Front and Centre
Time is a curious commodity. Each day we have lived has the same duration. So, we should be well trained to fit our various daily activities into that 24-hour period. Yet it's a constant struggle! We fight through a malaise of distraction, interruption, menial tasks and unproductive waiting in the hope we'll have some time leftover for what we want to do or what's important in our life. Sometimes we get there, oftentimes we don't. I recently met with a colleague who, having lost his job found himself limited to the confines of his home during the COVID lockdown. He made some radical changes to his lifestyle so he could spend more time doing what he enjoys. I must confess I'd happily trade the time spent debating the church's COVID and cleaning procedures this year for a few days bushwalking! And sometimes we can be so busy in the church bubble that the real work of the church - walking with people on their discipleship journey - can be lost to a variety of distractions and interruptions.
Jesus and his disciples had a hectic schedule, and struggled to retreat and rest (eg Mark 6:30-33). Yet they carved out time to rest, pray, train, and grow as disciples. During those times the disciples learnt some really important things, like how to pray (Luke 11:1). How important those times were for resourcing and preparing them for their future discipleship journey. Let's be mindful that God resources and prepares us for our discipleship journey during our time of daily prayer and bible reading as with the first disciples. This can be a real challenge as the day's activities crowd our thoughts, drowsiness causes us to drift away or we are interrupted. Yet it is important to keep making time so God can speak to us and prepare us.
There are many guides available to assist with our personal Bible Reading. I've been using Scripture Union's Encounter With God guide for a few years now and find them helpful. A few of the men in our small group are also using the same guide so we can spend some time comparing our reflections each week. If you don't already have a regular Bible Reading routine, please be encouraged to check out the digital and print resources available through Scripture Union. If you need some help setting a regular bible reading routine, please reach out to one of the Elders or the Ministry Team for assistance.
Please continue to pray for our Ministry Team and Elders as we near the Congregational meeting. Specifically pray that God will raise up the leaders we need for the exciting but challenging journey ahead!
For the rest of the newsletter follow this [link](https://mailchi.mp/3166c3242b96/newsletter-1904391)
Front and Centre
As a church we are focused on being Real People with Relevant Faith for Our Community. We want people to be real. At Emmanuel we want people to be real with each other. We want to get past the superficial and know each other in real, deep and honest ways. As followers of Jesus we want to have a relevant faith for ourselves that sustains us through life whatever it holds and that we are able and equipped to share with our community. That is our church community, and the various communities in which we live and work. To help us better understand that we have developed what we call the four ‘e’s. That the elements of our life of discipleship should. So the ongoing challenge and commitment from Emmanuel, its staff and Council is how we equip you for this task and role. As such we are asking people to think how they commit their time, their talents, their giving or tithe back to God, either through the church or in other areas of their life. We would like to build stronger relationships between each other so that we can support each other in life and encourage the growth of people into the kingdom of God. We hope you want to be a part of that journey.
To read the rest of the newsletter please [follow this link](https://mailchi.mp/51638429b7f1/newsletter-20200911)
Front and Centre
Recently at college I have been encouraged to read the Bible as narrative and consider what affect it has on my Christian life. Doing this has caused me to realise that I am currently undergoing a shift in my thinking about the way I perceive my life and my role in the greater narrative of God’s work in the world. I am in the process of shifting my thinking from a “graded/marked” perspective to a “narrative” perspective.
The “graded” perspective is a view that I have taken on over the years as a means of knowing whether what I am doing is “right” or “wrong” and “enough” or “not enough”. It has had an interesting effect on how I have viewed opportunities and the sense of calling that I have had to undertake discipleship opportunities (whether it’s sharing faith or other activities of the church). The short version is that it has meant that I found myself overwhelmingly concerned about doing things “wrong” to the point of not trying. It has meant that I have found myself to be “not enough” to the point of not taking my sense of what I think God is asking me to do seriously. The thought comes to mind “I think I’m misunderstanding this: I’m not really ‘ready’ to do that”. I suspect that others would feel the same. That there is some greater level of “right-ness” or “enough-ness” that they have to reach before they are “qualified” to share faith or follow the sense of call that God has put into their lives. The “graded” perspective isn’t something that I’ve personally experienced as being the primary message of Emmanuel. I don’t recall anyone ever saying “well look Dom, you just need to get to discipleship LEVEL 12 THEN you can start doing XYZ”. However, I feel like grading is evident in just about everything else we do: whether its school or our extracurricular activities. Frankly, in many aspects it’s incredibly helpful, however I am learning that it is also helpful to consider a different approach: seeing life as narrative.
Sometimes when I read the Bible, I look at it almost like it’s a textbook filled with pieces of wisdom that I need to mine and extract to the golden nuggets to allow it to enrich my life. For me, this becomes really efficient: read the passage, mine the goods, move on. However, there is beauty and important aspects to be found when I read the Bible as a narrative. Among the important things I am noticing is that the people the Bible rarely get it right straight away. They miss the point, argue with God, don’t believe God, run away, laugh in God’s face, beg God to send someone else, and any other myriad of reactions that don’t really paint a “pass” within my “graded” perspective. Sure, they get it eventually, but my “graded” perspective would dictate that the moment they messed up they would be disqualified, which would leave the Bible quite empty. The Bible has many stories of people who God has persisted with. That’s why the narrative perspective is so important. It allows space to realise, with biblical observation, that our lives run somewhat in parallel with the lives of those in the Bible. This is because the Bible is a “sacred history” of God’s work in the world and the way people have responded and joined him in that work. Our lives are a continuation of that “sacred history” as we strive to join God in his work in the world.
The question I want to leave you with is this: in what ways does this idea that we are continuing the narrative of God’s work and humanity’s joining in that work affect the way you see your calling as a disciple?
I really hope it is an encouragement for you to realise that God’s call is all you need to be the right person for what he’s calling you for.
Grace and Peace
To access the rest of this weeks newsletter please follow [this link](https://mailchi.mp/d8738bbbaf56/newsletter-1901939)
Front and Centre
Over the next few weeks we will be focusing on our stewardship as a church. Now often stewardship is a focus on give more money to the church and that would certainly be welcome. But this year we intend to focus much more on a more holistic view of stewardship. How are we being good stewards of our skills gifts and talents?
Our stewardship theme this year comes out of one of this week’s bible readings In Genesis 12 Abram is told that he is blessed so that he may be a blessing to others. And so our theme is; blessed to be a blessing;. So good stewardship is how do we use what God has given us to bless others. This is both as individuals, and as a church. Of course finances are also a part of that picture but only a part. We are blessed by God so that we can use those skills, gifts and attributes for God and for our community. Over the next few weeks we are going to be reflecting upon stewardship and the idea that we are blessed to be a blessing. This week the emphasis is on how has God blessed us. As I talk with people there are many examples of how God has blessed us as a church at Emmanuel but there are also many stories of how God blesses us as individuals.
Please take some time this week to reflect on how God has blessed you.
To access the rest of this weeks newsletter [click here](https://mailchi.mp/db9db5e98464/newsletter-1900895)
Front and Centre
Welcome to this week. Today we start the nomination process for elders as we ask people who they would like to see in leadership within the church. The role of elder is a very important one for us each to consider. Elders share with the minister in the mission, pastoral care and spiritual oversight of the congregation (Reg 3.1.2). As members of the Church Council they are asked to give priority to building up the Congregation in faith and love, sustaining members in hope and leading the congregation to a fuller participation in Christ’s mission in the world. Church Council set the direction and focus for us as a congregation. All of this is so important to the life of our congregation. As you pray and discern who may be suitable as elders may I ask you to seriously consider two very important elements. As leaders of the congregation, and as elders, it is important that we are discerning both their competence and their character for the role. Quality leaders need to be trusted (we can rely upon their character) and respected (we can rely upon their competency.) Both of these are essential in good leadership, and it is important that you play your role in nominating and electing people that you are willing to support and follow. Please seriously take the time to consider who you would like to see in leadership. Please do not leave it for someone else. It is too important not to be involved in the process. As a church we need good leaders. Could it be you? Please pray seriously and faithfully and consider whether you believe God is calling you to nominate someone. The quality of our ongoing leadership depends upon us spending quality time with God. Please take this time as you seriously consider how God is using you.
Elders election Discernment process begins today. Nominations due by 14 September.
Rosemary Costello, Peter Coombes and Bronwyn Cox have already been nominated earlier in the year. To get your nomination form follow this link.
You can access the rest of the newsletter [here](https://mailchi.mp/43b2c5a70cca/newsletter-1899479).
Front and Centre
Last week I joined the older Sunday School class as they discussed Moses and the Burning Bush. We are so blessed to have such a capable and intelligent group within our Christian community. We briefly discussed the belief and unbelief of the key 'characters' within that story. Pharaoh didn't believe in God or his power. The Israelites believed in God, but didn't believe (so Moses suspected) what God had to say. Moses believed in God, believed what God had to say, but didn't believe God could gift him adequately to pass the message on.
We live in a world of 'binaries' and simple categorisations - rich/poor, and similar delineation based on education, race, health conditions, etc. Believer and non-believer, or Christian and pre-Christian, are also delineations which are made to suit simple but arbitrary human categories. I do not wish to detract from or contradict core scriptural teaching around receiving the Holy Spirit and making a decision for Christ. However, we know there are times when we actively or passively doubt God's ability to work in a situation. We also know of 'non-believers' who, at a time of personal crisis, will pray, attend church, or seek solace in God. So, as we see in Exodus 3 - 4, belief and unbelief can be alive and well in the same person, even at the same time.
This provides some challenge and encouragement. Firstly, we should be alert to our unbelief (or doubt), and rather than repress it, wrestle with it, and with God. Moses sets the example by talking through his doubts and reservations with God at the Burning Bush. Second, we should be encouraged that there aren't two 'camps', the believers and the non-believers, who are separated by a great divide. Many wrestle with belief and unbelief. As disciples of Jesus we have a role to wrestle ourselves - and assist others as they explore God's call on their lives. Third, we should be encouraged that salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3) and is not limited by our eloquence, or other natural talent. God used Moses despite his personal limitations and reluctance. He can do the same with us. "Lord I believe, help my unbelief!" (Mk 9:24)
Brian and Claire are taking a well earned week off. We have been so blessed to have their commitment and leadership during a particularly disrupted time in our Church's life. Brian has been consistently positive and energetic for the work of the church. I hope you will join with me in continuing to pray for our church's Ministry Team, and for the young people who are members of our church.
Chair - Emmanuel UC Church Council
to read the rest of the newsletter please [follow this link](https://mailchi.mp/1bfce09f3575/newsletter-1898871)
The Corona Virus continues to affect us, and this will continue for a long time. It is really important in this new era, with all the urgent things we now need to do, that we don’t lose sight of the really important things. Tom Keller reminds us that the God given fruit of self-control is being is the ability the Holy Spirit gives you to choose the important thing over the urgent thing. Despite the effect of Corona we should not lose sight of the important things which have not changed. Our desire to be not just followers but disciples of Jesus should not have changed.
At Emmanuel we have defined four characteristics or practices that are essential elements of being a disciple. They are exalt, explore, embody and engage.
We start with
Exalt: we must worship God, our relationship with God is crucial if we are to be disciples.
Explore: we must read and study the scriptures. The bible becomes God’s word as it becomes alive in us.
Embody: we will seek to live out our faith in a way that uses our Spiritual gifts and talents to build up others and grow God’s kingdom, and
Engage: we will quite intentionally engage with a non-believer with the intent of drawing them into God’s kingdom and bringing them to faith.
We will say more about these in the coming weeks but please remember to focus on the important things in your life.
The rest of the newsletter can be accessed [here](https://mailchi.mp/b0f9131f0bb1/newsletter-1898167)
Front and Center
Hello everyone, wherever you are reading this. What a crazy season of life we have and are still experiencing this year. It’s definitely not what I had planned – and not even what I thought God would plan, yet here we are in the midst of a global pandemic.
Last week Brian mentioned that we are looking to be more intentional about what and why we do things at Emmanuel. As we plan for and resume face to face ministries and sort out what we can do within the current limitations, we need to keep these questions forefront, and let them help steer what we do.
In restarting our children’s ministries (including Boy’s and Girl’s Brigade, Playgroup and Sunday School), we have determined that relationship is more valuable than activities and so are pivoting the things that we do to work within that framework. It means that some of what we do and how we do it will be different.
In Sunday School in particular, we are pivoting to focus on intentionally building intergenerational- and peer- relationships and so what we do will reflect this. We will spend more time sharing, reading, talking, praying, and blessing and less time completing arts and crafts and playing games (which we need to limit in a Covid-safe environment anyway).
I’m really excited about this, and about what it means for faith development and cultivating a culture of everyday discipleship. I’ve been recently listening to podcasts on discipleship by Caesar Kalinowski (by the way, they are great you can check them out at https://everydaydisciple.com/) and in of them he said: “The Kingdom of God expands at the speed of relationship… and the Gospel moves along the pathways of trust”. How exciting to think that the Kingdom of God will expand with the speed that we build the relationships that are we are now intentionally working to build in our community.
One difficulty that we do and will continue to face in this area though, is lack of volunteers across all our ministry areas. Currently in Sunday School we do not have enough adult volunteers to be able to safely run it every week, and so we must find some extra people willing and committed to help in this space. If you feel this is a space that you might be able to step into, please don’t wait to be asked, but speak to a member of the ministry team to offer your support and assistance, in any ministry area. We can provide you with more detailed information on serving opportunities when you ask.
To read the rest of the newsletter please follow [this link](https://mailchi.mp/f57a167867e9/newsletter-1896795)
Front and Center
As I indicated last week Emmanuel is on the journey to return to more face to face meetings. It was exciting to have more than 60 people in church last Sunday. Given that our maximum number is just over 70 in the church we may need to use the foyer as an overflow area. What a good problem to have. Church Council met on Monday night and approved some important decisions to moving forward. Firstly Sunday School returns this Sunday. I know that Jess and others have been working hard and this is an exciting moving forward. Secondly 8am will re-start and have 2 services in August. Commencing with a communion service on 2 August and then a fortnight later on 16 August.
A decision will be made then as to how we proceed from there and whether we return to weekly services. The 8am service on 2 August will also include a morning tea. Due to COVID there will be slightly different rules. People must be seated, there will be no self-serve but a couple of volunteers will serve people. The third decision made by Church Council was to allow groups including small groups to return to meeting on-site. Government legislation requires that a risk assessment is done for each activity and that the re-start is approved by Church Council so contact Helen for details or follow the link below. Groups will be encouraged to think about how they minimise the risk to their people and how the cleaning regime is managed. Some groups and people will decide that they are not ready to re-start yet and that is fine. Keeping safe and feeling safe is vitally important. Regardless of any individuals decision to return to face to face it is important that people stay safe and that we continue to find ways to stay connected. Another part of the Church Council meeting was to continue to explore how we create and encourage a culture at Emmanuel that encourages us to grow disciples. We would like to be more intentional about aligning what we do with our vision and mission statements. The reason we have small groups and Boys and Girls brigade and other activities is that we want to grow people in their faith and in a closer relationship to Jesus. Amidst all of the extra work involved we must continue to remember why we do things.
For rest of newsletter [click here](https://mailchi.mp/ccba6542dae5/newsletter-1895467)