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Minister’s Report 2010
Church Council Meeting
South Sydney Uniting Church

April 18, 2010

“[T]he gospels and the figure of Jesus come alive when viewed and grasped in the whole personal and social context of Christian life. And … the attractiveness of Jesus will most come alive through our experience of the attractiveness of forgiven, grace-penetrated, Christ-filled lives in those around us …” (Rowan Williams).

General

There is something very attractive about this parish – the people here. It’s something worth celebrating because it’s something that lifts hearts and spirits. It’s something that continues to give me (new) confidence and energy. Again and again, in this community, I am drawn to a vulnerability and a wise caring, a good-humoured warmth that motivates enormous ministry activity – creativity, social activism, hospitality, ecological responsibility – “a community of peace and justice, faithfulness and respect for difference”.

All this in a Spirit of forgiveness and grace. The Gospel may be stated simply in terms of God making (us/the world) beautiful (I think there’s a chorus along those lines). Whatever we do (and don’t do) in the next year or so, may we give thanks to God for the Spirit of Christ in this place, and may we gather joyfully in the Spirit, with each other and with a “cloud of witnesses” from every time and place.

Another way to say this would be to say that our liturgy of the Eucharist is at the heart of who we are and what we do. In the Uniting Church it’s rare for a congregation to celebrate the Eucharist each Sunday. It sets what we do and what we hope to become firmly/poetically within the rich traditions of the worldwide Church, and within the mission/being of a God given in Word and Sacrament. It encourages us, in the deepest sense of the word, to embody the love we know in Christ – to become the body of Christ here in South Sydney.

In some churches there’s an expectation (or a pressure) to deliver lengthy sermons. Worship services are wordy, text-centred. One of the things I really appreciate here is the freedom to craft shorter homilies in the context of a liturgy for all the senses. We “taste and see that God is good” (Psalm 34:8). We break open the scriptures (completing the homily together) and then we break the bread. I’ve mentioned a few times that one of my favourite writers is the French liturgical theologian, Louis-Marie Chauvet. One of Chauvet’s finest works is a little book entitled The Word of God at the Mercy of the Body. That’s one for our new side-chapel library!

May our Eucharistic chalice/s overflow with the generosity of God – and continue to inspire a daily hospitality and companionship/friendship/fellowship (Naomi’s leadership re. birthday celebrations and informal lunches is invaluable – a model for other social activities?).

The past 12 months has seen a number of initiatives and developments that have also lifted hearts and spirits.

Baptisms, Ordination, Commissionings, Reaffirmations, Weddings, Funerals

Many good occasions. Thanks to musicians: Cathie, Heather, Alison, Miriam. And liturgists: Dorothy, Fred.

SSH

At last count the paper involves 30 volunteer journalists and 40 volunteer distributors. Over a year those numbers increase as volunteers come and go. I continue to enjoy meeting and getting to know our volunteers. (The SSH is a veritable nursery for many students of journalism – and many of them keep in touch long after completing their studies and finding full-time work.) It’s a great privilege. As is the access the paper makes possible to community groups and to local politicians, activists and artists, sportspeople and businesspeople. On Thursday I was invited to attend a “divestment” ceremony at Wyanga Aboriginal Aged Care centre in Cope St, Redfern. It was a “dream come true” according to Wyanga staff who are so very proud of the centre’s provision of quality care for more than 50 elders. I was introduced to ILC representatives and to special guest, Evonne Goolagong Cawley. Just one example. An honour.

I’d like to acknowledge the incredible and hard work of the SSH editors, Trevor, Dorothy and Ali, as well as our Assistant Editor (and photographer) Esther Turnbull. Esther is working towards the creation of hand-printed SSH “Support Independent Media!” promotional badges. Don Crowley (former student placement from Ultimo TAFE) has also been a committed volunteer distributor and salesperson. One of the most positive developments of the past six months has been the involvement of John Lanzky as advertising salesperson – and friend of the parish! Advertising revenue is up 100 per cent on last year. John has been a consistent presence here in the upstairs office – and a cheerful/hopeful presence in general. Norrie’s regular cartoons make a wonderful and provocative contribution and bring a professional quality to each issue.

In the near future we need, I think, a five-year plan for the paper that plots a course to employment of a part-time Managing Editor and Advertising Manager. One way this could be achieved is in partnership with another/other UC congregations, and by means of an independent Management Committee. Obviously, much work needs to be done, and it’s important to reflect carefully on this. The SSH offers such a distinctive model of ministry and community service (Is there anything quite like it?). It deserves to grow and prosper.

Art Class and Abstracts and Stills exhibition

The Opening of the Abstracts and Stills exhibition earlier this year was a highlight. What a thrill to see the work of our Saturday Art Classes on show – and looking so good! Thanks to Paul at Blue Heaven Framing at Broadway. Thanks to curator Charlotte Dibben and guest speaker Miriam Cabello.

This year our art classes will be taught by a variety of tutors with different interests and expertise. Our end-of-year exhibition promises to be thrilling! In the meantime we have exhibitions by Elaine Pelot Syron and local artist Jo Tracy who co-ordinates a Redfern Artists’ Group (in June).

We are building a wonderful permanent collection of works.

The arts program builds on the good work of Eve Gibson and the integration of parish, paper and the arts achieved in her time as Community Arts Worker (2008-9). What’s needed now is a Gallery Committee (Mount Lachlan Gallery?) to oversee our art activities (Adrian has also proposed a Creative Writing group). The committee would be responsible for articulating a theology of the arts as well as practical matters re. exhibitions throughout year, artists, promotion and documentation. A residency program is also worth exploring – and exchange programs with other parishes. The committee, comprising parish members and community artists and consultants, would be accountable to the Parish Council. This is an exciting prospect!

I’d like to undertake post-graduate studies in the area of public theology and the arts – with our own projects in view. I’d need to enroll in a program next month – commencing studies in second semester 2010.

St Mary’s and St Vincent de Paul Society

Michael McIntyre from St Mary’s Catholic Church in Erskineville is also a co-ordinator in the St Vincent de Paul Society. He has offered us practical help towards meeting needs for food and assistance with household expenses. Mick has given me a key to a supply cupboard at St Mary’s. He has also suggested a combined service of Thanksgiving – a Harvest Festival – during which we might make an offering of tinned and dried foods as well as produce from our community gardens. This could take place on a Sunday here in the church – meeting at 10am for our Eucharist and then welcoming visitors from St Mary’s at 10.30am for a service of the Word, prayers and songs. A shared lunch in the garden afterwards? Possible dates: May 9, June 13.

Website

Big thanks to Scotty McDonald. Our website is looking great – very accessible and helpful. I have received a number of enquiries via the site: www.southsydneyuniting.org.au . The site will be expanded very soon.

One recent enquiry was from a journalist re a new congregation at the Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre. The journalist was aware of this new group’s critical comments re the Uniting Church and homosexuality. I was able to reply: (1) South Sydney Uniting Church is a community of believers keen to be faithful to a living tradition that challenges mere conventions (sexual or other) – in other words, we believe there is something “queer” about the Gospel; (2) we profess belief in a God revealed most keenly in loving fidelity – also a God at work in the world more broadly, in artistic and scientific communities – we know some things about human sexuality unknown in previous times; (3) the Scriptures make no reference to homosexuality as understood in our time – that is, no reference to homosexual orientation and no reference to faithful homosexual relationship; and (4) our little congregation is diverse, lively – and growing.

Chickens, et al.

Regular gardeners from the Luncheon Club now include Keith, Reece and Dove. Mabel is also involved. It’s been great to see Reece at services over Easter. The garden is alive with flora and fauna – the chicken coop is a feature and the chickens, budgies, fish, frogs and rabbit are well cared for. I have spoken with the gardeners about a prospective Harvest Festival. They are excited about that.

Prayers

The side chapel and library promise opportunities for contemplation and prayer. Heather has led by example – and I thank her for much creativity, care and patience. Over the next months various books will be donated to our side-chapel library – children’s books, devotional and theological works. Our Bible Study material will be available on the shelves. Most of the books will be available on loan, with a simple borrowing procedure in place.

Garden Shelter

See Kieran’s report. Can we improve our facilities to enable a more hospitable stay for guests of the Garden Shelter? I hope so, yes. This, along with possibility of additional night of accommodation, can be something for further discussion at our Planning Day.

Moses

After a long period of uncertainty and bureaucratic process, Moses has a departure date of June 27. His applications for protection visa denied, Moses now hopes to secure a business visa for either Australia or New Zealand. He also hopes to have matters resolved (before June 27) re. a Worker’s Compensation claim, and re. surgery to an injured ankle (June 10). We are blessed to know Moses and to have shared with him. His faithfulness to God and to us is something we will not soon forget. We will continue to offer support and friendship to Moses (and enjoy a meal with him before June 27), and look forward to sharing with him and his family in the months and years to come.

Property and Maintenance

Recent consultation with a plumber suggests that Lyn’s diagnosis is correct – there is a problem with the flashing between the vestry roof and adjoining wall. We will need to get that repaired and then we should be able to have permanent plaster applied to back walls.

Priorities: kitchen (cupboards and benches), hall and toilets.

We will need to constitute a new Property Committee for this year. Working Bees organised, fire safety, etc. A regular cleaner for the Church and Hall?

Tongan Congregation

The decision to ask the Tongan Congregation to seek an alternative venue was not taken lightly. They will worship at Mascot UC for the time being, while the Presbytery is helping them to find suitable venue of their own. Furniture and other items owned by the Tongans have now been removed. We will maintain communication with Tongan Congregation leaders.

Running

Since moving to South Sydney I’ve discovered a love of road running. It’s a great release and a simple means of keeping healthy – and increasingly an enjoyable social activity. Adrian has a vision for the Ravens running group as community group (with mystique!). See May issue of the SSH. On Sunday May 16 the Ravens will take part in the Sydney Half Marathon and raise funds for the Breast Cancer Network Australia. Please consider making a donation to the cause. See www.everydayhero.com.au/ravens .

Later in the year I’d like to take part in the New York Marathon. I’ve been offered a place on the Covenant House charity team. Covenant House is a service for homeless people in New Jersey (and they have offered to help with accommodation and support, a website, etc.). The New York Marathon, the largest event of its kind, is on November 7. I’ll examine dates of SSH publication, etc., and submit request to Parish Council for two weeks of Annual Leave. Will visit with Broadway United Church of Christ while in New York.

I feel very blessed to be in placement here with Dorothy and with such giving and gifted Elders and all members of the parish. Thanks for much kindness and friendship.

Grace and Peace,
Andrew

Recommendations

 1. That the report be received.

 2. A side-chapel library established.

 3. A Gallery Committee established (names brought to Parish Council).

 4. A Harvest Festival on May 9 or June 13 (with St Mary’s).

 5. A dinner with Moses organised for date before June 27.

 6. New Property Committee formed, and recommendations made to Parish Council.