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Signing off

Friends, this is my last blog. My final service at Gordon takes place this Sunday.

I’m in a time of transition, and I find myself thinking back over the last six years.

I remember high moments, forming connections with so many, new friendships, powerful and poignant experiences in pastoral situations, special times in worship, Current Affairs, Bible study and the Good News Group, and the evolving partnership with SCUC.

I am grateful for the weekly discipline of grappling with the Scriptures, being sustained by new insights, and weaving them into worship.

I regret some dreams that didn’t come to fruition, and I have a sense of sadness over misunderstandings.

I already experience loss as I prepare to move to Revesby.

In my musings, I think especially of Interfaith September.

This program witnessed to the church at its best, and the interest and commitment shown by many of you in developing these links has been inspiring.

Equally inspiring has been listening to the experiences and the faith of those we have met in Interfaith September.

At the Assembly meeting held in Melbourne several weeks ago, the Other Faiths Working Group organised a special lunch with interfaith guests. The stories they told were memorable.

Agnes, a Baha’i woman, remarked that seeking the views of people of other religions on any important issue was automatic for her; not an added extra but automatic.

Anam, a young Muslim woman, told a compelling story of hope.

Like many Muslim women in Australia, she has experienced discrimination. She wears a hijab.

One day, when she walked into a supermarket, a young man started screaming abuse and spat at her.

Staff offered to call the police. She asked them not to.

She spoke to the young man, ‘What are you so worked up about?’

‘You people are everywhere; you’re taking over the country!’

‘Where are they? How many Muslims have you seen in this supermarket?’

‘Well. You’re the only one I’ve seen here.’ Some of the young man’s hate seemed to drain out of him.

The conversation continued. They organised to have coffee together.

Anam had transformed confrontation into conversation.

In so doing, she displayed grace beyond measure.

(Ironic, when it’s the so-called Aussies who should offer such grace and welcome to new migrants in our country.)

I was impressed by her story. In my imagination, I put myself in a similar position and did not find myself nearly so courageous.

Hearing stories like this makes the work of building bridges worthwhile.

There is something else - when the Christian community welcomes people and their stories into its midst, we are all enriched, Muslim, Christian, and Baha’i alike.

It changes us.

Often, it is what comes from outside that transforms us.

In Psalm 118, we read ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.’

We have experienced such moments at Gordon. Reflecting on the six years at Gordon, this is what I particularly give thanks for.

And to you all, thanks for sharing this journey. I wish you well.