The interconnectedness between life and faith
On Christmas Eve of 2004, I packed up and set off for Ireland after 18 years of living in Australia. Fifteen of those years had been as a Uniting Church minister. For the next four years I was a community worker for severely handicapped adults in Ireland. I also studied ecology and religion, which eventually brought me back to Australia.
My studies in ecology and religion not only taught me that I am part of all things around me but also about the interconnectedness of all things. Particularly, the interconnectedness between life and faith, ministry and what’s happening around us as we engage in ministry.
This sense of connectedness is enhanced by the deeply embedded notion of the triune God. The relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is reflected in the whole creation, heaven, earth and all living creatures.
In my role as Moderator I have the opportunity to travel to many places — some which I have never heard of — and learn about the encouraging things happening there. I thank God for this exceptional privilege and joy.
During my recent visit to presbyteries in northern NSW, I had the opportunity to meet church members in varying contexts, including a tiny church in Kendall celebrating 100 years of faithful service. On my trip to Port Macquarie I was inspired by the work of our UnitingCare aged care service reaching out to the community with its new ‘hub’ concept, offering multiple services to generate a strong sense of community.
At the Mid North Coast Presbytery meeting I heard results of the National Christian Life Survey. I also engaged in serious conversation with members of Presbytery about how we can offer an effective Christian witness in the 21st Century.
I have seen signs of God’s mission (movement) in rather unexpected places. A retired doctor in northern NSW, deeply committed to the process of Covenanting, had organised a successful ‘Referendum Talk’ in the local community. A sure sign of God’s work in that presbytery.
While visiting churches in New England North West Presbytery, I was able to meet with three local groups, all of whom were affected by and concerned about Coal Seam Gas mining. They were local women acting against mining, Aboriginal elders opposed to mining, and farmers facing an uncertain future, their livelihood threatened by mining.
While our churches are preoccupied with empty pews and deficits in our budget sheets, I was reminded of Paul’s vision when he heard a Macedonian man calling, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ (Acts 16: 9) I too felt that call as people in the communities I visited sought the Church to respond to their concerns about mining, the environmental crisis, climate change and social issues in rural areas.
In August, there will be another Moderator’s Murray Darling Basin Tour. I see this as part of our Church’s response to the critical water issues facing our inland, as well as the subsequent environmental impact on people. Travelling through the Darling River Basin for eight days (1 – 8 August) may not constitute a joy ride but, rather, a pilgrimage in which the Church can show its commitment to affected people, the threatened environment, and struggling communities.
The tour will be a time to ask: ‘What would Jesus do if he were in our land?’ Will you join me in the Murray Darling Basin Tour this year?
Rev. Myung Hwa Park, Moderator