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Message from the General Secretary

Sr Elizabeth Delaney SGS

I invite you to read and pray over the Easter Messages from Heads of our member Churches as well as other Christian leaders

During the past two weekends I have been present with two different groups of people who spent time on discernment. One person suggested that Jesus could have taken a different route from the one he took on Palm Sunday. He could have chosen not to enter Jerusalem. Had he done so, he could have escaped death. Another opined that Jesus’ own discernment on that day took him on an amazing path. His listening to God and being open to what he heard cost him dearly. Few of us find ourselves in situations where listening to God’s Spirit cost us so dearly, or cost us our lives. For we live in safety and security. How blessed are we!

As we approach the Triennial Forum, I invite us to think of the Journey of the NCCA. On the first day or so we will REMEMBER. There are so many wonderful people who have actively and enthusiastically heard Christ’s prayer, ‘May they all be one’, and have translated it into action.  In coming together the gifts of many have been needed. Last month I mentioned the Mantle of Unity that was brought into St Christopher’s Cathedral in Canberra for the inaugural meeting of the National Council of Churches in Australia. Since then, I heard of the death of Marlene Dunn, who assisted in making this wonderful symbol. A member of the Uniting Church in Australia, Marlene obviously used her many creative gifts not only in teaching, but also in designing works for a number of churches, including the Uniting Church at Kippax ACT and St Philips’s Anglican Church, O’Connor ACT.

At this time, as we approach the Forum I have written to the heads of member churches, asking them for the names of people who will represent their church at the Forum and for nominations for the various commissions and networks of the NCCA. There are a number of people who were present at that first forum in 1994 who are still actively involved in NCCA commissionsor Executive. Perhaps you are able to recognize people in this photo taken at that forum. 

As we remember, we REJOICE. We give thanks for the lives and gifts of many people – for their generosity and commitment. While we recognize the gifts of individuals and communities, we rejoice in the gifts of our churches.

The Fourth International Conference on Receptive Ecumenism will be held in Canberra 6 – 9 November 2017. Keynote speakers will be Professors Paul Murray (Durham UK) and Michael Welker (Heidelberg Germany). What a wonderful opportunity that this conference will provide. We are hopeful that at the Forum we will be able to sample the principles and practice of receptive ecumenism, at the heart of which is the practice of recognizing the different gifts with which God has blessed the various churches.

One of the great achievements of the NCCA has been Australian Churches Covenanting Together. First signed in 2004, new member churches have committed to one of more clauses. At the forum, we will celebrate an additional clause being signed by two of our existing member churches. How wonderful is this: the document is not just a document signed once and for all, but it is a living document. As the preamble to the document states, ‘Above all, any agreement between two or more churches will be a sign that we are being called into that unity of the Church, which is Christ’s future for the Church.’ Perhaps other member churches might look at this document and consider, is it possible for my church to make an additional commitment?

Having remembered and rejoiced, the Forum always provides an opportunity for us to RENEW. While we value the many people who have been engaged with NCCA in Forums, Commissions and Networks, we are hopeful that our member churches will consider including among their nominations and Forum registrations some new people. This is just one way of renewing NCCA.

Each of the Commissions and networks will come with recommendations for their work for the next triennium; the members of the forum will also discern future directions for these wonderful groups of people who generously bring their gifts, expertise and experience to further the work of the NCCA.

During the past year, a working group and the Executive have considered the future relationships and governance of NCCA. The draft of a new constitution for National Council of Churches in Australia Ltd has been forwarded to the heads of each of the churches. We expect to have the final draft forwarded within days and we will then receive responses from the churches. For most of us, National Council of Churches in Australia will look much the same as it has for the past twenty-one years: A forum will take place every three years; there will be a gathering of representatives of each of the churches three times per year (it will be called Assembly rather than Executive); commissions and networks will continue. The goal of the changes has been to safeguard the churches and to clarify responsibilities and accountability. This will be a timely renewal.

As you celebrate the Paschal triduum and the Resurrection of the Lord, may you know the wonderful gift that our Saviour has given. May you know great peace and joy.

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