The year is certainly flying by….
It is only weeks until the Ninth Triennial Forum. So much to do…. At this Forum the churches will install a new President. Rev’d Dr Mike Semmler has served as President for the past three years. Despite commencing retirement following his term of office as President of the Lutheran Church, he generously took on the role of the President of NCCA. As Head of Church, he had been a member of the Executive since 2001. I have very much appreciated his wisdom and his generosity during this past three years in particular.
During the Forum we will engage with members of each of the Commissions and Networks so that we are able to set directions for the coming triennium. We are urging representatives to engage with their churches and with others to think about how we might act together and interact with each other. We are invited to begin with the papers on the NCCA website. These will be added progressively.
The Forum provides a wonderful occasion to reflect on where we have come from and where we are heading. Our theme, Remember, Rejoice, Renew invites us to do this. Looking back we acknowledge the wonderful people and the strong foundations on which we are able to build. We rejoice for what we have received, for the friendships and understanding that has developed between the member churches. While celebrating God’s gift of unity we will seek to commit ourselves again to honour this gift that we have received.
As you receive this Newsletter, we will be in the middle of National Reconciliation Week (27th May – 3 June). The theme of National Reconciliation Week in 2016 is ‘Our History, our Story, our Future’. Reconciliation Australia spells out this theme, ‘As part of our reconciliation journey, there are truths to tell, stories to celebrate, relationships to grow.’ The themes of Reconciliation Australia and the NCCA Forum both have the wonderful sense of acknowledging with gratitude what we have received from those who have gone before us, recognizing the reality of the here and now, and looking forward in faith and with energy and commitment to a positive future.
Within the month of June our Muslim friends commence Ramadan. The example of those who honour the invitations offered them during this sacred time by keeping the fast from daybreak to dusk each day is powerful. May it be a blessed time for them.
During the month of June NCCA will be farewelling two members of staff who are known to many. Elizabeth (Liz) Stone commenced at NCCA during the second half of 2014 as Associate General Secretary. During the months when Bishop Philip Huggins was Acting General Secretary, she supported him both when he was in Sydney and when he returned to Melbourne. Then from January 2015 to the present she has supported me, as General Secretary and the office of Business Services –especially during the period of Daphne’s Siva’s illness and following her death. As she will leave on 9 June we certainly give thanks for the excellent work that Liz has done with determination and generosity and wish her every blessing in her future roles.
Then at the end of June, after eleven years, Alistair Gee will finish as Executive Director of Act for Peace. His passion for peace and protection as well as his peace-filled approach to life, to work and to relationships stand out as his gifts to us. NCCA and Act for Peace give thanks for all that he has achieved during these eleven years. Being passionate about doing all that is possible to achieve the world’s peace goal over the next 15 years (SDG 16) Alistair will lead the Institute of Economics and Peace. We wish him every blessing as he takes on this very significant role.
During these weeks, as Australians we find ourselves in the midst of an election campaign, leading to polling day on 2 July. As in every election, this is an opportunity for citizens to make their choice about who will lead and govern the country for the next three years. It is both a right and a privilege to have a say in helping shape the future of our nation which has strong Christian foundations. We can be asked to vote for parties and individuals who do not represent our views. We can find ourselves confronted by policies and perspectives which do not accord with Christian values. Some churches will speak out about one or other policy while others will leave it to the individual and his or her conscience.
However, we have been given the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to help us in our discernment; what is best for the common good, for those who are marginalised, for those who are the first people and for those who are looking to come to Australia to start a new life. And we can pray for God’s hand upon those who will be chosen to govern our nation, for wisdom, perseverance and grace.
So not only are the weeks flying by, so also are the years. Next year the Lutheran Church honours the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation. In fact, not only does the Lutheran Church mark this occasion, but each of our member churches is invited to honour the Reformation. Each of us is invited to acknowledge our failings, to recognize God calling us to re-examine and learn his gifts in new ways, and always to affirm that the gifts of God are so rich and mysterious that no one Christian tradition has a monopoly on the truth.
May I ask you to invite others to subscribe to this Newsletter? Simply go to the NCCA website and there, on the right side, anyone may sign up for the Newsletter. Its free! I set a goal of having 1000 subscribers by the end of the year. As the year flies by, I want to be confident of reaching- or even surpassing- that goal. As with all we do as the National Council of Churches in Australia it will only happen if we do it together.
May the Holy Spirit continue to fill your lives with peace.
Sr Elizabeth Delaney SGS