Dear Friends,

It was puffer jacket weather in church last Sunday! In my new role as pastor/amateur meteorologist it looks like this coming Sunday will be mid-teens – so perhaps you’ll still need a coat or cardigan in church!

As mentioned in last week’s Sunday to Sunday, we are following the current ACT Government guidelines for public indoor gatherings. We are able to have up to 90 people in the church (so we’ve abandoned our alphabetical system) and we are asking people to continue wearing masks indoors and we are increasing the ventilation.

Last Sunday we read, from the beginning of 1 Samuel, the story of Hannah and her prayer for a child, a prayer that God hears and answers (as indicated by Hannah calling her child Samuel which means ‘God heard’). And on Monday morning, at 8am prayers, we continued the story, reading the words of 1 Samuel 3, and focusing on verse 19: “As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.”

It’s a powerful, easy to visualise phrase, isn’t it! ‘Falling’ has a number of negative connotations in Hebrew; falling, being rejected, being wasted, rotting, but even in English we get that sense of words being lost and not having the impact they should have.

Lucy Gledhill, who was leading prayers, likened this to the climate scientists who have been telling us for decades about the changes taking place in our environment and atmosphere, and the dangers that these represent.

I am reminded too of a story Jim Barr told me, when we caught up on zoom this week, of the Southern Baptist Convention, a number of years ago, issuing a formal apology for their treatment of Afro-American people and the teaching of the church on slavery 150 years before, but at that same event, asking all participants to sign a pledge against welcoming LGBTIQ people in their churches. Once again they were ignoring the voices of the marginalised and the voices of those calling for a more broad and generous orthodoxy within the church.

If you haven’t seen it, Rev Dr Thorwald Lorenzen, a former pastor of CBC and member of the church, has written an excellent and concise article, analysing the situation the NSW and ACT Baptist Association finds itself in now – May such words not fall to the ground!

The phrase before that phrase, in 1 Samuel 19, is the words, ‘The Lord was with him’. This tells us that there was an ongoing dialogue, a relationship, between Samuel and God. His name meant ‘God heard’ (i.e. God listened) and his childhood was marked by a significant night (1 Samuel 3:1-10) – you should all remember from Sunday School – when he responded by saying, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Samuel and God spoke with each other, Samuel and God listened to each other. This is why, we are told, “the Lord was with him.”

As we go through these next months and years of this pandemic; as we make decisions as  church and denomination about our identity and mission; as we work as a nation and as a global community to reduce the impact of climate change, to enable our planet and its people to continue to flourish, we need to be people who pray – and who listen to God; people who know that God listens to us –  and that God speaks to us. May the Lord also be with us!

This Sunday is the end of the lectionary year. It is celebrated in many churches as ‘Christ the King’ Sunday and I am very excited to announce that John Higgins will be bringing the message. I will be taking the weekend off to gather with my family in Sydney for my niece’s wedding, and to attend a meeting with the #1919 Baptists, the group who opposed the motions at the February Special Assembly.

“The Lord be with you…” (and I can hear the echo even over email – “And also with you!”)