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Reflection from the NCCA President 18 September 2019

National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) 9th Safer Churches Conference, Brisbane 2019:
Transforming (Churches) Cultures: Listening, Reflecting Acting 

Bpphx300Transforming our cultures requires profound attentiveness to each unique person, a love that is pure, without ego, and practical” commenced Bishop Philip Huggins. We are called to offer people hospitality, compassionate understanding, deep listening and hope for as long is needed.

There were two themes from the first day that Bishop Philip shared in his morning Gospel reflection on Day 2 of the Conference:

Brave and strong

“Like many of the people we have listened to yesterday, the haemorrhaging woman in our morning reading of Luke 8:43-48 is brave – reaching out to Jesus as she does.

Brave like the woman at the well in Samaria as Catherine reminded us yesterday.

Brave like the woman who entered a dangerous place, full of judging and harsh men, to anoint Jesus with a precious, aromatic perfume – the beautiful smell of which lingers in the air.

These women are brave and confident that with Jesus they are safe.

That is what we want and what God yearns to be true for the whole Church – the Body of Christ.

The disgrace vivid in the Royal Commission has meant that, as we have heard yesterday, ordinary people of quiet courage who needed a Church they can belong to safely, have not felt it is safe.

It is an unspeakable tragedy that the reality of, the publicity about child abuse, has meant many young people cannot find the spiritual home for which they yearn, consciously or unconsciously.

Nevertheless, in the Divine compassion, Jesus’ touch still reaches them and sometimes, miraculously. A dream, a conversation overheard, a book or film, the face of a faithful soul who gives them the courage to trust.

Deep listening

We learned much from our panel members:

Catherine referenced the Spirit and truth in which the woman at the well in Samaria listened to Jesus and He listened to her; Craig spoke of how the listening part of early recovery is vital – as the survivor (of child sexual abuse) starts trying to make sense of what has happened; Cathy described how quality listening is needed to help bring some coherence to a fragmented narrative of an abuse survivor.

I have listened to a lot of refugees these past years and heard the same yearning – for someone who will listen well. Ask open, not closed questions. “Do you mean?” “Are you saying?” Who doesn’t interrupt. Keeps confidences. Helps the narrative find coherence so that the next steps are clearer. However long it takes.

People who, in Ellen’s lovely phrase yesterday, “Abide with you.”

A deep, beautiful truth of Trinitarian theology: the ‘perichoresis’ of the Divine – is the abiding of the 3 in 1, one in 3. This is an ingredient for the Theology emerging, as Peter Sherlock envisaged.

Said Julie near the end of yesterday’s panel, regarding the direction for our work in the gathering of these insights: “we need to listen deeply into someone’s story.”

It is the Church’s role to ensure people are truly and deeply heard. We need the kind of rituals that help bring healing.”

For details of the  pdf 2019 Safer Churches Conference Program and speakers: CLICK HERE (6.08 MB)  

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