August saw us all gathering together in the usual way in McGregor Hall – a welcoming, informative, friendly and warm meeting. The Convener of National & World Mission Support, Mrs Lesley Williams, was in charge, welcoming all those present. We all always enjoy morning tea and a chat on arrival, and have a chance to browse at the items on display for sale such as Frontier Services Gifts and Souvenirs and a great selection of greeting cards for every occasion – including Christmas cards!
The Newsletter distributed at each meeting always has news of both National and World Mission and Frontier Services. John Duval, a member of the SA Team of Frontier Services recently returned from Alice Springs. He was part of an enthusiastic Working Group of volunteers who spent time at Griffith House in The Alice – repairing, painting, renewing – all the various jobs that needed to be done.
Jim & Di Parker wrote from Papua New Guinea – He says “Our final week culminated in the joy of visiting Malasait Village...I remember one Sunday in 1966 it was my Patrol. That morning I had joined the villagers in their “Grass Hut” Church - but nobody understood the native preacher! Why? Because he spoke a different language! Even after 3 years, the Baining language was too hard for him to learn because of the complicated sound system. They (and also me) listened without understanding. In the afternoon I looked out over the valley. “Lord” I prayed, “you must send Translators here.” Four years later it was Diana and me. Now after fifty years there is a school, and even a Health Centre with a Maternity Ward. The translation took twenty five years to complete and just last Wednesday we went back to share a Phonics Colour Workshop with the eight teachers at their school. We gave each Teacher a PACK and Student Resources along with English St John's Gospel for their children. This concludes our eight weeks, having trained 700 teachers and distributing 29,700 Gospels in New Britain.” Jim concludes “Thank you for sharing with us and praying with us.”
The Guest Speaker was a senior member of UnitingWorld, the national overseas aid and development arm of the Uniting Church in Australia, the Rev Dr Sefarosa Carroll. She is the Manager of Pacific Church Partnerships for our church.
Although she has lived in Australia for the last twenty years, Sef (as she likes to be called) identifies strongly as a Polynesian woman. You may remember what she wrote about women and girls in the Pacific in an article that appeared in our April 2016 TALK. (Read it again if you still have it!)
Sef’s ancestral homeland is Rotuma, an island some distance north east of Fiji. In the 1800s missionary zeal brought both French Catholic and British Protestant Christians to Rotuma, with consequent violent disagreements between the different parties. After the island became a British crown colony in the 1870s the Government solution to the “great religious wars” was to divide the island, giving one side to the Catholics and the other side to the Methodists. Sef says the Protestants got the better side. Because of the difficulty of administering this remote island, the British Government decided to annex Rotuma to Fiji, despite its people having been a proud independent island nation quite different from Fiji. Sef spent time in Fiji as a child and regards Lautoka as one of her hometowns. She completed her education in Australia, training for Uniting Church ministry in the 1990s. She served in various UCA appointments in congregational ministry and chaplaincy.
Our Australian church has close ties with the churches of the South Pacific, being neighbours geographically and having worked with them for about 150 years. This means that the UCA is regarded as both an “insider” and an “outsider” and so is in a position to share gifts, skills and hospitality. We have partnership agreements with thirteen Pacific churches in twelve countries (two in Samoa with the Congregational and Methodist Churches) and Sef’s role is to enable this sharing.
The Memorandum of Understanding between the UCA and each Pacific church varies according to the wishes of the individual church. It can include theological sharing and action concerning climate change and natural disasters; education and leadership training; and the role of women in church and society. The movement of ministers between South Pacific countries including New Zealand and Australia is important and UnitingWorld tries to find ways to support ministers and leaders during overseas placements and on their return, recognising that the giving of new gifts and challenges is a two-way experience.
It was good to hear Sef talking about her work and the challenges facing the Christian communities in our region.
State Mission Fellowship did not meet in September, due to the Show Cafeteria, and UCAF Fellowship Day on 30th September. The next meeting is on Tuesday 25th October - Brian and Jill Polkinghorne will be back home after their three month visit to Tanzania, and you are invited to come along as they share their experiences with us.
Mary Thomas and Norah Norris
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