by Moya Holle
As we meet here for worship, in this historic Church of St Paul's Burwood, we acknowledge that we are on the land of Wangal people of the Eora Nation. Our European history in this land is recent in the timescale of our country. For example, Anglicans have been worshipping in this lovely church, built from ancient sandstone for only one hundred and forty six years come this April.
It is good sometimes to stop and think about who we are: What has happened before us? Who are the people who have gone before us? Reflecting on the past helps us put ourselves into the perspective of where we are and who we are.>
Who are we? We are the people of God. Here, we are a small part of that whole company of God's people. But also we are in the company of people like Simon Peter, his brother Andrew and their working colleagues, James and his young brother John.
They were people of God, looking for the Messiah. They heard Jesus proclaiming the good news of God. Jesus is saying: 'The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.'
As St Paul's Church we are part of a vast Company of God's people.
This morning I am representing another part of that company of God's people; the Anglican Board of Mission, Australia (ABM). As the title indicates it is an Anglican organization, Australia-wide, whose mission is Mission. There is quite a history to this modern day organization. It goes back 168 years to 1850, pre-dating the building of this church.
Picture: Edwina Waddy
The Parish of St Paul's has had a close association with ABM from its early days. Some years ago, when researching St Paul's history, I came across a lot of interesting information, particularly in the Monthly Parish Papers. (Yes a Monthly Parish Paper was being published in those days.)In the March 1898 edition of the Monthly Paper, the Rector, Canon Bartlett wrote:
We are now to have an opportunity of learning much about this work, for the Bishop of New Guinea [Bishop Stone-Wigg] has most kindly consented to come to preach for us on Sunday March 20th at the morning service.
May we hope to see as many of our people as can possibly come on that morning. The offertory at the morning service will be in aid of the New Guinea Mission
In the same Monthly Paper, the Rector writes his special Letter 'to the Children of the Parish'. It is a lovely letter; here are a couple of excerpts.
My very dear Children,
You have made me very happy by attending so well the first of our Friday Services...
Remember to persevere all through Lent...
Now there is one last thing. You remember how last Lent you children collected a great deal of money (eleven pounds) to help us pay off all the debt on the church. Do you remember bringing your boxes on Easter Sunday? This Lent I am going to ask you all to collect for something else–The New Guinea Mission. The Bishop of New Guinea is coming and he has told me that they cannot get on with the work, as they want to do, because they haven't enough money. So I want you children to try to collect a really nice sum of money, during this Lent, that we may give it to the Bishop after Easter from the children of St Paul's Church If every child in the parish will give just a few pennies we shall have quite a large amount...
I am aware of something of the dedication of St Paul's parishioners: your generous reaching out to those in need in the community around you and doing amazing things to bring about the magnificent restoration of this beautiful building in which we are worshipping God, in the beauty of holiness.
I am, quite obviously, not Canon Bartlett, nor a Bishop from New Guinea, but I do make an appeal to St Paul's for your help in furthering God's Mission, through the work of ABM. God's Mission in this day and age is, of course, beyond Burwood and also far beyond Papua New Guinea. In 2018, the Anglican Board of Mission has Church Partnerships around the globe.
Back in 1850, and then in 1898, when Canon Bartlett made his appeal for the work of the Bishop in New Guinea, ABM saw its primary Mission as taking the Good News of Jesus Christ to: the Aboriginal people of this country; to the Pacific Islander people in Vanuata, Fiji and the Solomon Islands; and particularly to our near neighbour Papua New Guinea, which then was an Australian Territory.
Today when you read ABM'S 2018 Project Book you see ABM is supporting many more Projects in more Partner Churches. The 2018 Project Book gives us information about 31 Projects being undertaken by ABM in association with Partner Churches in Papua New Guinea; the Solomon Islands; Vanuatu; Kenya; Zambia; the Philippines; Myanmar (Burma); the Holy Land (in the Palestinian territory of the Gaza) and also here within Australia. These Projects range in cost from $10,000 to $142,000. Of the 31 Projects, 26 Projects have been ongoing over a number of years; 6 are new Projects which will be undertaken for the first time in 2018. Donations to 5 Projects attract Australian Aid from the Australian Government. 18 projects are Tax deductible; 13 are not as these are what might best be described as Gospel Projects, being ones where ABM is supporting church ministry.
Here at the Church of St Paul's, Burwood, we have always had before us a fantastic example of an amazing Missionary and Ambassador for Christ, whose conversion we celebrate on this Thursday, 25th January. First he was Saul, when he was certainly not a follower or a fan of Jesus the Nazarene; then he became the Convert, the adventurous, the dauntless and the tireless missionary. Here and now, in this place, he is both our Patron and Exemplar. The Gospel today (Mark 1: 14–20) features the perfect Exemplar, Jesus Christ. Here, Jesus is single minded in His focus on His Mission. He went straight to the point when recruiting disciples; 'Come follow me'.
This year, 2018, is in the age of the global village; of the internet; of i-cloud; of social media. Therefore, to know more about ABM you simply go to their Website, www.abmission.org, and you will find the 2018 project book there. Also you can become a friend of ABM on Facebook.
Although our lives are so very different to the people who sat in those pews 146 years ago, in the words of a hymn, 'We have a Gospel to Proclaim, good news for all throughout the earth.' (TIS 245). This Gospel is the same as that which Jesus preached as He walked around the shores of the Sea of Galilee. He recruited disciples whom He sent out to different villages, some friendly and some not so friendly, to pass on His message of the Good News of the Kingdom. We, in 2018, as Jesus' disciples, have been recruited and sent out from our comfort zone.
St Paul's Church, Burwood shows itself today as a truly compassionate and outreaching Christian community. My request is that, as you look beyond this truly beautiful sacred space and see our sisters and brothers in other places, you will find ways to walk in partnership with them. Relationships and Partnerships are essential in our personal lives, in our social lives and also in our Church lives. The ABM sees itself as both a resource centre and as a conduit through which you can find your special Partners. (I suppose not unlike those who get on the Internet to find a life partner!)
I hope you will ask your Wardens and Parish Councillors to investigate ways in which St Paul's Church can support one of ABM's Projects and enter into a Partnership with an ABM Partner Church.
In our Baptism we were brought into a special relationship with Jesus Christ and made a child of God. We are God's People. May we always continue to be the People of God. Amen.