What a very full month this has been.
The visit of the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit was the first such visit since the WCC Assembly in Canberra in February 1991. Since taking up the role of General Secretary in January 2010, Dr Tveit Accompanied by his wife, Anna, and Dr Katalina Tahaaafe Williams whose role embraces migration, indigenous and multicultural ministry, Dr Tveit included visits to Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide into the packed visit.
Besides giving a public address in each of the cities, Dr Tveit met with the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship at Parliament House. He launched the Uniting Church’s awareness-raising program about Palestine and the new webpage, Living Stones: The Uniting Church and Palestine, assembly.uca.org.au/palestine. Issues of Palestine-Israel being close to his heart not only because of his previous work, the General Secretary encouraged all to engage.
In Melbourne, Dr Tveit joined the Anglican community and many ecumenical guests including Mr Ashok Jacob, President of the Victorian Council of Churches, Dr Robert Gribben (WMF, UCA) and Ms Alison Prescott, a former member of the WCC Central Committee and Mr Alan Matheson, past WCC staff member for Evensong, at which Archbishop Philip Freier presided. In Adelaide people gathered for prayer led by Dr Anba Suriel, Bishop of the Coptic Diocese of Melbourne and affiliated regions at St Mary and Anba Bishoy’s Coptic Church, Cowandilla. The WCC visit concluded with worship at St Stephen’s Uniting Church in Sydney. This multicultural service was enhanced by the participation of three choirs from the Korean, Fijian and Tongan communities.
In each of his addresses, Dr Tveit spoke of our mutual accountability He believes that hope should be the hallmark of Christians. Several times, he repeated, You are the World Council of Churches.
Accompanying the visitors, I was encouraged in meeting many who are strongly committed to the ecumenical endeavour. While it was wonderful to meet up with familiar faces, people involved at the national level, former members of the NCCA Executive and members of NCCA Commissions and networks, I was delighted to make new friends, hearing the stories of those who are involved at state and local level. I was also greatly moved by the hospitality of the churches in supporting these events.
During the past weeks the first Annual General meeting of National Council of Churches in Australia was held. While this was a very short meeting, it is a significant event. This is a meeting of those whom the churches have appointed to represent them, virtually as ‘owners’ of NCCA. This meeting is required of NCCA being an incorporated company.
Just this past week the first NCCA Assembly took place. For those familiar with NCCA, the Assembly replaces the former Executive. Committed, enthusiastic, trusting, open, friendly, listening to the Spirit and to one another – each of these could describe the gathering. May we continue in the same spirit? Rev’d Dr Chris Walker led us in prayer and offered a reflection; Dr Gerard Kelly gave a presentation on receptive ecumenism that was very well received. Janet Woodlock led us in some planning. Each church representative had been asked to consider three questions before coming to the meeting:
- Imagine 10 years in the future. What would you love to see?
- In our Churches
- In our Churches together
- If this is our vision for the next 10 years, what needs to happen in the next year to turn the vision into a reality?
- What needs to happen in the next 2-3 years?
Janet then invited us to dream – What will the National Council of Churches look like in ten years?
Perhaps these are questions that invite all of us to discern.
Sr Elizabeth Delaney sgs