Tuesday, June 23, 2015

a time for lament in response to tragedy and domestic terrorism

'Claiming Common Ground against Gun violence' was a peaceful protest planned in Salt Lake City, Utah, held in response to the shooting of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Deacons were encouraged to participate in this peaceful march on Sunday June 28th, during the Episcopal Church's General Convention in Salt Lake City.

"We are making a witness to Utah and indeed to the world that as people of faith, we need to claim common ground on gun violence. The incident that was reported out this morning, when you combine mental health issues, which I think is in play here, and racism, which is obviously in play, and guns, you have a toxic combination which produces tragic results," said Rt. Rev. Mark Beckwith, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, N.J., a founder of Bishops United Against Gun Violence.

“The type of healing we need can only be borne out of lament — a lament that holds space in the deepest pits of our beings for the piercing sorrow and rage being expressed by black communities, cultivates empathy, and puts restorative justice at the center of our collective action.” (Sojo)

Around the world, let us pray with the people of Charleston, and with the Bishops United Against Gun Violence. 

A hymn by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette for Charleston:They Met to Read the Bible
ST. CHRISTOPHER (“Beneath the Cross of Jesus”)
They met to read the Bible, they gathered for a prayer,
They worshiped God and shared with friends
and welcomed strangers there.
They went to church to speak of love,
To celebrate God’s grace.
O Lord, we tremble when we hear
What happened in that place.

O God of love and justice, we thank you for the nine.
They served in their communities
and made the world more kind.
They preached and sang and coached and taught,
And cared for children, too.
They blessed your church and blessed your world
With gifts they used for you.

We grieve a wounded culture
Where fear and terror thrive,
Where some hate others for their race
And guns are glorified.
We grieve for sons and daughters lost,
For grandmas who are gone.
O God, we cry with broken hearts:
This can’t continue on!

God, may we keep on sowing
the seeds of justice here,
Till guns are silent, people sing,
and hope replaces fear.
May seeds of understanding grow
And flourish all our days.
May justice, love and mercy be
The banner that we raise.

Tune: Frederick Charles Maker, 1881
Text: Copyright © 2015 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email: New Hymns:
Permission is given for free use by local churches and in ecumenical services.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Congratulations, Aunty Denise Champion

On 20th June, 2015, Aunty Denise Champion was ordained as a Deacon in the Uniting Church in Australia, the first Aboriginal woman from any denomination ordained in South Australia. Aunty Denise has served for many years in the church - in congregations, and in the Synod, and with the UAICC (Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress) and now continues her ministry in Port Augusta in regional South Australia. Congratulations, Denise, and blessings for your ministry.
Denise was presented with a specially designed stole reflecting her Aboriginal culture, and the colours of the Flinders Ranges, home of the Adnyamathanha people where Denise regularly leads Pilgrimages (read an account of one pilgrimage here).
Denise and Moderator Dr Deidre Palmer

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Congratulations to new Deacons

Congratulations to the newest Deacon in the Maryland Diocese, Rev (Deacon) Ruth Elder, pictured with Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton. Blessings for your ongoing ministry, Ruth.
And congratulations to the new Deacons ordained in the Diocese of Huron on June 11th. Two have joined the College of Deacons in the Diocese, Fred and MaryLynn, and the other three are transitional.
Rev Ruth Elder (Photo: Association for Episcopal Deacons)
5 new Deacons in the Diocese of Huron (photo: Association for Episcopal Deacons)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Deacons retreat - North Carolina

The Deacons in the North Carolina Diocese (Association for Episcopal Deacons) begin a retreat on June 12-13, at Haw River State Park, Browns Summit, North Carolina. The theme will be 'Sharing our ministries, sharing our strengths'.
It is so important to spend time together, to share stories, hopes and joys as well as disappointments and frustrations, to offer support and encouragement, to dip into the Biblical narrative in a way that sustains ministry, and to hold each other in prayer.
Blessings on all those who attend, that it may be a time that is life-giving and renewing.

Monday, June 8, 2015

World Oceans Day - June 8

photo by my nephew Mark Tipple, The Underwater Project
The Church of Norway defines diakonia this way: “Diakonia is the caring ministry of the church. It is the Gospel in action and is expressed through loving your neighbour, creating inclusive communities, caring for creation and struggling for justice”.

A theological understanding of diaconal service includes caring for creation, and extends to the welfare of the oceans. People are to live with respect and humility within God's creation, and called to care for the earth and limit destructive activities such as those that contribute to climate change. Being good stewards or custodians leads to a reciprocal relationship between people and the earth. We are dependent on the earth and must take care of it. If we do so, the land and oceans will yield bounty sufficient for all. Conversely, if human societies damage the earth, people suffer.

The ocean is the heart of our planet. Like your heart pumping blood to every part of your body, the ocean connects people across the Earth, no matter where we live. The ocean regulates the climate, feeds millions of people every year, produces oxygen, is the home to an incredible array of wildlife, provides us with important medicines, and so much more! In order to ensure the health and safety of our communities and future generations, it’s imperative that we take the responsibility to care for the ocean as it cares for us.

photo by Mark Tipple
This year, the theme is Healthy oceans, healthy planet. Unfortunately, human pressures, including over-exploitation, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, destructive fishing, as well as unsustainable aquaculture practices, marine pollution, habitat destruction, alien species, climate change and ocean acidification are taking a significant toll on the world’s oceans and seas.

Why do we celebrate World Oceans Day each year?
  • To remind everyone of the major part the ocean has in everyday life. They are the lungs of our planet, providing most of the oxygen we breathe.
  • To inform the public on the impact of the human actions on the ocean.
  • To develop a worldwide movement of citizen, towards the ocean.
  • To mobilize and unite the world’s population on a project for the sustainable management of the world ocean. They are a major source of food and medicines and a critical part of the biosphere.
  • To celebrate together the beauty, the wealth and the promise of the ocean.
While we can't do much directly about the health of our oceans, we can all contribute by decreasing our use and disposal of plastic bags. Around 80% of marine litter originates from the land, and most of that is plastic. Plastic that pollutes our oceans and waterways has severe impacts on our environment and our economy. Seabirds, whales, sea turtles and other marine life are eating marine plastic pollution and dying from choking, intestinal blockage and starvation. Scientists are investigating the long-term impacts of toxic pollutants absorbed, transported, and consumed by fish and other marine life, including the potential effects on human health.

Desmond Tutu: Five Facts for Healthy and Happy oceans.

A prayer
Forgive us, dear ocean, for all that we have done to harm you. There is light in us and we send it out on this night to the ocean, the earth, and all the creatures that inhabit this planet. May this great force that is within us be strong enough to heal us. We are all one: the earth, the ocean, everything—every one. © Copyright 2010 Holly Wilson

A youtube clip meditation on the ocean.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Oasis Day in the Netherlands

Today, June 4th, the deaconesses at Zendings-Diaconessenhuis Bethanië (the Netherlands) will be holding a day of quiet reflection, which they call ‘Oasis Day’. It is a special day to be quiet and look for what God has to say. There are some group times, alternated with time to be alone. It is open to anyone who wants to enjoy the silence and tranquillity. 
Leading deaconess Sr. Greet Verhoeven says, "Quiet Days constitute a break in the busy everyday life. People can focus on God and their own self. This is often a healing and soothing time. We hope that people go away after an Oasis Day really different than when they came. "
Oasis Day began as an initiative in 2015, adapted from the deaconess community in Switzerland. Each Oasis Day has a biblical theme. Some thoughts are shared, after which participants can retreat into a private space. In the afternoon there is an opportunity to respond creatively, through painting, writing, walking or otherwise.
Participants can link to a spiritual guide, and also enjoy one or more quiet days in the guesthouse. Oasis Days begin at 9:30 and end at 5pm, and cost € 40, all inclusive. Email for more information.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


For many years, I worked with the national Uniting Church international mission unit coordinating a program to support people who were venturing out as volunteers with partner churches and projects in Asia, Africa and the Pacific. It was wonderful to support them as they left ‘home’ and entered another cultural landscape. The experience was often transformative as people were able to hold a mirror up to their lifestyle, assumptions and values at home in light of their new experiences. Journey was as much an interior journey into uncharted territory as it was external.

The lectionary leads us for the next few months into ‘ordinary time’, and takes us on an interior journey, joining Jesus as he embarks on an exterior journey walking the ancient landscape of Palestine. As we encounter the stories afresh, we will be challenged again to live out the message and mission of Jesus that we have been remembering through the season of Epiphany, Lent and Easter. This year the new liturgical season begins with a confrontational question – to what will we give our allegiance: the reign of God, or some other power? It’s a lively question in our day and age, when there is so much that seeks to be persuasive but that is contradictory to the values of the reign of God - be it economics, social or cultural. There is no need for speed as we journey through the season of Pentecost. It is a long, slow walk, where we are able to pay attention to the journey.

I love Kosuke Koyama’s idea of the three mile an hour God: 'Love has its speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed. It goes on in the depth of our life, whether we notice or not, at three miles an hour. It is the speed we walk and therefore the speed the love of God walks.’ It beckons us to slow down and give our attention to the journey.

And I begin my own journey to Europe where I can hopefully enjoy the ‘three miles an hour’ pace. Geoff and I fly to Amsterdam this week to catch up with wonderful people we met when they were staying in Adelaide for a visit. Now it’s our turn to see their city through their eyes. Our time in Europe will finish with the DRAE Regional Conference in Norway, 1-5 July. I'll be keeping a blog of the travels and learning if anyone is interested.

    Dear God, we pray for another way of being,
    another way of knowing.
    Across the difficult terrain of our existence
    we have attempted to build a highway
    and in so doing have lost our footpath.
    God, lead us to our footpath.
    Lead us there where, in simplicity,
    we may move at the speed of natural creatures
    and feel the earth’s love beneath our feet.
    Lead us there where, step-by-step,
    we may feel the movement of creation in our hearts.
    And lead us there where, side-by-side,
    we may feel the embrace of the common soul.
    Nothing can be loved at speed.
    God, lead us to the slow path;
    to the joyous insights of the pilgrim;
    another way of knowing;
    another way of being. Amen.

   (c) Michael Leunig, Common Prayer Collection, Collins Dove, 1990

I look forward to the mindful encounter with God at a walking pace over these next few weeks.

Kirchentag in Stuttgart

From Wednesday June 3rd to Sunday June 7th, the German Protestant "Kirchentag" ('a joyful festival for everyone') will take place in Stuttgart, Germany. Over five days, there will be 2500 events, 100,000 full-time visitors, and 30,000 active participants from many countries in the world. The Kirchentag was founded in 1949 as a festival of faith and a forum for the world, unique in Germany in enabling encounter and dialogue, strengthening Christian thought and action, and engaging in public witness. 
The 2015 theme is "That we may become wise" (Psalm 90). President of the Stuttgart Kirchentag, Andreas Barner, said the theme is about answers to the questions of our times, specifically about the long-term considerations of our deeds: "Our days are numbered, which makes it especially important that we change our bearing towards long-term consequences, because almost everything will continue without us when we are gone." Topics will include sustainable thinking and "wise" economics.

Frank Otfried July, presiding bishop of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Württemberg, sees the theme as one of disruption. "It calls on us to shift gears in our lives and our routines, in our daily treadmills on the fast lane. To question ourselves and the lives we lead. To distinguish between final and less final things and to start at the end when doing so, which means true sustainable thinking. That is the great gift of this theme."

The theme is developed in the following categories: theology and spirituality; church and congregation; interreligious dialogue; society and education; global challenges; environment, economics, transformation; ways of life and living together. 

DIAKONIA World Federation will be represented by the DWF Secretary, Traude Leitenberger, along with Kaiserswerther Verband, Zehlendorfer Verband and VEDD. As well, people from other Diakonia organizations will be there, as well as Dr. Müller and Wolfgang Schaid.