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Can our differences on Australia Day help bring us together?

Tuesday 26 January 2021 – a day that divides a nation. Where do you stand on our national day? Do you celebrate with pride, or shun due to the…

Tuesday 26 January 2021 – a day that divides a nation.

Where do you stand on our national day? Do you celebrate with pride, or shun due to the date’s association with our colonial past? Or do you just enjoy the public holiday to kick off a new year, and try to avoid the background noise?

In this post I am not attempting to unpack the arguments behind Australia Day and the date on which it is held, though maybe I should someday. (Check out the link below for a little additional reading.) If you do want to talk it over, then let’s sit down for a coffee.

The reason I am writing is because I believe that it is possible to retain friendship with fellow Aussies, even if we disagree.

Australia Day is as good an opportunity as any to actually work out how we can come together, as fellow Australians, to rediscover the skills of giving and receiving dignity, respect and a good-old-fashioned “fair go”.

The fact is that each of the different perspectives are all right.

  • This is a remarkable, prosperous and beautiful country and we have so much to be thankful for – true!
  • This continent was the home of the First Australian peoples for thousands of years, before colonisation and the arrival of the First Fleet of British ships on 26 January 1788 in New South Wales – true!
  • The day is a public holiday at the very end of the long Summer break, and right before most schools commence for the academic year – true!

This is of course oversimplified, but depending on our own personal life journey, many of us have come to stand on our view as THE truth, which means we will often see those who disagree as wrong. We gather with our own kind, who reinforce our view of the truth, and refine our arguments against the other.

This pattern happens on so many important issues, leaving modern society highly and emotively divided. This is a huge problem, but I believe we can do something about it.

Do you mind if I propose a couple of steps we can take to overcome these chasms in the social discourse, and become agents of soothing change, both for ourselves and for our whole country?

1. Articulate what Australia Day means to you – each of us have a unique and special story. Some of us have an ancient connection to this country, while the vast majority of us have cultural stories that originate from lands beyond these shores. But if you now call Australia home, what do you love about the place? Look for the positives, talk to others and post on your social media feeds these best things. Explore and articulate what makes you feel thankful that we have a day to celebrate Australia.

2. Listen to different perspectives – the reality is that most of us are surrounded by our own kind, who share our own views of Australia Day. I admit this next step might be a challenge but take the initiative to seek out and listen to the views of those you do not agree with. Remember they may not be right as you see things, but their views are entirely valid. The best way to do this is to ask others questions about what they love about Australia, and what their views on the day are. And be sure to listen, and not launch into an argument why they are wrong. This step will be hard when you first do it, but it actually becomes therapeutic and enlightening the more you practice it.

3. If you do, protest with compassion – protest, or at the very least promoting your perspective, is not only healthy for you but it is vital for a strong society. But do this after acting on steps 1 and 2 above, and so recognising that those with differing views are fellow Australians who love this country and who do not like being yelled at (coz, you know, none of us do!) Who knows, if you take time to listen to their views and treat them with compassion, they may even hear what you are saying and come to your way of seeing things?

4. And in the end, mark the day – finally I have come to the opinion that despite the division and conflict, that it is actually really important that we do mark the day, somehow. You may have an impassable problem with 26 January, so you may choose to celebrate Australia Day on another date (like 8 May … or May 8 … or “mate”!), but no matter what you do, do gather with fellow countrymen and women, who hold views like your own as well as different views, and raise a glass to the things that Australia Day means to you!

We are an imperfect nation and people, but we can be a nation and people who enjoy peace and hope and who can learn to work together for an even better future, for all of us!

If you would like to read more check out these links:
Home ‐ Australia Day (https://australiaday.org.au)
Australia Day | What Is Australian Day | History Of Invasion Day (https://australianstogether.org.au/discover/australian-history/australia-day/)
Australia Day Grace – Ethos (http://www.ethos.org.au/online-resources/Engage-Mail/australia-day-grace)

 

About the author…

Tim works in Cross-Cultural Innovations for SU, seeking to foster vibrant ministry with people of minority cultures and other faiths. Prior to this Tim spent 8 years with The Feast in the UK, engaging youth of different faiths, and 10 years in various roles with SU Qld.  

 

Posted: 25/01/2021

Sam is paying forward the support you gave…

It is often said ‘to err is human’. It’s something we can’t escape. We all make mistakes – we all fall short of perfection. However, as Christians we also…

It is often said ‘to err is human’. It’s something we can’t escape. We all make mistakes – we all fall short of perfection.

However, as Christians we also believe in redemption, and many of us have our own stories to share.

For Sam Fillery, his story is a powerful example of this and the vital role that your support has played in his life and in the lives of many like him.

But first, let’s rewind the clock back to Sam’s high school years.

“I wasn’t a ‘naughty’ kid at school, but I had made one or two bad decisions and had been suspended,” Sam says.

Deputy Principal at Beaudesert State High School, Sheryl remembers Sam well.

“Sam was a student that was somewhat disengaged – he wasn’t really a big troublemaker, but he didn’t engage with school a lot and did some silly things,” Sheryl recalls.

After leaving school Sam worked as a chef for five years, but found no satisfaction in that life. Sam was now volunteering at church, leading on youth camps, and had found a sense of purpose in what he was doing.

It wasn’t long before his friends encouraged him to get into youth work.

“While I was studying I came across my old chappy, Jamie Sharp. I was looking for somewhere to do my 100 hours of study placement – so I asked if he’d be interested in taking me on.”

Jamie took him under his wing, and as Sam undertook his placement he saw the difference Chappy Jamie was making – it inspired him to become a school chaplain.

After completing his qualification, Sam was ready for his first interview – and what a surprise that turned out to be…

“When I walked into the interview I saw one of my old deputy principals [Sheryl],” Sam recalls.

“She started the interview by asking me “didn’t I suspend you once?”

Sheryl immediately could see the change in Sam – and he was offered the job!

“He’s obviously had people invest a lot in him. He’s had strong mentors and role models who have developed strong values in him.”

As a chappy, Sheryl says the positive impact Sam is having on the school is massive.

“He has out-stripped all of our expectations – he is amazing”, Sheryl says.

“Working in conjunction with the rest of our support services team, he is really connecting with our young students who are disengaged in the classroom – the ones who struggle to make friends and don’t really want to be at school.

“From that young person who was probably a bit lost as a student, he’s had adults feed into his life, and I think that’s fed his passion to feed into the lives of young people today. He wants to see the change in them like he experienced.”

Your support changed the course of Sam’s life – and now he’s being a positive presence for the students, staff and parents at Beaudesert State High School.

If you love working with children and young people, and you’re looking for a career with meaning and purpose, or you know someone who is, then school chaplaincy may be calling you.

To learn more, visit suqld.org.au/morehands

Posted: 21/01/2021

A parent’s thank you to you: Gabe’s Story

Written by Casey S. We know each and every child is fearfully and wonderfully made by a loving God – and they are all unique. As a parent of…

Written by Casey S.

We know each and every child is fearfully and wonderfully made by a loving God – and they are all unique.

As a parent of a child with autism, this well-known biblical reference resonates so deeply with me.

But as much as we believe this when we look at our child, our greatest fear is that our unique, wonderfully-made child will not be accepted by those around them because they view the world through a very different lens than their peers.

Thanks to the heartfelt and selfless support of wonderful friends like you, nine-year old Gabe from Bohlevale State School near Townsville has been supported by his big-hearted chaplain, Amie.

Through this support he has gone from struggling to find ‘his place’ to now feeling connected and supported in his tight-knit school community.

Gabe’s great-grandma, affectionately known as GG, is incredibly grateful for the transformation she’s seen in her great-grandson, who used to spend most of his time playing alone at school.

“Gabe just loves coming to see Chappy. Each year we see a difference in where Gabe was at and where he’s getting to. For a while he would sit and do lego on his own – now he’s interacting with others,” says GG.

“I know it’s because of the support that he’s receiving.”

“Gabe’s interactions with Chappy Amie transfer over to the classroom and his teachers have commented on it.”

GG was so inspired by the difference she’s seen in her great-grandson that she became a volunteer, handing out fruit and toast at the Brekky Club each week.

“Now I jump out of bed in the mornings! I love seeing the way that Chappy Amie knows all the kids. She never puts them off and she makes time for everybody. She’s fantastic – a real treasure,” says GG.

Having a trusted and trained person to look out for the wellbeing of our children during their hours at school is vital.

But having someone who knows and understands that each child is uniquely created, and has inherent value, and therefore deserves a safe and meaningful life; that’s precious.

School chaplains provide support to our most vulnerable children – and having Chappy Amie at school has made Gabe’s school experience infinitely brighter.

“I feel happy when I come and see Chappy. She’s my friend,” says Gabe.

As a parent myself, knowing that our children have a safe person who believes in them and cares for them in our school communities means so much. To know that friends like you are helping to make that possible through the sacrifice of your time and finances, thank you so much. You are truly a blessing.

You can keep the transformational work of chaplaincy going by visiting suqld.org.au/donate

 

Posted: 21/01/2021

Christmas Day 2020 – a reason to hope

Christmas Day has a few extra feels in 2020, at the end of what has been an *unprecedented* (had to get in one more time!) year. Even now as…

Christmas Day has a few extra feels in 2020, at the end of what has been an *unprecedented* (had to get in one more time!) year.

Even now as I write, we are watching aghast as NSW closes down with what seems to be a new outbreak, and Christmas and summer plans for thousands and thousands of people are being wrecked. The nightmare of Covid-19 lingers on.

In Australia we have charted the year better than most countries, graciously, but even here we have experienced huge doses of fear, frustration, isolation and disruption. As if this was not enough, we have also seen vast bush fires, global racial conflicts, and fierce divisions over politics, vaccines and almost every issue of importance.

So we come up to Christmas, surrounded by the familiar and strangely comforting trappings of carols, decorations and shopping. In such a different year this public holiday is looming with extra meaning and value.

As I ponder why I am feeling Christmas more than in past years, I have been struck with three reasons that the season brings me hope:

  1. Simplicity – there is much that we normally do that we’ve been forced to give up (which changes depending on where we’re located), like travel, parties, going to the movies, avoiding crowds at shopping centres, and not being able to see some people we love. Our world has shrunk, as we have spent so much time at home. For many of us, Christmas will be smaller, local and with just the basics. This pared back experience initially felt like a loss, but as it gets closer I am finding it special and wonderful. After all, that very first Christmas was a simple, yet wonderful and meaningful affair.
  2. Family – or more specifically, the people I love and who love me. I sadly concede that not everyone has or relishes time with their own family, but whether it be one person or a crowd, Christmas presents a time to find and hold onto those who are yours. We are social beings who share a bond with our flesh and blood, or tribe or mob or gang, or those who we feel at home with. Especially in a year of so much separation, Christmas invites fresh connection – in person if we can, or virtually – if necessary.
  3. Gifts – I cannot shake the weird wonderfulness of giving at Christmas, the selflessness of finding and buying things to give to others. This entails spending hours at the shops (or online), spending our money, wrapping our presents and placing them under a tree – all so we can hand them out so that our special others can rip off the paper and discover the treasure they have received. This is quite literally a gesture of national generosity, unlike any other single time in our lives. Ok, so it is capitalism gone crazy, but still, isn’t the giving of gifts amazing.

It may not surprise that each of these reasons also remind me of the background story of Christmas. As a follower of Jesus, this man-made celebration is based on the truly remarkable story in the Bible of the arrival of a baby to earth.

The creator of the universe came as a mere baby, in a most simple and completely unremarkable fashion. While fully God, this baby came to a young family, Joseph and Mary, under social and moral clouds because of a virgin conception. They were without a home due to a government ruling and a threat to the life of their child. This baby came as God’s gift to our world, to reveal in human form his character and teachings, and to ultimately offer a sacrifice that would save the world from our sin and struggles.

I do love this time of year. And this year maybe more than ever before in my life. May you and yours find new hope in this Christmas season, and may your 2021 be full of joy and blessing.

 

About the Author…

Tim works in Cross-Cultural Innovations for SU, seeking to foster vibrant ministry with people of minority cultures and other faiths. Prior to this Tim spent 8 years with The Feast in the UK, engaging youth of different faiths, and 10 years in various roles with SU Qld.  

Posted: 24/12/2020

4 reasons why it’s important for everyone to understand mental illness

There are many negative perceptions around mental illness. Some people think depression is just a ‘myth’. These sorts of opinions can have a huge impact on those going through…

There are many negative perceptions around mental illness. Some people think depression is just a ‘myth’. These sorts of opinions can have a huge impact on those going through serious mental illness.

Suicide remains the leading cause of death for children aged between five and 17 years. One in every five Australians are affected by mental illness every year, 1 in 7 are aged 4-17, yet many don’t seek help. (Mental Health Australlia).

Why is that? And what can we do to support our Children and Youth in seeking help?

Mental Health can have a negative stigma when viewing a person suffering from mental illness. They are treated differently and can be viewed as “Dangerous” or “Crazy”. Having these stigmas can lead to discrimination, bullying, and in some cases it can lead to them becoming a target for violence or abuse.

However, if a person suffering from mental illness is feeling that negative stigma it can also mean they are less likely to seek treatment when needed.

What can we do about it?

1. Educate yourself about mental illness

This will help you understand how mental illness impacts a person’s life and how we can support those around us.

2. Use facts

Media can be a powerful tool to reinforcing negative stigma, so be sure to know the difference between fact and myths when it comes to mental illness

3. Help reduce stigma

Advocate for those who are suffering from mental illness, encourage those around you to seek the facts and know that people with mental illness have the same rights as everyone else.

4. Encourage to seek support

If you know of someone suffering from mental illness, encourage them to seek help. Let them know that it is okay to look after your mental wellbeing, and that stigma should not stop them from seeking treatment.

 

It is important for us to be able to contribute to how we can increase the awareness of mental illness and how it is viewed in our communities and schools.

If we can have a positive view of mental illness, we can help reduce the negative stigma and encourage those around us to seek the help they need.

Our children and young people need to know that it is okay to look after your mental health and ask for help.

 

About the author…
Jane has been involved with SU Camps and Community Outreaches for 15 years. She has experience working as a chaplain and has a background in nursing. Jane currently works as the Camp Specialist for SU QLD, overseeing the camps and missions across Queensland.

 

 

References:
https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/mental-health-stigma
https://www.beyondblue.org.au/media/statistics
https://mhaustralia.org/our-work/world-mental-health-day-oct-10

Posted: 11/12/2020

Chappy turns back the clock to bring hope during covid

The days of writing and receiving letters via the post hold fond memories for many, but for our young generation the practice is quite a novelty. When lockdowns and…

The days of writing and receiving letters via the post hold fond memories for many, but for our young generation the practice is quite a novelty.

When lockdowns and learning from home became the norm earlier in the year, Chappy Sam in Rockhampton thought this would be the perfect time to resurrect this practice and show personalised care to the families in her community.

Through your support, chappies like Sam have been supporting communities in need right through the uncertainty of COVID-19. Thank you!

Chappy Sam teamed up with the school’s Guidance Officer Mel, to send well-being packs to students and their families.

“We’ve had a lot of disasters in our region over the past couple of years – floods, fires, you name it. In the middle of times of stress and trauma, it’s important to remind people there’s help available and there’s people you can turn to,” says Chappy Sam.

“Mel and I wanted to do something that would bring a smile to the kids’ faces. The packs we sent out had a letter to the parents, a recipe, some online dance activities, a mental health guide, some breathing techniques and a postcard for the kids with stickers and a balloon.”

“I sent about 500 packs between my two schools – it took about a week to put it all together! We had a lot of positive feedback from teachers and parents, saying they felt really cared for, which was awesome to hear.”

Mum of three, Kathryn, says she was so grateful to have her school chappy.

“Our family has had a really rough year and without the help from Chappy Sam I don’t think we would have made it through. My kids rave about Chappy – she makes each one of them feel special,” says Kathryn.

Kathryn’s middle daughter, Izzabella, says she was excited to receive the care package because it took her mind off what was happening in the world around her.

School chaplaincy is about modelling the love and compassion of Jesus by helping those in need, and connecting people to community.

When familiar things are taken away and our young people are feeling out of place, it’s important to remind them they are not alone.

Thanks to your continuous support, chaplains like Sam are looking out for our young people.

To help others receive the unconditional support of a school chaplain, head to suqld.org.au/donate

Posted: 16/11/2020

Why do I celebrate NAIDOC Week?

As a non-Indigenous Australian man, I confess to being a little nervous about penning a blog post about NAIDOC Week, which runs from 8-15 November this year (later than…

As a non-Indigenous Australian man, I confess to being a little nervous about penning a blog post about NAIDOC Week, which runs from 8-15 November this year (later than the usual July dates due to COVID-19). This time is about our First Nations people, and I feel a little like an intruder.

Standing for “National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee”, NAIDOC has its roots in the 1920s and 1930s as a protest against the status and treatment of our Indigenous peoples. Nowadays the week – which sometimes extends over the month – is a celebration of the history, culture and achievements of these First Australians.

So while with trepidation, I am also embracing the chance to reflect on why I personally believe NAIDOC Week is so special and why we all need it:

1. First Australians have had and continue to have unfair struggles

Sadly my starting point is the disparity between life experiences of First Australian peoples compared to the majority of us from non-Indigenous backgrounds. The statistics are shocking, necessitating a national government policy called, strikingly, “Closing the Gap”. Just a couple of the stats include:

  • A child death rate of 146 per 100,000 for Indigenous children, compared to 70 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous children – twice as high!*
  • Life expectancy of 71.6 years and 75.6 years for Indigenous males and females, compared to 80.2 and 83.4 years for non-Indigenous males and females – a gap of 8.6 and 7.8 years!** However in 2018, the median age at death for Indigenous Australians was 60, compared with 82 for non-Indigenous Australians.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged between 15 and 24 are almost four times more likely to commit suicide than non-Indigenous people the same age.***

These numbers are only a small part of the picture, and do not include challenges like rates of incarceration, deaths in custody, low levels of education, and the general blight of racism. These are unfair and not right.

However – this is not the whole picture! Despite these sobering realities I do not see our Indigenous peoples as victims and helpless pawns forever defeated by history. There are many other reasons to celebrate NAIDOC Week.

2. First Australian have an amazing culture

Australia is a unique country in the world, marked by a rich, vibrant and unique contribution from our First Australian peoples. No one else has their didgeridoos and boomerangs, art and dance, dreamtime stories and connection to country.

I have to confess that my perspective on this comes from my own experience of having grown up in an Indigenous community, and from having lived overseas and missing home, but I still feel a sense of pride whenever First Australians are represented in the image we project to the world. I feel a sense that this beautiful and ancient culture is ours, and we’re so blessed to have it.

3. First Australians have much to teach us, to build a better Australia

As someone who is wired to rush through life, being busy and productive and ticking off my never ending to-do list, I admire and quite honestly envy our First Australians’ approach to life. In fact, I find myself becoming a student of their values and rhythms, and reckon they hold powerful truths we could all benefit from.

One of these is asking “who is your mob?” where they cherish the past, our roots and the people who we come from, and so intentionally recognise our cultural identity. We are not islands but connected to our ancestors, and knowing this is invaluable to establishing where we fit in now and how we will see and build the future.

Another priceless lesson is their practice of yarning or conversation, where they take the time to sit down and talk, to tell stories, to listen and to learn from each other, and together work out solutions. My nature fights this, but as I practice this discipline I start to see different solutions and experience different feelings of what progress might be.

4. First Australians are people like me

The Bible tells me that God made all people and that each is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and Jesus tells me that I should “love my neighbour as I love myself” (Mark 12:31). My First Australian neighbours were made by God just like I was, and each have hopes and dreams and fears and struggles just like I do.

However as a tiny minority (less than 3% of our population) their voice is small. Every single one of us have at times experienced being the odd one out, the newbie, the exception to the group – and know how good it is when we are included, when we are invited into the whole and made to feel special.

Like on our birthday when our family and friends celebrate us being born, NAIDOC Week is a special time to lift up and honour our First Australians.

May NAIDOC Week be a step, together, for all Australians to better understand each other, to revel in and learn from each other, for every week of the year. And like in any relationship, we need to acknowledge the hurts and the misunderstandings, but also to be open to being changed and having our perspective widened.

I know I’d like that, so that is what I seek for my First Australian friends and countrymen. In fact, it’s what I would like to see for our nation, and even our world.

About the author…

Tim works in Cross-Cultural Innovations for SU, seeking to foster vibrant ministry with people of minority cultures and other faiths. Prior to this Tim spent 8 years with The Feast in the UK, engaging youth of different faiths, and 10 years in various roles with SU Qld.  

 

*  [Indigenous child mortality and life expectancy] https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/ed34c67c-e1aa-4d4f-9ff2-366ea6f27b52/aihw-aus-221-chapter-6-3.pdf.aspx

** [Indigenous life expectancy and deaths – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare] https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/indigenous-life-expectancy-and-deaths)

*** [Suicide rate for Indigenous Australians remains ‘distressingly high’ | NITV] https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/nitv-news/article/2019/09/26/suicide-rate-indigenous-australians-remains-distressingly-high

Posted: 12/11/2020

Make Empathy Great Again

A presidential campaign and election in a country far, far away has been dominating our news feeds.  Amidst the drama of this world-impacting, democratic process, you may have missed…

A presidential campaign and election in a country far, far away has been dominating our news feeds.  Amidst the drama of this world-impacting, democratic process, you may have missed a less publicised movement.  Make Empathy Great Again, commenced in the lead up to the 2016 US election and is a small, but expanding movement/operation. Both campaigns aim to make a difference. I wonder if we were to compare the potential long-term outcomes, which would be the most world changing?   

You may ask whether empathy ever stopped being great or has it just disappeared from view. In the Gonski-Growing Up Digital Study*, 80% of the almost 2000 Australian teachers and school leaders surveyed, reported student empathy has declined over the last five years.  This statistic means the majority of our country’s classrooms and playgrounds have been impacted. In a time when our young people would benefit from more rather than less understanding, maybe it’s time to Make Empathy Great Again.

Empathy is the ability to feel with someone, it’s about creating connection that leads to compassion.  It’s a skill that can be modelled and taught to young children and according to Brene Brown*, also mastered in adulthood.  It is different from sympathy, which is feeling sorry for someone else.  Empathy improves relationships, reduces conflict and is essential for good leadership. 

Screen time is up, face-to-face time is down. Competition has become a lifestyle, and our culture of offence and blame are some of multiple explanations for declining empathy.  It’s worth reflecting on these causes, as is Making Empathy Great Again, by modelling, encouraging and deliberately creating opportunities to develop it as part of family life. As in most learning there will be setbacks but practicing empathetic responses can only happen in relationships.

Here are three areas that might be worth focusing on.

In Conversation

The weight of a problem lessens when we sense we have been heard. Being aware of our own feelings and thoughts as we pay attention in conversation is important to really listening.  Being curious without trying to fix someone, recognising and tuning in to the other person’s feelings and checking for meaning can be encouraged in general conversation, after school debriefs and while reading books or watching movies – particularly those with some emotionally charged moments. Modelling and explaining the aspects of empathetic conversation with our kids will give them real tools they can use in relationships outside our homes.  

In Conflict

Conflict is often the reason students visit my chaplaincy room.  Rather than lecturing and expecting reluctant, meaningless apologies, I’ve noticed the transformation that occurs as I start by acknowledging the pain and how difficult it is to get along. Next, I encourage kids to consider how their own feelings may have influenced the way they acted and then I ask them to listen to the perspective and feelings of the other person. Often this leads to the realisation that they were actually trying to achieve the same thing.

I must admit smiling (internally), as two teary, fighting girls, realised that they both simply wanted to be accepted and valued.  They voluntarily offered, “I am sorry I called you a Ranga.”  “I am sorry I called you a Monobrow.”

As a parent, I realise the times I have blamed or lectured my kids for fighting with their siblings may not have been the empathetic modelling they needed.

In Connection

Jesus spoke about inviting those in need to our dinner table. This could be the elderly neighbour, the family with a different cultural background, or the isolated single parent of the “class behaviour problem,” among others. When we have opened up our home, I have at times, struggled with my own attitude while simultaneously learning from people who I presumed had not much to teach me.  I have fielded complaints from my kids, “Do they have to come over?” It has at times been inconvenient and out of my comfort zone and it has grown empathy.

In Romans, Paul wrote, bless those who persecute you—bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another; do not be proud, but associate with the lowly. It sounds like a way to Make Empathy Great Again!

 

About the author…

Andrea is a former secondary school teacher and counsellor. She has worked as a school chaplain for over 19 years and now also serves part-time on SU QLD’s Children and Youth Program Team, delivering training and professional development to chaplains and youth workers. Andrea and her husband are parents to three adult children and grandparents to two.

 

References

Gonski Institute – Growing Up Digital Report, (2020)

Brene Brown – Dare to Lead, (2018)

Posted: 5/11/2020

Halloween – Finding Light in the Darkness

Halloween is a big deal in my community. Each year, we have a huge Halloween community event, with a parade, performances, rides and food. It’s easily the biggest event…

Halloween is a big deal in my community. Each year, we have a huge Halloween community event, with a parade, performances, rides and food. It’s easily the biggest event in our local calendar. But this hasn’t always been the case. The enthusiasm for Halloween seems to have grown quite dramatically over the last few decades in our area.

I remember when I was in Year 7 (almost 40 years ago now), I went trick or treating up and down the street with my friend and most people weren’t prepared for us at all, with many having no idea that it actually was Halloween night. We didn’t fare that well in terms of treats and I don’t think we played any tricks. We didn’t bother heading out the following year…

Halloween’s origins are believed to go all the way back to a Celtic festival that celebrated both the harvest and the change of season towards the colder, darker half of the year. It was believed that during this night, the boundary between the physical and spiritual worlds would blur, resulting in heightened interactions between the living and the dead.

The festival morphed over time, influenced particularly by the Roman Empire and the Christian Church in the early centuries of the Common Era, but it’s clear that certain elements from these early expressions have stayed with us up until this day, for example, people might not wear disguises today to evade the dead’s trickery, but they still enjoy a good, spooky dress-up.

It’s been a long time since Halloween has been taken seriously as a genuine commemoration of the blurring lines between the physical and spiritual worlds.

For well over a century now, it’s been considered more of a community holiday where people get together for a party, to eat too much junk food and to freak each other out with spooky costumes, rubber masks and scary costumes. It’s supposed to be fun. I guess that’s why it’s grown in popularity over the past decades.

However, I do know people who aren’t sure about Halloween and whether it’s right to participate in a festival with seemingly such dark and unwholesome themes.

I have some sympathy for that view. I don’t love Halloween for some of those same reasons and I don’t usually go out of my way to get involved. But despite myself, I can’t help thinking that Halloween provides an opportunity to look not just at the darkness, but to look through it and see the light on the other side.

There’s a great verse in the Bible that says, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out.” (John 1:15 GNT)

It makes we wonder if I’ve failed to see the light that sits beyond the apparent darkness of my local Halloween celebration. Sure, there’s darkness on the surface. There’s lots of skeletons, zombies and scream masks, and people are certainly enjoying the shock factor in all that. But at the heart of it, people are getting together to have fun with their neighbours and friends. Surely there’s light in all that, brighter than the apparent darkness…?

So, maybe this Halloween, I won’t avoid the big community event like I usually do, even though it’s not my thing and aspects of it don’t sit completely right with me. Maybe I’ll join in and look for the light that is there under the surface. Maybe I’ll even try to be part of the light of the occasion.

I might even dress up.

Perhaps I’ll go as an angel.

Just to be sure…

 

About the author…

Steve has over 30 years experience in school, community and church-based youth work. He is currently working as the Training & Development Manager at SU QLD, overseeing teams that deliver training and produce resources for SU QLD staff and volunteers. He holds post-graduate qualifications in Social Work, Politics & Government, and Christian Studies.

Posted: 30/10/2020

4 keys for planning your church events during COVID

Spring holidays have always been a busy time for our SU QLD Camps team. Historically, it’s included over 30 events, involving over 2500 participants, volunteers and staff. Our volunteer Event…

Spring holidays have always been a busy time for our SU QLD Camps team. Historically, it’s included over 30 events, involving over 2500 participants, volunteers and staff. Our volunteer Event Directors start planning in April, or earlier, to design programs, form leadership teams and develop spiritual input activities.

So in July this year, when we sat down with directors to present them, at short notice, with our Spring Camps COVID Safe Plan, it came as no surprise that there was a lot of concern and a lot of questions: “Isn’t that going to be a lot of extra work?”, “Will we actually be able to run?”, and “Will kids even come?”

Now that we are on the other side of this year’s Spring camps season, I am pleased and grateful to say, yes, yes and yes to those questions.

We are so thankful for all that everyone did to help make our 24 Spring events happen, involving 1447 people. We’re especially grateful to our Event Directors who, in many cases, went above and beyond what would normally be expected of them.

The comment that I have heard a number of times and keeps coming to me is, “Once all the set up work was done, it was remarkable how normal it felt to run the event.”

Over the course of the last 6 months, words like “pivot”, “unprecedented” and “ever-changing” have become part of our everyday vocabulary. We celebrated when we heard over and over again that our camps felt like the normal special experience they always have been.

So as we enter the fourth quarter of this very strange year, planning for end of year events and events for early 2021, you might have some of the same concerns. You might be asking some of the same questions our Event Directors were asking 3 months ago.

Well, here are a few tips that helped them and just might help your church or youth group’s event planning:

1. Read the Industry Plans or requirements for what you need to do and write up a clear COVID Safe Plan on how they will apply to your context. So many times, when questions came up about what we should be doing, it was great to be able to simply come back to this reference point.

2. If you are the person running the event, find someone else to manage the implementation of your COVID Safe Plan. Your focus should be on the success of your event, not on ensuring everyone has been sanitised at the right times, in the right places.

3. Focus on all the things you can do and don’t fixate on what can’t happen. The experience of everyone getting together will be more important than the feeling of it looking and feeling a bit different.

4. Find someone to be in your corner to answer your questions and be a sounding board. One of my great joys of the last two months has been all the times I was thanked for just being available to help others think through the process and come up with workable solutions.

Whether you are running completely different events or just adjusting existing ones to meet the new requirements, just remember this.

While it may seem like a lot of work now, know that each step in the process is going to be worth it, and people will celebrate getting together at your event.

 

About the author…

Beavs is a former High School Maths and Christian Education Teacher who has been working and volunteering with SU QLD Camps for almost 20 years. As Camps Specialist he supports volunteers and chaplains run camps and community outreach events throughout Queensland, reaching over 4500 young people. Beavs is married with 3 children, and loves coffee and watching sport.

Posted: 15/10/2020

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