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Minister’s Report 2012
Congregational Meeting (AGM)
South Sydney Uniting Church

June 3, 2012

“There is an holy ambiguity to the sacrament of baptism. On the one hand, the waters represent an original wounding, trauma, and loss surely the source and wellspring of all that we might refer to, with Jacques Derrida, as ‘the work of mourning’. On the other hand, the waters are also the power of God to inaugurate a new world, a world that may appear to be patterned upon the old, yet is not. For now this world is looked at as if from another person or place, such that our former experience of the world is transfigured into some kind of ‘new experience with experience’, as Jüngel has said. This because we ourselves have become different or, more strictly speaking, we have finally come to ourselves, our true selves, by becoming another self, the self who is Christ. As St Paul says in Galatians: ‘Now I live, yet not I; it is Christ who lives within me’” (The Work of Mourning: Derridean reflections upon the waters, Garry J. Deverell, Monash University, 2006).

1. Jacques Derrida, The Work of Mourning, trans. Michael Naas and Pascale-Anne Brault (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001).
2. Eberhard Jüngel, God as the Mystery of the World: On the Foundation of the Theology of the Crucified One in the Dispute between Theism and Atheism, trans. Darrell L. Guder (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1983), p. 32.

1. Mo(u)rning in South Sydney

1.1 It’s been quite a year, a little overwhelming. I want to thank you for the privilege of sharing life and ministry for your trust, kind support and passion. I’m reminded of Garry Deverell (see above) whose work points to the Christian paradox of mourning/morning: In our life together there is no mourning without the promise of a new morning; there is no morning without mourning. Some days have been deeply difficult and sad, and yet I’ve experienced, with you, a comforting joy. Lent and Easter were particularly uplifting (I think on the words of Dorothy Day: “You will know your vocation by the joy that it brings you”). Paradox, says one of my heroes (S. Kierkegaard), marks the place of passion. As the King James Bible has it: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor. 11:26). And as the plaque on the wall of our own narthex/foyer has it, accompanied by a photograph of Trevor Davies (taken by Ali Blogg): “Jesus loves you.”

1.2 Thanks to Dorothy and David for consistent wisdom and friendship, to Heather for cool-headed and warm-hearted chairpersonship, and to all members of the Council for diligence, patience and attention to detail. It seems to me that the congregation, on a number of levels, is growing. That’s both exciting and taxing and I pray for continued love and respect, gentle strength and good humour among us.

1.3 On a recent visit to the Summer Hill Nursing Home, Fred Lewis asked again that I relate a warm greeting and message: “Tell them that I’m AOK!”

1.4 I’m struck by the vulnerability, even fragility, of many with whom we work and live. Trusting relationships take time to build (and rebuild), and it’s so important to maintain patience and generosity and to allow ourselves time and space for nurture, laughter and prayer. Each of our elders has given so much, more than can be acknowledged here, contributing gifts from rich stores of hard-won wisdom and love. I’m thinking of music, kind words, cakes, time, grace, ecological sensitivity, warmth, courage, creativity, diligence, perseverance and faith ... I want to affirm their commitments to relationship.

1.5. I’ve been thinking about our ministry with children our children’s activity table (and musical percussion for our final hymn) is a small step towards something more considered and constructive. There are several children who attend irregularly my thought is that we can be proactive re hospitality and education. Some material has been sourced for adaptation A Joyful Path: Spiritual Curriculum for Young Hearts and Minds. Prepared by the Center for Progressive Christianity in the US. An initial program has been developed (Year 1 of the Inner Wisdom Series) with a second volume on the way (http://www.tcpc.org/doc/NEW%20Sample%20Book_FINAL.pdf). It is beautifully laid out and illustrated, with options for various activities, a focus on wisdom, material from the Scriptures and tradition adaptable for various age groups. Some of the American cultural and historical material would need to be supplemented/replaced by Australian and Aboriginal stories. I’ve shared some preliminary ideas with a small group of teachers/parents and a sub-committee will oversee this work: Naomi Ward, Heather Robinson, Miriam Pepper, Julie Patterson. Recommendations will be made to Church Council in coming months. Refurbishment of our hall in June promises a more congenial space for children’s activities.

1.6. Most Sundays our Prayers of Intercession entail extempore (free) petitions. There is opportunity for members of the congregation to prepare written Prayers of Intercession. These “prayers of the faithful” could then be included in our printed liturgies. Please see Miriam if you’d like to be part of this.

1.7. I am benefiting from regular professional supervision with Fr Claude Mostowik, MSC. I’ve recently become a member of Pax Christi (the Peace of Christ) which meets monthly at St Mary’s Presbytery in Erskineville. I look forward to continuing this involvement over the coming months. I continue to enjoy running, writing and recording.

2. The South Sydney Herald (SSH)

2.1. I am so proud to be part of the SSH “social enterprise”. One hundred issues (our February issue was No. 100) is a remarkable achievement Trevor would be so thrilled. It’s a testament to Trevor’s teaching and modelling that we have continued the ministry he started (the gathering at Tripod Café on June 14 will be a fitting tribute). It’s also a testament to all those of goodwill (too many to name here but see page 2 of each SSH issue) without whom we could not continue. Pat Clarke (Distribution), Lyn Turnbull (News Editor), John Lanzky and Louisa Dyce (Advertising), all our writers and distributors (on average, 50 distribution routes and more than 100 volunteers). Storytelling is a deeply significant activity.

2.2. It has been very hard to imagine working on the paper without Ali Blogg. She is deeply missed. Ali was passionate about photojournalism and all aspects of editing and production (including advertising). Ali’s exhibition of photographs, Local Knowledge, was a highlight of the Orchard Gallery calendar in 2011. Our June issue will feature a full-page tribute to Ali.

2.3. Our SSH Vision Statement & Guidelines document lays out theological, missional and editorial principles as well as job descriptions, policy and process (available today). The document represents three years of planning and discussion on the part of editors (including Trevor and Ali) and elders. Section 8 of the document states that each issue costs apx. $4,500 (design and printing). It’s worth noting how generous our volunteer contributors are. A typical issue includes 30 articles. Assuming that each article represents a half-day’s labour (a conservative estimate), and based on a freelance rate of $607 per half-day, our volunteers contribute the equivalent of $18,210 per issue (2011-12 National Freelance Rates, Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance). Then, there are photographs, cartoons, crosswords and comics and distribution!

2.4. After being interviewed by Julie McCrossin for an SSH feature (copies available today), Assistant Editor Kate Williamson noted that the paper challenges “negative stereotyping” of Redfern and surrounds, and offers “constructive narratives” by way of “long-term commitment to storytelling that honours the multifaceted reality of life in community political drama, tensions, exploitation, resistance and liberation, well-rounded characters (not simplistic heroes and villains), change and conversion”. The SSH, like the community it serves, is “a work in progress”.

2.5. Jonathan Bogais, Lyn and I are in conversation with Jenna Price, a tutor at UTS, and will meet in the very near future. The opportunity to strengthen ties between the Uni and paper includes possibility of formal training/supervision of journalism students, as well as academic accreditation for journalism and funding for the SSH. Very promising. Jonathan’s role as News Consultant is valuable (Jonathan is now a Research Fellow at AIATSIS/ANU, with office space at the University of Sydney) and means we can offer professional mentoring (essential for future development of the paper).

2.6. Lyn is doing an absolutely superb job re news gathering, supervising and caring for volunteer writers and photographers (we have one “intern” post-grad student achieving significant success and a “winter intern” on her first assignment) as well as proof-reading and editing.

2.7. Conversations with the Harris Community Centre in Ultimo and UnitingCare promise an increase in circulation (8,000 additional copies per month) and/or funding support.

2.8. Esther Butcher (nee Turnbull) has designed a new interactive website for the SSH. While not replacing the printed edition it does open up exciting new possibilities for journalism and for community-building (printout of sample home-page and story-page available today).

2.9. Pat Clarke has been doing a wonderful job, sorting through lists of volunteers, compiling maps of various paper routes. She has all but completed a city-wide map showing SSH distribution. An incredible effort/achievement.

2.10. John Lanzky is to be thanked for countless hours of labour, selling advertising space and helping to pick up papers from the Spotpress depot each month. (John also acts as informal caretaker at the church keeping an eye on “comings and goings”, answering the phone, noting maintenance issues, etc.)

2.11. GoGet Car Share named one of its vehicles the “Trev Mobile” in honour of our founder. GoGet also credited $1,000 to our account, in appreciation of our business.

2.12. Spotpress Printing and Robert Young continue to offer professional and dependable service. We receive many compliments about the high quality of the paper.

2.13. The Editorial team (Dorothy, Lyn, Esther, Kate and Andrew) thanks the congregation for the privilege of serving in this ministry, and invites questions, contributions and offers of assistance. Lyn has brought along the July Story List so that you can see something of the work in action (handout). Perhaps this is something we can do each month? Perhaps you or someone you know might like to be involved as a writer?

2.14. “Since 2005, I have been lucky enough to have a regular gig reviewing film and theatre for the SSH. In the last couple of years I have concentrated exclusively on theatre reviews. I have seen hundreds of shows, done interviews with performers and directors and written other articles for the paper as well. The opportunities this has opened up for me to create contacts in the industry has been fantastic. The SSH is a completely unique paper. Non-commercial at its core, the editorial team is driven by passion and community spirit that is inspirational, nurturing and deeply sustaining. The essentially flat structure of the paper means that in many ways it works as an old-fashioned collective, allowing writers to bring their own ideas and have a rare level of autonomy. What I like best is the courage the paper has to consistently lead with stories that affect the local community, with a balanced and fair approach to reporting … Congratulations on the 100th issue dear SSH! Viva the next 100! Viva independent media!” (Jane Barton).

3. South Sydney Uniting Arts Committee (SSUAC)

3.1. The SSUAC oversees activities including the Saturday Art Classes, the Wordplay creative writing group, as well as the Orchard Gallery.

3.2. The Orchard Gallery is an artist-run space at the SSUC. The Orchard supports local artists and craftspeople (professional and non-professional), including those who live and work in South Sydney. Recognising that spirituality is ingrained in the practice of art-making, the Orchard seeks to provide means of expression for all forms of art. The Orchard is an inclusive cultural centre, staging shows of special interest in the local community. Programs of the Orchard Gallery aim to foster self-expression and empowerment to overcome problems of social isolation. Collaborative community projects are encouraged (Mission Statement, Sep. 2010).

3.3. “God saw everything that God had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Christ is “the image of the invisible God” and “the first-born of all creation” (Colossians 1:15). While certain exhibitions will focus on Christian theological and liturgical themes, the Orchard welcomes non-confessional expressions of faith and explorations of the holy (the sacred in and through the material/cultural/everyday), as well as work re community welfare, social justice, sustainability, etc. Exhibitions ought to complement the worship life of the congregation. While this does not preclude works of an innovative or provocative kind, works will not ordinarily be hung in the sanctuary (near or upon the altar-table), the preserve of explicitly Christian symbols (cross, candle, Bible, chalice, icons, etc.) (Theological Guidelines, Sep. 2010).

3.4. Current members of the SSUAC: Hayley Megan French, Eve Gibson, Margaret and Brian Vazey, Andrew Collis, Gabriel Azzi, Adrian Spry, Jo Tracy and Miriam Cabello.

3.5. Art teachers for Saturday Art Classes 2011-12: Johnny Bell (Artist-in-Residence), Jo Tracy, Hayley Megan French, Adrian Spry, Miriam Cabello, Eve Gibson, Claudia Leigh, Jovana Terzic (Artist-in-Residence). Classes every 2 and 4 Saturday of the month, 12-4pm.

3.6. Hayley is exploring connections with Eora TAFE. The donation of a large art cupboard by Hayley and the French family is greatly appreciated.

3.7. Shows 2011-12: Local Knowledge (Photojournalism by Ali Blogg), Memories & Observations (works by Gaylene Smith & Bill Maddock), Everyday Spirit (in conjunction with the Blake Society), Shall We Dance? (works by Johnny Bell), Minister’s Collection, Life Drawing (curated by Hayley Megan French), Portraits (curated by Miriam Cabello), Recreation (curated by Adrian Spry and Miriam Cabello), Native Plants & Animals (works by Ann Mara), Swimming Upstream (curated by Alana Valentine for ASCA), Children’s Photography (curated by Eve Gibson), Stations of the Cross (curated by Margaret Vazey for Easter 2013).

3.8. Johnny Bell was our very first Artist-in-Residence (May 2011April 2012). His generous contributions exceeded our expectations. Johnny taught several Saturday Art Classes, modelled for a Life Drawing Class, staged a high-quality and highly successful exhibition of work, submitted to an interview for a feature article in the SSH, helped to deliver papers each month, and supported/inspired our teachers and participants. Johnny has donated a gouache painting to the church we can hang it in our soon-to-be-refurbished hall with other works in our burgeoning permanent collection!

3.9. Jovana Yoka Terzic (an artist from Belgrade) has moved into the studio at the manse and will be our Artist-in-Residence for the next 12 months. Moses and Louisa have been very helpful re cleaning, dressing and painting the studio. Jovana is enthusiastic about opportunities to teach, engage with congregation and community, exhibit work and take part in parish activities. We are very fortunate to have her working with us this year, and I’m confident it will be a rich and very rewarding experience for us all. Jovana’s Bio and some examples of work are attached (see also http://girlnearsighted.blogspot.com.au/p/about-me.html); the Artist-in-Residence Agreement form and current Artist-Gallery Agreement form are attached).

Grace and Peace,
Andrew