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Minister’s Report 2017
Congregational Meeting (AGM)
South Sydney Uniting Church

September 13, 2017

Click here for PDF version


“Just as God’s love reveals our deepest identity, so do we, by our loving presence, reveal one another” (Jean Vanier).

 

1. General

1.1.  I am grateful for many opportunities to minister with Dorothy, Elders and all – and blessed by the prospect of five more years at South Sydney. It means a lot to know the congregation requests my placement be extended. I look forward to new and exciting projects, deeper and stronger relationships.

1.2.  Thank you to Miriam and Church Council for passionate leadership re what it means to be God’s people in this place. In short, the Gospel is good news for the oppressed. It will be crucial for us to remember and embody this Gospel over what promises to be a tumultuous period.  

1.3.  Waterloo tenants, many of them older residents, deserve respect and care. The government’s enthusiasm for redevelopment (housing as investment/commodity) exacerbates anxiety among community members who ought to have been assured of their right to stay in the place they call home. That should be our common refrain. I share a sense of pride in expressions of community, solidarity and resistance. The coloured lights and #welivehere2017 campaign/documentary reveal hospitality in action – love for community and place, love that grows stronger as community is underestimated and/or under threat.

 

2. Long-service leave

My leave last year (September-December 2016) was everything I had hoped and more. The highlights included staying with a gracious and sports-mad host family in Brighton MA; attending classes in philosophy and art at Boston College and meeting a philosopher/writer I regard one of the finest contemporary interpreters of religion, Richard Kearney; being welcomed as a guest of the Kearney family (my first Thanksgiving at their home, sharing songs by the fire); traveling with my sister Julie; taking part in celebrations to honour Sr Anne Jordan and Cana Communities (finalists for a humanitarian award – Opus Prize) at Creighton University in Omaha NE.

 

3. Bible Studies/Gospel Conversations

3.1.  Ian’s suggested topic for our study in February-March was “friends and enemies”. We explored Bible stories, songs/psalms, theological themes, values, hopes and personal/social/ecological experiences.  

3.2.  During Lent, we met for Lent Event studies with discussion around Bible readings and short videos provided by UnitingWorld.

3.3.  Studies in June and July were held at the manse. Participants shared favourite parables and sayings of Jesus. How is God active in the parable? Which figure represents God? Has your understanding of the parable changed over time? We then turned to the Season of Creation readings for 2017, which invite us to consider God’s activity and presence in, around and beyond us.

3.4.  Regular midday activities (Gospel conversation, contemplative prayer, informal lunch, worship planning) have created space for relationship-building and learning. Gospel Conversation (on the first and fifth Sunday) centres on lectionary readings, and most recently involved a musical jam session with guitars, recorders and piano. How good it is to have Susan, Abe, AnneMarie, Melinda, Norrie and Duncan join our group of musical accompanists!

3.5.  The reorientation of our worship space has created more space for the children’s activities. I continue to enjoy the presence of children (in particular on first and third Sundays) and their growing awareness, confidence to engage and ask questions.  

 

4. Parish Roll

4.1.  Thanks to Maidie Wood for keeping our parish roll. There are currently 200 names on the roll. One in 4 are voting members, which suggests a community open to friends and newcomers. It also points to opportunities for greater involvement and responsibility.  

4.2.  I’d like to suggest we invite expressions of interest in a special “Gospel Conversation” program toward a celebration of baptisms and reaffirmations of baptism on Easter Sunday 2018.  

 

5. Pastoral Care

5.1.  Pastoral care is firstly about genuine presence (before it’s about dealing with extraordinary challenges or crises). We have several positive models of this faithfulness (not least Miriam’s consistent care and Naomi’s creativity re birthdays and significant milestones). Elders have been reading Jean Vanier’s

Life’s Great Questions (2015), meeting on the third Saturday of each month for discussion and mutual support.

5.2.  Our various ministries can keep us very busy. Ultimately, though, we hope to be other than busy – we hope to be present, bearers of joy and peace. We can do this, and be this, in relationship, which entails getting to know each other (again and again), finding ways to communicate more clearly, spending time with one another (very often without aim or expectation).

 

6. Reaffirmation/Commissioning

Caitlin Scott reaffirmed her baptism and gave the homily on Sunday July 9. A wonderful celebration at the church on Wednesday August 9 saw Caitlin commissioned as a Uniting Chaplain of Resilient Families & Communities.  

 

7. Weddings

7.1.  Sophie Kathleen Morgan and Joseph Abraham Correy were married at 8 Tyrwhitt St, Maroubra on August 13, 2016.  

7.2.  A renewal of vows (liturgy of holy matrimony) was celebrated in the church on August 20, 2017. Ankit Sharma (aka Aaron Sharma) and Rachel Setyahardja (official name Ratih Setyahardja) were married seven years ago at the registry office in Parramatta. They were keen to renew their vows in a church and with family and close friends. Aunty Pearl Wymarra was a wonderful support and dinner companion at the wedding reception in Randwick.

7.3.  A rainbow flag, symbol of diversity and inclusivity, has been donated by Kevin Caulton. Don has installed it at the front of the church as an expression of our support for Marriage Equality. In August, I responded to Rev. Dr Margaret Mayman’s invitation to add my name to a statement published on the Equal Voices website (www.equalvoices.org.au). Anticipating an imminent change to the Australian Constitution, I look forward to signing marriage certificates and papers for Alexander and Maggie as well as Andrew and John (in early 2018?).

 

8. Funerals/Memorials

8.1.  A public memorial for Ross Smith was held on Friday November 18, 2016, at Alexandria Town Hall in Garden Street.

8.2.  Sr Anne led a funeral service in the church for Kathleen Weaver on Thursday November 24, 2016. Many of our neighbours in Raglan Street attended.

8.3.  I conducted a funeral service for Albert Loeffel (father of Anne-Marie Loeffel) at the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park on January 11, 2017.

8.4.  We share Shale and Melinda’s grief at the passing of Shale’s mother, Erica Smith. Miriam and I were honoured to attend Erica’s funeral at the Macquarie Park Cemetery on June 19.

8.5.  Catherine, Adrian and I were honoured to attend a funeral for Johnny Bell’s daughter Bessie at the Eastern Suburbs Memorial Park on June 23.

8.6.  The sad news of Jeannie Kelso’s passing reminded us how much Jeannie contributed to the congregation and wider community. A musician, carer, leader, minister, friend; someone who encouraged creative expression, commitment and perseverance. A funeral for Jeannie was held on August 14 at Semaphore Uniting Church in Adelaide. A memorial service is planned for Pitt Street Uniting in October (a large gathering is expected). I have spoken with Meredith Knight at Pitt Street about this, assuring her that South Sydney will want to be involved. Lyn offered a moving prayer and musical tribute to Jeannie during our worship service on August 6 – the church was filled with the beautiful sound of Jeannie’s voice singing Bach’s “O Saviour Sweet”.

8.7.  On behalf of Julie, my Mum and family, thank you to all for kindness and prayers at the time of my Nana Rita’s passing in June.

8.8.  Joining with Sr Anne Jordan, Grant Gerrish, AnneMarie Healey and others in Redfern Park on Saturday August 11 (during Homelessness Week), we remembered recently deceased “street people” – strangers, friends, family – by way of prayers and songs.

8.9.  We continue to care for the ashes of Mark Lanzky (May 3, 1974 – March 30, 2016), and are honoured to provide time and space for Mark’s family to remember and give thanks for his life.

 

9. Study

I very much enjoyed a week-long course in printmaking (silk-screen on paper) in early July. The lecturer was Wendy Murray, “an artist who’s socially engaged works blur the line between studio, community and political art practice”. I was especially pleased to discover the work of American artist Corita Kent, and to share some practical knowledge in printmaking with our Saturday Art Class.

 

10. Guests at the manse

Guests at the manse have included artist Alex Grilanc, Keith Johnson from Rockhampton, Slavka and Fallon from Nauru, and Claire Lee, a physiotherapy student at Charles Sturt University Albury Campus.

 

11. Presbytery of Sydney

Presbytery meetings have been enjoyable. Business manager Ian Goss is keen to hear from congregations interested in energy analysis and transition to Green Power. The Rev. Jenny Ducker (Wesley Mission) has been called to a Pastoral Relations Ministry role within the presbytery. The

Tongan Parish is celebrating renewed worship centres at Marrickville and Dulwich Hill (St Luke’s in Regent St Redfern has been sold). There are opportunities in the new year for combined services, retreats, music workshops and other activities with congregations at Pitt Street, Paddington, St Stephen’s and Wayside.

 

12. U-Talks  

I have enjoyed assisting the Moderator, Rev. Myung Hwa Park, with several “U-Talks” involving ministers in and between placements. On Monday July 17, I helped facilitate a U-Talk gathering on ordination at the Centre for Ministry in North Parramatta. The event saw more than 100 ministers share diverse experiences and questions.  

 

13. Re-imagining the world

Ten years ago, I wrote a personal statement on ministry and referred to worship as “time and space for re-imagining the world (and our place in it) from the perspective of God’s loving, forgiving and liberating”. More and more I have come to value our weekly Eucharist and Spirit-filled commitments to inclusivity, creativity, integrity and peace.  

 

Every blessing, Andrew