Sunday Reflection: Anniversaries and Celebrations

This is the year of celebrations in my extended family.


Earlier this year we celebrated the 60thWedding anniversary of my parents, replete with cards from the Queen and the Governor General, and a sit-down lunch, for family and friends. There has been an 80thBirthday, we are yet to celebrate a 50th, and a 60thBirthday, we have the dedication of a great nephew to look forward to, and one marriage has been celebrated another is set for later this year. We also have an engagement recently announced though not yet formally celebrated. Yes, all the big life stage events are happening across the generations this year.

Like any extended family, we have had our ups and downs, our tragedies, our falling outs, our hurts and wounds inflicted on or by each other. But this year is celebration time, and we all need an excuse to party. We all need a truce time, we all need to put a smile on our face and we owe it to those we are honouring and those we are partying with to bring our best to the table, swallow our pride, extend the hand of forgiveness and create good memories.


The whole clan gathers from the youngest (great grandchild) to the eldest. And it is no different with many of the churches we all gather for the special occasions.


Yesterday was the anniversary of the Uniting Church in Australia,   an amalgamation of the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches in Australia to form a combined entity. Living out the idea of inclusivity, and bringing three faith traditions together 42 years ago. As a teenager, I witnessed this birth and it was not always smooth sailing. The decisions were made beyond and around me, and the fallout was at times bewildering to one still young. But 42 years later and this new church is still here and still as strong as any other faith organisation now in Australia. A country that was at the time Christian but now is not.


While abiding with the rules of union, each congregation has some autonomy, and each will mark the occasion in their own way. Many will conduct services today using the readings set for the Anniversary 1st reading: Deuteronomy 30:1-10, Psalm 100, 2nd Reading 1 Corinthians 3: 10-17, and Gospel Reading John 15:1-8 A great collection of readings to remind us that all things flow from God. Our liturgical colours are the same as Pentecost, red. So, the church can be quiet striking, when decked out for this Anniversary.


A few years ago, I got my best response to what our logo stands for. Though deep thought had gone into the design and significance of each element. I still love the image and reasoning of a child in my care who firmly stated that the best part of our logo was the smile, that it made it warm and welcoming. Sorry to those who worked hard at the beginning, but that explanation is my favourite and preferred.

If you took my advice on Pentecost to use the shape of the dove on the UCA logo as a Pentecost motif, now is the occasion to place that shape at the heart of the logo.

The Bible is full of celebrations, anniversaries and gatherings. Celebrations bring us together, give us shared history, continue old traditions or start new ones. They are intergenerational as generally all age levels come together and are catered for.


Teaching our Young

I am writing this in Canada, where my snow made family are enjoying the snow thanks to a prize my husband won from Mogul Travel.

As I am not currently allowed to ski, I snow shoe or wander my days away.

In fact I think I pray more on a skiing holiday, not just for my family though there is definitely a rise in requests for protection, but I pray for the people I encounter, I pray for the environment, I just enjoy long conversations with God about a whole heap of things that get pushed out of the way in the everyday.

But that’s not what is on my mind to write about today.

We have a room overlooking one of the ski runs and so from my vantage point I see the children being taught. Some are being taught by the snow school in small groups, the youngest starting out mostly on ski’s not boards. Most of the time the teacher/instructor is in the lead gauging out a path and showing the children where to turn. Others line the group up and ski down the hill a bit, then encourage each in turn to make their way down to the instructor/teachers side.Then there are the parents, usually with a single child in tow, some parents ski behind acting as a barricade, just fare enough away for independence but close enough to reach out in an emergency. Other parents ski with the child between their legs, showing them when to turn and giving comfort as well as guidance. Then there are the young boarders, usually in small groups, all encouraging and egging each other on. This group try new things, they are usually young or pre-teens, and I’ve noticed that when they spill or go down this group, eventually work their way back to their mate to check on them.

It also takes me back to when we first put our kids on ski’s, both were about 3, we taught them some basics, then had them skiing down little slopes or very big moguls, sometimes we were in front, sometimes we skied behind and other times we skied with them firmly wedges between our legs. We frequently went in for hot chocolates. And to warm up little fingers, toes and noses. But long before they were first on “planks” ski’s they had been up to Mt Hotham, where we ski in Australia, regularly since they were born. They were surrounded by other skiers, they heard the stories, knew the terms, One has the most beautiful technique, the other gives all she has got and every run is a race, against herself if no-one else.

I need to admit that we did better with teaching our children to ski than in establishing life long faith habits.

And this is what I really wanted to write about.

What if anything can we learn about teaching our young.

For one thing Christianity is not always caught it is taught, but teaching involves the everyday moments. It involves hearing the stories, being regular, listening to the enthusiasm of those involved in faith. Some might call this organic.

It involves finding the learning method that suits their age and stage. Erikson’s and Piaget’s theories point us in those directions.

They need space to practice on their own, Montessori’s theories support this observation.

They need to be shown different ways too. Our five learning methods show that we need a spread of different experiences to find our best learning style.

Studies are showing us that this new generation of youth want to be connected to the larger picture, not isolated as a seperate body of learners.

We need to practice our faith at home using multiple methods to help our children find their best faith expressions.

We need to stay connected to faith communities that can encourage us and them.

We need to live our faith, and show them how they can live theirs.

Yes there is a lot to learn from skiing!


Wendy Lewis

An Aussie Halloween

I watched a relatively new phenomena happen yesterday.

Halloween was being enacted in my suburban street. Migrants have bought knew ideas into Australia with each wave, so we have wonderful coffee, great afternoon teas, food from every nation readily available, as well as ideas and attitudes. But we are now experiencing Halloween, bought here by social media.

I noticed houses with decorations pop up on Wednesday morning as I drove to church for our usual Wednesday morning service.

Then about school finishing time I found groups of dressed up or partially dressed up school children, heading in and out of the houses.

Now our house was no exemption, and in fact we have been living this “tradition” since my eldest daughter asked for a Halloween Party when she was 9, egged on by her friends fuelled high on television. Yes she was born on the 31st of October, a date that had absolutely no relevance to me at the time, except as her birthday.

But 2 years ago, my youngest daughter noticed that there was a couple of kids, knocking at the door, and decided to leave out a bowl of lollies with a note asking them to help themselves, but leave some for others. Last year very little was taken.

This year, we replenished the bowl. Foot traffic was noticeable. Groups of children would   creep in and I overheard wonderful conversations, “How many should we take?”, that group chose 2 lollies each. Another group yelled “Thank You” as they left.

At dinner our family spoke about this new phenomenon, and I queried if as a Christian family we should engage in this practice. To which I was informed that it started as a community/neighbourhood meal where the village would gather before All saints day. It was, they said, about community and wasn’t that what faith is about?

As more and more people live secularly, it is interesting that we continue to look for community activities. What does the church have to offer our community? How do we outreach to a community that have rejected the need for faith in their lives. We offer playgroups, we rent out our spaces, we have soup kitchens or coffee shops. We stand along our neighbours, and encourage friendships, help, compassion etc. We live out our faith, sometimes that means questioning new practices and sometimes it means embracing them.


Wendy L.



What does a Quokka have to do with worship?

Please meet our QuokkaIMG_2629

a toy version of an Australian marsupial

You may well ask “what are you showing us that for?  then even ask ” But he belongs on the other side of the country anyway?” if you know a little something about Quokka’s and where I write from, Melbourne, Australia.

He is our latest attempt to satisfy Church Councils Outreach objectives.

I have been working with an amazing group of people, everyone blessed with a different skill set, but everyone focused on finding ways to engage the community in which we live. They are also unique in that they all implicitly have an understanding of spiritual formation.

My favourite book  on  Children’s Spirituality is one by Rebecca Nye ( Children’s Spirituality- What is it and Why it matters, 2000, Church house London). It explains why such a diverse bunch as our group could understand it so well, even when being blessed with very different skill sets. And though Nye differentiates Adult spirituality as being about particular experiences (p.7) and children’s as being more holistic (p.8), she does concede that they are connected in two ways, “first, a key task for adult spiritual maturity is to “become like a child” —–Secondly, children become adults and so carry forward their spiritual formation.(p.11). Speaking for my self I would be honoured if you think I’m spiritually “Childish”.

So though Methodism started with an outreach to the worker, we, in what could be defined as an “affluent suburb”, saw our mission as reengaging the community with the idea of worship. The thing that is missing from their lives.

Don’t get me wrong we do participate in some traditional forms of mission. But we have a steady stream of community who use our facilities everyday for everything other than the purpose they were built for, too worship.

Now I don’t think Quokka, chosen because he is Australia’s most photogenic marsupial, after a few alternative suggestions, can do that on his own.

We have employed him to hold signs up around the sanctuary during the week to educate anyone curious about what happens in that space.

Here is our Minister in one of the signs In Church Pulpit, I have his permission to use this one (that’s trust!). We have used simple words and a picture of the area of the church in use, so that all may understand.

We have also used the signs to make a book.

We have created a families worship space at the front of the church, IMG_2619IMG_2619and are creating a children’s activity space in the foyer, where caregivers who feel that they need to leave the service can go, and where our youngest visitors during the week will always be welcome to read, play or rest.

Many of our parishioners, take the time to smile or say hello to those that use our facilities, we have a new website, multimedia slide presentations. We have a fountain made for an anniversary by the children of the congregation that attracts all visitors.

We don’t have a child and family minister, ( just an ex one).

We are still a missional church our outreach audience and methods are a little different, that’s all. But hey, wasn’t Jesus, a little different too, and encouraging of the children in the communities he preached! We hope that we have followed in that.

So what is your mission, and how does that include children’s spirituality.


Wendy L.

Are we abusing the senior church members by not being intergenerational?

I had a stimulating discussion last week, with someone who has done much to advance the cause of Child and Family Ministry in Australia. During  that conversation, what has, to me, become a very common question with respect to anything to do with children in the church came up and that is the question about whether the concept/practice is abusive to the children? We were, on this occasion, discussing the issue of children in worship. Many people have written about this issue, either academically or within the blogging community so there are a few views out there, on both sides of the fence. Now I could dive in and add to the body of work. But I started to think differently about this issue. Are we abusing the senior church members by not being intergenerational?

These are some of the things that came quickly to mind.

What we have learnt about the ageing brain is that if we don’t use it we lose it, we need to stay engaged and we will not continue to grow our mind by doing the same things. Change and challenge is an essential part of maintaining brain health in the elderly. When we change our worship processes we are staying engaged, our minds are being stimulated.

As a teacher, I learnt about multiple intelligences. In a traditional worship service, we may not be engaging all of our ways of learning, thus by introducing different ways of learning into the worship experience we are opening our seniors up to stimulation and change. This may not be happening in other areas of their lives.

In an intergenerational environment, everyones experience can inspire others and it is an environment that encourages the senior to share their experience and to be valued for whom they are. Their more complex life stories can encourage and inspire others.

One of the experiences I valued most was the smile that would cross an elderly wheelchair bound member of our community, when the children were moved to the front of the church and she could see them. She had no children or grandchildren, and during worship was the only time that her life was filled by the wonders of children.

The Australian Human rights Commission, states that

There are certain human rights and freedoms that are particularly relevant to older people, including the right to:

• an adequate standard of living including access to adequate food, clothing and housing• the highest possible standard of physical and mental health
• work and fair working conditions
• be safe and free from violence

• be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment

• privacy
• family life.

Click to access HRA_older.pdf


At church we often feed body and soul,

Our elderly often “work” alongside others

we need to work for a safe environment for all

as a Child of God, they are participating in God’s family.

Thus church is a place where these human rights can be experienced, an Intergenerational experience at church is one that deepens these opportunities, and allows opportunity to grow, or at best maintain brain function.

To abuse is to not allow the senior to experience their rights. Rather than placing them on the outer, an Intergenerational approach seeks to engage all, value everyone, and experience worship in a multi intelligent format.

Now over to you


Wendy L.


As it is naidoc week I should put a post on inclusiveness or the best Aboriginal faith sites I am aware of, something! But I’m choosing not to write anything, because my voice is truely unworthy during such a significant week.

I will say that I appreciate the strength of stories, my faith stories have great power, they are an important intergenerational teaching tool. It is one of the premises behind the Tuesday posts on engaging the 3’s and under in the RCL readings. For the same reasons  the stories of our first nation people, those they choose to share as well as the ones that they especially keep for themselves, have power. It is our loss if we fail to listen to these stories, both those over time, and the newer stories.

What I do feel lead to share this week is my thoughts on community, stories are a part of that, but so is song. This is where I really should begin. After a day of flights, it was another airport and another half day, at least till I was near home. I had gone through another security point, and I was feeling tense, when I heard a young women’s voice, with unmistakable Aussie accent, I looked around and there was a Mum singing to her preschooler. The smile immediately went back on my face, and I hope she saw it, and interpreted it favourably. I noticed that people ahead of me in my queue must have also heard it, as the general body language appeared to change. This Mum was creating a shared response, a feeling of community.

To me it was a typical playgroup moment. I wondered if they had learnt the song at a playgroup, christian or otherwise. It started me thinking of the very important place our playgroups have in creating community. Often a Child and Family ministry requires a playgroup, often it is seen as outreach or church building, and it definitely has that role, but often when measured against that role it fails. Very few playgroups flow through to increased church numbers. Though some congregations have found the “formulae” that makes it work. But what if we are measuring their success inadequately? What if the value they add is community, and the creation of the community beyond the church fence is the outcome. Does the presence of the playgroup add goodwill from our neighbours to us?

These were some of my thoughts as I whittled away the hours til I was home. My favourite place in the world. But for a moment I felt “home” in a strange country, for a moment by the familiar sound of an accent singing, and like that child I was transported to a feeling of security by a song, and I felt a part of a broader community, not alienated in it.


Wendy L