A Christmas Message from the President of the Uniting Church in Australia

Christmas is a time of great joy. It’s a time to gather together and count our blessings.  

For Christians it’s a time of worship – a time to praise God who promises peace and justice for all people, and fulfils that promise with the gift of Jesus Christ.

 For all Australians it’s a time to come together and renew the bonds of family and friendship over the Summer holidays in our lucky country.

 Over this season of joy, I’d urge all Australians of faith, and those of no religious faith to spare a thought for those who are not so lucky.

 While we are rich country there are many around us who will experience hardship this Christmas. People in our communities. People in our towns and cities. People in our region.

Often we see that hardship, but for one reason or another we find ourselves looking away.

 The message of Christmas is one of hope. So please share that hope by opening your hearts to your neighbour, welcoming the stranger, helping whoever it is who needs your care.

 This year the Uniting Church has marked the 100th year of the Australian Inland Mission, founded by the Reverend John Flynn, and continued in the work of Frontier Services. Flynn’s dream was to provide a “mantle of safety” over the outback. His life and legacy is a testament to what can be achieved through faith, vision and compassion.

 While we celebrate lives which were lived so generously, they’re not just a thing of the past. We can have vision and compassion on that same grand scale today in our own endeavours.

God calls us to envision and work for better lives for the most vulnerable, and for a world reconciled. 

As you and your loved ones celebrate Christmas this year and reflect on the year just past, I encourage you to open your hearts and minds.

 At this time, in our time, we have opportunities to anticipate the fulfilment of God’s promise in our own lives and communities – to share a foretaste of peace on Earth and goodwill to all people.

On behalf of the Uniting Church I wish all Australians a safe, happy and blessed Christmas.

Rev Prof Andrew Dutney
19 December 2012

Christmas the Eaton-Millbridge Way

The Eaton/Millbridge Project, part of the Wellington Regional Mission, is a ‘fresh expression’ of church.  Instead of providing services of worship, the Project’s primary aim is to build a sense of community in the communities of Eaton & Millbridge, just north of Bunbury.   Research has told us that what this community wants is opportunities for people to gather and do things as families of all shapes and sizes. 

The Project marked Christmas with ‘Christmas on Hunter’, in a local park in Millbridge.  We organised to have market stalls selling all sorts of Christmas food and gifts, a jumping castle, face painting, a sausage sizzle, ice-cream van and a craft table.  We finished the evening with the wonderful Christmas movie, Polar Express

We know that at least 350 people came, because we ran out of sausages and lolly bags from Mrs Claus at that point.  And 60 brave souls stayed for the movie, despite the unusually cool night.  Given our knowledge of community needs we should not have been surprised that the most popular offering was the craft table.  Our Project team was overwhelmed with the number of children with their parents creating Christmas cards and decorations, a wooden Christmas tree and various other craft items.

 We were amazed at the number of very positive comments on the night from people who came: like “what a fantastic idea – thankyou” and “we really needed something like this”.  A couple of men I talked with said “they [presumably the developer] promised this sort of thing 5 years ago and this is the first time something like this has happened – thankyou”.  People actually sought me out to thank us for putting it on.  Our Facebook page has seen a huge jump in ‘likes’ and a number of people have called and sent texts thanking us for the event.   This is really positive not because we need thanks, but because it means that the project is becoming known around the community and building trust in us and what we can offer the community.

 By Karyl Davison, Eaton/Millbridge Project

The Joy of Ethical Giving

As Christmas approaches I have a fairly predictable response — a period of denial, followed by a period of panic. Denial usually begins when the decorations and fruit mince pies appear in my local shopping centre at what seems like an increasingly earlier time every year. Panic usually begins to take over in about the second week in December, when I realise just how many presents I need to buy for my ever-expanding and complex web of a family.

However, if I take a nice deep breath I can reflect more positively on a few things about Christmas.

This year, in particular, I’m appreciating the changing face of Christmas shopping options. It seems more than ever there are publications crossing my desk which offer great gift alternatives for the ethically conscious consumer. It used to be a bit of a strange thing to do – to give clean water or a goat to someone for Christmas. But now I think these things are becoming more accepted.

As we begin to reach consumer burn-out, and find ways to make our Christmas gift mean more than a wild once-a-year consumer spend, we have the opportunity to reach out to our global community. We can give ethical gifts that can help impoverished communities, or we can give gifts that are actually life-giving necessities for others – like chickens for a rural farmer in Bali, or ‘breakfast’ for kids in South Africa.

So as I enter the Christmas panic phase of the lead-up to the big season, I will remember to take some deep breaths and find hope in the bigger picture — finding ways to help others in our Christmas splurge.

This post was written by Wendy Hendry, Justice & Mission Officer with the Social Justice Unit. Wendy and her family are part of the worshipping community at Star Street Uniting Church, and have a pet sheep called Dixie.

Christmas Verses

by Jessie Allen-Williams

A long and complicated life has given me many Christmas memories, but I have trouble picking one out. I love Christmas, apart from the commercialism, and in the 70’s I wrote some verses. Here are two extracts which still express a lot of my feelings about the season:

In the dark cold,

Wonders behold,

A baby is born.

Refugee child,

In a world wild,

Waiting for dawn,

Could God so come,

In that small one

with unfocussed eyes

Another verse is:

So how can we celebrate this baby’s birth?

King of the heavens and Lord of the earth?

Father, forgive us for each little one,

Suffering needlessly under the sun.

The world still seems the same – or more so but the dawn is nearer.

Jessie Allen-Williams was born in 1925 in London, she was a hospital physicist and married David in 1947 in Cambridge, they had three children Peter, John and Liz and migrated to Perth, WA in 1958 when David was invited to the inaugural chair of Mechanical Engineering at UWA. Jessie mixed home-making with part-time study, teaching and tutoring until David’s retirement in1983, by which time she qualified for ordination with the Uniting Church and went to Kwinana for five years before she and David retired to Augusta. Jessie has had plenty of ministry in Augusta-Margaret River in the following ten or so years with David’s support. David passed in 2004 and Jessie has since retired from active ministry.

Not such a bad idea

By Ian Robinson

I have been thinking about ‘bad ideas’ lately. A few decisions I regret, some jobs too hard for me, some commitments on which I think I over stretched myself. And some public debates that are pathetic and so they are going nowhere. Bad ideas. To make the depression complete I started thinking about why people don’t want to engage with Jesus, even though I think it would be brilliant idea. Continue reading