This is part of what Bob's message would have been from Sunday, before we had a guest speaker.
Some of you remember Rowena Harris who was in this congregation in 1987 with Rev Colin Baxter, and was ordained with me in 1988. She wrote from the High Country Patrol based on Omeo in Victoria, where she has served for 7 years:
I am well, happy, and it’s freezing cold. I continue to love what I do.
We have developed a major drought support project, raising money to do loads of activities to help our folk in this remote and isolated area. And what we are doing activity-wise seems useful. I go out delivering food hampers, doing pastoral visits at the same time,
and battling snow at some places. ..
Rowena talks about wearing Ugg boots all year round….
As a Bush Chaplain, Rowena works with the congregation in Omeo with its 10 members [and the Friday Bible study with 15, only 2 from church], with the majority of her time spent supporting the wider community. She visits families living in the more isolated parts of the region and takes on a meaningful role in the small communities of the region, providing encouragement, support and a genuine hand of friendship.
I have my own Facebook page and then Mountains has its own page.
Adventures? Driving in snow whiteout.... extremely poor visibility.
Counselling in fire-destroyed farms after families return to nothing.
Being forced off a road and into a creek, by a truck... thank goodness for 4 wheel drive.
Said 4 wheel drive falling off a cliff, when the road collapsed. Result... new car, broken leg, fancy rescue when car chained to a tree and top cut off.
Snow storm approaches... threatening sky Started out to one farm. Snow progressively deeper. Phoned farm. Was told to leave hamper in shed, as too much snow to drive up steep road.
Loads of photos of scenery on my FB page. Glorious scenery
I am Police chaplain and Senior shire coordinator... disaster ministry manager
Choirs chaplain in shire... I do sing in choir
Manage the Mountains Project however we have two teams... a congregational managing team. Plus a working team. This is ecumenical with some non-churched folk, from right across eastern part of shire.
So region AND church own it. Presbytery is most supportive. 2019 budget of $35 thousand, not sure of next year’s but hopefully more. Government grants and gifts from churches, schools, community groups and individuals. Two mottos.. Be kind. AND ... St Francis said “Preach the gospel continually. If necessary, use words”.
Farmers respond... tears, cups of tea, and acknowledging that they are not forgotten, that people still care.
We get lots of gifts in kind too, eg 300 bars of goat milk soap. During Easter season, we bought $800 of eggs. We gave $300 to Mallacoota Anglican-UCA church, my first patrol down here, and then my teams spent 3 weeks giving out eggs wherever they went. $800 of eggs made the manse smell over-poweringly of chocolate! But greatly appreciated. Many families couldn’t afford to buy eggs. Last week, given box of 100 beanies. That’s a huge amount of beanies!
Best story... a family decided to send a cheque to us. Parents wrote one, then kids wanted to help. 3 kids... 4, 8, 9. Live in a big city. Decided to have a lemonade stand. Parents said too young to have a stall outside so had it in kitchen. Sold drinks to family and neighbours. Raised $4.95. Dad wanted to add to it to make it respectable. Kids refused. Sent as was. Widow’s mite, anyone?
This is the second winter of no rain.
This weekend is our annual Singing Our Faith service where we sing songs & hymns which have special meaning to those that have nominated them. We couldn't sing all the songs/hymns that were nominated so thought we would share some more here.
And Did Those Feet in Ancient Times
One of Carol W's favourites. She said "the words written in the 17/18 hundreds say that God is wanted everywhere"
What verses would you add for today, here in Australia?
How Great is Our God
This is one chosen by Justin.
Here I Am Lord
This is what Jillian says about this song: "I first remember singing this song on a church camp in about 2001. It was about the time that we had just chartered our MOPS group. At that stage of my life, I really felt God calling me to be a volunteer for him. Singing that song, was my personal offering of myself to God, to be used to start our MOPS group & whatever else He called me to. Who knew when we started our MOPS group, where it would lead me? I still find the chorus very powerful, often getting my best ideas at night and will try to follow God as he leads me & will hold His people in my heart."
This is a song that Georgia taught to us earlier in the year because she likes singing this one at school.
This is one of Sarah's favourites.
There's a Light Upon the Mountains
Nominated by Lorna
To God be the Glory
Another of Lorna's favourites.
Do you have a favourite hymn or song?
This morning we sang hymns and songs that hold special meaning to those who chose them. We couldn't sing all the songs/hymns that were suggested, so we thought we would share a few more here.
One of Tricia's favourites. It can be sung with eyes closed as a prayer. Without accompaniment and repeated often, it is like an ancient chant.
This is also one of Jillian's favourites. She remembers singing it at NCYC 97 in Launceston, Tasmania. It is is extremely powerful & moving when it is being sung with about 2000 other people!
Another one of Tricia M's favourites. “Holy words, long preserved for our walk in this world is the first line of this song. It is so amazing that the ancient words of scripture still help us through our lives today. I love that the documents which ground our faith have been sung about for millennia and that people continue to write songs of praise, making them new and relevant for each generation."
Shout to the Lord
One of Bec's favourites which we sang last year: "This song was my choice for our wedding day, when I not only celebrated my love for Cam but to sing our praise to the Lord for this great gift and special day and all the blessings he had given us."
In Heavenly Love Abiding
One of Dell's favourites. "Nothing can hurt you - have the faith"
Be Strong & Courageous
One Kerry chose last year and Sienna chose this year.
Here is what Kerry says about it: "When Ebony was 3, she became very ill. Words like Leukaemia, Anaemia etc etc were being told to us. There was this feeling of absolute helplessness during this time. Even though I felt helpless, a deep dependence on God became very real. There’s a line in this song “do not fear the sickness”, that brings me to tears every time we do this in church. God does carry us and replaces our fear with an amazing peace that passes all understanding. We can’t avoid these situations but we can go through them being carried by God. I still am blown away for the love and support that this congregation gave to us during that time. Bless you all!"
Do you have a favourite hymn or song? We would love to hear what it is and why you like it.
Our Sunday School year begins, giving us the opportunity to learn more about the faith in God of our Bible heros. Past lessons have shown us that God (and Jesus) were there from the beginning.
With the creation story we did interesting science experiments –there are some budding scientists in our group. Our God is great.
The story of our hero David is always popular to act out as he defeats Goliath. The boys tested their stone (paper) throwing skills aiming at our giant (paper). God was with David and he is along side us.
We found the children had great acting skills as they retold the story of our heroine, Queen Esther. They learnt that God guided those who trusted Him.
With the lesson on Forgiveness, Jesus said to forgive 70 x 7. Our paper chain was very long but we still needed to x it by 7. That’s how many times we need to forgive. We wrote out things that we were sorry for and then we burnt them. They went up in smoke & we believed God forgives and forgets.
When we looked at Jesus’ words “What will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life”, we talked about how having lots of “things” doesn’t make us happy because we’re too busy loving what we have & want instead of being thankful for what we do have. We looked at being prepared to help others. I was surprised at the children’s knowledge of first aid. We’re in good hands. We made a small first aid kit to take home.
Treasure Hunt – After the children finding the mustard seeds, Yeast (in the bread we were about to bake), treasure box & pearls, we learnt how Jesus used these items to tell about the “Kingdom of God”. The children made a colourful cellophane sun catcher to remind them of Jesus’ message.
We look forward to another year of opening up treasures in God’s Word. Keep checking out our Bring It Home page here on this website for activities that will match what is happening in Church, Creche, Sunday School & Sunday Morning Youth.
Blessings, Carol Gegg
Wendy (like a few people) found it hard to pick just one song for Singing Our Faith Sunday. Here a few that she likes with youtube links so you can listen to them.
We would love to know about your favourite faith song & why it is your favourite? Please share in the comments.
Here I am Lord - by Dan Schutte
This song is based on words of Isaiah 6:8 and 1 Samuel 3. When Dan was a young Jesuit, studying theology his friend asked him to write a piece of music set to the text of Isaiah chapter 6 for an ordination ceremony only 3 days away. Dan was sick with the flu and didn’t know if he could compose anything suitable in that short time. Dan had always loved Isaiah 6 where God calls Isaiah to be his servant and messenger to the people and Isaiah responds with both hesitation and doubt, but also with a humble willingness to surrender to God. If it was going to work, it would have to be God's power and grace making it happen. He sat at his desk with a blank music score in front of me and asked God to be his strength. I love the way it is such a contrast between the person speaking and God speaking, as well the contrast with the natural components – sea/sky, dark and sin to light/bright, etc.
This song has always seemed to speak to me about how no matter who we are, we can give our lives to God to do as he wills.
Just let me say - by Geoff Bullock
This song reminds me of how much we are loved by our Lord and our Friend Jesus. When sometimes I don't feel I can even love myself, I know God still does regardless.
I love this song because it clearly emphasises both the Lord's power and his kindness, giving us a fuller image of him.
Jesus, what a beautiful name – by Darlene Zschech
Often we hear people swearing, using Jesus' name to express their frustration and anger. Yet, Jesus’ name is wonderful as He is the son of God who comes to save us.
To me this song expresses how much Jesus has done for us so clealry and blows me away.
How great thou art – is a Christian hymn based on a Swedish traditional melody and poem written by Carl Gustav Boberg (1859–1940) in Sweden in 1885. It was translated into English by British missionary Stuart K. Hine, who also added two original verses of his own composition.
This was one of my father’s favourites. I remember going on a bush walk on the Scenic Rim to the Best of All Lookout – as we came around a bend, the sunlight glistened in the mist and then parted to reveal a glorious view and this hymn came to me then. It was a very spiritual moment.
I Am Carried – by Geoff Bullock
The words to this song have spoken to me time after time. On those days when life seems too hard and I just want to give up, it’s so precious to know that God walks beside me, gently guiding and carries me in His arms, that He heals every spot and stain.
10,000 reasons - by Matt Redman
I often think of it in the mornings walking to work, seeing the sun come up.
This song reminds me of how wonderful and amazing God's creation is.
When people of my age (don't ask!) talk about their childhoods and their schooldays, there is an expectation that they will deliver a lecture with the theme: "Now in my day..." and tell you how tough it all was and how "the kids of today" don't know they're alive.
I don't quite see it that way. While I have very fond memories of a happy childhood and no recollection of serious problems at school, I do not see it totally through rose-coloured glasses. Some of it was good, some I would rather not have experienced.
I am realistic enough to admit that some of our modern creature comforts and advantages would have been welcome back then and I am pleased that my children and later generations were able to benefit from the advances and affluence of the last fifty years. I spent all of my school days, primary and secondary, in a country town on what is now the Sunshine Coast during the late nineteen forties and early fifties.
I walked a mile to school and a mile back, regardless of the weather. By the standards of those days, that wasn't really very far, although I walked it every day from the age of five until I was fifteen. I feel I should remind you, however that until I started High School, I, like all of the boys, went bare-footed every day. Even girls in less well-off families did not wear shoes - shoes were for Sundays and special occasions, such as class photographs (if you were in the front row!).
Only the well-off people in town and farmers had cars. A ride home from church was a luxury and a great thrill for us, especially when, like me, you were car-mad. Often it was standing in the back of a ute hanging on to the back of the cab or the fabric hood.
A real treat was when the summer rain came and the creek was over the town bridge. That meant we couldn't get to school. What a shame! That was rare, however and whatever the weather we had to trudge through the rain to school. It was typical that at just on three o'clock, a storm would break and of course I had no raincoat - it was either left behind at school or I had again ignored Mum's advice and not taken it to school at all.
A highlight of the walk home was a stop at the local fish shop for threepence (3 cents) worth of chips. In the later part of my time at school, there was a shop opposite the school where we could get a pie for sixpence (5 cents) if you had saved enough pocket money.
The primary school day, from around Grade 4, invariably began with a quick session of mental arithmetic around the class: "Neale, what is 235 plus 23?". Watch out if you didn't answer quickly. I don't remember ever having a teacher I didn't like. Perhaps I was a natural crawler! Of course, corporal punishment was the order of the day and you didn't dare get a mental arithmetic sum wrong, or write badly, or (Heaven forbid!) talk in class. Out came the ruler and it was a smack or two on the hand or across the knuckles. The ultimate was to be sent to the headmaster's office - that meant the cane across the hand or across the rear end. I refuse to say if I was ever on the receiving end or not and if so, certainly not what for!
We (my three brothers and two sisters and I) seem to have come out of it pretty well. Having caring parents and the influence of a strict Presbyterian upbringing leave their mark.
"Now in my day ......................."
Class photo 1951 - Neale is on the right, wearing a tie
In many countries Ephinany or Three Kings Day is celebrated on 6 January. Click here or here or here for information and to see how different countries celebrate. Part of the celebration is about the wiseman bringing gifts to Jesus.
This week we asked "What is one of the best gifts you have ever received?" Here are some of the answers:
"toy piano (when I was six)" - Robyn
"I’d love to say my children and they are up there in the top 5 - every unexpected gift I receive is fantastic I love the unexpectedness of gifts - my most recent was a card, not an email, a real posted card from a person I met at a conference. I loved the effort she put into getting it to me as she didn’t know my details, she looked up the address of the church and sent it here to say thanks for giving her a lift to the conference each day. The small things people do that make a difference." - Yvonne
"A memorable gift that I received was an Oroton handbag(when they were in fashion!) I was surprised at my husband’s good taste." - Daughter of the King
"Sienna's cupcakes cause they've got candy canes on top and I love them so I leave them for last." - Caeden
"love and friendship" - Bec
"One year a friend gave me colourful socks. She had noticed that I enjoyed wearing silly socks and gave me a pair. I still remember this because she had obviously put some thought into her gift." - Daughter of the King
"For my 40th Birthday Murray wrote 40 things I love about you in my card and the kids gave me 40 Reasons why we like you/Good things about you. - Jillian
From the above answers we can see that the time and thought put into the gift is important. The wisemen put thought into their gifts for Jesus: gold is associated with kings; frankincense is used in worship in the temple; and myrrh is a perfume put on dead bodies, a symbol that Jesus would suffer & die.
Not knowning how their answers were going to be used, this is how some people answered the question "What would you give to baby Jesus?":
"chocolate and chocolate cookies cause he holds us in his hands." - Caeden
"To Jesus I would give a sparkling star containing a bright light shining to the world to remind Jesus that He is the Light of the world." - Daughter of the King
"love" - Bec
"my love." - Robyn
"Myself. I would offer a life of service to him." - Daughter of the King
"Everyday is a gift to me and I would have to say giving or dedicating my day to Jesus is the best thing I could do in return. Sometimes that would mean that Jesus receives some crazy, hectic gifts from me but the most amazing thing is that they are all received with grace and love." - Yvonne
I've always liked the song The Little Drummer Boy. "I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,...". The Little Drummer boy gave what he could to Jesus and I think that we are asked to give Jesus what we can as well.
How can what you have; both material possessions as well as your gifts and talents be used as a gift for Jesus?
What would you give to Jesus?
Every year on Christmas Day we have a special breakfast which includes bacon and eggs, as well as birthday cake for Jesus. We put some candles on a cake and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. (Many years we have also had to sing Happy Birthday to Bluey as well!)
I think we started this tradition after we got the book "My Birthday, Jesus' Birthday" by Holly Davis. In the pictures of this book there is a birthday cake and the girl in the story is saying "Happy Birthday, Jesus!"
Several years our birthday cake for Jesus was just a bought chocolate muffin as there is already enough food on Christmas Day, anyhow. Now the cake is usually home made because of our food intolerances.
This is just one tradition we have started to help us remember why we celebrate Christmas.
What special traditions do you participate in on Christmas Day?
I have always been a bit of an oddball, an outlier if you will. Some of it's just personality, but I like to blame part of it on my somewhat fractured understanding of Australian culture. And for that of course, I attribute to spending my upper-primary years living in the Netherlands.
You don’t really notice most of the gaps unless you’re sitting with me to watch organised sport (why does cricket have so much jargon?), trying to excite me about bush poetry, or interest me in any history between Botany Bay and federation. But something that living overseas has given me, apart from an intense interest in international and local politics, is a fascination with foreign interpretation of This Most Joyous Time of the Year.
Although closely contested by the Japanese version of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer (a summary of which can be found here http://www.tofugu.com/2008/12/23/japanese-version-of-rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer-rudolph-gets-the-shafto/), the Christmas tradition that sticks most in my mind belongs to my old friends and host nation the Dutch. Strap in folks, because I am here to talk to you about Sinterklaas, aka “Dutch Santa”.
Sinterklaas was not exactly that Santa I’d known for the first eight years of my life. Sint is a skinny Turkish bishop, currently living in Spain, who leaves small presents in the shoes of children who had been good. Also instead of coal, Sint leaves bad children a bundle of switches with which parents are supposed to beat them with. Visiting nightly for a period of a few weeks- he arrives in the Netherlands by steamboat in late November- Sinterklaas then spends his Saint’s day either handing out a final, big present or packing the worst of the worst into burlap sacks to take back to Spain with him.
At least with his Zwarte Pieten (“Black Petes”) and roof-jumping witte paard (“white horse”), Sint retained the magical animal(s) and some suspiciously exploitative undertones shared by his English-speaking counterpart (the idea of the elves making toys while Santa sat idly never did sit well with me, and not to mention the therapy Rudolph is going to need after the years of emotional and verbal abuse that the jolly old man let go on unchecked).
One video which is a Christmas classic in my family is David Sedaris’ recitation of his essay Six To Eight Black Men, which details from an English-speaker’s (if American’s) perspective some of the more problematic elements to both the Sinterklaas and Santa narrative.
Despite the some uncomfortable questions surrounding the Petes (I too was fed the “just good friends” line) I have always preferred Sinterklaas over Santa. And all jokes aside, Sint is a lot closer than Santa to the actual Saint Nicholas, a religious scholar and bishop who was a signatory of the Nicene Creed, and who used his considerable inherited wealth to sneak gold coins in the shoes left out by needy children. Technically, he doesn’t even have a direct relationship with Christmas! (His saint’s day is December 5th) Instead I think we have adopted Saint Nick and his derivatives as symbols of Christmas because of what he represents: the love of God shown in the spirit of giving. And what great gift was there than that given on the first Christmas?
I feel like there is lot we Santa-lovers can learn from a man who dedicated his life to the church and the care of the less fortunate. So I encourage you all to spend some time these holidays contemplating the real Saint Nick, or at least his Dutch adaption, or even doing a little research. I think we all can benefit from using another culture’s take on the same figure to get a fresh perspective on the meaning of the holiday season.