Welcome to everyone reading this Newsletter.
I hope by now you’ve received your 2018 stewardship letter, including response forms, and are planning to join us for our “Emmanuel Day” Celebration Service, followed by our Big Brunch and family games. It should be a great day to give thanks to God for all he’s given us and to offer ourselves afresh to the mission he’s calling us to!
You know me well enough by now to realise that I try to keep these letters bright and breezy but today marks the beginning of some rather more serious dialogue.
Many in the Uniting Church, me included, feel betrayed by the 15th Assembly’s resolution 64 which provides for an additional understanding of marriage to include marriage between partners of the same gender. They wish us to believe that it is perfectly reasonable to hold two mutually exclusive beliefs about marriage as equally valid. On the one hand they wish us to say “Christians believe that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman” and on the other that “Christians believe marriage can be between any two persons, regardless of gender”. Whilst the second allows for the first, the first certainly does not allow for the second. So they have delivered us an illogical, nonsense, (and one which places us, especially registered marriage celebrants, in legal jeopardy if challenged).
But there are two, far more serious grievances.
1. The Assembly decided that this was not a matter of “vital importance to the church” and therefore that it did not require wider consultation or “concurrence” (agreement between all of the Councils of the Church, ie, Assembly, Synod, Presbytery, Church Council and especially you, the members of the congregations).
In claiming that marriage between two persons of the same gender is “biblically valid” they have in effect led our church into what is known as Apostasy (heresy – ie rejecting a religious belief). Let me state this again - there is absolutely no biblical affirmation for homosexual marriage – not one scrap. The only “biblically valid” form of marriage affirmed by scripture is the traditional one, between a man and a woman.
The horrendous truth before us is that our church leadership neither value our opinions nor worse, is quite happy to mislead us into false teaching. How could this happen? I have included a reflection from a UCA Minister from NSW for one perspective.
As a result, many congregations are agonising over whether to leave the Uniting Church, and some already have. In fact, any congregation which is not considering their future is in effect saying, “We agree with this new teaching on marriage”.
By my reckoning we are about two thirds of the way through our 40 days of prayer and fasting. In addition, this past week I have been on four days retreat focussing on how to respond both pastorally and institutionally. I urge you, please, to pray for our Church Council as we face this crisis and try to find a way through. [I can tell you there are moves afoot, amongst wider networks, to find alternative ways of belonging whilst still maintaining our integrity as orthodox Christians and I (amongst many others) am working hard to find a palatable solution.]
God bless, Ian.
Welcome to everyone reading this newsletter. This is our month! Our church is named Emmanuel which we know means God with Us and in this season of advent we celebrate not only His presence amongst us as a man, 2000 years ago, nor only His presence amongst us now, by His Spirit, but his future presence amongst us as King of the universe! God is with us and this is the month to really think hard about what difference that makes to us and how to communicate that difference to others.
To help us with that we have three special events, as you know. Our Community Christmas Carols, on Dec 23rd, will be an extravaganza of fun, food and carols interspersed with a re-telling of the Christmas story. Invite your friends, family and neighbours – especially if they don’t normally go to church – they’re going to love it and we’ll have a really good time together.
The Carols will be led by Dom and the worship team but we will also have two specially assembled choirs, one from our Sudanese brothers and sisters and another from our own congregation. (If you’d like to be part of that choir, please meet with Mel Herron and the others in the meeting room at 11am this Sunday).
We’ll also have a dance performance from our Holiday Club led by Jess Pinkerton (what a great job she did with the all-age message last week!) which is happening on 20th & 21st December for Primary-aged children. Get your kids registered as soon as possible and invite your friends’ kid too. All our events are designed with people who don’t normally attend church in our minds – so they are suitable for everyone. If you can volunteer for those two days we really need you to sign up ASAP also so that we can make room for even more children!
Lastly, but by no means least, will be our Christmas Day Service on (would you believe) 25th December. After all the buzz and excitement it will be good to start our Christmas Day celebrations with a slightly quieter service and pray our way into a day that fully honours and sets the tone for one of the holiest days in our calendar. It is a day to rejoice, reflect and respond and will also be an outstanding time to bring someone with you who wouldn’t otherwise come. It’s about belonging to the God who is always with us, no matter the day or the season. It can be a lonely day but it doesn’t have to be! Come, bring your friends and introduce them Jesus and his people.
God bless, Ian.
Welcome to everyone reading this newsletter. It is hard to believe we’re just five weeks out from our Community Christmas Carols event to be held on Sunday 23rd December from 5-8pm, with Sausage Sizzle, Bouncy Castle, Face Painting, etc., preceding Carols at 6:45pm. (Remember this will be the only service that day and replaces our Christmas Eve service), so services over the Christmas period will be:
Sunday 23rd Dec - Community Carols 5-8pm
Tuesday 25th Dec - Christmas Day – 8am
Sunday 30th Dec, 6th, 13th, 20th & 27th January - combined service at EPAC, 9:30am
As you can see the school have very kindly offered us the use of their air-conditioned Performing Arts Centre again for which we will no doubt be very grateful.
Thank you to everyone who was able to contribute to the consultation process. After an exhausting program the task now lies before the Church Council to discern any considerations and/or actions that should now be initiated. Please pray for us as we meet Monday night, 19th November.
If you liked the idea of a 15 minute interview to share your thoughts, I’d also love to offer that to anyone at anytime (subject to diary restrictions – please make appointments through the office). Please feel free to visit me at my office or I can certainly come to your home or even meet somewhere for coffee.
Speaking of the office, Helen’s partition wall went in on Wednesday so you will now notice a significant difference when you arrive at the offices but you are assured of the usual friendly welcome from Helen and the rest of the staff. I am very grateful for Helen’s “ad-ministry” amongst us – she is very much the oil that makes the machine work. Please do always include her in your prayers for the ministry team – she is our “frontline minister” and critical to so much of our mission and ministry.
I’ve also just confirmed that the painting of the offices will commence on 7th January with the carpet to follow. That means I’d be thrilled if a few folk could help me shift furniture on Thursday 3rd and/or Friday 4th January – I’ll even shout you some Subway for lunch!
Lastly today, I’d love you to join me out at Samford Valley Community Church next Saturday 24th November from 9-12. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association are providing some free training in sharing your faith naturally. Please let Helen know during office hours if you can make it. I know we’ve been busy but this training will set you up nicely for inviting people to our Carols and other events!
God bless, Ian.
Welcome to everyone reading this newsletter. As you’re reading this we have just commenced our consultation period. We welcome Carolyn Kitto amongst us – she is no stranger having been involved with us before in a similar capacity and her findings directly and indirectly contributed to the employment of Dom, Jess and me!
If you haven’t already got involved this time, here are some ways you can still contribute:
1. Pray, and keep praying! For clarity in review and courage in planning.
2. Stay for lunch after the service TODAY, Sunday 4th November.
3. Set up a time for an individual interview with Carolyn via the office (during office hours) – there are still times available.
4. Come to the consultation especially for 8:00-ers; Tuesday 6th at 9:30am (morning tea to follow)
5. Participate in the planning workshops next Saturday 10th November (2 x 1hr session available – please book via the office)
6. Worship in Celebration next Sunday 11th, either at 8am or 9:30am, and hear some preliminary findings and challenges for the future.
The kinds of questions Carolyn will be asking us are:
· Where are we as a church?
· Where should we be heading?
· What gifts am I contributing to the church?
· What ministry am I receiving from the church?
Alongside all this is our desire to be a church where Missional Discipleship is at our core. At the heart of Missional Discipleship are those three sets of relationships which Jesus expressed: “Up” with our Heavenly Father, (Passionate Spirituality); “In” with other disciples, (Radical Community); “Out” with those who don’t know Jesus yet (Missionary Zeal). [Score yourself out of 10 for each of those three . . . try not to use 5!]
We are grateful to Trinity for putting on the event with Sam Chan which over 20 of us attended. Next on the agenda is training in preparation for the Franklin Graham Tour and the event happening at Riverstage on 18th February next year. Samford Valley Community Church are hosting some training which will equip us better with our “Out” by exploring how to tell Our story of faith in the context of God’s big story intersecting with their story of life and belief. You will find this invaluable, especially if you’re finding it hard to get the right words out at the right time with the right people. And funnily enough it begins with listening. Let’s see if we can get at least another 20 folk ready to go the next step. It’s on Saturday 24th November from 9-12. Please indicate your intentions to attend via the office.