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Church Council Report 2014
Congregational Meeting (AGM)
South Sydney Uniting Church

October 12, 2014

MISSION STATEMENT

Open to God at work in the world, we seek to be a Spirited community of peace and justice, faithfulness and respect for difference. With Christ we dare to be real and honest about our lives, sharing gifts of friendship and hope with each other and with our neighbours.

CHURCH COUNCIL

Members: Rev. Andrew Collis (Minister), Rev. Dorothy McRae-McMahon (Minister in Association), Heather Robinson (Chairperson), Maidie Wood (Deputy Chairperson) Julie McCrossin (Treasurer), Miriam Pepper (Minute Secretary), Anne Camac, Lyn Turnbull. The council has met 7 times since the AGM (Oct 2013) Warm appreciation and thanks to Anne Camac who hosted the council during the cold months of winter.

Items of significance from church minutes and the year:

The word "parish" has rich and long-standing associations. The etymology, from the Old French paroisse (Latin: paroecia), includes reference to ancient Greek words for "house" and "near". The word "neighbourhood" comes to mind. Parish refers to a territory, usually a division of a diocese, and by extension to the people of a community.

Parish is an ecumenical word familiar to Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox churches, as well as some Methodist and Presbyterian communities. In the Uniting Church it has referred to two or more congregations in pastoral relationship. In recent times the word has fallen out of favour (has been discouraged), as attention has focused on the congregation. For the most part now only the historical parish missions have retained use of the word.

South Sydney Uniting Church is an exception.

There are good reasons - not just ecumenical - for us to keep using the word parish. It connotes responsibility for place, for land, for services, for community in ways that "congregation" does not. Parish is an outward-looking rather than an inward-looking word. It challenges tight definitions of congregational belonging and church membership. It encourages social and ecological understandings of mission and participation.

Writers, readers, distributors, artists, gardeners, organic fruit and veggie subscribers, poets, runners - we are all members of the parish. Each one we meet in the streets of Waterloo, Redfern, Darlington, Alexandria, Eveleigh, Erskineville ... is a parishioner.

Sunday, June 22, marks the 37th anniversary of the Uniting Church. The South Sydney Parish, with offices here in Raglan Street, predates the formation of the Uniting Church in 1977. Our continued use of the word not only honours the ecumenical commitments of the past (seen also in weekly celebrations of the Eucharist and appreciation of Western and Orthodox expressions of the faith); it also keeps open the possibility of new ministry partnerships - and new congregations - within the parish.

"Rentals on leasings is set at 95% of market value"

Challenge: We don’t have a rationale for this decision and where that decision fits with our mission. A question for us is “How do are our properties serve our mission?” Both Sydney Presbytery and UCA Synod of NSW&ACT urge us to respond to this question in the coming year.

In our use of property and the UCA’s use more broadly, we hold a tension between sacred space and community space. The church council will continue to develop their understanding of property use and contribute to the wider Uniting Church debate about property. This wider debate is documented in Insights magazine (see link below) and is also continuing to be discussed by the Standing Committee of the Uniting Church of Australia NSW &ACT Synod.

Insights magazine: Property for a Pilgrim People next steps, by Rev Nial Reid: http://nswact.uca.org.au/resource-centre/right-column/property-for-a-pilgrim-people-the- next-steps/

Beginning with Holy Thursday gathering with readings from Dorothee Soelle, a simple meal and foot washing.

The Good Friday service was celebrated with Cana Communities and Sister Anne Jordan was our preacher. She said “Forgiveness leads to chaos, which opens all manner of possibilities.”

A contingent from SSUC Parish took part in the Holy Saturday Vigil outside the office of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, alongside Christians of various traditions. They prayed and called for a new policy that constructs a new compassion and responsible nation around those fleeing persecution who seek asylum on our shores.

On Easter Sunday Andrew’s homily on Matthew 28 v1-10 (about the resurrection, the earthquake, angelic appearance and the empty tomb) concluded “this is precisely the kind of ethical (having to do with love) impossibility or impasse susceptible to the tremors of resurrection, power and faith.”

We affirm marriage as a means of grace in which two adults (binary or non-binary identities) make mutual promises of lifelong commitment before witnesses. God is present in that promise. The discussion paper highlights that Jesus is God’s Promise of eternal commitment to creation. When two people make their marriage commitment their love participates in the committed, unconditional love of God.

It is a privilege to contribute to the wider church discussion. This and other discussions are ongoing. As members of the Uniting Church we participate in a living Christian tradition. We are thankful for prophetic voices who continue to challenge our thinking, assumptions, conventions, prejudices and fears.

The discussion on marriage leads us to think more deeply about all relationships. When two (or more) friends journey together in a spirit of loyalty and trust they also participate in the committed unconditional love of God.

Church Attendance: Mean = 28; Maximum 44; Minimum 16.

Parish Roll: we are a growing church. Please see Maidie Wood to check the accuracy or update your membership details.

Reaffirmation of Baptism: We welcome Ian Bayly and Margaret Vazey into membership. We celebrated their reaffirmations of Baptism in 24th August. If you are interested in membership, Baptism or reaffirmation of Baptism please speak to Andrew Collis.

Weddings: Blessing of marriage of Julie McCrossin and Melissa Gibson on 17th May 2014 Phillipa Collis and Barry McKimm on 11th October 2014.

Bible Studies: continue to be held on 2nd Thursday of the month at the manse

Website: Thank you Scott McDonald for faithful maintenance and creativity. A wonderful resource! southsydneyuniting.org.au

THANK YOU to the many people who contribute to the life of the church in so many ways - setting up for worship; cleaning up after morning tea; hospitality; ideas; presence; maintenance and administrative tasks; care for each other; care for children; music; creativity; financial contributions; SSH production and distribution; art classes and exhibitions.

CHILDREN’S WORSHIP report by Naomi Ward

We have had another funfilled and energising year at Kids church with seven beautiful children who are aged between 3yrs - 9 yrs. We meet fortnightly where they have developed close, caring friendships with each other. This year we welcomed Sophie and Tara.

The children hear the Gospel expressed through Bible stories which are often acted out, art, crafts, gardening, nature walks and free expression. The children are a valued part of the church and take part in the Eucharist and Gospel readings. Various pieces of their art work are displayed on the walls in the hall and the church. At the end of the service the children share with the congregation what they have done and learnt during Kids Church. There have been many highlights. One that comes to mind is acting out "Walking on the road to Damascus" where the children engaged themselves with the different characters and enjoyed particularly being Jesus and sharing a meal with His disciples. It was very moving and a sense of the Spirit present.

Another highlight was blessing dogs in Redfern Park as part of our Thanksgiving service for Creation. The children enthusiastically met people in the park with their dogs and blessed them by reading a prayer from a card which was then placed on their dogs collar. We were warmly received by the people and their dogs and I could see that this was a special time for the children and that they gained a lot by being able to serve others in this way. One man was very glad of our prayers and shared with us how his dog called "Baby" was sick with Cancer and asked us for further prayer. Julie tells me that her children have been praying for "Baby" ever since. It was a beautiful experience for all of us and an opportunity to reach out to the wider community.

When the children were asked what they like at Kids Church these were their responses: Penny enjoys being with the other children and teachers. She likes the garden and excursions to the park. Penny has enjoyed acting out Bible Stories where she can shine and feels comfortable at church and often tells lots of people about it.

Sophie enjoys the friendships with other children and loves coming to church. Penny and Sophie enjoy climbing up on the mattresses where they think that they are untouchable. Julie has said that she can seen a positive influence from what is learnt at Kids Church for her children. She said they found comfort knowing that their dog Minnie was blessed and with God. Julie also said that the children pray each evening for the members of the congregation by name when they pray for their friends. Jacob enjoys singing "Amen"as "Ahh-me-eh-en"at the end of the prayers.

All this has only being possible due to the dedication of the leaders Anne, Blair, Jemima, Curtis, Melissa,Tara,and Naomi who provide a safe creative environment where children feel loved, nurtured and respected.

It would be great if others feel called to go on the roster as we still need more people to help with the children.

SPECIAL SERVICES

Easter: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday
Seasons of Creation, Thanksgiving for Creation St Francis and St Claire Blessing of the Animals.
Celebration of Community (Reign of Christ)
Prayers in Support of Adults Surviving Child Abuse

BLUE KNOT DAY 27th October 2014

In collaboration with Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA), each year SSUC Parish holds a Blue Knot Day Event, standing in solidarity with survivors, protesting willful ignorance and cover-ups, and in support of healing and recovery.

On 2nd Nov 2013 we organised an ecumenical service of lament, attended by NSW Attorney General Greg Smith, City of Sydney Councillor Irene Doutney and representatives from Anglican, Baptist, Catholic and Uniting churches, held on November 2 at the Pitt Street Uniting Church. Nial Reid attended, representing Sydney Presbytery.

A lot of thought was put into the preparation so that those attending would be in a safe, supportive place. And we achieved this. Some feedback was: "I felt so much love. Everyone was warm and friendly"; "It was a privilege to be invited to take part".

"An incredibly powerful and poignant service. I was incredibly moved as I know was everyone there. It was sensitive, thoughtful, respectful and ever so pertinent. I’m struggling to put into words how I feel."

In the service we named the anger, grief and pain, called out to God for help, listened to voices of those who have been abused, had time for reflection, prayed specific prayers of intercession and named our hopes. “Testimonies were used from 'Swimming Upstream' by Alana Valentine, first read at the opening of the Swimming Upstream Visual Art Installation in SSUC in 2012, a stunning exhibition of 5000 hand woven origami fish.” (This sentence (p6) was added from church council minutes Oct 21st 2014, after the AGM)

Copies of the liturgy for this service and the annual Prayers of Support for Survivors service held during Sunday worship are available on the Prayer Table at the front of the church. This Prayer Table was set up last September marking the opening of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and will remain here for the duration of the Commission. The following affirmation of faith by Dorothy McRae- McMahon was written for the lament service.

Affirmation of Faith

We believe in a God
who never leaves us nor forsakes us.
This God will recreate our lives,
gathering us into the loving arms
of a Holy Parent who defends and heals us.
We believe in a God in Christ Jesus
who feels what we feel
and takes our hands in hope.
This Christ is angry for the abused,
and stands beside them in protest
and challenges all who wound the vulnerable.
We believe in God, the Holy Spirit,
the One who warms our lives
with a passion for good.
This wise Spirit guides us in each day
and inspires us towards courage and truth.
Amen


An ecumenical service of lament will be held on Saturday 1st November 10.30am at Pitt St Uniting Church.

A Special service with prayers in support of Adults Surviving Childhood Trauma will be held at SSUC on Sunday 2nd November 2014, 10am.

Blue Knot Day, an initiative of Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA), the leading national organisation advancing the needs of the estimated 4-5 million Australian adult survivors of childhood trauma.

ASCA’s symbol for Blue Knot Day and its symbol all year round is the tangled knot. When children are abused they become confused ... life, even in adulthood, can be chaotic and tangled.

ASCA helps untangle the knot of child abuse for adults who were abused as children. ASCA helps those who have experienced childhood trauma to recover. www.asca.org.au

Dr Cathy Kezelman, ASCA president, said: “The long-term social, health and personal impacts of childhood abuse and trauma are far-reaching and numerous. And they have significant economic implications as well. Opening up public discussion about this complex issue is an important step towards healing, both for individuals as well as communities....The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has put the issue of child abuse on the national agenda and will hopefully bring perpetrators and their protectors to justice – but the deep emotional, physical and psychological wounds experienced by so many adult survivors cannot be remedied by legal action alone.”

ST LYDIA’S LIBRARY report by Catherine Skipper

After the initial cataloguing of the books already in the library, there has been a small but steady increase in the number of books as well as CDs and DVDs. An important addition has been several new children’s books, mostly donated by Andrew Collis, and additions to the theological section mostly by Pamela Briggs. Alison and Julie have made substantial donations to the DVD collections. There have also been a number of anonymous donations usually left on top of the library bookcase. It is possible that some of these donations have been books left accidentally on top of the bookshelves, in which case feel free to claim them back. Naomi Ward donated another very nice bookcase formerly belonging to her Auntie Nancy, which we welcome.

While I don’t think people are rushing to borrow from the library, our excellent collection of art books is often used by teachers and students from the Saturday art class and by people browsing the shelves for something to read at that moment. To be well patronised a library needs to acquire recent, in-demand books, that is, books currently on top twenty lists, and on a regular basis. St. Lydia’s is not this kind of library but its shelves contain many interesting, useful, wise and diverting reads.

Each time a book is catalogued we have reason to be proud of Jovana Terzic’s very lovely library stamp.

EDEN GARDEN This report has been prepared by Anne Camac in consultation with our head gardener, Keith Ferguson.

The Eden garden continues to be part of our church life. The community garden activity has been more formalised in 2013-14. The key changes are:

Keith would like to thank the church for their support of him and the garden.

GARDEN SHELTER

We applaud the appointment of Regina Madden as Garden Shelter Co-ordinator which has seen new stability and energy brought to this ministry. Volunteers report good organisation and many opportunities for listening, learning and growing. Many thanks to the volunteers who help create space for community each Wednesday night for this much crisis accommodation service and ministry. www.cana.org.au

WORDPLAY

South Sydney Uniting Church Writers’ Group Report by Catherine Skipper. Wordplay meets every first and third Wednesday, eleven months a year. We have had several locations in the past but at present are meeting at Club Redfern from 6 to 8 pm. The writers’ group is open any to any interested in writing and who wish to share their work in manageable portions with others. At the moment the group is sent a hopefully inspirational prompt a week or more before the meeting to which they respond by writing a poem to be read, or shared by email if the poet can’t attend, at the next meeting, The ‘South Sydney Herald’ plays an important role by providing an avenue of publication for the poets, thereby fostering their talent. In addition, work has begun on a website, www.wordworkings.weebly.com.

The group supports their members in achieving personal goals, such as the self- publication of little books (for Adrian’s publications see St. Lydia’s library, poetry section), the writing of lyrics for songs at present in the process of being recorded as a demo (Andrew) and the compilation of an anthology entitled ‘301’ intended for self-publication (Catherine).

Many thanks to our regular writers: Margaret Vazey, Yvonne Hocothee, Yvonne Mayer, Adrian Spry, Heather Robinson, Andrew Collis, and our correspondence poet, Pamela Briggs.

Ooooby - Out Of Our Own Backyards.

Our church has continued to be a "city cousin" for people in our local area to access fresh, seasonal, organic/chemical free produce sourced from small farmers as locally as possible. In February, after four years of operation, the Food Connect social enterprise ceased operation and was bought by another social enterprise with similar values - Out Of Our Own Backyards (Ooooby). Ooooby pays farmers 50% of the box price, and offers a dual delivery model - some customers choose/are able to have their box delivered to their home, others (especially people in units) pick up from their local city cousin (www.ooooby.org/sydney).

After a time of transition with Ooooby, box numbers have stabilised at around half a dozen per week. Pickup time is Tuesday 5:30-6:30pm. Thank you to Miriam and Lyn for looking after boxes over the last year.

Community Choirs

The following choirs use our church for practice and concerts: The Cleftomaniacs; Voices from the Vacant Lot; Voices and Violas and I Cantarini.

Synod

South Sydney Uniting Church Parish members have participated in the Give Hope Campaign through contributing a section of the Give Hope Quilt. See under the heading ACTIONS for further ways of participating.

Miriam Pepper attended the NSW Uniting Church Synod Week of Prayer and Fasting,‘Justice for First Peoples’ March 17-23rd.

Uniting Earthweb- a network of Uniting Church people within NSW and the ACT who work for a greater connection between ecology and Christian faith and practice, including through theological study, the arts, worship, and practical projects and campaigns eg in Murray Darling Basin and ‘Coal and Gas in Your Community’. http:// www.unitingearthweb.org.au/

A number of our congregation attended the Uniting Women’s Conference.. Heather Robinson attended the 2014 Synod meeting (Sept 27-30)

There are many resources online about the work of the wider Uniting Church: Uniting Church in Australia Synod of NSW & ACT http://nswact.uca.org.au/ Give Hope Uniting for Asylum Seekers http://www.givehope.org.au/

The Uniting Church seeks to bring God’s vision of a reconciled world into the present, to reflect God’s love for everyone. To work for justice and peace and follow the example and teachings of Jesus Christ who taught what it means to love your neighbour and your enemy; calling on his disciples to heal the sick and give to the poor, and who himself challenged the systems and structures of oppression in his society. In all of this, we are called to act with integrity, ensuring that our words and our deeds are aligned. The Uniting Church advocates for a just response to the needs of refugees. We believe in upholding the human rights and safety of all people, based on just and humane treatment, including non-discriminatory practices and accountable transparent processes.

ACTIONS

Letter writing campaign and Give Hope Christmas cards to Prime Minister:

Letter writing

John O'Brien - Social Justice Advocacy Coordinator, Social Justice Unit UnitingCare Our initiative is about having a sustained call for the end of child detention over the second half of this year. The goal is to generate as many letters as possible from members of congregations to their local Federal Member of Parliament, calling for an end to mandatory, indefinite detention of child asylum seekers and their families. Each month we have asked 2-3 Presbyteries to take part. So far about 8 of the 14 Presbyteries in the Synod have done so. One church, Engadine Uniting, sent 100 letters on their own. We recognise church members hold a range of views on this issue and it is up to each individual as to how they respond. We do want to offer a lead and invite people to support the Give Hope campaign.

The following resources are available in the foyer.

  1. A cover letter about the initiative and what we are asking congregations to do
  2. An information sheet Children and Mandatory Immigration Detention which outlines the impacts and benefits of processing asylum claims in the community (the alternative that the Uniting Church supports).
  3. A paper titled “Why Churches Care about Asylum Seekers”, by Rev Elenie Poulos, Director Uniting Justice Australia, that provides a theological background to the Uniting Church position on asylum seekers.
  4. A sample letter for those who would like some guidance on what to say
  5. Tips for writing your own letter

Give Hope Christmas Cards

This Christmas the UC will be sending cards to our Prime Minister telling him we are praying for all children to be released from detention. The cards will feature patches from the Give Hope quilt, each of which calls for an end to the mandatory, indefinite immigration detention of children.

Fair Trade Chocolate

Synod meeting 2014 noted that”

  1. an IBISWorld report estimated that $191 million was spent in 2014 on the purchase of chocolate Easter eggs and Easter bunnies (see summary at http://www.ibisworld.com.au/ media/2014/04/03/easter- spending-sweets-seafood-great-australian-road-trip);
  2. Fair Trade Easter chocolates are available from Chocolatier Australia, Heart of Chocolate, Lindsay and Edmunds, Oxfam, Tribes and Nations, Cadburys Fairtrade certifed, and Coles Fairtrade Cocoa (see the full list at http://fairtrade.com.au/news/do- good-while-eating-chocolate-easter)

Synod encourages congregations to undertake a special marketing effort to encourage members to purchase only Fair Trade Easter chocolates each year, as a further expression of our commitment to the 2013 resolution to become a Fair Trade Synod;

Synod also notes that each Presbytery that wishes to order wholesale Fair Trade Easter chocolates, can refer to Rev. Elizabeth Raine who has experience in negotiating purchases from the Chocolatier Australia group. See Heather Robinson.