March letters

Thank you for publicising MemoryLink in Crosslight (December 2014).  As a result, many elderly people from across Victoria and Tasmania are now enjoying listening to MemoryLink, reliving the hymns, choruses, Bible passages and prayers learnt in their childhood.

An aged-care chaplain wrote: “I have seen God’s presence coming into people’s living rooms through MemoryLink …One lady had streams of tears down her face as she listened to one of the meditations … She kept repeating that it was so wonderful.  She hasn’t been able to go to church for many years.  Another lady was singing along to the Sunday school songs with such joy – dancing on her seat.”

An elderly user of MemoryLink said: “I believe the angels sang along with the choir and are rejoicing.”

“My husband has dementia” said another lady. “I play MemoryLink every night as he goes to bed.  His face lights up…a smile comes on his face, and he goes calmly off to sleep. MemoryLink is bringing joy to my husband and it a great comfort to me.”

Dr Fenton Sharpe
Convener MemoryLink Project Team
West Pennant Hills,  NSW

For information on MemoryLink go to www.pennanthillsuniting.org.au or contact Fenton Sharpe on (02) 94846197 or fsharpe@bigpond.net.au

 

We all say at some time or another there are never enough hours in the day or days in the week to do all we have to do; the editorial in February’s issue refers to the “24/7 information (and misinformation) saturated, never switched off world in which we live”.

Relax: the Uniting Church has found a way to give us all more time in which to do what we have to do. The Mission Support Fund calendar lists two extra days this year: refer to the small print February at the bottom of the January and March pages; both show February as having 30 days!

Unfortunately by the time you read this, February will have gone, and with it the two extra catch-up days courtesy of the Mission Support Fund.

Bill Freeman
Buckrabanyule, VIC

Thanks so much for that Bill; calendars are every editor’s nightmare! You might have missed the two days extra in February, but you can go back in time and re-live April from last year (see small print bottom of March). Ed.

 

Australia has voted against a proposal in the United Nations Security Council demanding Israel end the occupation of Palestinian territories, according to The Age report (“Australia says no to Palestine”, 1/1/2015). Australia joined the United States as the only two countries to vote against the draft resolution in New York on 30 December.

This is another shameful episode in our history of continued support for the bloodshed and misery in the Holy Land.

The usurpation of Palestinian lands by the Jewish forces in 1948, the slaughtering of Palestinians in their thousands, and burning of villages and towns, and the dispossession of 750,000 Palestinians to establish Israel, triggered the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The dispossessed Palestinians interned in refugee camps and the Palestinians confined in West Bank and Gaza now number around 8 million people.  These people do not have a country, do not have human rights and do not have the freedoms that we enjoy in Australia.

Israel’s supporters, the US, UK, Australia and Canada – four English-speaking Christian countries – have much to answer for in this mess.  The Roy Morgan opinion poll released on 5th November 2014 showed that a majority of Australians (57 per cent) support an independent Palestinian state, whereas successive Australian governments, both Liberal and Labor, voted against a Palestinian state at the UN.  This is against our democratic principles and it is against the Christian conviction of most Australians.  The Greens is the only party which supports Palestinian statehood.

There will never be peace in the Middle East until the Israel-Palestine conflict is resolved with equity.  It needs Christ’s courage and love for humanity to stand up for such a peace.  Sadly, we are like the Pharisee and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan: we look the other way and move on.

Dr Bill Mathew
Parkville, VIC

 

Congratulations, Carol McBain (letters Feb) on your courage in sharing your description of God (I missed Dr Bodycomb, Nov).

However in doing so you leave yourself open to a charge of heresy for (like it or not, and I don’t) we are bound by the Apostles’ Creed (guardian of a right understanding of faith: Basis of Union, para. 9) which informs us that God is ‘the Father almighty’: ie, is male and super-human. Although we are encouraged to interpret the teaching of the creeds, the Church has made no serious attempt to do so and they are used, literally and without interpretation in sacrament, commissioning and ordination.

Turning to that great book of lay theology (Together in Song) the human-male image of God is reinforced. God is governor, No. 4; king 52; male 59; father 580; lord 76 … to mention just a few examples. In addition, we are led to believe that God is creator (creed; covenant service) and that the elements distributed during Holy Communion are ‘the body and blood of Christ’ (Uniting in Worship and spoken by elders throughout the Church).

Given these matters are of concern to so many in our congregations, the fact that the learned leaders of our (all too costly and numerous) theological colleges do not publish or provide helpful instruction is a painful omission.

Take heart, Carol and others: there are ways forward.

1/ The Basis of Union describes the bible as a witness in which we may ‘hear the Word of God’  (within the words on the page) and encourages scholarly interpretation of the text. This does not demand a literal reading of the text: it does require more than dusting off our copies of Tillich and Bultmann. In my mind a selection of J S Spong should be in the library of every congregation.

2/ The much ignored process theologians of the 20th century ought to be revisited as they encouraged a non-personal image of God: think ‘the Source of human good’.

3/ Our Orthodox brothers and sisters tend to look not at, but through, their sacred icons (as if through a window) to draw closer to God and gain inspiration. We could helpfully bring this approach to scripture and move beyond worship of the words on the page.

Yes, it is time for a broad discussion about what we really believe. May the Church take some initiative to begin the discussion.

Leigh Pope
Via email

 

Whilst your paper has been laudably vocal in recent times regarding a range of issues such as refugees/asylum seekers, people trafficking, family violence, etc., I am concerned at the almost complete absence of articles regarding euthanasia, abortion, same-sex ‘marriage’, and the rising threat of radical Islam. These last are to me as pressing as the former for the Church to be addressing currently, as they strike at the basis of Christian faith and practice.

Euthanasia and abortion directly threaten the traditional Christian teaching on the sanctity of life as a gift of God, and recent and proposed liberalisation of laws in these areas only lead us further toward the slippery slope of humanistic eugenics.

In my view, the homosexual lobby push for amendment of the Federal Marriage Act to allow/recognise SSM should also be seen as a threat to a foundational institution of our society. At a time when heterosexual marriage is falling out of favour one has difficulty accepting that SSM should suddenly become so popular among homosexuals – apart from an anarchic political push.

Perhaps you could invite some informed scholars/writers to pen an article or two on these matters?

Dennis Litchfield,
Mount Waverley, VIC

 

 

My father, Rev Alan Collins, passed away early in January. He was 84. His family, particularly his wife Marj, would like to thank the Uniting Church community for the incredible outpouring of love and support from the many people whose lives he touched. We received too many cards to count, let alone answer, so we trust that this letter will serve as a token of our sincere appreciation for your support.

Dad’s itinerant lifestyle began immediately after his birth as his family followed his schoolteacher father around a number of postings in country Victoria, landing him in his teenage years in Horsham where he met Mum. He worked briefly as a civil design draftsman before training as a Home Missionary, and served in Natimuk and Elmhurst at the tender age of 19 before being accepted by the Methodist District Synod as a candidate for ministry. Following his training and a short posting in Ashburton, he was posted to Tasmania with his new wife.

After a few years in Devonport and Deloraine, he was moved to Hobart where he found opportunities to nurture a growing commitment to social justice and a voice within the Methodist Conference and the wider community. Upon returning to the mainland he was instrumental in the development of several, now large, community service organisations, during postings in Doncaster, Ballarat and Horsham, and was chairman of the Grampians Presbytery in the early years of the Uniting Church.

He summed up his philosophy and really his life in the last words of his final sermon at Deepdene on the occasion of his retirement. “A world where love is at the centre of things – that’s the kind of world I want to live in”.

To which all I can say is, Amen to that!

Brian Collins
Ballarat, VIC

 

 

As the long-time coordinator of the Vanuatu Prevention of Blindness Project (VPBP) for UnitingWorld, I am outraged by the Australian government’s cuts to our foreign aid budget. This policy move seems hard to justify on any level, and its negative repercussions are morally reprehensible.

Recently all our political leaders have spoken out against the downing of flight MH 17 over the Ukraine and the siege in Sydney.

These tragedies were acts of terrorism over which the government had no control. Tragically, the decision to slash our aid budget will kill, or disable, or shorten the lives of many more individuals than those affected by such acts of terrorism.

The VPBP is one of many UnitingWorld projects which are being undermined by the budget cuts.

Last year the VPBP provided access to eye care, and general medical and dental services, to more than 10,000 people. The life changing impact of this work is huge. It is also expensive. For many years we have relied on Australian government aid for the operational support of our teams of unpaid health professionals while in Vanuatu.

In 2014 seven outreach teams were funded.

This year we have sufficient finances to run only three teams despite our partner church in Vanuatu requesting that we run at least four.

It is particularly distressing to know that the fourth outreach requested is to one of the most remote and underserviced parts of the country.
We need $20,000 to make this possible.

Tax deductible donations to Uniting World earmarked – Vanuatu Prevention of Blindness can be done as follows:
By cheque to UnitingWorld.

PO Box A2266, Sydney South, NSW 1235. Phone by ringing 1800 000 331.
Online at wwwunitingworld.org.au/vanuatu-eye-care and follow the prompts to do it electronically.

Don MacRaild OAM
Valencia Creek, VIC

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