Rock Christmas Eve

Rock Christmas Eve with us at The Rock Uniting Church!

Crafting candle holders, painting rock nativity stones, and good old-fashioned outdoor games will keep the kids occupied as you enjoy a bring-a-plate BBQ under the trees.

(Bring your own meat AND a salad, bread, chips, drink, or slice to share – as well as camping chairs. A large gas BBQ, charcoal fire pit, and tea/coffee/cordials will be provided).

An unconventional carols by candlelight service begins in the church at 8p.m. Also available via Zoom.

Invite your family, friends, and neighbours!!

The Commissioning of Elders – Pilgrim

On Sunday, the 16th of February, our five elders – Betty, George, Marilyn, Rob, and Ruth – were commissioned for the task of spiritual and pastoral oversight in the Pilgrim worshipping community.

Worship started with an energetic prayer as the children led us in a “Mexican wave” each time the word “Hallelujah” was mentioned in our praises. Sometimes they were crouched down in expectation; sometimes they were huffing and puffing to catch their breath after a string of joyful “Hallelujahs!”; but my favourite part was the transition into the time of quiet confession where a simple “shhhhhhhhhh” brought a deep and sacred silence upon us all.

While they worked on making prayer leis for each of the elders, Reverend Peter Walker, principal of the Uniting Theological College offered the assurance to the elders and to each of us that Christ IS with us as we seek to engage in God’s mission in the world.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20, NRSV

Marilyn, Rob, Betty, Ruth, and George committed to serving both God and us in prayer and discernment, welcoming and caring, teaching and silence, visitation and leading, pruning and planting, building and support, and encouraging our hope and love as we participate in God’s saving grace in the world in a beautiful exchange of vows between them and the gathered community:

I do not stand before you as a master but a servant.
I do not stand before you to gain but to give.
I do not stand before you out of pride but obedience.
I do not stand before you in my strength but by the power of the Spirit.

We give thanks to God who has named you and saved you.
We give thanks to God who has called you and equipped you.
We give thanks to God who will strengthen and sustain you.
We give thanks to God for the gift that you are.

I stand before you for my gifts are not my own.
I stand before you because of God’s great love.
I stand before you because faith needs to find expression.
I stand before you because I am willing to serve – you and God.

We affirm that your obedience is not without cost.
We affirm that in serving you bring glory and pleasure to God.
We affirm that you are a precious blessing to this Body.
We affirm that in serving you bring joy to us.

I promise to celebrate and share God’s embracing love with the world.
I promise to follow the pattern of Christ who was not afraid of getting his hands dirty.
I promise to seek to grow my gifts through prayer, and study, and training.
I promise to walk closely with God that I might serve you better and love God more.

We promise to partner with you in God’s love and work:
to seek to find our own calling and gifting,
to affirm the things that bring us joy,
to pray for you and love you.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.

It was wonderful to have the diversity and breadth of the church represented in the laying on of hands and blessing of the elders by members of the worshipping communities, Rev. Walker, Rev. Nigel Hawken (our new presbytery minister), and one of the youth. The children also hung their vibrant leis around the neck of each elder and received, in turn, a blessing.

Going forward, each elder has accepted oversight of a particular aspect of our community life in line with their gifts and passions and all questions, concerns, or ideas can be directed to them as follows for discussion in our regular meetings:
Rob – prayer and worship e.g. quiet days, retreats, Sunday worship
Betty – pastoral presence e.g. people in need of visitation and care
George – visioning and stewardship e.g. property, finances, future plans
Marilyn – formation and story e.g. preaching, Bible studies, courses
Ruth – justice and hospitality e.g. welcoming newcomers, mission and outreach initiatives

As we build together this beautiful community, may we continue to pray for one another and offer our gifts in humble and heartfelt service to the glory of God.

Love letter 4

To the people of God on the way to the promised end

Last weekend was a time of great rejoicing with and within the wider Body as we attended the induction service of our new Presbytery minister, Nigel Hawken on Saturday, and on Sunday commissioned Pilgrim’s elders with the good news that Chist IS with us.

One of the most significant moments for me was the presentation of gifts as the children brought forward the prayer leis that they had made during the service, placed them around the elders’ necks, and then received a blessing in turn as the elders (some even kneeling) laid hands upon them.

In order to be a living Church, our conversations have to hold in tension these four threads:

  • God’s continuing mission in the world,
  • expressing our unity in diversity,
  • personally committing to playing a part in building up Christ’s body,
  • and regularly considering the legacy that we will leave our children and their children and their children’s children.

In the story of Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain we witness how the past and future are brought together in the persons of Moses and Elijah (pioneers of our faith) and Peter, James and John (pivotal figures in the early Church) to bear witness to that glorious affirmation – “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear him!” (Matthew 17:5)

Today, we find ourselves with Christ on that high mountain from which he leads us towards the table of remembrance, the cross of great suffering, and, ultimately, the liberating hope of the empty tomb.

How do these places give shape and substance to our mission, our unity, our stewardship, and our legacy as we claim, in Christ, our own belovedness and seek to pass that affirmation on?

Yours in Christ

The kingdom belongs to such as these

A reflection for a service of acknowledgment and lament on the anniversary of the national apology to survivors of institutionalised childhood sexual abuse

Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

Matthew 19:13-15 NRSV

At the age of 18, as a first year social work student who knew nothing really about the world, I was placed at a local children’s home to be a mentor and support person to a young girl who had been abused – mentally, physically, and sexually – over a prolonged period of time by her parents.

Well-schooled in the theory of what such an assault can do to the body and soul and innocence of such a small one, I was hopelessly unprepared for the sheer love and delight with which I was greeted each week – or the heart-wrenching sobs and sheer strength of her little hands as she clung to me when it was time for me to leave. 

And so the scene from Luke’s Gospel, though brief, is for me a beautifully human and incredibly powerful one which challenges the traditional place that we as society assign to children.

In Biblical times, children had no rights, no status, and, therefore, no power whatsoever. 

As they are brought to Jesus for a blessing – and please make sure to note that they are brought to him and don’t just approach of their own freewill or accord – Jesus not only protects them from rejection and criticism and makes them feel welcome, but he also up-ends every single power relationship and perception of what eternity with God looks like when he proclaims that the kingdom of heaven belongs to these little ones more than it does to the people who have brought the children to him, more than the disciples who have followed him daily but haven’t seemed to grasp what grace is all about, and certainly more than the pharisees who have kept the letter of the law their whole lives long and use that law to nail Christ to a cross. 

“The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these …”

I’ve read many commentaries and heard sermons where that line has been used to call us as adults into a more playful relationship with Christ, to innocence, to simplicity, to spontaneity, to wonder, to let go of grudges …. I’ve even preached a few of them myself but, as we talk honestly about the reality of the sexual abuse of children and of the place of the church in the midst of such pain, and as we read these words of Jesus in the light of little children being brought to Jesus for a blessing by one group of adults and turned away by another group of adults, perhaps we should hear a little more clearly that the kingdom of God belongs to: 

  • those who are taken where they don’t want to go,
  • those who are kept from blessing and safety and love, 
  • those who may have rights in this day and age but lack the power or resources to claim them,
  • those who are vulnerable, invisible, voiceless, 
  • those who in their search for God – both intentional and accidental – are turned away because it’s not a convenient time, because they offend our sense of what is right or proper, because church is a place for worship and not for justice ….

On this day, may we be deeply challenged to consider how our church belongs to children and to those like them who, in their vulnerability, are made most welcome in the loving, healing, freeing grace of God. 

How do we create a safe church together in which all can know that they are welcome, in which all can be protected, in which all are given voice?

Yours in Christ