22 Oct 2017
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

15 Oct 2017
This Too Shall Pass

8 Oct 2017
The Simple Truth: Head, Heart and Hands

1 Oct 2017
Humility – Staying close to the ground

2 Jul 2017
Welcoming the Silence

25 Jun 2017
Always Uniting…

18 Jun 2017
Are you ready for harvest?

11 Jun 2017
Don’t Blame it on the Snake

4 Jun 2017
Words Beyond Words: Breath Beyond Breath

28 May 2017
Seeing with new eyes

14 May 2017
Grace, Gracious and Graceful

30 Apr 2017
A Time for war and a time for peace

23 Apr 2017
Faithful Doubting

16 Apr 2017
God became human so that we could become divine!

12 Mar 2017
Wind of the Spirit

12 Feb 2017
From the Mountainside: The Impossible Dream?

22 Jan 2017
Grounding our Life and Faith

25 Dec 2016
That Humanity should become Divine

11 Dec 2016
Joy is for Everyone

4 Dec 2016
The Mingling of Water and Spirit

27 Nov 2016
Living Fully in the Present Moment

16 Oct 2016
Persistence and Justice

9 Oct 2016
Gratitude and Thankfulness

2 Oct 2016
Standing in the Tragic Gap

25 Sep 2016
Rich Man, Poor Man

4 Sep 2016
The Gift of Freedom

21 Aug 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

14 Aug 2016
We all need wise words to live by

31 Jul 2016
When Less is More

24 Jul 2016
Developing Healthy Relationships

17 Jul 2016
Died Wise

10 Jul 2016
Meeting Strangers on the Road

3 Jul 2016
On the Road Again

29 May 2016
Faith is the Answer

22 May 2016
The Way of Wisdom

15 May 2016
Icons and Stained Glass Windows – Inner light

8 May 2016
Unity and Oneness

1 May 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

24 Apr 2016
Lest we forget: What?

17 Apr 2016
God became human so that we could become divine!

3 Apr 2016
Thank God for St Thomas!

27 Mar 2016
Living life’s great contradictions

20 Mar 2016
Message of Peace

13 Mar 2016
Living Fully, Loving Wastefully

6 Mar 2016
Come Home, all is forgiven

28 Feb 2016
Simply, leave it alone

21 Feb 2016
Why do we “kill” our prophets?

7 Feb 2016
Keeping your Head in the Clouds

Sermons

Always Uniting…

25 June, 2017 40th Anniversary Uniting Church in Australia By Rev Dr Christopher Page

 

Introduction:
On June 22nd 1977 I was a student pastor at the Gailes Baptist Church. Gailes is an outer suburb west of Brisbane and named after the Gailes golf links in Ayrshire in Scotland. I was ordained at Gailes Baptist Church and then came to Melbourne in 1982 to be the assistant minister at Canterbury Baptist Church. As most will know I was a Baptist minister for over 30 years until I came to this congregation in Toorak. But before I tell you about why I moved from the Baptists to the Uniting Church let me go back to 1977.

Gailes, which if you know your Queensland geography is about halfway between Brisbane and Ipswich, is a suburb a bit like Werribee. In Gailes, well actually in Goodna the next suburb, there was a Union church. As many will know, Union churches were a kind of precursor to the Uniting Church. The Methodists, the Presbyterians and Congregationalists met together, each sharing aspects of each other’s traditions.

Our congregation had some joint activities with the Union church but by and large, we were separate congregations. I got to know the minister at the Union church quite well because he was also a student minister. He studied as I did at Queensland University and he went to the Presbyterian theological college; naturally I went to the Baptist college. When the Uniting Church was to be officially formed there was debate in this Union congregation as to whether the Presbyterians would stay, as now, Presbyterians, or become part of the Uniting Church of Australia.

For this outsider looking in, they seemed to have had a rather intense debate over this important issue. Well, when it ended, the Presbyterians decided to go with the Presbyterian Church of Australia and the remainder joined the new Uniting Church in Australia. But there was one problem and that was that the Presbyterians owned the building. So having worshipped together for over 30 years, the family split. The Presbyterians stayed and the new Uniting Church congregation built a new building just around the corner. I felt a sadness about that. Of course it was not my issue at the time. But even as a student minister at the age of 25, I was an ecumenical and I truly desired that the Christian church could find a way to express its unity.

Couldn’t the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth inform us and be our touchstone?

My appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, is that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in mind and thought. 1 Corinthians 1:10

Always Uniting…
Well, fast forward to 2010. I had been the minister at Doncaster East Baptist Church for 15 years and I have to be honest and say that I was very comfortable. But there was a nagging inner call that it was time to leave. I had had very good experience in Baptist churches. I was fortunate or rather strategic in being the minister of churches that had both open minds and open hearts. I know that Baptists can get a bad press at times for being either fundamentalist or doctrinarian. And while I am and was aware of such churches, that was not my experience.

I have told the story before but it is worth telling again. I was on a plane travelling from Melbourne to Canberra and the man next to me struck up a conversation. We were both enjoying the banter when he asked what I did for a job. Now I wondered whether it would get in the way if I just said a Baptist minister. Would he project on to me his idea of what a Baptist minister should be like? But I had to tell the truth, so I said, “I am a Baptist minister” and I immediately followed that with “Just like Tim Costello!” “Oh he’s a great guy,” said my fellow traveller.

Enough about the Baptists. I was drawn to the Uniting Church because it is seeking a way to be connected to society while at the same time rooted in three lifegiving traditions. It is probably obvious to anyone who has some knowledge of these things that I am a Congregationalist at heart. And as a minister in the UCA I am allowed to be that.

To this end the Uniting Church makes provision in its constitution for the following: (a) The Congregation is the embodiment in one place of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, worshipping, witnessing and serving as a fellowship of the Spirit in Christ. - The Basis of Union

For me the heart of faith emerges in the community of faith, is nurtured in that environment and then grows to embrace a broader view of faith and life. In my experience the Uniting Church encourages an openness toward new directions in faith and a willingness to experience new growth within one’s spiritual life.

But there are many struggles we face as the church in Australia today and of course this is not unique to the UCA. Australia has never been a particularly religious country. There developed in the early colony a distrust of clergy and the church. It didn’t help that the first clergyman in the colony was known as the “flogging parson.” Rev Samuel Marsden, preacher on Sunday and judge on Monday, dispensing justice and punishment. But I digress.

Those who have shared their personal experience of the Uniting Church this morning have said how it was; how it is and how it could be. At most levels what we offer in the Uniting Church in 2017 is no different from what other religious and faith groups offer. The most important thing is that we offer ourselves. But not just who we are but that we are on a journey. And that journey is sustained and nourished by our deep reflections on the Spirit of God, the scriptures; the life and teachings of Jesus; the struggles in human life and the planet we call home.

I have found in the Uniting Church a place where a holistic approach to human existence is encouraged. Body, Mind and Soul are to be ministered to and transformed by the church, empowered by the Spirit of God.

Finally my paraphrase of the last sentence in the Basis of Union, presented at the inauguration on June 22 1977:

The Uniting Church affirms that it belongs to the people of God on the way to a promised end. Our prayer is that, through the gift of the Spirit, God will direct our lives and bring us into deeper union with each other, and other Churches, and that our worship, witness and service to God will bring everlasting glory through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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