2022 is a year of opportunity.
As we emerge from the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought, we are in a wonderful position to live out Jesus’ call to abundant life! In Parishes all over the Diocese we will gather in-person once again and look for new ways to nourish and flourish together. There are a range of initiatives that the Ministry Development Team will present in the coming year, taking advantage of both being in-person, as well as the new ways of communicating that we have developed over the past two years with virtual gatherings. There will be times to gather together to focus on our roles as stewards of God’s Creation, including a day at the Ballarat Grammar Farm Campus, as well as times in our own Parishes to renew our support for each other.
The recently released Advent Bible Studies “Show me your ways O Lord” is a brilliant way for us to start the Church’s year, with a focus on the Psalms which, as Fr Mark outlines in the introduction: “have an important role to play for us all in our developing relationship with God, as individuals and as a community of Faith.”
Now is an exciting time for the Church, Australians have experienced what time spent without connection, without mutual support can be like, people have tried marathon sessions of streamed TV and distractions just to get through the challenges, and have found them to not be enough. We have emerged looking for meaning and connection – Jesus’ gift of abundant life is waiting for us all and now is the time to reach out and grab it!
For a deeper dive into the theme please read the “Bishop Writes” column in the recent Diocesan Chronicle (see below).
Please make contact with members of the Ministry Development Committee who are very keen to learn your ideas about how the Diocese can lead abundant lives in the coming year, this also gives us the opportunity to talk up all the initiatives that we are so excited about.
The Rev’d Robyn Shackell
Last week the toilet seat broke. It was one of those hard plastic seats that was perfectly matched to the colour of the tiles in the bathroom. “What else could go wrong,” I thought to myself. One of the things I have noticed about this COVID time is that even small setbacks, like the toilet seat , sometimes seem much more important than they really are. I think that the increase in “road rage” incidents is somehow another version of the same thing. During the seemingly endless lockdowns, and with daily news reports of alarming numbers of COVID deaths and further infections, we have somehow become a community on edge. Just beneath the surface of even the most serene people, there is a general level of anxiety which sometimes surfaces in anger, frustration or even plain old fear. These are all very natural responses to the extraordinary situation our world has been in for nearly two years now.
How should we Christians respond to this general sub cutaneous anxiety? People of faith face all the same questions, uncertainties and internal ambiguities as everyone else. Christian faith is not a vaccine against life’s changes or difficulties. At the heart of what sustains Christian living is a dynamic connection to Jesus who said “I came that they may have life, and and have it abundantly” (John 10:10) That great little paraphrase of the New Testament, The Message, puts Jesus teaching this way, “I came so that they may have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of”.
So what is the “abundance” of God, and the “abundant life” to which he calls us? In the middle of discussions about who and who isn’t welcome at church, based on vaccine status , and how we are to interpret the latest Medical Directives from our state government, how can we live lives that are “more and better than we ever dreamed of”?
Starting on 28th November this year I am going to preach my annual Advent sermon series on the theme of Abundant Living. I have a sense that emerging from the restrictions of the last two years is a great opportunity for us to remember the abundant life which Jesus offers the whole world as we discover anew that God’s plans for us are centred around abundance of life and opportunities. The Ministry Development Committee has determined to follow this theme of Abundant Living through all its workshops, training opportunities and suggested studies in 2022. This is not to suggest that 2022 will be an easy year or somehow more fulfilling than last year. Rather, I have a strong sense that the way forward for us as individuals, as congregations, as a diocese, and indeed, as part of the wider general community, is for us to realign our thinking, our seeing and our expectations away from survival and personal self preservation towards the way of abundance that is given to us in the person of Jesus Christ. When we tune our ears and our hearts towards experiencing abundant living for ourselves, we also embrace the necessity for that abundance to be part of our aspirations for every human being.
Sometimes in the past, our Church has responded to crises by focussing on the need to share and to care. However, I think that this “pastoral” approach to life speaks only to those who are in trouble or who need to be “fixed”. I don’t want us to abandon our pastoral nature, but we are called to proclaim something “more and better than we have ever dreamed of.” We are called to celebrate the rich diversity and mutual interdependence of our lives – to celebrate abundant living.
My hope then, is that in 2022 we will rediscover the abundance of life that God offers us in Jesus. That in serving and being more open to each other and to God, we might realign our hearts and minds away from survival or “scraping by”, and rather celebrate the God who longs that we may enjoy life in all its abundance.
+ Garry Weatherill
1800 377 842 [1800 DPS VIC].
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