Reconciliation Week 27May-3June

2021 theme: More than a Word – Reconciliation takes action
#NRW2021  #MoreThanAWord
Reconciliation Sunday, 30th May, 2021

Reconciliation Sunday service, Pilgrim Uniting Church, 30th May 2021

More than a word. Reconciliation takes action asks people to take this awareness and knowledge, and use it as springboard to more substantive, brave action.

For reconciliation to be effective, it must involve truth-telling, and actively address issues of inequality, systemic racism and instances where the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are ignored, denied or reduced.

While we see greater support for reconciliation from the Australian people than ever before, we must be more determined than ever if we are to achieve the goals of the movement — a just, equitable, reconciled Australia.

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COCU39B.Day of Pentecost.23rdMay2021

The Uniting Church in Australia is blessed with multiple languages in both our First Peoples and Second Peoples. In the UCA there are more than 45 language groups worshipping every Sunday in congregations across the country. This video has 21 UCA members proclaim this reading from Acts 2:1-21 in their heart languages. (See more information here).
The Coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-21)
1When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. (Rosemary Jinmauliya, Burarra). 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. (Helen Milminydjarrk, Djambarrpuyŋu). 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. (Perry Yankaporta, Wik Mungkan). 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. (Carolyn Namiriya, Pitjantjatjara). 5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. (Rev Dr Emanuel Audisho, Arabic). 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. ( Anita Soghomonian, Armenian). 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? (Rev Enshuo Zhu, Chinese). 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? (Rev Paul Dau, Dinka). 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, (Nina Kautoga, Fijian). 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, (Cecile Surjanegara, Indonesian). 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” (Rev Seungjae Yeon, Korean). 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” (Falala Pipitolu-Talagi, Niuean). 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” (Elizabeth Leth,Nuer). 14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. (Rev Esteban Lievano, Portugese). 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. (Rev Kili Mafaufau, Samoan). 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: (Rev Kemeri Lievano, Spanish). 17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. (Keyna Gem Guerrero,Tagalog). 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. (Jane Zeng, Taiwanese). 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. (Sakuntala Roberts Tamil). 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. (Lisita Palutele,Tongan) 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (Anh Vo,Vietnamese)

Readings

Year B
Acts 2:1-21
The believers are filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and they start to praise God in various languages.
or Ezekiel 37:1-14
The prophet is given a vision of dry bones in a desolate valley, and God asks if they can live again. Then God commands him to speak and as he does, the bones come together, are clothed with flesh, and receive the breath of life.
Psalm 104:24-34,35b
The world and all its creatures depend on God for provision and breath – which leads the Psalmist to commit to praise God.
Romans 8:22-27
All of creation, and we, hope for the day when God’s children receive their “full rights.” In the meantime, when we are weak, the Holy Spirit helps us by praying for us in groans beyond words.
John 15: 26-27, 16:4b-15
Jesus tells his disciples that he is going away, and that this is a good thing, because then he can send the Holy Spirit to be their advocate, to convict of sin and to lead people into truth.
(All summaries  by John van de Laar, Sacredise)
RCL readings in landscape double sided format: COCU39B.Pentecost.Readings

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COCU38B.Easter7B.16th May 2021

Readings
Acts 1: 15-17, 21-26
Peter suggests that the disciples should find a replacement for Judas, so they select two candidates and draw lots, and Matthias is added as an apostle to join the other eleven.
Psalm 1
Those who love God’s instruction and refuse to join in the company and works of the wicked are truly happy and bear fruit, while the wicked are ultimately destroyed.
1 John 5: 9-13
God has testified about Jesus that life is in him, and whoever has God’s Son has life eternal, so if we believe God’s testimony, we have this life.
John 17: 6-19
Jesus prays for his followers, the ones to whom he has revealed God’s name and God’s word which is truth. He prays that God would keep them safe, would make them one as he and the Father are one, and would make them holy in the truth.
(Bible readings summary by John van de Laar, Sacredise)
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International Day for Biological Diversity, 22 May 2021

2021 theme: “We’re part of the solution #ForNature”

The United Nations has proclaimed May 22 The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues, and to increase understanding of the importance of conservation and sustainable use.

Brigidine Sisters reflections here.

Suitable prayers and resources may also be found on this website on Season of Creation and World Environment Day (June 5).

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National Infertility Awareness Week #NIAW2021

April 18-24 April 2021
(April 24-30, 2022; April 23-29, 2023; April 21-27, 2024; April 20-26, 2025)

Infertility affects 1 in 6 people of reproductive age, which can be a real struggle for many families longing to begin their journey of having a family. There are many in our churches and community on the long road they hope leads to parenthood via IVF, adoption etc.

You might consider hosting a service, or including this in prayers. Preparing this I must confess I felt disappointed at some of the prayers on offer – condescending, patronising, dismissive, and even the ‘magic’ fertility prayers that offer a miracle. Prayers offered to people living with infertility need to show compassion, solidarity, lament. I’ll keep looking for prayers…

Lord, hear my prayer this day:
Wind in the Wilderness, guide us through
the tangled brush and the darkened paths.
May we feel You when we are lonely;
may we know Your presence when we are afraid.
Guide us across the great barriers,
through the deep valleys, and
over the mountains of difficulty.
Wind in the Wilderness, may we feel You
when we need strength and courage.
Wind in the Wilderness, guide us safely through. Amen.
(Source: Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell)

Facebook: Of Womb and Tomb

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World Bee Day 20 May 2021

photo by Dustin Humes, on Unsplash

St. Benedict is the patron of bee-keepers, and those who themselves have bees could not do better than mark his day by praying for their hives. In some parts of France it was, and may still be, customary for bee-keepers to have a medal of St. Benedict affixed to their hives.

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Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 16-23 May 2021

At least once a year, Christians are reminded of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples that “they may be one so that the world may believe” (see John 17.21). Hearts are touched and Christians come together to pray for their unity. Congregations and parishes all over the world exchange preachers or arrange special ecumenical celebrations and prayer services. The World Council of Churches commemoration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity traditionally runs from January 18 through to January 25 (northern hemisphere, between the feasts of St Peter and St Paul) and around Pentecost (southern hemisphere), which is also a symbolic date for unity. It is usually between the Day of Ascension and Day of Pentecost. 

The theme for the 2021 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is; Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit. Based on John 15.1-17.  This year the material for the Week of Prayer has been prepared by the Monastic Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland.

Resources produced by the World Council of Churches are available here.

Keep an eye out on our Facebook page for further news and activities for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

More information and links to resources here. Resource booklet here. Continue reading

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International Day of the Midwife (5May2021)

This is God’s Mothering Spirit: watching us, tending us, keeping us safe, never leaving our side, whispering words of comfort and strength and hope that this, too, shall pass.

“Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me
you have been my God.”
(Ps 22:9-10)

“For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from my birth;
it was you who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.”
(Ps 71: 5-6)

How beautiful to think of the midwives and doctors and nurses and doulas who attend to women and babies at birth as being God-like in their work.

And what a tender image of God as the wise and strong and loving woman who catches each of us upon our birth and places us into our parents’ arms.

(Source: Laura Kelly Fanucci)

Two of the most powerful Jewish leaders in Jewish history, both extremely faithful and righteous women, were the first recorded midwives, Shifra and Puah.

They practiced their trade during a time where the very existence of the Jewish people was hanging by a delicate thread. Pharaoh’s astrologers had predicted that a Jewish male would rise amongst the Hebrews and overtake his throne. In a paranoid attempt to curtail the Jewish birth rate, he ordered all Jewish men into backbreaking slave labor (Ibn Ezra). But when the Jews continued to multiply, Pharaoh, driven by evil and desperation, commanded Shifra and Puah to kill all newborn Jewish boys.

“The midwives, however, feared G‑d; so they did not do as the king of Egypt had spoken to them, but they enabled the boys to live.” (Exodus 1:17)

Pharaoh didn’t count on the midwives’ defiance or their faith in G‑d. Despite the danger of defying Pharaoh’s command, Shifra and Puah decided to continue their holy calling. With whole-hearted faith in the Creator, they swam against a very strong and dangerous political tide, fully knowing that disobedience of Pharaoh’s decree meant death for them. But their fear of G‑d far surpassed their fear of a human king.

They helped to nurture and sustain all the newborn babies
From then on, not only did Shifra and Puah help birth the Jewish women, but they helped to nurture and sustain all the newborn babies. Before each birth, they prayed to G‑d to assist the Jewish women to birth quickly and safely, and they prayed for the health and well-being of all the babies under their care. The Midrash states that Shifra and Puah actually became G‑d’s partners in creation, granting life to the Jewish children ( Shemot Rabba 1:19).

“G‑d bestowed goodness upon the midwives, and the people multiplied and became very strong. It was because the midwives feared God that He made houses for them.” (Exodus 1:20-21)

The “houses” G‑d made for Shifra and Puah were, in fact, dynasties born through them. Our sages explain that Shifra was a pseudonym for Jochebed, and Puah was another name for Miriam. The name “Shifra” comes from the Hebrew word meshaperet, which means “to beautify” and/or “to swaddle and clean” (i.e., a baby). Miriam was called Puah, from the Hebrew verb “Po’ah,” which means “cry, coo or groan” because of the way she soothed and cooed the crying newborn infants.

Jochebed was blessed to give birth not only to her daughter, Miriam, but also to Moses and Aaron. Through Jochebed (Shifra), a nation of priests was born. And Miriam (Puah) was blessed to mother the Royal dynasty, the “House of David.”

There is something about being present at a birth . . . about standing at the threshold between born and unborn that transforms a person. Perhaps it is because of their trade that Shifra and Puah developed such faith in their conviction. Perhaps it was because they witnessed the miracle of life unfold before their eyes that they found the strength to face the challenge to kill or be killed—and overcome it with power and grace.

Shifra and Puah never entertained the idea of fighting G‑d’s will. Instead, they fought for G‑d’s will. And they won. This strength has been handed down all the way from our ancestral midwives to the modern midwives of today. May G‑d bless them to continue in the paths of Shifra and Puah—fearing G‑d, not man—and through their faith in the G‑dliness of birth bless them to be God’s partners in creation.
(Source: Sarah Zadok)

Consider for a moment the courage required for such action. Consider the depth of faith necessary to move one to such defiance. The midwives’ trust and confidence in the Almighty is such that nothing else matters and scripture tells us they are rewarded.
How are you called to be a compassionate partner in the birth of new life?
Where in your life are you called to be courageous for the sake of justice?
How might you better accompany those who, like the Israelites, are oppressed?

Some facts
It is approximated that for every 100,000 births in Asia and the Pacific 150 women die from complications related to pregnancy which can be prevented if proper investment in midwives is prioritised.

Stark disparities exist within the region — for every 100,000 births 220 women die in South Asia and 150 in South-East Asia, compared to 37 in East Asia.

While midwives could provide up to 90% of essential sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, and adolescent health care across the lifespan, there is a need-based shortage of 900,000 midwives globally.

Midwives are fundamental in ending preventable deaths during and after childbirth and achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.1 – which aims to reduce global deaths due to complications from pregnacy and childbirths ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030.

This year’s IDM theme: “Follow the data: Invest in Midwives”, will concide with the launch of the State of the World’s Midwifery (SoWMy) Report 2021 co-led by United Nations Funds on Populations (UNFPA), World Health Organization (WHO), and International Confederation of Midwives (ICM).

According to a recent study by UNFPA, WHO, and ICM, investing in midwives is a cost-effective way of improving health outcomes.

Modest increase of 10% in midwife-delivered interventions every five years could save 22% maternal deaths, 23% newborn deaths and 14% stillbirths and save 1.3 million lives per year by 2035.

Likewise, increasing coverage of midwife-delivered interventions by 25% every five years could avert 2.2 million deaths per year while universal (95%) coverage could save up to 4.3 million deaths per year.

With a global shortage of 900,000 midwives and the world facing the continued challenges of a global pandemic, midwives remain critical. Covid-19 has dramatically affected all aspects of health systems, notably in relation to maternal, sexual and reproductive, and adolescent healthcare. Disruption to service provision in these areas has increased the risks relating to health outcomes, as well as increasing unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, unsafe terminations and increased health risks for mothers, newborns and adolescents.

Midwives can deliver care for women, children and adolescents outside of health facilities in the communities where they live, which is particularly important amid the pandemic as it has alleviated pressure on medical services. Further to this, home births protect women and families from exposure to Covid-19 inside health facilities. Critical to the Covid response in healthcare facilities, we must refrain from deploying midwives from midwifery to nursing services to provide care to general patients with Covid-19 as this takes them away from their essential role working in partnership with women and further contributes to the global midwifery shortage.

Gender transformative policies are needed to challenge the underlying causes of gender inequality, with consistent global leadership required to end gender discrimination within the health sector. Comprehensive international research and SoWMy 2021 show that women comprise more than 70 per cent of the health workforce. Gender inequality affects the status of midwives, most of whom are women (93 per cent globally), as well as their recruitment, mobility, career development, pay rates and self-care.

This is evidenced by a lack of investment in training and the professionalisation of midwifery practice. Investing in midwives has the power to accelerate the human rights agenda. In fact, this investment would be one of the most cost-effective strategies – to achieving full sexual and reproductive health coverage and reproductive freedom for women and all who give birth.
(Source: Carla Donson, manager of Women’s Network Whanganui, NZ)

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International Nurses Day – 12th May each year


International Nurses Day (IND) is an international day observed around the world on 12 May (the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth) of each year, to mark the contributions that nurses make to society.

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Mother’s Day resources

A Prayer for Mothers and Children
God be with the Mother
Who sits long nights beside those who cannot sleep
Who holds in aching arms the hurting child
Who carries in her heart the burden of care and worry
And comforts without words
God be with the Mother
Who listens and does not judge
Who forgives and bears no grudge
Who opens the door to her heart
No matter what the cost
God be with the Mother
Grant freedom from anxiety
Grant peace and understanding
Give hope and perseverance
Give patience and unlimited grace
God be with the child
Who enters an exciting world
Who has much to learn
Who has much to share
Who is becoming
God be with the child
Who looks up to the mother
Who takes in all the mother does
Who learns from the wisdom shown
Who has boundaries to learn and stretch
God be with the child
Grant freedom from anxiety
Grant peace and understanding
Give hope and perseverance
Give patience and unlimited grace
God be with us all
May we learn to be all that we can be
May our respect be always there
May our gratitude be endless
May we love and be loved
May this all be in the name of Christ
Amen
(Adapted from a prayer from “God Be With The Mother – A Mother’s Day Prayer”)

May you know that God is with you if you are like Tamar, struggling with infertility, or a miscarriage.
May you know that God is with you if you are like Rachel, counting the women among your family and friends who year by year and month by month get pregnant, while you wait.
May you know that God is with you if you are like Naomi, and have known the bitter sting of a child’s death.
May you know that God is with you if you are like Joseph and Benjamin, and your Mom has died.
May you know that God is with you if your relationship with your Mom was marked by trauma, abuse, or abandonment, or she just couldn’t parent you the way you needed.
May you know that God is with you if you’ve been like Moses’ mother and put a child up for adoption, trusting another family to love your child into adulthood.
May you know that God is with you if you’ve been like Pharaoh’s daughter, called to love children who are not yours by birth (and thus the mother who brought that child into your life, even if it is complicated).
May you know that God is with you if you, like many, are watching (or have watched) your mother age, and disappear into the long goodbye of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
May you know that God is with you if you, like Mary, are pregnant for the very first time and waiting breathlessly for the miracle of your first child.
May you know that God is with you if your children have turned away from you, painfully closing the door on relationship, leaving you holding your broken heart in your hands. And like Hagar, now you are mothering alone.
May you know that God is with you if motherhood is your greatest joy and toughest struggle all rolled into one.
May you know that God is with you if you are watching your child battle substance abuse, a public legal situation, mental illness, or another situation which you can merely watch unfold.
May you know that God is with you if you, like so many women before you, do not wish to be a mother, are not married, or in so many other ways do not fit into societal norms.
May you know that God is with you if you see yourself reflected in all, or none of these stories.
This mother’s day, wherever and whoever you are, we walk with you. You are loved. You are seen. You are worthy.
And may you know the deep love without end of our big, wild, beautiful God who is the very best example of a parent that we know. Amen
(Source: written by Amy Young, and adapted by Heidi Carrington Heath)

Gracious God, bless every mother who gives and does not count the cost, who toils and does not seek for rest, who labours and does not ask for any reward, save that of knowing that she does your will.
Visit and heal the sadness of those whose calling to be a mother has not been fulfilled.
Transfigure the distress of any whose experience of raising a child has meant a sword has pierced their own heart.
Come close to all who find they cannot look upon a parent with either gratitude or grace.
Hasten the day when all desires are known and from you no secrets are hid, ever-giving God, Trinity of mercy and love. Amen
(Source: Jeremy Greaves)

The words of Jesus in the gospel of John 16:16-24 invite us to explore how sorrow and joy are often connected and of how pain can be the sign of immanent birth for the individual and the community and even for the age in which we live. “When a woman is in labour, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when the child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being in to the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” Let us pray that whatever pain we know at this time is part of our great birthing.

What a wonderful image for anyone celebrating Mother’s Day – a woman in labour whose pain turns into joy. Mother’s Day is the day in which we give thanks for those who bore labour pains so that we might live, and for some of us we are mindful of those who we gave birth to. But in the context of this reading it is not just a sweet romantic image of motherhood. Firstly as we know not all labour ends in a happy event – mother or child can be lost. And certainly in Jesus’ time this was even more so than now. So what else might be happening?

Several of the Hebrew prophets, including Isaiah, use images of a woman in labour applied to the notion of the birth of a new age of salvation. And here in the gospel of John Jesus is trying to explain to his disciples about his departure in a little while to die and then through his resurrection to herald in the age of salvation. And he is reassuring them that no matter how difficult it will be for him and for them for a little while that eventually there will be eternal joy. So the image of birth is not so much about the individual as it is about the immanent birthing of a new age of salvation for all of humanity. (Rev Sue)

Sojourners article: 3 WAYS THAT CALLING GOD ‘MOTHER’ TRANSFORMS US

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