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Wednesday, 27 January 2016 21:52

Message from the General-Secretary

Sr Elizabeth Delaney SGSAt the beginning of each year many people make new resolutions. In doing so we often look back at what the previous year has brought us: joys, sufferings, celebrations, new relationships, losses, fulfilment and disappointments. Having looked back we can then face the coming year. Hopefully, we can look forward with commitment, enthusiasm, knowing that God is always with us.

The National Council of Churches in Australia is certainly looking forward with great optimism.  Much is happening.

The NCCA Triennial Forum will take place at Mary MacKillop Place in North Sydney, 24 -27 June: 2016. During these days we will remember the wonderful foundations on which we have built: people whose ecumenical commitment and endeavours have inspired many. We will rejoice in what we as NCCA have been able to achieve as well as what others have achieved ecumenically. We will renew our commitment to ecumenism in Australia: to pray with and for each member church; to grow in our understanding of our traditions and doctrines and through this come to appreciate what we do hold in common; to seek new ways of witnessing to our world to the Gospel of Jesus Christ through acting together. In short we will celebrate the gift of unity that God has given his church and commitment to making this gift more widely known and understood – both within our churches and to people of other or no faith.

This does not mean that we wait for the forum to pray, discern and act together. Much continues to happen to remind us of our mission as a council of churches.

During January, the Anglican primates met at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury. During these days, the primates addressed issues that are of concern to all our churches. The communiqué from the Primates’ Meeting, Walking Together in the Service of God in the World, may be read at here. Let us continue to hold the Anglican Communion in prayer.

During the past months and yet again in 2016 we have heard of so many situations where lack of understanding and respect for peoples of different faiths and races has resulted in violence – even being perpetrated in the name of religion.

The abduction of the Australian surgeon, Dr Ken Elliott and his wife, Jocelyn, kidnapped in Burkina Faso is one more such incident. This couple have lived the Gospel and served God in serving God’s people in what seems to have been the most difficult of situations for more than forty years.

The fact of so many violent actions perpetrated by so many different groups must urge us to prayer – and also to action. But what action?

As this issue of the Newsletter is released, the churches in the Northern Hemisphere has just celebrated the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Our NCCA Faith and Unity commission will provide resources for its celebration here in the Southern Hemisphere between Ascension and Pentecost. The theme for 2016 is ‘Called to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord’, and this resource might serve as a text for all our service as a council of churches in 2016. Each act of violence and dissension calls the Christian churches to witness together ‘to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord’, to witness to God’s love and mercy! Perhaps through seeking to be faithful to proclaiming these gifts of God as member churches we might find new ways of witnessing and acting together.

Another resource for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity comes from the WCC – a “Bible App” for smart phones. To find out more, visit here.

Let us pray especially for the peoples of Palestine and Israel. Let us pray that all - Jews, Christians, and Muslims - may uphold the God-given dignity of each person, their right to freedom of religion, their right to live in safety, their right to work, their right to live at peace. May peace come quickly on this land and its peoples!

In remembering, rejoicing and renewing in preparation and through the NCCA Triennial Forum we will proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord.

Just days ago, we have celebrated Australia Day. This annual event gives us an occasion to rejoice – but it also calls us as Churches to remember our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters.  We are called to listen carefully to them to hear their concerns and hopes for recognition by our nation.

During this time NCCA is discerning the way forward for National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission. We are consulting widely with the aim of together discerning an approach that will best support the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their mission.

In all this, may we remember, rejoice and renew, always proclaiming the mighty works of the Lord.

Sr Elizabeth Delaney SGS