St. John's Uniting Church Wahroonga

Turramurra Passion

Each year Turramurra Uniting Church puts on a quite exceptional passion play – it runs for about 80 minutes, on seven dates between April 8th and 20th. The show is free, although booking is encouraged. You can find out more at www.turramurrapassion.org.au. Great to go to, even better to take a friend!

Autumn Journal!

The St. John’s Journal for Autumn 2011 is now out – download it here. There’s an amazing amount in the journal, and if you get in electronically you get all the photos in colour as well! A number of printed copies will also be available soon.

Kids and Adults

This coming Sunday at The Growing Place we’re going to be exploring how kids and grown-ups each bring their own insights and contributions to our learning together about God. So it’ll be all about how parents can learn from kids, how kids can learn from grown-ups, and how we can talk and listen to each other. Looking forward to seeing you there…

I wait

A number of people asked me to post the words of the reflection we used in worship this morning… so here they are…

After the sun has set
After the music has finished
After the speaking has ended
After the hubbub has faded
I sit.

I wait for you
I wait in darkness
I wait in silence. Continue reading

Contemplation

Psalm 77:11-15 | 1 Kings 19:11-13 | Philippians 4:8-9
The wind was so strong it broke rocks; but God was not in the wind. After the wind, the earthquake shook the mountain; but God was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, fire; but God was not in the fire. And after the fire, the sound of sheer silence.

And in the silence, the soft whisper of God’s voice.

Last week, in the fourth of our series of seven sermons on the different spiritual pathways, different ways that Christians over the ages have found to draw near to God, to experience God’s presence, we spoke of the activist, who knows God’s presence in action, in getting their hands dirty, getting involved, working for the things that God cares about – love, justice, reconciliation, peace.

Today we turn the tables completely, to explore the contemplative path. For the contemplative does not hear the voice of God in activity, in bustle, in work, however worthwhile that work may be. For the contemplative, the voice of God is not the loud voice of action, but the soft whisper in the silence. The voice that can only be heard if you will still yourself, quieten your voice, your mind, and listen. The voice that will only be heard if you do something that is totally alien to our modern world of busy efficiency; deeply counter cultural in an age of getting things done; the voice that will only be heard if you stop.

Stop the talking

Stop the doing

Stop the things that makes you feel important

Stop, and listen

Be still, and know that I am God. Continue reading

Activist

Bishop William Temple had a saying: ‘The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.’. But in truth, that purpose didn’t start with the Church – the people of God, throughout history, have always been called for a purpose, called to make a difference, not just within themselves, but in the world around them. Being the people of God was always meant to mean something. It’s never been a matter of personal spirituality alone, or just of acting as a community, supporting one another.

The people of God are supposed to change the world.

Right back near the start of our story, God called Abraham and promised to make a nation, the people of Israel, God’s chosen people. And that label, that title, ‘the chosen people’, has been worn as a badge of honour or thrown around as an accusation of arrogance – both for Israel and for the Church – ever since, with hardly anyone ever stopping to ask the obvious question: ‘Chosen for what?’

Yet the answer to that question is right there in the call of Abraham – and it shapes everything that comes after. ‘I will bless you,’ God says, ‘so that you will be a blessing… in you all the families of earth shall be blessed’. Continue reading

Magdala Park to De Burghs Bridge, Saturday 12th March, 2011

One of James' shots of Lane Cove River

The walk from Magdala Park to De Burghs Bridge attracted nine Cartophiles, two of them six year old boys.  Doug, Annie, James, Chris, Michael, Sue and Kit, with young Jayanth and Gabriel, gathered in Gloucester St, West Pymble to leave a couple of cars at the finish point and ferry everyone to the start point.  The weather was sunny and warm and the company eager to be moving.

The walk starts over a 150′ footbridge across the Lane Cove River, then immediately crosses back over the river via the Epping Road Bridge.  Gabriel and Jayanth very bravely assisted a terrified Kit over the dizzying heights of the bridges with only a few cries of ridicule. The track then follows the river past some very pretty rock ledges and gullies before dropping down to the site of the Fairyland Pleasure Grounds.

This site was a market garden in 1896 that grew strawberries, and became a popular boating destination.  Between 1905 and 1910 the market gardens were phased out and the area became dedicated to recreation, with boat swings, flying foxes and a razzle-dazzle roundabout (originally from the White City Pleasure Grounds at Rushcutters Bay). A dance hall was added in 1930.  It was a popular venue for Sunday schools, clubs and sports groups – it even had its own charter boats. It lost popularity and after its demise in the 1960s its site was added to the Lane Cove National Park.  The buildings mostly burned down in bushfires in the 1970s. The area has now returned to nature.  It’s recently been burned out again.

Our sleepy owl

After Fairyland we hit the road again for a short but steep uphill section.  As we left the road the boys were thrilled to see a tawny frogmouth sleeping on top of the fire trail gate.  We had a brief nature stop near the Lane Cove National Park headquarters before crossing the river again at the weir.

The track winds over a fairly steep hill and then follows the river again past the site of Fiddens Wharf.  Joseph Fidden was transported in 1799 for stealing two pots of paint and two loaves of bread. In 1821 he built a timber wharf into the river, which is now gone, but his name lives on in the southern boundary of Killara.  The oval which also bears his name was a convict camp between 1805 and 1819.

Annie was running late for work, so she and Kit raced ahead to get to the cars quickly, while Sue led the rest of the party to catch up.  Unfortunately, the main body missed the track and took a slight detour towards Yanko Road, so the total walking distance was increased by about a kilometre.  Happily, the error was corrected and everyone made it back to the cars.

We finished with a barbecue and well-earned refreshments at the Craigs.  Another fun walk.

We have a name!

Over the past few months, it’s been know as SNOS, Lucky Rabbits, and J-Church. But we’ve finally got around to having a vote of all those involved, and the winner was “The Growing Place”. So that’s the new name for our new, family worship service on Sunday afternoons.

So come along on Sunday at 4pm!

Family picnic

On Saturday March 19th we’ll be having a family picnic over in Wahroonga park at 3:30pm. Hopefully this will be a chance for Growing Place families, playjays families, and the wider St. John’s family to get together in an informal fun setting.

Just bring yourselves, a picnic rug, and some afternoon tea. Games will be organised for the young and young at heart. In case of really bad weather, we’ll move to the hall!

Worship

Psalm 150 | Revelation 4:8-11, 5:11-14

Back in the 80’s and 90’s there were a series of books written which looked at the characteristics of Churches that seemed to be getting something right. The original, I think, was called “Ten Growing Churches”, and they also had “Ten Giving Churches” and “Ten Serving Churches” and I think a few others. I heard it said that they also started a book entitled “Ten Churches where people agree about worship style” – but after renaming it “Five Churches…” then “Two Churches…” the authors finally admitted defeat.

When I was training for the ministry, I was advised that to make sudden changes to the style of worship was the second most dangerous thing that a minister could do on arrival at a new Church. The most dangerous, of course, is to move the furniture. Especially the font.

But worship – and in particular, the way that we come before God when we meet together on Sunday – is something that stirs up deeply held, and widely varied, feelings. Of all the spiritual pathways we’re exploring in this series, worship is probably the one that raises the strongest emotions, and, sadly, probably causes the most arguments. Continue reading

Pancakes!

Last reminder – pancakes tonight at the manse! If you’d like, bring along something to eat with them.

Some people like them fat and fluffy, some people like them thin and crispy. Some people probably don’t like them – well, that’s bad luck for them.

Shrove tuesday is traditionally pancake day, a final day of indulgence before the rigours of lent. Whether you plan for a rigour-full lent or not, please come along for the indulgence bit. At the manse, Tuesday March 8th, from 6:30pm until late, please feel free to drop in any time and stay for as long or as little as you like.

This pancake party will replace Nooma for the evening!

Let us reason together

Deuteronomy 6:1-9 | Luke 10:25-28
Last week – this is a reminder for those who were here, and a little bit of catch up for those who weren’t – we started a series of seven sermons in the run up to Easter, in each of which we will be exploring a different way that Christians have found to express their spirituality; a series of spiritual pathways, reflecting the fact that there are a wide variety of ways that different people experience nearness to God.

I spoke a little last week about getting past the sense that there is just one right way to be a follower of Jesus; the spoken or unspoken implication that you sometimes feel that, because your experience of God is shaped and coloured and expressed differently from that of others, you aren’t as ‘mature’ in the faith – or perhaps, you aren’t really even a Christian at all. I also suggested that we could all benefit from, learn from, those spiritual pathways which weren’t our first instinct; that even if we never take to meditation in a big way, for instance, we could still learn something of God through experimenting.

But there’s also another, really important reason why I think it’s worth our while to understand the different ways that different people express their spiritual life: and that is evangelistic. Continue reading

Special Additional Walk, Saturday 19th March, 2011

As a special extra walk for March the Cartophiles bushwalking club will repeat the 10km walk from Woolwich Ferry Wharf to Magdala Park that we did in February.  Although the route is rated easy to moderate we plan to set a hard pace, so this walk is only suitable for adults with a reasonable level of fitness.

We’ll meet at the car park at the end of Magdala Road, North Ryde, at 9.30am on Saturday, 19th March.  We’ll leave a couple of cars there to ferry everyone back to the start point at the end of the walk.  We should start walking at about 10.00am and walk for 2-2½ hrs.  Afterwards we’ll have lunch at the Woolwich Pier Hotel.  For more details see Hunters Hill to Magdala Park.

To register for the walk, or to get more information, contact Kit Craig at cartophiles@stjohnswahroonga.org or on 0411 507 422.

Busy jays

Playjays has got off to a roaring start this year, with over twenty children (and a lot of parents!) coming along each week… today we just celebrated our biggest morning ever, with 27 kids from a few weeks old upwards. Luckily the weather has allowed us to play out in the courtyard, but it’s getting interesting finding space for everyone at morning tea!

As we come up towards our first birthday, a few of the toys and things are starting to show a bit of age. So if anyone has any rugs or pop-up tent style toys that they are looking to get rid of, we can promise them a good home…