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President's Reflection

Towards a more loving, forgiving and understanding culture

Late on Sunday evening after our National Day of Prayer on 24 August, I was asked to offer my reflections on the next steps.

I offered THREE reflections which I share here, with a little elaboration.

FIRSTLY, ON UNITY:

Obviously, our call is to deeper unity as disciples of Jesus. 

Our participation together in the National Days of Prayer reflects this call.  

The deepening unity that we see happening is ‘beyond our wildest dreams’. 

It truly is “exceedingly above all we could ask or think”.

The promptings of the Holy Spirit have been and are way out ahead of us. Disciples are responding faithfully to pray together because they see the need in this world of so much unhappy division and disunity. 

Because of the shared perceptions of need, we were able to organise the recent Prayer Day within 18 days.

This was possible because of the trusting friendships we have been encouraged to build and because of the leadership of our Indigenous elders.

As Warwick Marsh and James Condon shared in their insightful summation of the National Prayer Day, this was all made possible by God’s response to the faithful prayers of those who have come before us.

As they say, “We are always the result of someone else’s prayer. We are always standing on someone else’s shoulders”.

We can all pause and remember dear souls of prayerful faithfulness who may never have seen the fruitfulness of their prayers. I remember many too, including dear Fr Kevin and his Prayer Book full of requests for intercession, faithful in prayer in the hours before dawn: "Going into God, the world in his heart.” He and many others never lived to see this hour. 

Then there are those whose prayer for us and for our nation was barely known, perhaps never known.

Then, within our NCCA and State councils and local councils of churches, there are those who have organised, year after year, those ecumenical services around Australia during the ‘Week of Prayer for Christian Unity’. (Services we all may have organised whilst wondering whether anyone will come.)

We could elaborate but, having paused to be thankful, we know the journey still stretches out before us.

Sunday 24 August was a high point for me but our unity still has its fragility. 

The Church's mistakes have been many and we are constantly reminded of them in the media.

Most poignantly, we know many in need find it hard to ask for Jesus’ compassionate assistance, for Jesus’ mercy.

Why? Because of how they have been hurt by the Church or because they have not thought to ask because of negative publicity about the Church.

This is our reality.

A SECOND REFLECTION:

Accordingly, we continue our journey in humility. How could we be otherwise?

Our searching journey is to be like St Bartholomew, Apostle (Nathanael).

Jesus spoke of him admirably, as a person without guile, in whom there was no capacity for deceit. (John 1:45-51)

Hence, as we have also shared, we are encouraged to unclutter till there is no self-deceit or guile in us. 

We are encouraged to travel light and to love much. To let go of accretions and preconceptions, any old negative stereotypes that may impede our responsiveness to the Holy Spirit’s promptings.

For me, that is why our theme was so profound: the prayer of our hearts, “Jesus have mercy”. 

Praying’ Jesus have mercy’ simplifies and unifies our spiritual life. As in the Gospel stories of encounters, like that of Jesus and Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52, the prayer can express our necessities as well as our yearning for deeper divine communion.

The Jesus Prayer helps us enter sacred space wherever we are. We pray in Jesus holy name, trusting in Jesus' divine and compassionate presence.

A THIRD REFLECTION ON NEXT STEPS AND SOME PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS:

The next step on our journey is our further sharing towards a more loving, forgiving and understanding Australian culture.

The plan that is evolving from our prayers and discussions includes:

  1. Making the first week of February 2022 one with a National focus on Forgiveness and highlighting i4giveday in our Churches over the weekend of 5-6 February.
  2. Following this with Lenten Studies on this theme through March and April 2022. (Ash Wednesday is March 2 and Easter is on April 17 in many traditions.)

To elaborate, in discussions with the team of National Forgiveness Week last week, they are developing new resources for this first purpose. These include a website with ‘forgiveness’ stories and the filming of other 'forgiveness' stories.

The premise is a simple one - that stories cut through to both illuminate and inspire.

These resources can be shared through the NCCA churches as can be the praying that we know must underpin all our initiatives.

The National Forgiveness Week team have related plans, including for a network of “Houses of Prayer”.

They want their efforts to complement and support i4giveday and its brave and faith-filled founders, Leila and Danny Abdullah. 

Meanwhile too, as regards the second step, the 2022 Lenten Studies are being shaped by Felicity, Fr Hugh and John for us.

CONCLUSION 

In sum, patiently and carefully, we can see a plan evolving that, so far, “seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28).

We have enough light for the next steps, it seems to me.

Whilst it is fresh and whilst more elaboration might be needed, I wanted to share these reflections.

With my prayers,

Bishop Philip Huggins

NCCA President

 

Please download the following:

pdf I4give Sunday Call to Action for Christian Churches Final (125 KB)

pdf I4give Flyer (1.63 MB)

 

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