Message to the Muslim Community

Monday 18 March 2019

Hobsons Bay Interfaith Network - Logo


We, the non-Muslim members of the Hobsons Bay Interfaith Network, offer our deepest sympathy to our Muslim friends after the terrorist attack in Christchurch. We are horrified that peaceful worshippers were killed and injured as they were at prayer. We commit ourselves to standing with our Muslim neighbours in this time of tragedy.

Those of us who are Anglo-Celtic Australians acknowledge that the terrorist was one of us, and said that he was acting in our name. We utterly repudiate his message of hate. We rejoice that we live in a multi-cultural and multi-faith community, and that all of us have been welcomed into Hobsons Bay by the elders of the Kulin Nations, who are the sovereign peoples of this land. We reject anything that divides us from one another.

As members of the Hobsons Bay Interfaith Network we commit ourselves to responding to hate with love; to terror with courage; to attempts to divide us with a deeper commitment to one another.

Hobsons Bay Interfaith Network Core Members:

  • Rev Dr Avril Hannah-Jones, Williamstown Uniting Church
  • Faz Fakhiyardi, Association of Islamic Dakwah Australia
  • Myly Nguyen, United Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation in Victoria (Quang Minh Temple)
  • Saad Hussein, Altona Muslim Youth Association
  • Dr Scott Phillips, Holy Trinity Williamstown Anglican Church
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Sermon: God’s motherly love

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
The Second Sunday of Lent, 17th of March 2019

Luke 13:31-35

Yesterday I had the enormous privilege of preaching at the ordination of Carlynne Nunn at Brunswick Uniting Church. I was very excited and deeply honoured when Carlynne asked me to preach, but also a little worried. Over the past two weeks, as Carlynne and I emailed each other back and forth about readings and themes, we first had the news of George Pell’s conviction and then heard his sentencing. In that sentencing His Honour Chief Justice Kidd quoted from a Court of Appeal decision:

The exposure over recent years of the extent of the incidence of abuse of children in our community by persons entrusted with their care has created much distrust at all levels and threatened the very capacity of adults to interact in a normal healthy fashion with them.

If that is true of all adults, it is particularly true of priests, ministers, Sunday School teachers and Youth Group leaders. Where once we were automatically trusted, now we are almost equally automatically distrusted. It can feel like a hard time to be a Christian. Continue reading

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Sermon for Carlynne’s Ordination

Sermon for Carlynne’s Ordination

1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Mark 10:35-45

‘Faithful is God, who has called you and will not fail you.’

We are here today to confirm and celebrate God’s call of Carlynne to the office and work of a minister of the Word. This is a day of celebration, but given Australia’s current religious context no one would blame Carlynne if she followed in the footsteps of the great prophets in her response to God. When called, Moses reminded God that he stammered; Jeremiah said that he was only a boy; and Jonah fled to the farthest known point in the West when God tried to send him to the East. Carlynne could quite justifiably have said to God: no, not me, not now, when her call came. There have been times and places when and in which ordination has led to authority and respect, but those places have seldom included Australia and those times were not the twenty-first century. Continue reading

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Prayer for Christchurch

As usual, shared in the hope that this might be helpful.

Loving God, who gathers us into your love as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, we bring our sorrow and outrage, our horror and shock, to you.

We pray for the people of Christchurch, all the people of New Zealand, and all Muslims around the world. We remember the many people killed as they were at prayer. We know that you hold them in your loving arms; may their memories be a blessing to those who loved them. We pray for the healing of all those who were injured, those who witnessed the massacre, and those who are grieving. Please give them the strength and courage they need to face the road ahead.

We pray for Jacinda Adern, for all the members of New Zealand’s emergencies services, and for everyone involved in the recovery after this tragedy. Give them the wisdom they need. If there is any good to come from this horror, let it be stronger gun control laws; that as Australia did after Port Arthur, New Zealand says “never again”.

Loving God, those of us who are Anglo-Celtic Australians acknowledge that the terrorist was one of us, and said that he was acting in our name. Give us the wisdom of serpents, that we may never be led astray by the preachers of hate. Let us never be fooled by those who proclaim Islamophobia, who talk of anti-white racism, who share the slogan, ‘it’s all right to be white’. Help us to recognise racism and white supremacy in all its forms and to repudiate it utterly.

Loving God, we recognise that you are the God of Hagar and Ishmael as well as of Sarah and Isaac; that like Christians and Jews Muslims have Abraham for their ancestor, and so we are all members of the one family. Remind us that the human family is even greater; that every single one of us is made in your image and is your beloved child. Help us to live as we pray; to love one another as you love us; to never allow hate to divide us.

We make these prayers in the name of your Son, who told us that we would see him in the face of ‘the least of these’. May we never look at the face of another human being without seeing his face.


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Why the Uniting Church should be louder about its LGBTIQ inclusion

I know what you’re thinking. I’m going to pontificate about the wideness of God’s love and our responsibility to share the good news of God’s unconditional acceptance with people who feel excluded from most churches. But you’d be wrong. I say that sort of thing all the time. This is about what really matters. This is about getting bums on pews. There is evidence to suggest that being louder about the fact that the Uniting Church unconditionally welcomes LGBTIQ people as members, ordains LGBTIQ people as ministers, and allows same-sex couples to be married in churches, is just good advertising. Continue reading

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Reflection on the sexual abuse of children

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
3rd of March, 2019

I have only once attended a worship service at which George Pell presided. It was held on Sunday the 23rd of May, 1999, and I know the exact date because I attended the service wearing a rainbow sash, accompanying lesbian and gay Catholics. ‘Rainbow Sash’ was organised in Australia by Michael Kelly, who was born and brought up a Catholic and embraced by his church until he came out as gay. The rainbow sash he wore to church made visible what would otherwise be invisible, his sexuality. Because of that he was refused communion. As a good Protestant I wasn’t eligible to receive communion in a Catholic church anyway, but I accompanied a Catholic school friend of my brother down the aisle at St Patrick’s Cathedral, and stood beside him as George Pell refused him communion. Afterwards, we hung a wreath on the cathedral fence in memory of the victims of homophobia in church schools. Continue reading

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Prayer for the survivors and victims of child abuse

I’ve been trying to write a prayer for Sunday’s service in response to the news of the guilty verdict in George Pell’s trial. I was not sexually abused in the church, but news of the verdict still left me feeling sick and scared and young again, and I can only imagine how hard it must have been for Pell’s victims and for others whose experience was reflected in the story of Pell’s abusing. This is what I’ve come up with so far. It’s offered with deep humility, in the hope that some people might find it helpful. Continue reading

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