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Vicar's Musings for Ordinary Sunday 23

9 September, 2012

As we live in God, our love grows more perfect. (1 John 4:7)

September is Stewardship Month at St Peter's. It is a time of the year when parishioners are invited to reconsider and renew their commitment to the parish in terms of both money and time. On the financial front we will soon be sending a letter to everyone on the parish roll with information about pledged giving to the parish through the envelope system or the Anglican Development Fund. If you don't receive a letter in the next week do phone the office so we can check your contact details on the parish roll. The giving from parishioners, as a rule of thumb, is set aside to pay the stipends of the clergy. All other expenses — such as lay staff, maintenance of the buildings and so on — are primarily covered by investment, rental and other income. Without your generous donations week by week, priestly ministry in its current form would quite literally cease to be feasible.

While Stewardship Month is clearly about money, that is not the whole story. Money enables mission, and it is our mission as a parish that must drive our financial planning and decision-making. At last month's Vestry we considered the first draft of a three-year Mission Action Plan for the parish: Growing in God's Love. I have already written about this in earlier musings, and it will be presented to the whole parish at the November AGM, but in a nutshell I hope that our Mission Action Plan will become a vision for the parish through which everyone can be involved, in one way or another. Effective mission, in our secular urban context, must be the work of every member of the parish, not just the clergy or a few faithful lay leaders. St Paul evoked the famous metaphor of the body when writing to the early church community in Corinth: "Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many ... you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." (1 Cor. 12:12, 27) An historic Anglo-Catholic parish in the heart of Melbourne is clearly very different from a fledgling church in first-century Corinth, but the underlying principals for growth are the same: every member counts.

So, what is your role in the mission of St Peter's Eastern Hill? The recent Church Life Survey (see the link on the front page of this website) makes it quite clear that we want to "grow our congregations" but numbers in the pews on Sunday are in one sense beside the point. It is like willing the new camellia bush in the garden to grow from behind the computer. Our mission-call is to be partners with God in creating an environment conducive to growth, and that involves getting out into the garden and dirt under our fingernails: we need to weed, water, prune, feed and love our precious plant if it is to grow. That is stewardship. Money has to be up there, of course, the $10 or $30 or $50 you put in the plate each week undoubtedly enables mission. But if you snap at parishioners you don't like, or gossip about them behind their back, or take offense too easily, or don't talk to newcomers and perhaps invite them out for a coffee, we will quite simply not grow as a faith community. You and I need to grow in God's love, personally as well as corporately, if our mission as a parish is to be effective. It is as simple (and as complicated) as that.


Fr Sam Ata — welcome back to St Peter's.
Many of you will remember Fr Sam who lived in Keble House with his family for three years while studying towards a PhD at the University of Melbourne. As a parish we have prayed for Fr Sam following the murder of his son-in-law during the conflict in the Solomon Islands, and subsequently in the tragic loss of his wife Doreen. Fr Sam has just finished his work as Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a role for which he was awarded an M.B.E., and is spending the next three months in Melbourne to recuperate from this demanding role and put the finishing touches to his thesis.

... and this episcopal press release from the desk of our parish Prevention of Violence Against Women (PVAW) co-ordinator, Liz Prideaux:

The Anglican Church in Melbourne said today it welcomed the announcement by the Victorian government that it will increase its funding to tackle family violence by $16 million.

Bishop Philip Huggins, Chair of the Melbourne Anglican Social Responsibilities Committee, said: "This is a timely and compassionate response to the evidence of a growing need for services to tackle the problem. This week's release of new statistics demonstrates that the crime rate is rising. Police are reported to attribute this largely to a rise in family violence-related crime which climbed by 39.9%! Tragically, more than 100,000 women in Australia experience violence by a partner or ex-partner. At least 60% of these cases are witnessed by children. We must do all we can to prevent such suffering."

He said that violence against women is entirely preventable. "Not hitting women should, in any civilised society, be the normal state of affairs for men and not a departure from the norm. We must work to create a culture where all forms of violence are seen as unacceptable. There is a link between gender inequality and violence against women. The onus of proof is on those who would dispute this link. Educating our communities about respectful relationships has the very real potential to reduce the number of women and children who need protection and costly intervention services." He said that the Anglican Church in Melbourne is striving to change the attitudes which lead to violence. "We affirm the equal dignity of women and men and relationships based on mutuality and love." The Anglican Diocese of Melbourne violence prevention program, the first of its kind in Australia, works to stop violence before it occurs. More information is available at this link. He said anyone concerned about domestic violence should contact the Women's Domestic Violence Crisis Service on 1800 015 188 or the Men's Referral Service on 1800 065 973.

Contact Bishop Philip Huggins on 0418 799 515.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

Illustration for Ordinary Sunday 23 Musings

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