Last Sunday, 12 November, was a significant day for our community.
We welcomed two new members – Stephen Tang and Eric Tsoi – who shared some of the wonderful and challenging parts of their respective journeys of faith. It was a privilege to hear their stories and we warmly welcomed them as part now of our story, of following Jesus, building caring, inclusive community, and sharing God’s love and justice in our words and actions.
We also grieved as a community at the news of Helen Holly’s death, that reached us just at the end of the service, and prayed for Russell, for David, Monica, Amelia, Maddie and Lizzy, and the wider family.
We will have the opportunity to give thanks and celebrate Helen’s life on Tuesday, 21 November, at 2pm, at Canberra Baptist Church, followed by an afternoon tea.
As you can see from the picture (left) on Sunday morning a small group of us also participated in Baptist Mission Australia’s ‘Walk the World’ at 8:30am. We walked to Parliament House, praying for our children (as we passed Telopea Park Primary), our workers (as we walked through the business area and past DFAT), for our environment and our country (at Parliament House) and for the conflicts around our world (as we passed the synagogue and the Russian consulate on our way back to the church).
It was a day of remembering the amazing grace of God, grace that reconciles us to God and to one another, and we did that in three, very ordinary and simple, gestures – extending the right hand of fellowship to new members, exchanging a sign of peace with one another, and sharing communion together.
I have done some research since Sunday! The ‘right hand of fellowship’, I’ve discovered, originates from Galatians 2:9 where Paul says that the leaders of the church in Jerusalem gave him and Barnabas ‘the right hand of fellowship’ to bond them together as members of the new Christian church. In some denominations giving one another the ‘right hand of fellowship’ is part of taking communion together in the same way as ‘passing the peace’ – just as we mingled the two on Sunday.
Can I share with you again the poem I read on Sunday – written by Pádraig Ó Tuama, a leader of the Corrymeela Community, Ireland, and mediator who has worked in conflict resolution in Ireland, Africa and the Middle East.
Because what’s the alternative?
Because of courage.
Because of loved ones lost.
Because no more.
Because it’s a small thing; shaking hands; it happens every day.
Because I heard of one man whose hands haven’t stopped shaking since a market day in Omagh.
Because it takes a second to say hate, but it takes longer, much longer, to be a great leader.
Much, much longer.
Because shared space without human touching doesn’t amount to much.
Because it’s easier to speak to your own than to hold the hand of someone whose side has been previously described, proscribed, denied.
Because it is tough.
Because it is tough.
Because it is meant to be tough, and this is the stuff of memory, the stuff of hope, the stuff of gesture, and meaning and leading.
Because it has taken so, so long.
Because it has taken land and money and languages and barrels and barrels of blood.
Because lives have been lost.
Because lives have been taken.
Because to be bereaved is to be troubled by grief.
Because more than two troubled peoples live here.
Because I know a woman whose hand hasn’t been shaken since she was a man.
Because shaking a hand is only a part of the start.
Because I know a woman whose touch calmed a man whose heart was breaking.
Because privilege is not to be taken lightly.
Because this just might be good.
Because who said that this would be easy?
Because some people love what you stand for, and for some, if you can, they can.
Because solidarity means a common hand.
Because a hand is only a hand; so hang onto it.
So join your much discussed hands.
We need this; for one small second.
This Sunday coming, 19 November, is our final Sunday in our Philippians/joy series. I am still looking for one more contribution – of a quote or a poem on joy!
Then, after Sunday 26 November, Advent begins. Please note that we are looking for Advent reflections again this year – on three of the Advent themes; hope, peace and joy. There are more details in the church bulletin!
Grace and peace be with you – and especially with the Hollys – as we hold you as a community in prayer at this sad and difficult time.