living water … thirsty land … assembly posting 1

I resolved weeks ago, before spending leave with Dale and Jeremy in the USA, to blog some of the experiences, joys, struggles and insights at the 12th National Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia, which is meeting from 15-21 July, on campus at the University of NSW.  So … while probably not blogging every day, here’s a start … something from the first 24 hours or so.

03The theme of Assembly is Living Water Thirsty Land – a theme so excellently shared and engaged last night as Rev Alistair Macrae from Melbourne was installed as President – a three-year fulltime position, following on from Rev Gregor Henderson.   Al began his sermon – based on Jesus’ John 4 encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well with these thoughts …

The inspiration for the theme of this Assembly came from a photograph in the Melbourne Age some years ago. It depicts a ute on a remote outback road. It is a poignant story. Two men set out to travel from Perth to Alice Springs on the Great Central Road. The vehicle runs out of fuel. They subsequently run out of water and days later are found dead in the shade of their vehicle.  Subsequent investigations by indigenous trackers reveal that the men had ranged considerable distances from the vehicle in a fruitless search for water. The trackers point out that had they known where and how to look, the men could have accessed life saving water within 200 metres of the vehicle.

The story has subsequently has become something of a metaphor for me for both contemporary culture and the church’s mission. There is a significant spiritual thirst amongst many of our neighbours in this land. Consumerist capitalism, the dominant ideology, doesn’t yield on its promises. Jesus knew that 2,000 years ago. People do not live by bread alone. Bread at least, yes. And Christian people should be in the forefront of providing for people’s physical needs. But not bread alone. Our thirst for meaning, for the giving and receiving of love go largely unrequited. And the church? Claims that the church is the repository of living water, or less grandiose, the dispenser of it, have been revealed as hollow.

But how about thinking of the mission of the church as pointing people to the source of the living water? Church as witness. Our woman from Samaria has much to teach us in this regard because she is an evangelist.   Click here for the full sermon

Please keep Al in your prayers.  A great theme song called Holy Spirit Rain has been written by two NSW ministers.  Hope to use it at Indooroopilly in the coming weeks; chorus goes:

Rain on us, Holy Spirit. Rain on us, Holy Spirit.

Cleanse and renew us in the way of grace,

Let us in joyful praises seek your face,

so that the name of Jesus fills this place

Holy Spirit rain. Holy Spirit rain.

cov1Through much of today, apart from some time in working groups (groups of about 14), we have sought to connect with our sisters and brothers of the Uniting Aboriginal & Islander Christian Congress.  This morning, we revisited the covenant made with Congress back in 1994.  Former President Jill Tabart reiterated her words of apology and openness.  The words of Congress’ then-Chair Pastor Bill Hollingsworth were also shared.  We sang, we prayed, we lamented, we confessed, we resolved to move forward together in Christ.   Tonight, as Congress gave their report and their National Administrator Shayne Blackman shared, we were brought up short as we reflected on the “intervention” program currently mounted with aboriginal people in the Northern Territory by both the territory and federal governments.  I find it disgraceful that there has clearly not been appropriate negotiation, listening and conversation (far more than consultation) with the first peoples of this land about this.  The governments’ intentions may well be honourable – the way they are going about it seems a long way short of what it needs to be.

Rev Gregor Henderson as outgoing President is a man of great faith, vision, humanity, depth, sincerity and love for God and God’s church.  He has made a great contribution to the live of the churchGregor1these past three years, and now returns to congregational ministry in Canberra.

Covered a bit in this post.  A good start!  Shalom.

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