Signs of Hope

“As we walk through the camp I notice how many people come up to Claire and talk with her. Many of them she knows by name and I notice how many of them reach out to touch her, as if to confirm she is real. I notice other Angels too.”


This is how Uniting Church Minister Rev. Bill Crews described what he saw at a makeshift camp in Calais, France for people seeking refuge. Claire, a young charity worker, an accountant by profession, came and stayed because she fell in love with the people in the camp. To them she was a sign of hope.

Matthew’s gospel account of Jesus’ birth declares: “They will call him Immanuel, which means, God with us.” This is the fulfillment of the promise of God in the Hebrew Scriptures: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

All around us God is at work in the world, walking with people, among us in our celebrations of life and in our suffering. Jesus is a sign of hope, and Christians are to be carriers of that hope, bearers of light and love. Like Claire we are called to be signs of hope to walk with, sit with, cry with, laugh with, work alongside and listen attentively to others in their times of need and of celebration.

I am both humbled and proud that many members of our Uniting Church are engaged in exactly this kind of ministry.

People like Rev. Joan Fisher who spent three months in East Jerusalem with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel. Joan says: “It was my privilege to accompany Palestinian people in their daily activities. They expressed their gratitude that their stories were being witnessed and would be shared.” It was a time of conflict and deep distress. Joan experienced personally in giving and in receiving, the reality of “God with us”. She was also a sign of hope for the Palestinian people she walked and lived with.

Rev. Gaby Kobrossi of Bankstown District Uniting Church recently met with people seeking refuge in Lebanon, from the conflict in Syria and Iraq. One woman he met who was from a Christian background had suffered great loss. Her husband and two sons had been killed. She told Gaby her faith had been strengthened. She experienced the reality of God with her, even in the midst of this seemingly unbearable tragedy. Christian organisations in Lebanon are the presence of God with refugees both Muslim and Christian from Iraq and Syria. They are tangibly the presence of God as they share the love of Jesus practically with those in need.

Children seeking refuge

Friends, we are all called to be signs of hope to walk with, sit with, cry with, laugh with, work alongside and listen attentively to one another in our times of need and of celebration. To be present for another is to be the presence of Jesus, Immanuel, a sign of hope, God who is present with us.

Sometimes the greatest gift you can give to another human being is to be present for them, in this we discover we are not abandoned or alone, rather we discover afresh we are truly loved.

Here at home, First Australians have invited us who have come more recently to walk with them, to listen attentively and for each of us to share our stories, our journey.

I stand with my Indigenous brothers and sisters in their struggle for recognition,  justice and treaty.

In the multicultural communities that enrich the Uniting Church we are cultivating what we call, a “space for grace”, making space for God and space for differing cultural understandings.

Especially at this time with so much conflict in our world, we must reach out to those who face hardship, illness, intolerance or abuse.

This Christmas and into the New Year let us be signs of God’s presence, signs of hope by walking with, talking with, listening and letting people know they are not isolated and alone and God loves them.

Let us be present for one another in such a way that there are no strangers, that all people would experience welcome and in this know they are valued and loved, for this is God’s grace in and through Jesus shared among us. Mägayamirri Rom.

Mägayamirri Rom means in the Yolŋu languages of North East Arnhem Land: “the way of peace, of harmony and tranquility be with you.” 


Live Selflessly and Bear Fruit

Five years ago at the opening worship for the Northern Synod of the Uniting Church in Australia meeting the theme declared was “Living in the Abundance of God”, from John 10:10. I said: “To live out of the abundance of God is to live selflessly, rather than to live for self and for our own gain”. As I reflect on this now it is interesting to me that over the past year I have been speaking and writing about a spirit of generosity as the Christ-like counter-cultural way of the people of God. Even in this day when the church is at the margins, this spirit of generosity will profoundly impact the wider community. Continue reading

Not a Life-Style Choice

World Kidney Day

We are part of the one body of Christ “If one member suffers we all suffer together with them” (1 Corinthians 12:26)

The burden of kidney disease among First Peoples in Australia is a very serious concern for our nation. The First People within the three states which are part of the Northern Synod of the Uniting Church in Australia suffer kidney failure at much higher rates than their sisters and brothers in other parts of the country. Continue reading

A Destiny Together


In 1Corinthians 12 there is a great passage where Paul speaks of our “unity in diversity” in the body of Christ. This unity in diversity is one of the first concepts I heard Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM my brother in law, mentor, and boss of 12 years, speak of. He has shared his contextual theological thinking on this theme for over 30 years now. Paul writes to the church in Corinth: “If one part of the body suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it”. Continue reading

Surprised by a Zulu

Ubuntu – I am because you are.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has spoken of this Bantu word. “We believe that a person is a person through another person, that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably with yours. When I dehumanise you, I inextricably dehumanise myself. The solitary human is a contradiction in terms and therefore you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own in belonging.” Continue reading