On the political front, 2016 was a tumultuous year with plenty of shocks and surprises. The Australian federal election became a marathon as the Liberal Party narrowly edged the Australian Labor Party following eight days of counting.
The international community was stunned when the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, leading to the resignation of a prime minister and a deeply divided nation.
But perhaps the biggest shock of all came from the US as former reality TV star Donald Trump defied the polls to become the 45th president of the United States of America. His election victory prompted strong responses from Uniting Church members.
Over in Syria, the conflict continued into its sixth year as the number of displaced people throughout the world reached a record high. An image of a little boy covered head-to-toe in dust went viral and came to symbolise the suffering endured by a generation of Syrian children.
In June, a gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando in what was the deadliest act of violence against LGBTQI people in US history. The President of the Uniting Church Stuart McMillan responded by calling on church members to reflect on their commitment towards eradicating homophobia.
Terrorist attacks in France and Bangladesh also saw an outpouring of grief from around the world and questions of where God is amidst the darkness. The moderator offered a prayer of hope, reminding us that God’s love will never be defeated by evil.
While 2016 has seen a number of tragic events, stories of love and courage also emerged.
When the High Court ruled that 267 asylum seekers living on the Australian mainland could be deported back to Nauru, Uniting Church congregations responded by offering sanctuary to the people facing deportation. The Let Them Stay movement captured public attention and Premiers from all six states offered to resettle the refugees.
Uniting Church members continue to extend a hand of friendship to their Muslim brothers and sisters. In a spirit of interfaith solidarity, the High Street Uniting Church congregation in Frankston shared a Ramadan meal with members of the local Muslim community.
2016 was a period of change and transition for the Uniting Church.
A new moderator, Rev Sharon Hollis, was installed at the Synod meeting, held at Box Hill Town Hall for the first time. The church’s youth made their voice heard as they reminded Synod members that the future of the church is already here.
2016 was also a big year for UnitingCare agencies in Victoria and Tasmania as they joined together to form a single organisation. With more than 3,500 staff and 3,500 volunteers, Uniting VicTas will become one of the largest community service providers operating in Victoria and Tasmania.
As we enter a new year, it is time to reflect on our goals for the next 12 months. 2016 was a difficult year for many, and 2017 represents an opportunity for us to start a new chapter together. Next year, let’s strive to renew our relationships with our family, friends and with God.
The Communications and Media Services unit wishes all Crosslight readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We have exciting plans in store for 2017 and look forward to bringing you more stories from the church and beyond in the coming year.
What are your hopes and prayers for 2017?