Jason John to be inducted as Forest Chaplain
On Sunday 18 February at 2pm at an outdoor service on the grounds of Gleniffer Church, Gumbaynggirr Country, the Mid North Coast Presbytery will induct Rev. Dr Jason John into his role as Forest Chaplain.
Unusually for the Uniting Church, Jason will be inducted into a two year part-time (40 percent) placement. The Forest Chaplain role has been made possible through funding primarily from the Jan de Voogd Peace Fund (a Quaker bequest) and secondarily from the Synod Growth Fund. The placement builds on two years of work by the Forest Advocacy Ministry Committee, whose members hail from Sydney to the Queensland border, in an emerging rural ministry that is responsive to the needs of the community.
Jason is a deacon with a bi-vocational ministry – he also works as the coordinator of Bellinger Landcare – and has a strong commitment to the whole Earth community in the Bellinger Valley and wider area, having lived and served there for some 15 years. He has always felt that his calling as a deacon is to serve in environmental ministry.
Working with others in the Forest Advocacy Ministry, Jason will offer chaplaincy to forest defenders, support collaboration between groups working to protect the forests, advocate for the care of forests to reflect the unceded sovereignty of First Nations Peoples as part of the Koala Chaplaincy project; bring people together to explore faith and spirituality and build resilience and joy in the face of the emotional toll of forest campaigning; and provide resources to support creation care in the Uniting Church and community. Jason will support the two regular faith gatherings – the non-denominational Gleniffer worship service and the outdoor Gleniffer Ecofaith Community.
The Forest Chaplain role begins at a crucial time. Following its election in March 2023, the NSW Government committed to establishing a Great Koala National Park on Gumbaynggirr, Dunghutti and Bundjulung lands. However, logging of critical habitat for koalas and other endangered species continues in the proposed national park area, and the pressures on forest defenders continue as they grieve the destruction and act to protect what remains. Pastoral support is needed now more than ever.
Rev. Jo Smalbil, Deputy Chairperson of the Presbytery, will lead Jason’s induction, and Gumbaynggirr Elder Uncle Micklo Jarrett and Rev. Dr Phil Dokmanovic, minister at Bangalow-Byron Bay Uniting Church, will share reflections. The gathering will include forest defenders; other members of the Uniting Church, Gleniffer Church and Gleniffer Ecofaith Community; and people from other faith groups. All are welcome to join in this celebration.
See more information about the Koala Chaplaincy project including resources for forest defenders and supporters, the Forest Chaplain role, and the wider work of the Forest Advocacy Ministry at https://www.unitingearthweb.org.au/forests/
Dr Miriam Pepper