Report for Annual General Meeting (AGM) 2016 & Reflections on Jesus and Zacchaeus.

Rev’d Susanne Chambers

As I begin my report for our Annual meeting of 2016, I acknowledge the first people of this land, the Wurundjeri people with whom we share this sacred earth.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always give thanks to God for you…, because your faith is growing abundantly and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.

Very similar words were said by Paul, Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians and I have taken the liberty to paraphrase the opening of my report to you as we come together for our Annual General Meeting.

So much to be thankful for!

A very big thankyou to all who have reflected on their particular ministry this year and written reports for us.  I find it amazing that when I reviewed the year; so much has happened! I can get stuck in the here and now and forget what we have achieved together, what we have wrestled with together, and the changes that have been made.

Let me reflect with you some of my remembrances over the past year.

‘Our’ Kate, was ordained priest on the 28th November 2015; although I believe St Stephen’s and St Mary’s would say ‘their Kate’.  It was wonderful to have her come and preach and preside with us during the year and to wish her well as she enters the navy early next year.

December is always a busy time with the Advent services, our Remembering Together at Christmas service, the Maling Rd Kristkindl Nativity dress ups that we do with Highfield Uniting church, the Carols in the Park, the Children’s pageant and the Advent Carol service and of course the Christmas eve and day services!

I enjoy them all for different reasons.

Some are for community engagement like the Nativity dress ups and the Carols in the Park.

These occasions are ecumenical and we (the Canterbury Council of Churches) are trying to find ways to do more events together. Of course we have the breakfast once a year, the World Day of Prayer and the Good Friday Stations of the Cross over at Highfield Park and the Kids Hope mentoring program at Canterbury Primary school.  There has been mooted a combined churches concert on the 23rd March next year which will be a lot of fun! You will hear more about this in the near future.

Every Tuesday morning the ministers from Highfield Uniting, St Dominic’s and Balwyn Baptist get together to say morning prayer.  This is a very special half hour as we meet in each other’s churches to pray together. Everyone is welcome. The place and time is always in the pew sheet. I’ve placed a photo of us in the narthex, so you get to know some of our brothers and sisters from the local churches.

I would like to thank Rosemary Miller for being our rep on Canterbury Council of churches and if anyone would like to be involved or know more about the CCC please don’t hesitate to ask Rosemary or myself.

Going back to Christmas, I think about the children’s ministry. I am so grateful to the dedication of our Sunday school teachers. Particularly I’d like to mention Kesta Fleming and Anne Harding who have kept the life of the Sunday school going after Kate left. Anne Harding will be hanging up her children’s books after over 20 years of teaching Sunday school! A great commitment to the children and more will be said at the meeting.

The Parish Council has spent a lot of time praying, thinking, inviting guests to speak to us on children’s ministry, so that we can discern the way forward. The focus appeared to remain around the children’s talks and Sunday school. So it was a delight to find that our new office coordinator, Cassandra Hurley, could assist with the coordination of this important ministry.  We have been successful in gaining a grant of $500 for learning materials for next year’s program. This has been made possible from Cebs – The Anglican Boy’s Society (Melbourne) and we are most grateful!

As you would have read in the report, we began the ‘kids in service’ this year.  It is important that the children feel connected in our mostly ‘adult’ service at 10am and I do enjoy having them around the altar with me! This service is still a ‘work in progress’ as we discern the needs of the children.

The children’s ministry also includes the kindergarten children.  It is a joy when I go over there and also when they come over here to our Easter and Christmas services tailored just for them.  Last year, all the children brought a gift to put under the tree and they will be doing the same this year.

There are other ways we (kinder and parish) are looking at what events or occasions we can participate in together. The kinder executive and wardens have worked through some tough issues this year, reaching a common understanding of each other’s needs and I am pleased to say all is resolved.

Our youth group and young adults are in good hands, thanks to the great ministry of Kelly Murray. This ministry like many that happen here goes unnoticed, but it is very important to our young people.  Hamish and Bec have been terrific in looking after J2A and it has also been a benefit that our theological student, David Hewitson – Kerr has given a lead and good insight into the scriptures and daily living.

Our student, David has only been here a short time and it has been wonderful to have him with us and to nurture him as he leaves us next week to return to the Murray Diocese. I will say more next week.

We are fortunate to have a theological student joining us for a whole university year next year!  Her name is Roxanne Addley.  Her placement is for 12 hours a week and we have set aside $3000 for this placement in our budget.  I am particularly pleased to have a student and look forward to assisting her in her formation.

My role as Area Dean of Waverley, I find a rewarding ministry, as I pastorally care of the clergy in the deanery.  I meet with them monthly and as the new Vison and Directions for the diocese unfold, my role is to be the resource person for information, referrals etc. for clergy wellbeing.  For the last couple of years, we have held our breakup Christmas lunch here at St Pauls, and I’m most grateful to Margaret Irvine and friends organising a great meal! So much so that each year they want to come back!

Part way through this year we have had major changes in our ministry team.  Gillian Lamb resigned as our parish secretary and I want to acknowledge the commitment she gave to this role.  So many aspects of this role have been set up by Gillian e.g. the website, the poster boards, orders of service that has made the next persons job so much easier.

We welcomed Cassandra Hurley as our Office Coordinator on the 18th August and she has quickly grasped the nuances of our parish office! If you haven’t had a chance to meet Cassandra, pop into the office on a Thursday all day or Friday morning. She is delightful!

The other change of ministry leadership was David Lempriere-Laughton who was with us for 6months as our organist and Director of Music. It was very sad for us all that for personal reasons David decided to leave.

We then welcomed Lance Clarke who has been with us a short time and has shown his prowess in his musical abilities on organ, piano and recorder!  Unfortunately as the director of the choir this has not worked out and so Lance will stay on as our organist which I am very grateful.

From next Thursday we have a new director of the choir. His name is Trevor Henley who was the Director of Music at Camberwell Grammar School for many years.  Trevor has retired and is very pleased to come and assist our choir.

At the beginning of the year, parish council members and I went to Toolangi campsite to stay overnight.  We wanted to build our relationship with each other so we would work more effectively together.  Rev’d Libby Delbridge was our facilitator who helped us look at our spirit given gifts. As one member said as he reflected on our time together “I was very pleasantly surprised to find it was at a very comfortable cottage and cabins, set in a beautiful environment, with delicious lovingly prepared meals, an extraordinary facilitator and participants who were all actively engaged. I was also surprised how quickly we got straight to stuff that really matters: what people believe and what inspires them.”

We will be going again this coming year and staying two nights!

I do want to particularly thank the parish council members for their commitment and dedication to the mission and ministry of St Pauls. You are an awesome group of people to work with!

To Andrew and Ros who have held the position of warden the past few years, thank you.  It’s not an easy role, especially with all the implementation of the parish governance act, professional standards and safety and risk management as well as overseeing our finances.  I know you all appreciate that this is a voluntary position and has a great deal of responsibility, so keep them and parish council members in your prayers.  For me, wardens are my confidants and I have been grateful for their support.  Ros will be retiring from being a warden this year and I will say more at the meeting.

We are a vibrant community and I again thank you for the energy and commitment in so many areas of parish life!

Carl Jung wrote “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

Paul, writing to the church in Thessalonica, speaks a lot about faith but also endurance.  We have faced and are facing challenging times in the changing culture of Australia. So many in the boomers generation, don’t want to be committed to any institution, church included.

As a community of faith in the Anglican tradition, we at St Paul’s hold onto the three if not four aspects of Anglicanism: Tradition, Scripture, Reason and Experience. Within these parameters how do we listen to the generations of people who are spiritual beings, like you and me, searching and sometimes lost, like you and me, for them to come and see who this Jesus is who makes God more accessible.

We will never be the same as we were years ago, and I think we know that in our heart of hearts.  Yet, it is not numbers that I’m interested in, but assisting all of you (me included) and those on the edges in our community and beyond, to find first and foremost, identity in a loving God…not by race, gender, age or sexuality, but as children of God.

If you would look at the front cover of your pew sheet, you will see a painting by the Japanese artist, Soichi Watanabe. The artist shows the joy of Zacchaeus in the form of a yellow flower.

“Zacchaeus was trying to see Jesus, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him…When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today. So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.”

This story is about sight… (seeing) and often we don’t stop long enough to see anything properly really… which includes our families, friends and Jesus.

The commandments of love God, neighbour and self is about seeing.

To gaze, if you like into the eyes of Jesus can transform us if we are willing to stay in the gaze.

The painting by Soichi has faceless people so they can be you and me. Jesus and Zacchaeus are looking at each other, seeing each other.

The eyes are the windows of the soul, so Jesus looks straight to our souls with love and if and when we are able, we are transformed inside out!

So I encourage each of you, to keep enduring in the faith amidst the noises and distractions on the outside, so that as we take time to stop and gaze at Jesus the Christ, we will then be more like him.

For sure, there will be those who won’t see us as they didn’t see Jesus, but to keep the faith, and endure is our call today.

So in all our mission and ministry that we are doing here at St Pauls, we will continue with good hearts and keep persevering through the challenges that we face.

To quote Paul again, “To this end [I] will always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfil by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Lord be with you.