Remember, renew, rejoice…
During 24 -27 July 2016 people from our member churches gathered at Mary MacKillop Place in North Sydney for the 9th Triennial Forum. These were special days. Written evaluations from participants included such words as ‘engaging’, ‘inspiring’, relaxed, ‘efficient’, ‘educational’, ‘providing opportunities for networking’, ‘enthusiasm’, ‘blessings of diverse gifts and energies’, ‘active involvement’, ‘rich experience’ ‘new time’.
The worship on Sunday evening was a high point. Not only did we celebrate being together in prayer, but we installed Bishop Philip Huggins as the 8th President of National Council of Churches in Australia. As Bishop Philip accepted the office of President, all those gathered listened to the question, Do you receive the Right Reverend Philip Huggins as the elected president of the National Council of Churches in Australia; do you welcome him into this office, and do you promise to pray for him during these next three years? We responded enthusiastically, With confidence and joy, we do. May we be faithful to that prayer for our new President.
During this worship, Australian Churches Covenanting Together was affirmed in two ways: Dr Joe Goodall, Head of the Congregational Federation, and Rev’d Dr Andrew Dutney, immediate past president of the Uniting Church in Australia, signed an additional clause in the covenant..
We agree together to invite and welcome members of each other’s church to share in the Eucharist according to pastoral need. The Uniting Church in Australia and the Congregational Federation had previously signed a number of clauses in the Covenanting document. Each time an additional clause is signed, we are reminded that this church is indeed working towards making Christ’s call to and gift of unity more visible. The signing of this clause brings more people together at the Eucharistic table. It is one small step in our churches coming together around one table.
Each person present at the worship was invited to repeat the declaration of intent contained in the Covenanting document. Saying these words aloud in the presence of other member churches and in the presence of members of our own church is a powerful sign. Each clause calls me to respond: to commit to one another, to believe in the action of the Spirit in our Churches, to give thanks for our diversity, to engage in a process of growing together… All our member churches have signed the Declaration of Intent. May each of us, whoever we are, as a member of our church, know that we have an active part in changing desire for unity into reality. May we be God’s instrument of response to Jesus’ prayer for unity.
During our forum we were conscious of many who suffer: refugees and asylum seekers, people in Palestine-Israel, the indigenous people of West Papua, the ethno-religious minorities in Iraq and Syria who have suffered. The forum passed a number of resolutions. These are available on the Forum webpage.
There were so many highlights: Having the Mantle pass over our heads, as it had passed over the heads of people gathered in St Christopher’s Cathedral in Canberra in 1994; hearing Rev Joan Fisher speak of her experience in Palestine-Israel as part of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine-Israel; throughout the days seeing the ever-increasing total of funds raised together with the growing number of refugees that will be helped by those participating in the Ration Challenge; recognizing the wonderful people who have contributed to the work of NCCA over many years – including Ron Brown and John Gilmour; seeing and hearing read sharing on matters that concern our churches….
This truly was a blessed time.
Sr Elizabeth Delaney SGS