Monday, March 30, 2015


   A Uniting Church Closure of Ministry Service has a number of elements that seek to describe well the call that began a ministry in a particular place, the things hoped for and the symbols of what it might all be about. There are ways of articulating the early hopes and something of what has been achieved and a genuine sense of trying to name something of the journey. Then comes a 'handing back of those symbolic things, a letting go' of the responsibilities, words of confession seeking forgiveness and restored relationship are offered and invite reciprocation. Most often if kept simple, but worked on carefully, these words can do what they promise, which is remarkable really.
   It's no so much about the exact words because, believe me, it can still be verbose, empty or manipulative if those choices are made. I'm talking about the flow of what's attempted...
   I guess one reflection I had today was a wish that we didn't just have such clarity at the beginning and the end but also along the way. That's unfair, sometimes we do. If only people could regularly recall what they had promised and what they had asked... to be challenged, disturbed, called into mission. There are permissions given and hopes articulated. The movement of the service offers the opportunity to reflect on so many things from so many different standpoints.
   In my experience there's a commitment to straight talking and and an attempt to reflect not just the highlights and affirm the achievements but to name where things are at. There are moments that get close to this and sometimes moments that fall short. Sometimes I think the words that really ought to be said are just right there and aren't said... I can see an honest desire for 'space to be left' for people to have their own experience. Not everyone has enjoyed a positive relationship and for some it's been the most empowering few years for their own participation in the life of the church... how do words make room for everyone...
   A few pious words, reluctance to listen and a lack of willingness to be vulnerable 'stick out like a sore thumb.' I agree with the observation that "we ask a lot of our Ministers" in their participation and contribution to a Closure [though the planning is always a collaboration]. In the end my reflections about today are really my reflections about maybe 4 or 5 different such occasions. The contrasts are still on my mind tonight. The words and flow of what was being attempted worked and the leadership was considered and important. I will say that the preaching today was inspired, important and allowed 'the word' to be heard from it's time and place, it's context then and it's context now!! The Palm Sunday procession was a ridiculous protest and a choreographed challenge to power. It enacted a different set of values and showed the hard choices someone makes who offers leadership. It wasn't an easy thing to do.
   Anyhow, if I wrote this down tomorrow I might write something completely different. I'm not asking anyone to do or be anything, except maybe that I would remember my experience and my reflections for the future!! Of the four options I was today both sad and glad!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Earthhour 2015

It's that time of year again... we're encouraged to turn off our power for an hour to both raise awareness but also actually make a greenhouse saving!! Don't sit at home huddled for an hour...
Organise a party with lots of your mates and head to one persons house, turn on the lights, crank up the music, fire up the bbq BUT get everyone to turn off their non essential power for the whole time they are at the party...

Build community
Raise greater awareness
Save even more than an hour's worth!!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Idea #2 from Today's Newspapers Street Art Curated App

   I don't even know how it works but from the advertisement I assume the smartphone app guides you on walking tours of the signage, graffiti and street art with history or curiosity to recommend it, in the city of Sydney. Indeed art may not be the only topic here
   They are described as 'curated' walks, with no doubt pics, stories, background, history... it gets me thinking about public worship spaces and curated experiences even in church halls at times like Easter etc!! Here as well...

Idea #01 from Today's Newspapers

IKEA 'Hide and Seek'
   Inspired by a game of 'Hide and Seek' at a Belgium outlet, Facebook embraced the idea of similar at  IKEA's Store in Tempe, Sydney!! OnlyIKEA are not so impressed with a reported 30,000 willing participants!! Here's the story in the Sydney Morning Herald!!
  I love the simple fun of the idea, it could be done for a charity, for the Vanuata Cyclone Appeal or a local need!! There's no doubt it's the store's property but it raises interesting conversation around public and private spaces in our community.

Uniting Church NSW.ACT Synod Moderators Easter Message

Moderator's 2015 Easter Message from UCA Synod of NSW & ACT on Vimeo.
Here is this years Easter Message from the NSW.ACT Synod [stay tuned for Assembly Prez Andrew Dutney] This one has been released now as in many places it's burnt on DVD and shared....
Download the clip here for use on Easter Sunday!!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Simple Effective Games

I had a list of some simple short games for the recent Combined Youth Night. It was tricky because we rolled ten kids in and out of Laser Tag in the next room about every 7-10mins...

Here are the options I had on my list which didn't all get a run!!

Find a pair and sit opposite each other so you can have a conversation. Do that so person A is part of an inside circle facing out and person B is in an outside circle facing in. The LEADER suggests introducing names plus 1-2 other 'get to know you questions.' After a time of conversation, invite the inner or outer circle to move on a chosen number of people, then set the same o different questions, then repeat several times so the group meet and get to know a number of other new friends.

Bring a pack of playing cards [or more for larger groups] and have the group form a large circle facing the centre [or two lines at each end of the room]. Throw the cards across the floor and call a card for people to find and hand in on GO... Set safe rules according to your group and the space. Repeat often and stretch the game out by hiding a card without getting caught. More rough and tumble groups used to say 'get the card to your teams end of the room however you can.'

The LEADER is at one end of the room with all participants at the other. They place a 'treasure' object at their feet and turn around from the group for a few seconds to however long they choose. The participants try to sneak up and be first to grab the treasure. The LEADER spins around catches out anyone who is moving and sends them back to the start. So Participants are trying to 'freeze' before they get caught. Repeat and winner becomes LEADER in groups where they are capable of doing that well.

Everyone playing pair up and play 'paper, scissors, rock.' They make a fist and shake it saying "paper, scissors, rock" and on rock make a shape of one of those three. Paper covers rock, rock smashes scissors, scissors cut paper. The winner moves on to another winner for the next game, the losers go along and chant their name... then again until there are two players left with half the group cheering for each one.

We also played 'Can You Follow Directions' but it is a bit mean... You set up a sheet of instructions inviting you to write your name on the sheet, then to read every instruction before doing anything. Then you have a set of instructions about counting, underlining, writing on the back of the sheet etc and the final line invites you to only do the instruction about writing your name and then put your hand up and call out that you're finished. To redeem it own up to being mean and unfair but reminding people that being part of a group is often about listening and knowing what you're supposed to doing.

Two equal numbers teams line up together facing the leader. One team is CROWS and one is CRANES and the room wall or row of chairs is their 'home.' On the call of CROWS they run to home and CRANES chase trying to tip runners. Anyone tipped joins the other team. This can get down to everyone vs one person. Use the calls to even up and run longer. If you call cricket, crocodiles etc and people leave their line, they too have to swap teams. There doesn't need to be a winner unless one team is down to zero members.


Name Bop
Use a pillow for 'it' the centre of a circle of players on chairs. Pick one person who says their name and the name of someone else in the group, that person repeats their name and another [you can't pass it back]. 'It' starts in the centre but moves round trying to time it to hit someone on the head who has been named before they get both names out. Great name learning game.

Swap sides if
Form a circle with one person in the centre who says 'swap sides if... you're wearing red' and those who are must find another chair [including the person in the centre] and whoever missses out is in the centre for the next call.

Teams form circles with 5-6 people holding hands. One player is alone outside the circle and one person in the circle is nominated at 'tribute'. The lone player tries to 'tip' the tribute and without breaking hands the circle of players try to protect the 'tribute' from being tipped. Swap players in and out.

With a longer group time we could have made PAPER PLANES and throw them for distance

Is for sizeable groups where all but two participants line up in grid of lines as streets and lanes. Streets means hold arms out at your side and be close enough to touch hands with those in your line. lanes means swivel and hold hands out to your sides with those who were in front and behind you. Of the two players left one is 'it' being chased and the other is the 'chaser'. Neither can break through a street or lane and the Leader calls them to change from one to the other as the game goes on. If the chase takes too long call change and the chaser roles are reversed.

Set up rules around the playing space. Send one person to hide and the rest of the group to search. If you find the person, join them hiding without telling anyone... the more who hide the more obvious it becomes... see who long the last one or few take.

Send 3-6 people outside where they can't hear, telling them the group will 'make up a story' and when they come we see if they can work it out asking yes or no answer questions. The trick is you simply set a rule for answering by the group... ask a question starting with a vowel 'yes' or a consonant 'no.' See how long before it drives them nuts. Don't explain but send the others back out, make a new story and so on until you let them in on the secret. So it can work well with one person only and if they have a great imagination and don't work out something is up... eventually they will ask how you could get that complex story in the few minutes they were outside!!

Star Wars Fixed

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mission Worker Role at Newcastle University

ALS Bloopers

I hadn't seen 'some' of these before...

Finding Hope at Easter

It'd be great if these reflections started a broad conversation across the UCA in NSW.ACT or beyond...

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Elermore Vale Shopping Centre Action!!

   So apparently some criminal masterminds stole a hire company bobcat and smashed into and out of Elermore Vale Shops with two ATMs, making off with one... Check NBNs report here. It's the second time in a few years, looks like moving them around one corner inside was not the masterstroke it appeared to be at the time!!

All Age Worship Resources/Guide

This post will probably get a few updates in days/weeks ahead...

UCA Childrens Ministry NSW.ACT
UCA VicTas
UCA South Australia
Children Ministry Network
Music Academy Thought starters
More Thoughts from Lucy Moore
Mediacom South Australia Resources
Godly Play Resources
Spill the Beans UK
All Age Worship Lucy Moore
UK Fresh Expressions
Derby Diocesan Board of Education
Psephizo Blog
Facebook Tried and Tested
The Billabong
BRF Resources UK
From the Faith Formation Learning Exchange
Together to Celebrate
Holy Moly Resource with Clips
Proost UK
Pinterest Intergenerational worship
Pinterest All Age Worship
Institute of Church Leadership Thoughts
Intergenerational Faith Formation [John Roberto et al]
Fuller Institute Thoughts
Kids Friendly Ideas

"All Age" Worship at Merewether 15th March 2015

    In my spare moments this week in between hosting workshops, writing up notes and planning what's next I was able to get to some plans we made for Merewether this morning. I'm spending some time trying to help locals think through engagement of 'all ages' on the third Sunday morning of the month... I spent some time talking with the kids 2 weeks ago and the families have all worked on things that came to fruition today but which took time to shape and to know exactly what they would all bring to the day...
   This is never easy with a wide age range and some fairly traditional worship on the other Sundays. All age doesn't mean 'doing it for the kids' but it is important that it does change things. Those planning and leading have done good work on music, the space, ways for kids to do hands on drawing and activity and are open to ideas that might extend that. 
   I was involved today and will be again in June and in the interim we have a chance to talk and continue to expand imaginations... it has to be an experiment and it has to create a sense that everyone belongs and is included 'somewhere' in the worship. It does mean moving away from words a bit more [oh, and it's definitely NOT my strength with this age group of kids, but that's who we are so...]
I have some photos but it's difficult to show all we did with kids in photos!!
 The writer of John would have been aware of the connecting of Jesus death and resurrection but was far more interested in how Jesus being 'lifted up' was as an example of what it means to live in the light. 
Jesus ‘saving’ of us was the invitation to embrace the love of God. That’s what Jesus brings to light…              How does love bring life? What does it mean to be saved? 
What does living in the light look like? I wonder...

The point is we seem to get in a knot about 'what the gospel is', I'm right there with even the most conservative definition of that but asking the question 'how will the good news be heard/seen/thought about today, in today's context, by people not interested in any idea. doctrine, belief... so a focus on being part of a community living it out is the place to begin and finding how God is present and active beyond that community makes sure we are hearing God's call now and being transformed into the people God calls us to be today... mind you that was a few thought starters only with permission to wonder...

Look... here's what we did today and it was mostly good, the point was more that these 'kinds of things' can be done...

Worship Order Merewether 9am Sunday 15th March
Pre worship Handout LEGO pieces and A4 sheets to each

1. Opening Words
We are about to begin. This last two weeks and TODAY we have been experimenting.
This is not a concert, not a craft club, not a school. This is our worship.
Yet here we will sing, speak, listen, share stories, create and respond.

2. Call to Worship
Look at the Lego bricks you’ve been given
What do you see? A few sharp edges, a few bumps
They fit together, but have you ever trodden on one in bare feet?
They might be the building blocks of our lives
When you join them together you begin to build a shape
When you join those with others they begin to shape community
When you think of one thing to say thanks to God for they become our prayer
You’re invited to join your LEGO bricks with others to make a shape

Take time to be aware that God knows us, hears us and is with us…
One person might bring each LEGO shape down here on the carpet at the front

3. Song TiS 474 “Gather Us In” led by singers and musicians

4. Procession with “Happy’ Pharrell Williams + procession of symbols/objects
These will be at the back of the space to brought out to the table to set our space
Bible, Jug of Water, Candle, 2 or 3 Coloured Cloths, Storytelling Box, Newspaper

5. Prayer Activity Take What You Need/Leave What You Don’t [“Bad” instrumental 4min mp3]
There will be a frame or board with coloured paper naming things worth having, you take one or two of those and write what you’d like to leave behind on a blank sheet and leave it behind…
"Bad" cover from this album 

6. Welcome/Sharing Stories

7. Movie Collage “Light, Life, Love” here clips [3min]
8. Prayer of Humility 
Using the book "Sorry" with two voices

9. Song God V1.0 
led by singers and musicians
10. Video Clip 'Numa Numa Guy"  here, chosen as someone happy in life

11. Bible Reading John 3: 14-21

12. Story [Godly Play]
‘The Great Pearl’ Matthew 13: 45-46
‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

13. Response Time:
Reflection/Discussion + Drawing + Bible Reading + Photos + Chalkboard + ???
14. Song and Offering 
“Thankyou God for the Gift of Creation" led by the Girls
15. Announcements Local

16. Prayers for the World built as a Group
Newspaper, scissors, masking tape, glue stick, cardboard box, small world map, post it notes, black texta
Intergenerational groups will make the box into a symbol of your prayer…
Each group should end up with a box covered in newsprint
and world map with post it notes of prayers on it, for stacking at the front
Song “God of the Poor” mp3 here that we’ll listen to as we build/as our prayer…

17. Sending Out could include kids packing up symbols, but didn't

Friday, March 13, 2015

A 2013 reprint...

It's a bit dangerous to 'what if ?' in a blog entry with half formed thoughts or to think about how some things you'd 'what if ?' have been held up by being outside processes you could help with or would cajole you to act earlier too... anyhow... 
I have some strategising to do prior to the last week of November and this is a great way to process some thoughts because let's face it, who reads this stuff anyhow!! 
And my "Nobody Reads Your Stupid Tweets" t-shirt is very appropriate really...

In not the right order, in the UCA in the Hunter, if we continued a path of seeking to be 'missional,' what if ?
- we understood that to be participation in God's renewing and reconciling the whole of creation and sought to explore the implications of that by asking questions like: who do we want to be? what story do we want to tell? And how does our mix of gifts, abilities & passions suggest we'd be best placed to serve the 'hurts' and 'hopes' of our community with an outward focus ?
- we could convince people that Sunday worship was supposed to be an outcome of our activity not the sole focus that itself is a remnant from decades past? The societal change over the last 70-100 years find us in a time of transition which means the shape of church best suited to this 'mission' is up for grabs
- people of all ages chose to be church that focused on meeting young people in their community and created forms of church they need [or even if for folks their own age if not young people] e.g. St Laurence, Reading
- we knew several city based congregations cannot continue to offer a subtle variation on the same style of worship
- some of those same places collaborated in ministry and mission with children and young people and understood that the goal was/isn't and can never really be integrating them with existing Sunday congregations. At least five decades of rapid social change necessitate forms of worship that arise out of and reflect the culture and experience of younger generations
- Every ministry placement in the Hunter was made a Presbytery [regional placement] and ministry and mission fields for those agents was interpreted for a new scenario, not just geographic or financially based history
- Groups and activities in local congregations were mission focused and invited all ages to make their contribution 'shoulder to shoulder', choosing 2-3 key activities to develop 'legend status' on the community 'grapevine'
- our focus on Christ sought to understand his identity in our midst and so we taught faith seeking practices in context not faith content knowledge in abstract [not so much what we believe but how]
- we knew that this is genuinely a time for experiments where no change is permanent but might be worth a try
- we embraced David Bosch' notion creating flexible structures enabling us to move fast and to respond
- we sold some buildings and pooled the proceeds for some jointly envisaged projects across existing congregational areas but seeking to create new forms of church
- ministry with younger people was undertaken by congregational members alongside any paid ministry person
- Youth Groups formed around some agreed mission focus with young people whose socialising and worship grew from the projects they collaborated on

So now that's edit two....

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Believe" Mumford and Sons

"Believe" Mumford and Sons
You may call it in this evening
But you've only lost the night
Present all your pretty feelings
May they comfort you tonight
And I'm climbing over something
And I'm running through these walls

I don't even know if I believe
I don't even know if I believe
I don't even know if I believe
Everything you're trying to say to me

I had the strangest feeling
Your world's not what it seems
So tired of misconceiving
What else this could've been

I don't even know if I believe
I don't even know if I believe
I don't even know if I believe
Everything you're trying to say to me

So open up my eyes
Tell me I'm alive
This is never gonna go our way
If I'm gonna have to guess what's on your mind

Say something, say something
Something like you love me
Less you want to move away
From the noise of this place

I don't even know if I believe
I don't even know if I believe
I don't even know if I wanna believe
Everything you're trying to say to me

So open up my eyes
Tell me I'm alive
This is never gonna go our way
If I'm gonna have to guess what's on your mind

So open up my eyes
Tell me I'm alive
This is never gonna go our way

If I'm gonna have to guess what's on your mind

Monday, March 09, 2015

The Wayside Chapel 8.3.15

   Yesterday I went to 10am Worship at 'The Wayside Chapel' in Kings Cross. It's been on my 'to do' list for some years after sending young people there for a half day 'exposure trip' as part of our Synod Camps and after meeting, interviewing and hearing the story of founder Ted Noffs grandson, Matt Noffs [who started the 'Street University' and projects like Gideon Shoes]. I know 10am Sundays is perhaps the most low key part of the whole place but it's at the heart of it also...
   Our Synod 'ACOMP' which is a consultative team from across the state who try to match up placements and 'Ministers' with the gifts to serve in and lead them. I was on that when we explored the name of Graham Long to go to 'The Wayside Chapel' and I think Graham has been amazing as one who oversaw the $7 million redevelopment of an old run down building that today is a hive of activity [literally, in the rooftop garden] and who connects so well with people... those who access the services and help, those who want to support it and those needed to run it!!
   When Graham and I had exchanged some emails about the Camp 'exposure visits' which sent others also to Redfern/South Sydney, to hear from Big Issue sellers, on a city walk, to U-Care Lodges etc we emailed about whether I'd like to lead worship sometime at 'The Chapel' but I was a few months from heading back to focus on Newcastle/The Hunter and felt I'd need to spend some time with the Wayside's community to be able to offer something meaningful of a Sunday... at the very least to drop in once or twice. That invitation and the nagging feeling that [although a local youth program should engage with local community services and spaces] more group visits would be a great part of any leadership and social justice action program in future.
   It is a great little Chapel space with purple walls, graffiti decor, simple timber and plastic chairs, a table, data projector, CD player and a few simple symbols on the table. The glass doors slide back and include the cafe foyer but that also opens onto the sun deck outisde so locals can be connected and 'in the vicinity of' what's happening, but have their space. The regulars are in with an infant and an adult baptism in today's worship. I assume Communion might be shared every week as well as the older words of the Lord's Prayer. I also went because I just wanted to go somewhere I would learn something and that wasn't in my own work 'patch.' I make it sound like a project... it was actually a gnawing feeling in my Spirit that I wanted to respond to. I just said hello to Graham, made the connection with when we had emailed and let him get on with what he does!!
   It was a simple worship with deep symbolism spoken of in plain terms, the music reminded me of the Upper Hunter with recorded CD music to sing along... you know I feel at home when we don't need to stand up!!! The symbols of sand/the earth, oil and water were all used and each received a thoughtful message just for that family or person. What's in a name indeed?
   Graham spoke and wrestled with the Scripture story for the day of Jesus overturning the tables in the Temple and asked "can love get angry?" and shared some important illustrations for today! It reminded me of the simplicity that comes with genuine care, relationship and openness!! I was glad to have been there and valued my coffee and chat with a volunteer who leads a time with computers every Thursday as a space for people to 'just be' and it was all good!! I didn't stay for lunch but thought what a great idea that was [a $4 roast meal, most likely]

   I had maybe 2 hours in the city after 'Chur Burger' at Surry Hills wasn't open for lunch [knew I should have just walked to the top of the Cross and the US themed burger place or the Tropicana near Govinda's or gone to Bills in Crown St for breakfast fritters and the King Island Cream omelette]. A quick lager and some shopping in favourite haunts and I was on the road back home with other stuff to do... maybe MCA next time...
   It's great to have Sydney CBD back as a 'time off' hangout and not just the place I rush down to for lunch or to avoid hack work after 12 years based at 222 Pitt St... this was my regular train/car trip for years before Darling Harbour was all duty free or tourist shops, before the internet and before Mick Simmons Sports downsized... next stop, a visit to Nic and the mob at Balmain UC!!

This speaks about the rest of Graham Long's morning on Sunday!! here

Friday, March 06, 2015

Young People "It's not rocket science" !!!

Here's a 'work in progress':

  • Youth or adolescence is a not a 'mental illness', literally the bloke who made the term popular thought that...
  • Don't try to manipulate young people to be or do anything, they have good 'crap detectors'
  • 'Place sharing' is a way of thinking about building authentic relationships...being in that place, 'getting to know' others because that's who we are and just trying to live life
  • Share an invitation and practice radical hospitality in both words and actions
  • Listen seeking understanding
  • Leadership is about serving through your gifts
  • Seek to be a just and inclusive community who know they fail but try to be honest
  • Ask 'grounded questions' of yourself and others
  • Your call is to invite others to 'follow' Jesus
  • Ask 'How, if at all, will the good news be heard?'
  • Your experience and beliefs are not everyone's
  • Ideas, ethos, beliefs or doctrines are no substitute for a relationship seeking understanding with demonstrated action out of a genuine desire to live well
  • Young people have ability to 'make meaning' of big stories
  • Questions and doubt are what faith is all about
  • Do you understand what experiences, participation, stories/images and sense of connectedness people are seeking or might respond to?
  • Be contributors, collaborators and culture makers, not users or consumers
  • Times of change and common community transitions are worth marking and celebrating with young people
  • Living and sharing intentionally in community [with reflection and worship at it's heart] will help you discover Jesus identity
  • This is my tentative working list that needs practice, review. adaptation and not to take itself too seriously

A bunch of skeletons...

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Monday, March 02, 2015

"Before I Die... Wall"

When I first heard this idea I knew it would go global and you can read about it here
It's kind of a simple but meaningful and raw question inviting a genuine response but again, it's simple!! AND it's coming to Newcastle at Cooks Hill Gallery this week...

Churchy friends, please don't replicate it at your church building or on large boxes or sheets of cardboard at worship... instead, encourage people young and old to go to the wall outside the gallery and write a response... if you want to do it, get in touch with the organisers and/or seek collaborators in your local community and a shared space to offer this instant art opportunity!!

"Power and the Passion" Midnight Oil 1982 Capitol Theatre

   I wasn't yet a Midnight Oil fan when this legendary concert happened in Sydney, but I've been to many similarly charged shows, right from the first drum beat... if not before... as support acts leave the stage chastened by the increasingly loud chant of "Oooiiilllsss Oooiiilllsss!!" as the crowd anticipate losing a bucket of sweat and getting bruised feet dancing along in a packed venue...
   I think all three of these guitars are on display at Newcastle Museum until 10 May this year!! Not sure if this clip will roll onto the next as some of them do now on youtube but the whole concert is up there somewhere... filmed by David Bradbury for Radio 2JJJ [note Peter's exploding head t-shirt earlier in the show!! No band I've seen generates this kind of energy from song one and maintains it through a live gig...