe release of the 45 held captive.

Deaconess Meresiana was amongst those who gathered for the prayer vigil.
45 candles for the peacekeepers taken captive

Monday, September 1, 2014

Eco-faith community

The Season of Creation is celebrated in many countries, and challenges us to re-orient our relationship with creation. While the challenge may have been provoked by the current ecological crisis and a growing awareness of our place in the web of creation, the origins of our re-orientation lie deep in our Christian tradition, especially our biblical heritage.  We are challenged to return to our biblical roots to rediscover our intimate connections with creation. We return to see ourselves again as part of the very Earth from which we are made.

Very topical with discussions about climate change, environmental issues, fracking, and 'green' solutions to generating power.

Rev Dr Jason John is a Deacon in the Uniting Church in Australia. Eco-ministry is 0.6 of his placement and he is also a minister at Sawtell Uniting Church. The photo shows a combined outdoor service at Gleniffer. Jason's sermon on the day can be found here: - look under worship>season of creation>forests.
I wonder how many other Deacons/Deaconesses around the world are involved in eco-ministry of some form or other?

Jason did his PhD exploring biocentric thought. The abstract begins:
"Anthropocentrism assumes that human beings alone are created in the image of God, charged with dominion over Earth, and responsible for the fallenness of creation, though not necessarily through the actions of a literal Adam and Eve. Earth began to be talked about not as an inanimate resource for human consumption, but something good and valuable in and of itself. Having listened carefully to the story of life as told by ecological and evolutionary scientists, I conclude that the traditional anthropocentric paradigm is no longer tenable.  Instead I propose that all of life is the image of God, in its evolutionary past, ecological present and unknown future.  All of life is in direct relationship with God, and exercises dominion of Earth.  Evidence traditionally used as evidence of the fallenness of creation is instead affirmed as an essential part of life'. Jason's thesis is online at the link above.

by Rev Ellie Stock from St. Louis, Missouri
Let the Earth breathe!
Let its heart beat,
    pulsing and firing the fruit of its seed.
Let four winds tease,
    air bright and clean.
    converging and swirling through life’s mystery.

Let waters wreathe.
Let rivers be,
    pristine and free from deep valleys to seas.
Let singing streams
    stir slumbering leagues,
    awakening the dreamer and changing the dream.

    Let mountains rise!
    Let forests thrive—
        primal communities birthed to survive.
    Let kindred be wise,
        not compromise
        their courage and care for greed’s beckoning lies.

Let oceans race!
Let new waves chase
    ancient tides washing ashore cosmic grace.
Let rhythms of peace,
    still conflict’s pace,
    emerging, connecting in trust’s healing place,
bold creatures revealing hope’s eternal face,
beloving, one dwelling, in Earth’s sacred space.