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Partnership Tag

The singing. It’s one of the real joys of visiting our partners across the Pacific, Asia and Africa. Long flights, lack of sleep, hard pews and lengthy sermons in a language I do not understand – these things mysteriously melt away as the opening chords are struck to some old Methodist hymn I’ve known since childhood. Voices lift. I add my own.

There’s something about the language of music that crosses all the boundaries we put in place between ourselves and others. In the swell of shared melody, a person can be lost or found; leading or led. Even when the language is different, it’s enough to know that I am one among many, playing my own small part. My voice matters; my small offering will join others to form something far more beautiful than anything I could accomplish alone.

Much of the work you can read about in our latest Update Newsletter shares that theme – the part played by Rockhampton Uniting in harmony with the women of Kiribati; the carefully crafted Child Protection work that becomes a thing of strength and beauty for the children of Timor Leste; the soaring symphony of millions of voices lifting as one to support the earth in the face of a changing climate.

September is one of my favourite times in the office, because it’s counting time. This is when our team spends days collecting the stories and reports of all the people who have been touched by our projects in the last financial year – people whose lives are changed because of your gifts. Men, women, children, people with disabilities, minority groups, we gather data on all of them – because we want to know how they fared, learn from their experience and figure out how we can do better. Imagine the stories and numbers from villages and towns and churches across Asia, Africa and the Pacific coming together like quavers and crotchets, till we can hear the song that the Spirit sang last year through all of us. It’s a hard work, and takes a lot of chocolate, but it is a humbling and inspiring privilege. Thank you for being part of the song and look out for our Annual Report soon.

I’m interested in your voice too. We’ve launched a supporter survey, from which I hope to learn more about what inspires and interests you as one of the faithful people I report back to each quarter. You matter because without your prayer, love and financial support, the work we do would not exist. Please take the time to add your voice to ours by filling in the survey here. I would appreciate it very much!

Pictured above are two children from the church in Ambon, Indonesia, delighting in the experience of singing for their congregation in a small village about an hour from the city. Twenty years ago, this province was virtually destroyed by conflict that played out in hand to hand fighting between Muslims and Christians, with homes, mosques and churches burnt. We’ve just been in Ambon to capture stories of the peace building process led by God’s people and transforming the entire island. It’s an incredible story of God’s redemptive and reconciling love at work, and we’ll be telling it for the first time for next year’s Lent Event! Stay tuned.

Dr Sureka Goringe
National Director

Last week I had the great privilege of attending the Annual General Conference of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga (FWC) with Uniting Church President Dr Diedre Palmer.

The day we arrived in the capital Nuku'alofa we were swept up in the famous hospitality and fellowship of the Tongan people. Our church partners invited us to feast with 3,000 of their members and then join in worship among a thousand choristers.

The sound of their harmonies soaring over a massive brass band is something I’ll never forget.

Along the way I was blessed to meet some of the leaders and members of FWC; hear their stories, hopes and struggles, and experience the great wisdom and dedication they have to offer.

The conference was an opportunity to connect with our partners in fellowship and share in the life of their church. Among many issues raised, the important matter of the Uniting Church’s decision on marriage at the 15th Assembly was discussed with openness, honesty and integrity.

Re-elected FWC leaders, President Rev Dr Ahio and General Secretary Rev Dr Tevita Havea reassured us that they have been on the same journey with their New Zealand and United States partner churches, and that our partnership is built on strong foundations of respecting difference while holding to unity in Christ.

They affirmed that Tongan members of the Uniting Church were under the oversight and authority of the UCA and shared our joy in the vibrant life of the Tongan National Conference. They manifested their love and partnership in the honour and recognition they showed Dr Palmer and I throughout the conference.

Dr Palmer reaffirmed to our partners the Uniting Church’s commitment to respect and protect the rights of all members and partners to hold differing views of marriage and make decisions based on those views.

Dr Palmer and UCA General Secretary Colleen Geyer issued a short statement after the discussions.

It was the first official visit to Tonga for both Dr Palmer and I, but the warmth, trust and the good faith that was extended had very little to do with us personally. We were embraced as members of an extended family, our forebears and theirs had built a strong bond of respect and friendship and we were but the latest embodiment.

Holding partnerships like this is a privilege that I treasure deeply and sometimes feel the huge weight of. But I’m reassured in the knowledge that some connections are already far stronger than anything I might manage to mess up.

Malo

-Sureka

Dr Sureka Goringe
National Director
UnitingWorld


Tonga was part of the Methodist Church of Australasia from the early 19th century until 1977 when the Uniting Church in Australia was formed and the Wesleyan Church gained its autonomy (thus the "Free" in its name). In Australia, the Tongan National Conference within the Uniting Church has grown to become the biggest of the twelve national conferences. Read more

Thank you.

They’re the first words we learn, wherever we happen to be travelling in the world. Hello, and thank you. Sometimes, it’s all we’ve got. All we need.

Our work takes us to places where we might expect only suffering and hopelessness, and yet what we meet time and again is gratitude. Gratitude from people who are thankful beyond belief for opportunities they never thought they’d be given; a chance to study their way out of hunger; a toilet built with their own hands.

“Please tell them thank you – thank you for helping us, even though they don’t know who we are.”

The words are spoken with a kind of holy wonder. These are families who look after one another with a fierce love, but the idea that people in countries far away know and love them too is another thing altogether.

For us, gratitude leaps the banks and spills both ways. A smiling mother cooks us corn from her garden and we sit to eat with her husband, father and five children. Later, we find out she has gifted us everything she had to feed her family for the week. Tears in his eyes, a Pastor shares a story of the love that led him back to care for his church, even after feeling a loaded gun against his temple. A child slips her hand into ours and sticks close, her smile a mile-wide. She has never seen anyone with skin like ours before. In these moments, we’re not the powerful dispensers of donations and resources and knowledge. We’re just sharing the goodness of what it is to be alive; the grace of life in all its messiness and small mercies.

“In all things, give thanks.” Paul’s words to the church at Thessalonica have as much relevance today as they did two thousand years ago. Gratitude transforms our daily lives as we concentrate on all that is good and gifted rather than all that wearies us and wears us down.

To each of you, we give our thanks.

In the past 12 months together, we have reached hundreds of thousands of people with the practical love of Christ, providing:

  • Training to leaders of God’s church
  • Clean water and education to save lives
  • Loans to start small business
  • Emergency shelter, counselling and respite in disaster

Thank you for your love and prayers. We remain grateful for the faith that binds us together as we continue to work towards the world we all long for.

In hope and peace,

UnitingWorld.

UnitingWorld will be holding a series of public seminars to connect our partners with supporters in Australia.

Across three events, representatives from eight of our international partner churches will discuss the unique challenges they face being the Church and addressing poverty and injustice in their contexts.

The events are free, open to members of the public. However, places are limited so please register to book your place here.

These events form part of UnitingWorld’s presence at the 15th Triennial Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia to be held in Melbourne, and Assembly delegates are enthusiastically encouraged to attend.

 

Event details for sessions

HOPE IN A TIME OF ADVERSITY (Mon 9 July, 1-2PM)

Our partners from Zimbabwe, Lebanon and Maluku discuss how they respond to these uncertain times in world affairs. In this seminar, Prof Andrew Glenn explores with them the challenges the church faces in these political hotspots and the Christian hope that sustains them.

BEING A MINORITY CHURCH (Wed 11 July, 1-2PM)

Living in the midst of Hinduism and Islam in Bali and Buddhism, Daoism and Islam in China, our partners from Bali and China discuss with Associate Director, Jane Kennedy, how the church is working to play a vital role building Christ’s kingdom.

THEOLOGY AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE (Fri 13 July 1-2PM)

How does the church respond to the prevalence and severity of domestic violence? On average one woman is killed every week by a partner in Australia and the spread of the #MeToo movement internationally since 2017 attests to widespread sexual harassment and assault. Our partners in Vanuatu, Fiji and India discuss with Associate Director, Bronwyn Fraser, how they are working to address belief systems which perpetuate domestic violence.

 

Venue / Location

The Matsudo Room

Box Hill Town Hall

1022 Whitehorse Rd, Box Hill VIC

Parking on street, behind library or multilevel carparks nearby

 

Cost

Entry is free – BYO lunch.

Tea and coffee provided.

 

Register for a session

Registration is essential as seating is limited and the venue is secure.

Register online: https://www.trybooking.com/WEKP

Or call: 02 8267 4267  |  0412 875 656

 

More information/enquiries: assemblysupport@unitingworld.org.au

In a report to the Uniting Church in Australia’s 15th Triennial Assembly meeting in July, UnitingWorld has highlighted the success of a collaborative, network-based approach to community development.

In a sweeping review of three years, the report details the impact of UnitingWorld’s programs across an estimated 250,000 people in breaking down barriers to education, health, human rights and leadership; and strengthening the institutional capacity of Australian and partner churches.

National Director Dr Sureka Goringe attributes UnitingWorld’s successes to its strong identity as part of the Uniting Church, and championing a relational approach over the charity model of “handing out grants in return for timely reporting.”

“Effective programs need to be built on a foundation of strong, resilient relationships between partners,” said Dr Goringe.

“For us, good collaborations start with meaningful connections between people, where all recognise our equal place as children of God, learning from each others’ strengths and caring for each others’ needs.”

In an innovation conceived three years ago, UnitingWorld started using these strong relationships with partner churches to build regional networks, fostering multilateral collaborations; an approach Dr Goringe says was led by the partners themselves.

“In 2015, during a session of the 14th Assembly in Perth, 35 leaders from our overseas partner churches took the spontaneous and unprecedented step of penning a statement which was read out on the floor of the Assembly.”

The statement committed them to:

“Break through the boundaries of our denominations, in order to partner as God’s agents of transformation in the world” and to, “commit to develop, nurture and strengthen multilateral mission relationships by making our God-given resources available to one another, sharing our needs, joys, sorrows, achievements and challenges with openness and joyfully participating in the life of partners in a fruitful and effective manner.”

Following this landmark declaration, UnitingWorld recognised its value to church partners as a facilitator of new multilateral relationships, says Dr Goringe.

“Since then, UnitingWorld’s regional strategy over the past three years has been to create opportunities to bring together our church partners in meaningful ways.”

“We have hosted 11 regional conferences since July 2015, each one aimed at creating a community of shared learning, cultivating connections and relationships and encouraging collaboration between our partners.”

The connections formed at the regional conferences have resulted in partners sharing resources, expertise, management tools and policies on shared issues. These have ranged from the theology of community development to child protection and finance management.

The report also highlights the success of UnitingWorld’s collaborations with the Australian Government (DFAT) on the theology of gender equality, and identifies challenges to be faced over the next triennium.

UnitingWorld looks forward to continuing this journey alongside our church partners.

Read the full report on the Uniting Church in Australia 15th Assembly website.

 

“God is good in the midst of the darkness; God is good in the midst of evil. God is in the midst, no matter what is happening in the world. And he loves you, and he’s here for you.”

It’s not a bad quote – a rallying call to bring comfort to thousands of young people mourning the loss of family and friends after terrorist attacks in Manchester and London.

Many will be surprised, then, to know these words came from the lips of pop star Justin Bieber. Whatever you think of Bieber’s music and his reputation, his assertion that “God is in the midst” is powerful. It’s the central claim we share as people of faith – God is present, and God is love – even in the midst of deliberate acts of violence, hunger, the slow destruction of the earth, the seemingly senseless decisions of our political leaders. God is here.

Understandably though, many question the validity of such a claim. Too often, God’s presence is shadowy; arguably invisible. For us, working with partners in places like South Sudan, India and Kiribati, there are glimpses of the divine in the everyday – people who’ve been part of tribal groups fighting hand to hand who now work together to take sacks of maize to hungry families in South Sudan; the straight-backed concentration of a young woman who is the first of her family to attend high school in India; a family welcoming others into their home because theirs is the only one still standing after a cyclone. This, we believe, is our God at work in the midst of darkness and despair.

How? Mystifyingly, God has always chosen to work through ordinary people. In South Sudan, it’s people like Paska, who supports women through the local church to recover from the violence they’ve experienced throughout the 25-year civil war. In India, Parmjeet works with children, especially girls, to lay down the foundations for a completely different future – one where people not only have the skills to earn a living but understand and can advocate for their rights. In the Pacific, Maina has been working for the last twelve months with his community in Tuvalu to help them understand the vital importance of preparing for and adapting to the changes brought about by a rapidly shifting climate. The result will be families better prepared for cyclones, droughts and king tides that would otherwise devastate homes and livelihoods.

This is how God shows up. Perhaps it’s not glamorous, but it works. And when we’re tempted to ask, as we often are – where is God in the midst of suffering? – this is the answer.

God is present in and through God’s people. Astonishingly, humblingly, that means we each play a vital part in this presence

Our prayer, our advocacy and our giving is part of overcoming the darkness. We participate in God’s work in the world.

Thank you for your continued commitment to our shared vision of a world renewed, people made whole and hopeful in Christ’s love.  We are incredibly grateful for your prayer, financial gifts and support.

-Cath Taylor
UnitingWorld