Vale Suzanne Yanko
It is with sombre hearts that we dedicate this edition of Mark the Word to the memory of Suzanne who died on Saturday 19th March after succumbing to Parkinson’s disease.
Suzanne took up the role of editor with the Summer 2012 edition, bringing the publication online in the format with which we are now familiar.
What follows is the edition as Suzanne planned it – she dictated the editorial, chose the music and, shortly before being taken to hospital, approved the ordering of the contributions. This edition was truly edited by her!
We will miss her greatly – future editions will be the poorer without her guidance.
The Editorial Team
In Search of an Anthem
Last year’s Paralympics were a breath of fresh air even though at times it felt like a bleak world. As well as the events, there was colour – and music. I remember a group of young Americans having their Anthem played after they had won their event. They were standing with their hands over their hearts and turning their eyes heavenwards. Not a dry eye in the house!
I have a strange preoccupation with anthems, a fascination with La Marseillaise until my French was good enough to translate it, finding it was bloodthirsty in the extreme, not at all like it sounded when sung by Roberto Alagna.
Australians for a long time had to make do with a “National Anthem”, the British one. At least it was unoffensive when it came to enemies, but apart from being able to provide just one song, this had the effect of giving Britain credit for all the Olympic wins in the past.
But what would Australia choose in its place? First up, was Waltzing Matilda until somebody realised it was celebrating a sheep stealer! Then it was suggested “I still call Australia Home” (but that sounds like a commercial in the economy class of Qantas, which is what it eventually became!).
We ended up with “Advance Australia Fair”. Although this has the requisites for a good anthem: a robust tune and chordal base, it has failed to fire the public imagination. Perhaps this is because it keeps being amended; that we lost “sons” and then “young” also. “Girt by sea” will probably be next!
What Australia needs is something that expresses the “Australianness” of us all, something we can both warm to and embrace as truly ours. But what?
This summer the ABC celebrated its 90th birthday with “I am Australian” written by Bruce Woodley (one of the original Seekers) with Dobe Newton of the Bushwackers in 1987. The ABC made various versions of this song which is remarkable for its inclusivity and recently the ABC showed footage of the terrible floods in Queensland and NSW with Australians at their best assisting and risking everything, to the background of this powerful “anthem”.
For us now, watching this is a real hand-on-your-heart -and- with- eyes- turned- heavenward moment!
From the Minister
Having recently had occasion to go sifting through old sermon texts to find something, I was struck by how often the theme of MtE’s building woes, decision-making processes and likely futures popped up. The earliest reference to all this was about my third sermon at MtE, almost nine years ago. The scenario has shifted a little, but not the challenge itself:
“How do we weigh up [our future], how do we get it right?
…the very asking of the question in this way draws us back into the captivity from which God in Christ would save us: the anxiety that we have to get it right, in order for us ourselves to be OK, for us to be justified before God. This motivating fear manifests itself in worry, in anger, and then in division along ‘party lines’ not a little because we feel that our own justification is caught up in what is decided by the community. How can I associate myself with people who want to spend nearly four million dollars on bricks and mortar? Have they not heard the call: sell your possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow Jesus (Mark 10:21)? Or, how can I associate myself with people who would rather abandon such a marvellous sacrament to the presence of God in the world as a church building like ours can be? Have they not heard that we will always have the poor with us (John 12:8, Mark 14:7)? What will people think, what will God think, if we do not do what is ‘necessary’, if we don’t get the ‘formula’ right?
Whichever way we swing, all of this is to fall back into the idea that God will judge us according to what we do, rather than according to what Christ has done. But there is no theology of church budgets or mission strategies which will calculate for us what we need to do. What is important is not this or that particular decision, but the ethic according to which it is taken. Some hard decisions lie ahead of us, and we will doubtless have more than a little in the way of passionate debate. There is nothing wrong with that. Only, as we come out of our respective corners, God says to us: I want a good, clean fight. Any other way of struggling with each other puts the winning above the call we have in common to be the children of this God: free to love and to be loved regardless of how prodigal others, or we, have been with the good things God has given.”
I haven’t shifted much on this in the last nine years, and I have re-visited these themes many times.
Yet soon the sermon will change because a decision about our future has been taken. One of things we might find to be different after that decision is that we are looking now less at each other – trying to “fight clean” while we work out what everyone wants or can live with – and looking forward to whatever next thing we have chosen. Or, perhaps, we will look at each other differently – now not so much with concern as with mutual encouragement, anticipating together the best of what our chosen future seems to promise.
If we do expect that kind of shift of heart once we’ve decided, it would be sad – and positively unchristian – if we waited for the decision before our hearts are shifted. Christian faith takes its bearings from a promised future that exceeds our present and so changes the present in light of the future we anticipate. We begin to live as if the future were now.
This matters for us as we come to our decision. Over the next couple of months, the church council will be working hard towards what will be an invitation into a massive leap of faith. This faith is not in the destination – where we intend to land – but in the possibility and necessity of the leap itself.
It is God’s call that we step up to embrace whatever the future is. To do this is to bring it into our “now”. And so, not once we have decided but now is the time for mutual encouragement and anticipating together the best of what the future could be, and to approach what we will decide as simply the next thing in the life of the Congregation of Mark the Evangelist, where will we be together with each other and God. Which is what it will be.
News from Church Council
Comments, queries and suggestions are invited by the Church Council:
Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
The background to the invasion is complex for during the period of the Soviet Union, Ukraine was part of the Soviet Empire. Ukraine is a major Russian neighbour. Many Ukrainians especially in the east speak Russian and there are many family links between the countries. As well, though, since the end of the Cold War Ukraine’s independence has grown. Economic and cultural contacts with the European Union have evolved strongly. There has been talk of Ukraine applying to join the European Union, but no serious discussion of applying to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
Putin is responsible for the war. Professor of History at Melbourne University Mark Edele writes that the Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘sees himself as the current historical embodiment of the Russian state. … the object of his passion is the Russian empire’. (The Saturday Paper, 8 March) He believes that the democratic world is ‘out to get him’. He is paranoic, only close to a few others who also have secret service back-grounds, and he isolates himself, to avoid COVID-19. He has actively waged wars before in Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine in 2014 and in Syria without retribution. He has led the Russian national slide into authoritarianism. His delusions led him to expect Ukrainian opposition to a Russian ‘special military operation’ to quickly collapse.
Two results of Putin’s aggression have been to unite most Ukrainians in committed opposition to the invasion, and to unify the democratic world in opposition to Russia. Thus, he has chosen to feed his own fears.
How can this horrendous and globally dangerous conflict be addressed? Putin seems to care little about the slaughter for which he is responsible or about international opinion. On 3 March 141 UN Member States demanded at a Special Session of the General Assembly that Russia ‘immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.’ His failure to do this will lead to him being regarded as a criminal in most countries, because he could be charged with having committed the crime of aggression.
The only step available at present seems to be to continue attempts to find a compromise which would save his face in some way. As before the invasion, it would be possible to visualize Ukrainian neutrality, (like Austria’s after WW2), and undertaking not to join NATO, in return for complete Russian withdrawal. Such a negotiated compromise is crucial and if swift would enable the survival of thousands of Ukrainian citizens and soldiers, and of Russian troops.
Earlier attempts at dialogue and diplomacy were not sustained. UN Member States could encourage the Secretary-General to use his staff and his own authority to take daily steps to strengthen dialogue and propose continuing negotiation. On the morning this note is being finished there are reports through reliable sources ‘of progress towards a potential peace deal between Ukraine and Russia. The Financial Times reports that a 15-point plan includes a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops—if Ukraine declares neutrality and accepts limits on its armed forces.
Refugees’ proactive contribution to Australian Society
Negative Australian media and political discourse concerning humanitarian-background migrants (refugees/asylum seekers) has often portrayed them as a burden, cost or threat, and/or unable or unwilling to integrate into the broader Australian community. However, research has demonstrated the positive settlement of refugees. Humanitarian-background migrants contribute to and become part of local communities, they are more than economic contributors, they are involved in all aspects of life. One humanitarian-background group is the Hazara Afghan community who have been caught up again in the recent events with the Taliban’s re-emergence in power in Afghanistan. Over the last two centuries, the Hazara have experienced frequent persecution, marginalisation and disadvantage in Afghanistan. Afghan refugees have continued to constitute a significant refugee population since the 1980s, and in 2018 they were the second largest group by country of origin at 2.7 million (UNHCR 2019). One of the largest Hazara diaspora communities is in Australia.
The Hazara settlement in Australia has contributed to the social, cultural, and economic life of their local communities, as well as their own Hazara community. One example is the Hazara community in the Port Adelaide Enfield LGA in Adelaide, South Australia. For the most part the Hazara contribute in everyday ways, just like most of us do – they play in a local cricket or football team, shop in the local supermarket, work in all kinds of jobs, eat at a local restaurant, and send their kids to local schools. There are of course those who stand out in ways that are more recognisable or prominent; from the establishment of a successful multicultural soccer club (male/female), to Australian national martial arts champions (male/female), to the establishment of very successful restaurants and businesses.
Since their initial settlement in the early 2000s, the local Hazara business community has acquired the resources, capacity and skills to effectively negotiate with relevant government and non-government agencies. This challenges the narrative of refugees being a burden to society and being passive recipients of government support. Instead, the story of the local Hazara business community is much more a story of strength and agency, and a strong and self-sustained community. Hazara humanitarian migrants moving into and setting up businesses in the Port Adelaide Enfield Council area are a good example of the economic rejuvenation of deprived suburban areas.
Humanitarian-background migrants arrive in Australia with very little in terms of possessions ad traumatic life experiences. At the same time, they also arrive with many assets, abilities, knowledge and experiences to contribute to the communities they live in, and many proactively find ways to do so. The Hazaras community have demonstrated this in other ways than those described here – they are now standing for local government and state government elections, enlisting in the Australian army, and generously donating financially to the 2019/2020 bushfire relief (as Hazara communities did in other parts of Australia). These participatory practices emphasise the dynamic, engaged ways in which humanitarian-background migrants actively contribute to their local communities and demonstrate that they are givers and contributors, not merely recipients.
For more information see: https://refugeesrejuvenatingconnectingcommunities.lpage.com.au/
The Heart of Our Home
I’ve always been delighted with our ‘name’: ‘The Congregation of Mark the Evangelist’. We’re not ‘St Mark’s Church’ or ‘Curzon Street’, which have a smack of ownership and property about them; we appear to be attached principally to an Evangelist. We thus escape that prevalent confusion that ‘church’ means a building – and we have certainly lived by that! And ‘going to church’ means gathering with a congregation, with people of a considerable variety but common commitments.
The Basis of Union describes it like this: ‘The Congregation is the embodiment in one place of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, worshipping, witnessing and serving as a fellowship of the Spirit. Its members meet regularly to hear God’s Word, to celebrate the sacraments, to build each other up in love, to share in the wider responsibilities of the Church, and to serve the world.’ (Para. 15a).
Note the strong expression ‘the embodiment in one place’; pre-pandemic, few could have suggested this meant anything except the gathering of real bodies in a concrete place, from chapel to cathedral. Word, baptism and eucharist, fellowship and service are all placed in this communal, human reality, warts and all. Note also the gift and responsibility ‘to celebrate the sacraments’ correcting another common misleading phrase: ‘the celebrant of the baptism/eucharist/marriage/funeral was the Rev…’. Not so; in every case, the celebrant is the Congregation. The Congregation calls members with the appropriate spiritual gifts to ‘preside’ and act at such gatherings, equips them and recognizes their gifts by ordination or commissioning as required.
This is no mere semantic quibble. The whole Congregation is blessed by the Spirit in its variety of ministries (Ephes. 4:17f; and most epistles are addressed to congregations), but among them is the gift of discerning those gifts and drawing them out so that they serve their calling. That is one role of presbyters, deacons and other authorized ministers. A presider, like a good chairperson, does not do everything, but facilitates the company’s business.
Our Congregation does quite well: from the care of the building in which we worship, to the demands of hospitality, music, the skilled tasks of reading the scriptures and preparing intercessions; handing out service orders and taking up the collection, the pastoral care of our neighbour, cleaning up – and all else which builds up the body – seems to fall into place by a combination of volunteering and a well-placed request. I hope the Church Council will make sure that these tasks don’t become automatically the task of particular people so that some things are always done by an Elder or by a minister. There are few prayers which could not be led by a member, man, woman or child. Within the liturgy, I would like to see the presbyter sitting more – and seldom standing alone. The two elders at the Lord’s Table sometimes look like appendages: they ought to be seen as co-celebrants (which they are, representing the Congregation). This is better demonstrated by sitting ‘in the round’. And would it be ‘un-UCA’ for the whole congregation to lift their hands in prayer?
In this view of the royal priesthood of all the baptized (cf 1 Pet. 2:4-5, 9), there are implications, for the kind of building we may choose for our future liturgical home. Almost none of our inherited buildings will do, partly because they are set up for one principal activity – sitting to listen. In a book I wrote some years ago, I described the needs of six ‘spaces’ needed to enhance different ministries: for the Congregation, for the Service of the Word, for the Sacrament for Baptism, for the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, for Marriages and for Funerals. At Mark the Evangelist we have escaped the imprisonment of the pew, but we have not managed to agree on how we could ‘gather’ apart from facing the front as in a bus (driver facing us!). The principal symbols of the sacraments have both been pulled out of their original context and look foreign in our plain hall. Neither speaks adequately of its rich meaning. All these things must be enhanced wherever we choose to move, or our work and ministry will be diminished.
People often miss the fact that a building (certainly its interior) sets the tone and helps or hinders the activity before a single word or song is heard. We have valued the informality which our modest accommodation in Elm Street permits. What length of future do we imagine for ourselves? On that depends what we borrow or build with our resources. Has the Uniting Church ever really thought through what it means to be a ‘pilgrim people’?!
We might begin with a bare room with a flat floor, with a hollow-U or a circle in mind. Everyone needs to be able to see and hear the celebrants. We might imagine a table in the centre – square or round – accessible on all sides, a generous font accessible to all, an ambo (lectern) at which celebrants may stand for their ministry, an ordinary seat for the presider. Cross and Easter Candle will find their place, as seems right. It must be possible to make changes in the configuration, e.g., for a group of singers, or instrumentalists, or for small children. Examples of the liturgical furnishings may be seen in the CTM chapel, which is also a space in which the seats move as required. But it must be the Congregation’s space for worship; ‘dual use’ almost never helps such a project – the other use(s) will soon win.
This brings me to my last point: the essential link between worship and mission. (By ‘mission’ I do not mean the Hotham Mission, but any of love’s outworking in the world.) The Basis of Union makes it clear that these are the two keynotes of the Congregation’s calling. How are they connected? Do we hold a service of worship, shut the doors and only then get on with mission in the world? (Do we only need a building one day a week?) The two callings interpenetrate each other and are yet distinct; they must not be confused. They contribute to each other, for mission without worship is mere do-goodism – there is plenty of competition, and worship without mission is inward-looking and for the spiritual cognoscenti – those who enjoy that sort of thing. Christian faith is a very great deal more than that. It is part of the missio Dei, that Trinity of love who has claimed our whole being as a people, who equips us and sends us out, who walks ahead of us on the Way, and who calls us back to be refreshed and restored by Word and Sacrament – and sends us forth once more. It is like pilgrims pausing for rest and refreshment on their journey.
Or, the best image I know, it is like the relationship between the two phases of the heartbeat, the systole, when the heart contracts and the blood is sent through our system, and the diastole, when the heart relaxes and the blood returns through the lungs where it is re-oxygenated. In a healthy body, the two are in perfect relationship. If they stop, the body stops, and we die. The movements of worship and mission are the life cycle of the Church in its embodiment in the Congregation. We need a home to gather which in every way enables our full response to the love of God in Christ.
When he has summed up the Gospel, St Paul writes his ‘therefore’: ‘I appeal to you therefore, sisters and brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship’. (Romans 12:1)
 We misled ourselves when at union when we allowed the term ‘Minister of the Word’. It was too clever by half: the sophisticated knew that St Augustine, for instance, wrote of two forms of the Word: audible at the lectern, visible at the Table. We used to ordain people to ‘the ministry of Word and sacrament’ but the latter has thereby been diminished. Indeed, the inexorable democratization of everything in the Uniting Church has ignored gifts and talents, perhaps under a false interpretation of the ’priesthood of all believers’ which precisely does not mean that anybody can do everything. Presbyters (now an ecumenical title – used e.g., by the British Methodist Church) and deacons have always had distinct roles within the Congregation.
 Living Stones: Theological Guidelines for Uniting Church Worship Buildings, Uniting Church Synod of Victoria, Office of the General Secretary, Property and Insurance Services, © 1997.
 Storage for books and papers, pre-service gathering, accommodation of processions, musical leadership, décor and art, acoustical and other needs, greeting, hospitality, brides and coffins, and the removal of clutter also need careful attention.
 St Mary’s Anglican Church, for instance, a very beautiful building, would nonetheless require us to cope with furnishings perfect for Anglo-catholic liturgy, but not ours.
 I owe it to the late Swiss Reformed New Testament and liturgical scholar, Professor Jean-Jacques von Allmen whom I knew in his old age. See, for instance, his Worship: Its Theology and Practice, Oxford University press, 1965.
In the Whole Family
Here are two statements from the Basis of Union.
Paragraph 2: The Uniting Church lives and works within the faith and unity of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Paragraph 15 (a): The Congregation is the embodiment in one place of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
When put side by side these two affirmations mean that the whole Church exists in a great many embodiments, all connected.
We are one part of a world-wide communion of worshippers, each and all the Body of Christ.
The symbols expressing this truth are strong.
The baptismal font is universal. I like it when it is placed at the entrance, and it is best when it is open and contains water. Then I can dip my finger and touch my forehead and remember that I am baptised, one of millions of members of embodying congregations.
Ahead of me is the communion table. I liken this to the tomb from which the broken body of Christ emerges to feed the embodying congregation.
As I take my seat between the font and the table, I contemplate my journey from baptism to tomb.
I look around, and there are many wonderful people, all on the same journey, together an embodiment of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Behind the table stands the empty cross, empty because Christ has gone before me, and sits at the right hand of the Father. “Lift up your hearts. We lift them to the Lord.”
All this before a word is spoken or Donald plays a note. I am ready to hear the Word about to be read and proclaimed. I pray that we may all be one, as Christ and the Father are one, all participants in Word and Sacrament. Each Congregation is an embodiment in one place of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, one family, the whole family.
The Sitter in the Chair
“Ode to a brave, knowledgeable and excellent Editor”
Any and every one of us might enter a room,
Passion Sunday: April 10, The Passion of the Christ according to St Luke, 10am
Maundy Thursday: April 14, Tenebrae service, 7.30pm
Good Friday: April 15, 10am
Easter Vigil: Saturday April 16, 8pm
Easter Day: April 17, 10am.
Congregational AGM: May 1, following worship.
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