Moderator’s Letters

               

JULY 2022                  After Pentecost

MARCH 2022            God is Doing Something New

FEBRUARY 2022       Friendship

JANUARY 2022          Moderator’s New Year Letter

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AFTER PENTECOST                            July 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

There is a season on the Christian Lectionary Calendar that is called ‘After Pentecost’.  I like the sound of that.  It reminds me that we live in the time ‘after Pentecost’, which means we live in the times after the Holy Spirit came upon the early followers of Jesus and gave them greater courage and faith.  As ‘After Pentecost’ people, we can live with courage and faith too, because we know God’s Holy Spirit in our world and in our lives.  I often think of the Holy Spirit being like the wind that blows across the sky and across the land, bringing relief and also bringing power through windmills and wind turbines.

This year the ‘After Pentecost’ season runs from June the 12th, which was ‘Trinity Sunday’, through to ‘Christ the King’ or ‘Reign of Christ Sunday’ on the 20th of November.  It is the longest season of the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL).  The RCL is a list of readings for every Sunday of the year that goes for three years and then repeats again.  Each week it usually includes an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, a Gospel reading and a reading from one of the Letters of the first Century Church.  It is a good way to get a good overview of the Bible.  Millions of people around the world in many different Christian churches use the Revised Common Lectionary.  Most Uniting Churches use the RCL, but we don’t have to use it every week.  We have the freedom to be led by the Spirit about which Scriptures we will read and preach from.  After all, we are living in the times ‘after Pentecost’.

On Pentecost Sunday this year, on June 12th, there was a wonderful gathering in Pukatja, (Ernabella) in the APY Lands.  People gathered in fellowship at the Inma area in Pukatja and we worshipped with songs and scriptures, prayers and messages of encouragement.  People travelled from across the APY Lands, from Aputula (Finke), from Alice Springs, from Darwin, from Manayingkarirra in Arnhemland and from Adelaide.  During the celebrations of Pentecost, we commissioned some Pastors, being Jill Doolan as a Pastor based in Aputula and Yanima Bryant as a Pastor based in the Kalka area over near the WA border.  We also commissioned Ben and Emily Howland as Support Workers for the Ananguku Area Ministry.  Ben and Emily and their two little boys will live and work from two bases, one in Pukatja and one in Alice Springs, where they are well supported by the Alice Springs Uniting Church congregation. The Chairperson of the Northern Regional Council of Congress, Jamie Nyaningu, led the proceedings which were held in Pijantjatjara language and English.  It was a truly wonderful time and very fitting for a Pentecost celebration.

        

After Pentecost, we ran some Pastor training sessions in Pukatja and then Ben and I travelled west to spend some time sitting and listening to Anangu in Kalka, Pipalyatjara and Irrunytju.  Yanima and the extended family and community in Kalka offered a warm spirit of hospitality as they shared stories, hopes and prayers with us.  One beautiful day was spent with old man Fox and his family.  I will always treasure that day together, in the bush; and particularly when we sat side by side in the red earth, chatting, praying and laughing.  Mr Fox passed away a couple of weeks later.  He will be greatly missed.

Another wonderful celebration in the After Pentecost Season was the 45th Anniversary of the Uniting Church in Australia on the 22nd of June. A combined Uniting Church celebration was hosted by Casuarina Uniting Church on the evening of  Sun 26th June.  People from Darwin, Arnhemland and Alice Springs Uniting Church congregations joined together as well as some folk on the internet live-stream.  Songs, dances, items, scripture readings and a great supper were shared by all in a joyful celebration of our church.

The Spirit continues to move across the vast areas of the Northern Synod and in the lives of our people in so many ways.  One such way was the gathering at Gochan Jiny-jirra – Cadell homeland where 130 people were baptised and 8 ministry leaders were commissioned recently. Crosses in the ground across Arnhemland, on tables in Balanda churches and on hill tops in the desert communities attest to the desire of our people to identify themselves and their communities as ‘followers of the Christ’.

The Uniting Church itself is a movement of the Spirit.  In 1977 the Uniting Church in Australia was begun, not as another denomination, but as a movement of Christ-followers living in Australia and in 1985 the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) came into being. In 1994 a sacred covenant was established between the Uniting Church and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.  You can read the Statement at                             https://resources.uca.org.au/resources/covenanting/item/135-covenanting-statement-1994.

Our document ‘The Basis of Union’ sets out the agreements of our founding traditions (Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational) about what sort of church we wanted the Uniting Church to be.  It is an inspiring document to read, even today.  As we celebrate 45 years, we are also reflecting on what it means to be the Uniting Church. in the 2020s and beyond.  The National Assembly are inviting all members to think about who we are and how we would like to move forward into the future.  With that in mind there is a 5-part Study series available for small groups who might like to reflect on the Basis of Union and discuss ideas about the church. as we look forward.  It is called ‘Act 2 – Our Life Together’. It is available online at https://uniting.church/our-life-together-reflections-on-the-basis-of-union/

Let me encourage you to do this 5-part ‘reflection and discussion series’ and send some feedback to the National Uniting Church Assembly.  You will almost certainly find it interesting, challenging, and helpful.

It has been a full and wonderful time in the life of our Synod this year.  Yes, we have challenges and struggles, but we also have so much goodness and joy at the local level where faithful people worship God, support one another and continue to reach out into the wider community to support those who are struggling with life.  As ‘After Pentecost’ people we continue to seek the active, leading of God’s Holy Spirit in our daily lives.

I give thanks to God for our church and for all our people.

God bless you all.    Grace and Peace.     The best is yet to come,

Rev Tony Goodluck    (Nangarridj)

Moderator      Northern Synod      Uniting Church in Australia                                                  Mob: 0498 680 215      Email: tony.goodluck@ns.uca.org.au

Living on Larrakia land      Born on Jaitmatang land                                                                  Raised on JaitmatangWoiworunnMaarku and Larrakia land

 

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                                                                                                     MARCH 2022

GOD IS DOING SOMETHING NEW

We have a Peace Lily plant on our balcony.  Margie brought it home as a small plant about 4 years ago, I re-potted and fertilised it and it grew and grew and grew.  It gave us a beautiful flower; and a bit later another one; and then another one.  This big healthy plant looked like it was doing well . . . and then it just started to shrivel up and it eventually died.  I didn’t know what had happened.  I cut all the dead leaves off and just left a stump in the pot, thinking that maybe the roots might still be okay.  I really didn’t know.  I love plants, but I’m not much of a

gardener.  Over the next few months I squirted some water on the dead-looking stump each time I watered our other pot plants.  Nothing happened.  For about a year, , nothing.  And then about three weeks ago, wah, I saw a light green shoot coming out of the brown stump.  New life.  There are now some beautiful leaves and a couple of healthy new plants growing.  New life.  What joy!

As we come to the season of Lent, it is good to think about life and death; death and life.  Lent this year begins on Wed 2nd March (Ash Wednesday) and runs until Holy Saturday (April 16th), the day before Easter.  It is a time when we remember Jesus preparing for his ministry in the wilderness; and we think of
Jesus preparing to go to Jerusalem too, where things would get pretty bad and he would be crucified.  The season of Lent is a time when we can prepare our hearts and minds to receive the story of Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion and resurrection.   A time of preparation for the gift of New Life

Has anyone ever said to you that to make room for new things in your life you need to get rid of old things?  I remember hearing that a long time ago.  Hmmmm.

Some people are too busy and so they haven’t got time to listen to new ideas or to spend time with other people.  Some people have got too many clothes in their wardrobe.  Or maybe a big pile of clothes.  Too many.  There’s not room for new clothes.  I know some people who have got so many books that their book-shelves are full and there’s no room for any new books.

Of course, if we live simply and our wardrobes are only half full it’s not a problem.  But you and I both know that that only happens if we are disciplined in ‘getting rid’ of old things.

Giving something up or going without something is a discipline that some people do in the season of Lent.  It’s a way of getting our hearts and minds ready again for celebrating the gift of new life that is offered by Jesus; the new life that we celebrate at Easter.

Going without something reminds us of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us in his
crucifixion.

One person might go with-out chocolate for Lent.  Do you think you could do that? Or try going without red meat for Lent (easy for some).  What about going
without Facebook?  Maybe you could get rid of extra clothes or books or other things that are cluttering your life.  How about giving up (stopping) any hard words coming out of your mouth?  Going without something, giving something up, will help us to recognise and receive the gift of new life that Jesus has offered to each one of us.

The good news of the gospel is that God is making all things new.  But often our lives are so cluttered that there isn’t room for anything new.  No time, no space, no energy.

Giving up something for Lent will help us to see the newness that God is creating in our lives and in the world around us.  God is always doing something new.  New life and new opportunities are always close by.

What old things do you need to get rid of to make room for the new?

About 2600 years ago, way back then, the prophet Isaiah told the people that God said this:

I am doing something new! Now you will grow like a new plant. Surely you
know this is true. I will even make a road in the desert, and rivers will flow
through that dry land.
 20 The wild animals will thank me. The large animals and birds will honor me when I put water in the desert and make rivers
flow through that dry land. I will do this to give water to my chosen people. 21 I made them, and they will sing songs of
praise to me.[1]

Maybe there are some words for us there as well.  What do you think?

God is doing a new thing in the Northern Synod.  Let us drink of the water that God provides and let us sing songs of praise to God.

Grace and Peace.

The best is yet to come,

Rev Tony Goodluck

Nangarridj

Moderator Northern Synod

Uniting Church in Australia

Mob: 0498 680 215

Email: tony.goodluck@ns.uca.org.au

Living on Larrakia land.  Born on Jaitmatang land

Raised on JaitmatangWoiworunn, Maarku and Larrakia land


[1] Isaiah
43: 16-21 (Easy to Read Version)

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                                                                                                          FEBRUARY 2022

FRIENDSHIP

I enjoyed the Australian Open tennis this year.  I especially enjoyed watching Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios in the doubles.  Isn’t it great to see Nick having fun rather than being in trouble?  It seems he has learnt some respect for himself and others and still is able to hang onto that Aussie larrikin approach to the game he loves.  I suspect that his great mate Thanasi has had something to do with that too.

I found myself smiling as they won their first quarter-final set against sixth seeds, Putz and Venus.  Kyrgios was like a happy child in the playground and it was easy to imagine him and Kokkinakis as kids laughing and mucking around together.  They are still such good friends; and I think that’s what I enjoy so much about watching them play.  They really enjoy being together and just having a go.  Friendship is a grand and wonderful thing.

I found myself thinking of some of my childhood friends and the fun we had together;  my great friends Robert Shepherd, Kevin Edwards and Noel Moseley out on Croker Island in the 1960s.  What adventures we had climbing coconut trees, fishing in Nora’s Creek, paddling in dugout canoes and riding horses bareback.  I thought of my early teen years with Russell D’Arcy, and Stephen and David Thiele in Alawa Scouts, camping at Tumbling Waters and other great places.  Wonderful memories of childhood friendships.  There was one time when someone at Milner Primary school told me, “Me an’ Kenny Stagg, we’re gonna get you after school.”  I said that Kenny Stagg was my friend, so that fella might have to get me himself, if he was game.  There was comfort in knowing that Kenny was my friend, because it meant we knew that we would stick up for each other.  Friendship is wonderful, because when things are good you can just enjoy each other’s company and when things are bad you can count on each other for support.  I see both of those things when I watch Thanasi and Nick on the tennis court together.  Win or lose, their friendship shines through.

Who are your friends that you remember from years ago?

Who are your friends that you can count on today?

Who do you enjoy hanging out with?

What is it you do that makes you feel so happy?

Who do you know will be there for you when things get tough?

Who do you count as a good and trusted friend?

I recon that friendship is one of life’s great treasures.  Of course, I’m not talking about how many ‘friends’ you have on Facebook.  No, that’s just a game people play on social media.  You don’t need 763 friends or 2,806 friends, like some people have on Facebook.  If you have even just two or three really, good friends in real life, you can count each one a blessing.

Many years ago I was with my good friend, Rev Ken Sumner, and someone asked us, “Who do you say that Jesus is?”  It’s a great question and of course we think of Jesus asking his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” and “Who do you say that I am?”  Do you remember Peter’s answer to that question? It was a great answer.  You can read the story again in Mark chapter 8 verses 27 to 29.  Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”  Well, when Ken was asked, “Who do you say that Jesus is?”  he replied by saying that Jesus was his mate.  “If someone says something bad about him, I stick up for him.  And if someone does or says something bad about me, he sticks up for me, too.  Yeah, Jesus is my mate.”  That declaration of Jesus as his friend, continues to ring in my ears to this day, 25 years later.  I’m sure Ken was onto something.

The Gospel of John is quite different to the other three Gospels in the Bible.  The style of writing and the purpose of the story are different to the other three Gospels.  You probably have already noticed that.  In John’s gospel the question is “Who was Jesus?”  It is about his identity.  Who is he? This was the big question that the writer wanted us, the readers, to think about.  In amongst all the other clues about Jesus’ identity there is a wonderful part in chapter fifteen, where Jesus talks about being the true vine and his disciples being branches that bear much fruit.  He then talks about the love between God and him, the love Jesus has for his followers and the love we are to have for one another.  Then come these words (John 15: 14-17):

14 You are my friends if you do what I tell you to do. 15 I no longer call you servants, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. But now I call you friends, because I have told you everything that my Father told me.

16 “You did not choose me. I chose you. And I gave you this work: to go and produce fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you anything you ask for in my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

We are friends of Jesus and Jesus is our friend.

I recon my friend Ken Sumner was right.  Jesus is our mate.

Another childhood memory I have is that beautiful and timeless song, ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’.

If you know it, you might like to sing it . . .

What a friend we have in Jesus,  all our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.

Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?  Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;  Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;  Take it to the Lord in prayer.

–        Joseph Medicott Scriven (1855)

In the year ahead, with all the uncertainty and challenges, may you know that you have a friend in Jesus.  May you do the things he has taught us to do and may you bear good fruit.

May you also, be aware of the other friends you have in your life and give thanks to God for them.

Grace and Peace.

The best is yet to come,

Rev Tony Goodluck      (Nangarridj)

Moderator      Northern Synod      Uniting Church in Australia                                                  Mob: 0498 680 215      Email: tony.goodluck@ns.uca.org.au

Living on Larrakia land      Born on Jaitmatang land                                                                  Raised on JaitmatangWoiworunnMaarku and Larrakia land

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Moderator’s New Year Letter                                                                                                                . . for members of the Uniting Church in the Northern Synod      January 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Happy New Year.

The season of thunderstorms is well and truly upon us in the Top End.  Rolling thunder, flashing lightning and cyclonic winds remind us how powerful and mighty the elements are.  I have always loved thunderstorms from the time I was a small boy on Croker Island back in the 1960s.  At night-time I would often wake up lying in my upstairs bedroom, with thunder rumbling across the sky; lightning cracking and flashing through the louvre windows; and the sound of rain pelting down on the roof above.  I would lie there safe and dry under the cover of a single sheet and the canopy of the mossie net, refreshing breeze blowing through the window and the smell of clean, fresh air. I was in awe of the power in the storm.  At the same time, I felt safe in my home, with a roof over my head and my parents in the next room.

Storms and clouds make me think of how big our God is.  The God of thunderstorms; the God of sunrises and sunsets; the God of the moon and the stars, the sun and the sky; the God of oceans and tidal rivers, of vast plains and mountain ranges; the God of creation!!  So big and so mighty.  I am in awe of creation, and I am in awe of the Creator.

At Christmas time we are reminded that this mighty and powerful ‘God of all of creation’ is also the God of particular and personal relationships.  God is alive and present in our day-to-day activities, in love and grace and compassion.  The great life-giving message of Christmas is that God comes to us through the holy baby Jesus; that God is with us and for us in all things; that God cares about you (and every person) and that God knows you and loves you just as you are.  The birth, life and teachings of Jesus show us this great truth.  Once we recognise and accept this as a part of the narrative of our own lives, there is a deep joy and peace that carries us through whatever life might throw at us and gives us bright hope for the future.  At least, that is my experience.

As we head into 2022, there are still so many unknowns ahead of us.  CoVid variations continue to challenge our scientists and medical people and cause great uncertainty for travel and border crossings. We juggle the changing rules for social distancing and masks, for increased diligence with hygiene, for vaccination regimes and for the possibility of lock-down, isolation, quarantine or hospitalisation.  So much of this is beyond our control and many people are tired and maybe even irritable.

I hope and pray that you have been able to relax a little over the Christmas break; to unwind and enjoy time pondering the year past and thinking about the year to come.  I hope you were able to spend time with loved ones or at least to speak with them on the phone or via video-call, facetime, zoom or some such.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus travelled back to his hometown to spend time with his family and friends.  Dr Luke wrote down the story because he thought it was important. I think it is a great story for us to remember, as we think about who the baby in the manger really was.

16 Jesus travelled to Nazareth, the town where he grew up. On the Sabbath day he went to the synagogue as he always did. He stood up to read. 17 The book of Isaiah the prophet was given to him. He opened the book and found the place where this is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me.
    He has chosen me to tell good news to the poor.
He sent me to tell prisoners that they are free
    and to tell the blind that they can see again.
He sent me to free those who have been treated badly
19 
    and to announce that the time has come for the Lord to show his kindness.”

20 Jesus closed the book, gave it back to the helper, and sat down. As everyone in the synagogue watched him closely, 21 he began to speak to them. He said, “While you heard me reading these words just now, they were coming true!” 

(Luke 4: 16-20) Easy to Read Version © 2006 Bible League International

This is an important Scripture for the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.  The baby in the manger, became the man who proclaimed that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him and that he was called to tell good news to the poor, to set prisoners free, to restore sight, to end oppression and to tell the message of God’s love and kindness.  It is an important Scripture for all of us.  As followers of this man, we are called to do the same.  What difference do you think it will make to the year ahead if we take this seriously?  I pray that enough of us will take it seriously and allow it to guide our actions in 2022.

May 2022, be a good year for you and your family.  May the way we live and treat one another honour the Christ-child, whose birth we have just celebrated.  May you have the courage to run into the uncertain future knowing that the God who loves us is already there preparing the way.  Happy New Year.

I will finish with the words of a song from my teen years about running into the future.

Anngurrina Tuka   (Mawng – from 1970s)

Anngurrina tuka      Kanyaka anngurrina.                                                                                  Anngurrina tuka kinymalkpa muwarn.                                                                                    Anngurrina tuka      Kanyaka anngurrina.                                                                                    Arrarrkpi ja kingurrin kaningula kunak

(Run into the future run; run into the rising sun.                                                                                 The people who look to the future create the world of tomorrow.)

Grace and Peace.                                                                                                                                  The best is yet to come,

Rev Tony Goodluck      (Nangarridj)

Moderator      Northern Synod      Uniting Church in Australia                                                  Mob: 0498 680 215      Email: tony.goodluck@ns.uca.org.au

Living on Larrakia land      Born on Jaitmatang land                                                                  Raised on Jaitmatang, Woiworunn, Maarku and Larrakia land