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Message from the General Secretary

Sr Elizabeth Delaney sgs

Dear friends

Last week the National Council of Churches staff together with Act for Peace held its end of year function. This seemed extraordinarily early to me. You will notice that I did not say that we celebrated our Christmas party - because we had not even entered the church's season of Advent. It was certainly a reminder to me that the end of the year is fast approaching. It was significant for me also as I will be finishing my three-year term as General Secretary on 4 January and, sadly, I will be leaving NCCA.

So this is a time for me to look back on the past three years. It has been a very eventful three years. Following the work of the previous triennium we implemented a new Constitution. This has led to the governance of National Council of Churches in Australia being placed in a much better position, assuring that good governance practices are in place. During the past year Act for Peace has been incorporated - not only had this action been sought for quite a number of years, it was also seen to be necessary for good governance. When Act for Peace prepared for accreditation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the necessity of this action was judged essential.

Our commissions and networks are continuing: Faith and Unity meets in a face-to-face meeting for a day and a half twice a year. The Social Justice Network meets every second month. Before the end of the year they will have completed a project: What do the Churches say about peace-making? In meeting every second month The Safe Church Network planned a very successful conference in May Safe as Churches?8. The Eco Mission Network also meets - by Skype - every other month.

The Glenburnie Committee meets approximately four times a year to allocate grants and receive reports of their use. In the 2017 and 2018 financial year they distributed funds to three projects.

Many people who have attended NCCA Forums or have been members of the Executive will be aware of EAPPI - the Ecumenical accompaniment program in Palestine-Israel. EAPPI Now comes under the banner of Act for Peace; the reason for this is that Act for Peace has the expertise for planning, preparing and debriefing volunteers. Importantly, NCCA can be confident that EAPPI is in a better position to achieve its wonderful goals. Similarly the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, originally an initiative of the Social Justice Network, is now more directly accountable to Act for Peace. The advocacy work of ACRT, in particular, is consistent with the refugee work of Act for Peace.

You may note that I have not so far mentioned NATSIEC which should have first place. NATSIEC has not functioned so far. Our endeavours to progress this, so far have been unfruitful. This will certainly be a task for the next General Secretary.

The NCC Assembly, made up of two members of each of our churches, meets three times a year. The Assembly is meant to be an opportunity for being ecumenical - praying with and for each other, learning about and from each other, and planning action together.

The members of each of these bodies, NCCA Board, Act for Peace Board, Commissions and Networks, and the Assembly are volunteers: people who take on extra responsibilities in the name of their church, living and witnessing to their belief in the unity of the church. I am very conscious that some have taken on these responsibilities despite personal or family circumstances that have been challenging. I have been richly blessed by many people. I thank each one for all you have been and given to the ecumenical endeavour.

I also would like to include our staff. The national Council of Churches in Australia and Act for Peace are blessed in the people who work with and for us. Skillful, experienced, creative, committed, generous, dedicated... These are some of the word that I am able to use in describing them.

With all this, you will know why I am very sorry to leave the National Council of Churches in Australia. Despite my sorrow I am looking forward in hope.

2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the commencement of the Australian Council of Churches - the forerunner of NCCA. 2019 will mark the 25th anniversary of the start of the National Council of Churches in Australia.

My hope - and my prayer - is that our member churches will align to find ways to respond to Jesus and pray to his Father. May we continue to find new ways to give thanks for the unity that we share. May the Silver jubilee celebrations of the National Council of Churches in Australia be a time of renewed vision and energy for our churches as they progress towards visible unity

Sr Elizabeth Delaney sgs

General Secretary