February letters

To discover fresh expressions of church, the UCA needs to rediscover the lost art of sacred reading.  Long practised in medieval monasteries, it can regenerate the mission of today’s Australian Church through revitalising corporate worship and private devotions.

Michael Carey (The Art of Sacred Reading, Dove 1995) has defined sacred reading as more than a pious perusal of spiritual books. It is both a technique of prayer and a guide to living. He identifies four steps, which utilise our faculties of intellect, memory, conscience and spirit to read the Scriptures.

The Bible can be read firstly in its historical meaning, secondly as an attempt to find Christ-centred meaning in an otherwise dry passage of Scripture, thirdly as a means of shaping our values so as to evangelise our behaviour and finally to make us feel a greater desire for the things of God.

How can this regenerative power be harnessed in the UCA? Congregations should be made aware of the simple technique of this art as they hear the lectionary passages read prayerfully in divine worship. Preachers should consciously model their homilies on the fourfold structure advocated by Carey. Aids to worship such as music or the visual can provide an impetus to meditation, prayer and contemplation to deepen our understanding of the Scriptural message.

As Carey notes, our relationship with Christ passes through four stages: we must follow Christ, we should imitate Christ, and we should aspire to likeness to Christ. Finally, we should identify with Christ. Galatians 2:20 notes: “ I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me.”

The spiritual awakening and missionary outreach for which we all yearn would benefit by implementing the approach of those early monastic communities.

Alan Ray
Mont Albert, VIC

 

I write to assure the people of the synod that Unichurch Resources is continuing and indeed being enhanced.

In 2009 the Unichurch Resources Centre was birthed after the closure of Unichurch Books. It is located at the Centre for Theology and Ministry in Parkville.

Unichurch Resources provides UCA publications and UCA worship materials, including lectionary and other resources, to the people of the synod.

On occasions, and when requested, Unichurch has also ordered books and resources beyond UCA publications, identified by UCA people to assist them in their discipleship and ministry journey. An added facility has been the provision of a resources table at key events such as Synod meetings, some presbytery events and conferences.

In 2015, this resourcing will now include an online purchasing capacity and be strengthened to include further resources identified by CTM staff and others as valuable to the life of the church. The new website will allow people to browse through book reviews and recommendations in order to place orders for a specific book/s.

Unichurch Resources, although not established as a ‘shop front’ still enables people to pick-up resources they have ordered.
As the CTM strives to resource individuals and churches through this challenging time we are reconfiguring the staffing of Unichurch Resources to be more integrated into the work of the CTM. There will be no reduction in the quality of the service that has been and will continue to be provided to the people of this synod.

Jennifer Byrnes
Executive Director, CTM

 

I am extremely disappointed and upset that in the week before Christmas 2014, the Federal Government cut overseas aid by a massive $3.7 billion over the next few years.

This is the largest cut to aid in Australia’s history and will make us one of the least generous aid donors in the world.

These cuts will have a terrible impact on the global poor in our region and beyond. Fewer children will be vaccinated against killer diseases, fewer women assisted through pregnancy and childbirth, and less support will be available for vulnerable men, women and children as they strive to overcome barriers to their own development.

I don’t believe we should be balancing Australia’s budget on the backs of the world’s poorest people and I ask Uniting Church congregations to call on the Federal Government to work once more towards increasing aid to the internationally-agreed target of 70 cents in every $100 of national income.
As a wealthy nation Australia can afford to assist the struggling poor, both within our own country and overseas.

Robert Van Zetten
Highton VIC

 

I am very distressed at the loss of the UCA Funds diary.

I have written to the Funds managers, but I feel the matter needs a wider audience.

The diary had many virtues and as I did not receive the circular, which I am told came around in October, the loss of the diary has come as a shock. You see, we lost it once before , but it was restored to us because many users complained at its loss.

1/ It is slim and compact, giving two weeks at an opening, not common these days.

2/ The days start at Sunday. Most diaries start on Monday, for those who make their weeks arrangements on Sundays with friends and committee members this is hard. All week you have to turn back to the notes you made on Sunday which is the natural start for churchgoers.

3/ It has the church year marked in it. There is much more information than that, but knowing all the days of Easter for example is essential.

Furthermore, I note on the verso of the diary for 2014, that they have four elements of ethical investing. I suggest that they have not fulfilled item three, being a ‘showcase of how an ethical financial institution operates’. They claim to be, on the next page ‘fund manager with a conscience’ but they forgot to invest in the wellbeing of their clients.

I would gladly pay for this diary if the opportunity arises, and I understand from friends that they would also.
Surely they will restore our lost tool to us next year.

Norah L Killip OAM
Parkville

 

We have been contacted by a number of people regarding the cancellation of the 2015 diary.

In doing this we made a considered decision that took into account the financial and resource costs of maintaining this service. We also took into account support for maintaining a hard copy diary against under-use and some complaints concerning waste of church resources.

The trend towards electronic diaries was also a factor. We concluded, on balance that the $8000 annual cost of printing and distributing the diaries would be better spent by the Uniting Church on its mission.

That said, we accept that some have a different view. In recognition of this, UCA Funds Management has made a donation to the Share Appeal on behalf of those who have written as some alternative value for the absence of the diary.

We thank all of those who continue to support UCA Funds Management and, through us, the additional support this brings to the Uniting Church.

Michael Walsh
CEO
UCA Funds Management

 

I write with comments concerning the article in the November issue of Crosslight titled ‘The most basic religious question of all’ written by Rev Dr John Bodycomb.

It has long been my opinion that one of the reasons young people have not encompassed the Church in general is because they still have the idea that Church people see God as a man sitting on a throne up in the sky looking down on everyone. We all know that this image is not acceptable in this day and age because young people are much better educated and have been taught to think for themselves rather than accept such a vision.

In prayers and in hymns, the word God is used over and over but no-one has really defined who or what is God. God is just a word used to describe something without really knowing what is meant. It is left to the individual’s imagination as to how God is seen and interpreted. Therefore I agree with Rev Dr John Bodycomb that work needs to be done on what the Church means by ‘God’.

My personal opinion is that God is a vibration or frequency of unconditional love that comes from afar and infiltrates everywhere on this planet. If you hook-in to this vibration you are overcome with this love and a feeling of bliss and contentment flows through your body. As well as using the name God perhaps we could use other names also to capture this thought. Eg: the Power of the Universe, the Universal Law, or even the God Vibration.

Because the word God is undefined this holds a fear or idea of nonsense for the younger generation and I am sure that the understanding of a vibration is more acceptable. The key is getting people to feel this vibration and then they will understand. Nobody knows to try unless they are told about the possibilities.

It would be interesting to hear what other people think about ‘Who or What is God?’

Carol McBain
Congregation Member
East Preston Uniting Church

 

A successful Strategic Review will have an honest appraisal of our Church today.

We are running on empty. For most of 2013, sadly, the Victorian Uniting Church had no message for newcomers. On the contrary, Church members had no idea or control over their future, and were experiencing a real time of trial and uncertainty. The outcomes were grim, congregations were dissolved, and others suffered survivor guilt. People felt powerless and had no optimism about their future.

The Church is currently asking the spiritually exhausted not only to maintain a flow of good works to the world but to come up with great new ideas. This is a time when they need to rest in the Lord and just to ‘be’.

Our traditional teachings have been turned upside down in the light of Progressive Christianity and the new thinking which accompanies it. We don’t even know what to call God any more. If we go back to basics, we would have less duty and more love.

Jesus had a complex message – go and tell the Good News that we have an inclusive God, the God for everyone, including rich, ordinary, poor, or sinful. Today, do we focus too much of our energy on the poor and not enough on the whole body? Jesus’ own mystical understanding of God was explained to His disciples as being like a Father, or being in a loving family.

For the next year, I think the Church should minister to its tired members. Stop pressuring them to find new ways of mission. Raise us up, cheer us up, give us some love, have some rousing musical events and calm meditative retreats until the spirit begins to flow freely and we get back in touch with our faith and the God within ourselves.

Mrs Chris Waltrowicz
Ascot Vale, VIC

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One Response to “February letters”

  1. Kimmy Fam

    A contemporary definition of God has been offered by Carol McBain (Who or what is God? Feb issue of Crosslight).
    But I would struggle to explain to, and convince, the young’uns that ‘vibrations or frequency of unconditional love’ created and put together physical life, our earth , the cosmos as they are. It takes intelligent design with a purpose. There is a Who and a Why. There is a Divinity, the clearest definition of which is distilled from an accumulation of experiences by people in the Bible, and the people who wrote it.