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«Christmas 2015 Chris’s Chronicle So another Christmas has come and gone – our sixth at St. John’s – and another year has drawn to a close. ...»

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Christmas 2015

Chris’s Chronicle

So another Christmas has come and gone – our sixth at St. John’s – and another year has drawn to a

close. And it’s only looking back at the year that I realise just how much has happened in our congrega-

tion and the wider community in 2015.

We began the year looking for a new youth worker, with Amanda moving on to a full time position at

Burwood-Croydon Uniting Church. A couple of months into the year we were delighted to be able to

appoint Dayan McLeod to the role – Dayan has brought her passion for faith development in children and her considerable organisational skills to the role, and coordinated kids’ Church, kMotion and Messy Church, not to mention teaching scripture at the Bush School, all with creative flair.

At the same time we took the decision to merge the Growing Place congregation back into the morning service, bringing numbers in Kids’ Church most Sundays up to critical mass, and welcoming a couple of new families into our morning service.

2015 also saw us kicking off our partnership with Wahroonga Prep School, UnitingWorld, and the Pres- byterian Church of Vanuatu in support of the Vanuatu Literacy Project. School and Church together have raised around $5,000 for training school librarians and equipping their libraries, and WPS students have exchanged letters with a school on one of the islands of Vanuatu.

Our partnership with WPS and Knox took another turn with Nigel Walker’s departure to be head of jun- ior school at PLC, but the new WPS head of school, Julie Wiseman, has used her past experience at Knox to take maximum advantage of the opportunities for both school and Church – the Upper Hall cer- tainly looks a great deal better for the detailed attention of the Knox maintenance crew! We also look forward to WPS and Knox Prep both making a great deal more use of the Church for their chapel ser- vices in the coming years.

Towards the end of 2015 we were pleased to be able to welcome the Peniel Presbyterian Church (a Ko- rean language congregation) to worship at St. John’s. The members of Peniel quickly got involved in our last Messy Church of the year, and then volunteered to help out at kMotion as well. We’re delighted that they have become more than just users of the property, but partners in our mission.

And then, of course, we came to Christmas, with all the special services, a new youth band playing for us in advent (special thanks to Rosemary, our organist, for her efforts and flexibility, and to Dayan for training the band), and, of course, the fifth year of Christmas kMotion. More about many of these events can be found elsewhere in this issue of the Journal.

And so we find ourselves looking forward into 2016, and wondering what it has in store for us! Whatev- er it is, we continue to move on, confident that the God who has called us is faithful, and whatever we face, in our personal lives or as a community, we do not face alone, but in the power of God’s Spirit and the hope of God’s Kingdom.

–  –  –

Of all the services over the Christmas season this year, the one which sticks most vividly in my mind was Christmas eve. It’s always a lovely time, with the sense of excitement in the air, and lots of people of all ages in Church. This year it was especially good to see a number of families who we know through our other work – Playjays, kMotion, SRE, in the service as well – some faces very familiar, others becoming so.

The service was based around a series of readings from the Christmas story, followed by imaginative reflections in the voices of some who were there. Don and Robin spoke the imagined thoughts of Joseph and Mary; Kit Craig and John McCredie played a shepherd and magus; and Dayan and Kiran McLeod gave us a dialog between an archangel and a junior cherub. All the speakers brought flair and creativity to their roles, bringing the story to life in a new and different way.

Then to conclude the service, we extinguished the lights and all the children lit candles from the Christ Candle and spread the light out throughout the Church as we sang “Silent Night”.

Glories stream from heaven above Heavenly, hosts sing Hallelujah.

Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born.

Chris The Art of Community

As many of you know, Christmas kMotion is now in its fifth year at St John’s. The event, held in the week before Christmas, brings about a hundred primary school children together for two days packed with games, music, dance, craft, drama and stories; not just giving the kids a great start to the Christmas holiday season, but also giving their parents and carers a well-deserved respite during one of the busiest times of the year.

KMotion was started with the simple objective of sharing the story of Christ’s coming with children of our community – children who may never hear it elsewhere. We hoped that kMotion would help us to build bridges into the community, creating links with families and helping St John’s to be a place where people can connect with God and their faith in a safe and helpful way.

Five years on, we’ve come a long way. We’ve danced the Macarena and Gangnam Style far too many times; we’ve used up industrial quantities of paint, paper and glue; we’ve eaten ice, worn ice, thrown ice and played hockey with ice; we’ve hurled giant papier-mâché chickens across the length of the church and we’ve learnt the hard way how to clean 10kg of wet cooked spaghetti off wooden floor boards (don’t tell Gordon!).

And we’ve built community in different ways. Not only did the people of St John’s step up in numbers to support kMotion, but through the grapevine, several teens and young adults from other churches joined us, to be the essential ‘peer-leaders’ for little ones. They are now a vital part of the regular team.

And the kids keep coming back, and they bring their friends. kMotion now sells out more than a month before it happens. And every year we see more and more of these families coming to our Christmas services.

kMotion also reinforces connections made through Scripture at the Bush School and WPS.

We set out to be a blessing to our community – but our community has in turn blessed us. A beautiful and lasting reminder of how kMotion has brought people together is the piece of community art that is created each year and mounted inside the church for Christmas. Every year we create a work of art with contributions from every single child and leader attending kMotion. Often, others are involved in the planning and preparation too.

So this year we had five artworks in the sanctuary at St John’s. Not just beautiful festive decorations, but a powerful reminder of how worship is the act of many coming together as one, of how we are all connected to each other through our Heavenly Father, and how the people of God include many who are not always present with us.

So join with me in praying for all who are part of kMotion. Particularly that all who connect with us through this program will experience something that will in turn help them to connect better with God.

In the first three years (2011-2013), we made the mosaic banners shown above. Each Banner is about 2mx2.5m, and made with pieces of fabric, each of which has been individually painted in bright colours by a different person. Only when assembled on the mounting does the pattern of the nativity scene emerge from the connection of the black lines.

In the last two years (2014-2015), we’ve made the stained-glass effect hangings above, which were lit with a spotlight. It was Monique Bernier, our helper from Uniting Care who had the original idea in 2014, with a superb encore by Phillipa Miller in 2015. The hanging is made by jig-sawing the pattern out of MDF in duplicate, covering both sides with acetate film, and then having the kids glue hundreds of tiny coloured pieces of contact to creat the dappled stained-glass effect before sandwiching the halves. Hats off to Tige Mason and Bob MacKenzie who put in 25hours of jig-sawing this year to get that angel cut out perfectly.

Sureka Goringe Christmas kMotion Christmas 2015 saw the fifth year of Christmas kMotion, our two-day Christmas workshop, and it was the biggest yet, with over a hundred primary school aged children attending and more than thirty volunteers involved.

Over the two days of December 17th and 18th the children enjoyed a mixture of arts, games, crafts, puppets, cooking, storytelling, drama and generally silliness, all linked around the theme of the Christmas story. We were once again blessed with a wonderful team of young adult team leaders who seemed ever ready to make complete fools of themselves for the cause, as well as a small cadre of up-and-coming highschoolers and, of course, many faithful adult volunteers generously giving up two days in the busy time of the week before Christmas.

Christmas kMotion has three main aims – to introduce the Christmas story to children, many of whom won’t hear it anywhere else, to build links into the wider community, and to make sure that those who come have an experience of Church and Christians which is fun! And I think it’s fair to say we’ve gone a long way to achieving these goals. The atmosphere was absolutely electric, and the feedback – both spoken, and read in the enthusiastic faces of the children – was overwhelming, with many children attending for the third, fourth, or even fifth time, and many others declaring their intention of being back in 2016.

Over the years we’ve built up connections with many of these families, with a number of the children also joining Scripture classes with Chris or Dayan at the Bushschool, or attending Wahroonga Prep School, or joining us for Messy Church or other special services (especially on Christmas Eve).

As ever, demand outstripped supply, and we were reluctantly forced to turn away a number of families who got in too late, so the moral of the story is definitely to book early next year!

Hopefully the photomontage will give a small taste of the holy chaos that is kMotion – but in truth, it really has to be seen to be believed! And elsewhere in this issue of the journal, don’t miss the amazing story of the community artworks that have come out of kMotion.

–  –  –

Playjays, our Friday morning playgroup, has now been running for five and a half years, meaning it’s older than any of the children attending! It’s a delight and a shock when children in my year 3 scripture group at school tell me that they used to go to my playgroup – a delight because it reminds me of the long term benefits of this service to the wider community, and a shock because it reminds me of how long we’ve been going!

The format of Playjays remains unchanged from our very first few weeks (why mess with a winning formula?) – free play, craft, morning tea, and singing. The children change, of course, but some of the parents have been more or less regulars as younger siblings come along and take the place of those graduating the preschool.

We’ve continued to average between twenty and twenty five children each week, along with parents (mostly mums, but an increasing scattering of dads), grand-parents or nannies. I continue to be very grateful to the volunteers who give up a morning to cut fruit, make cups of tea, and wash up; it wouldn’t be possible to run the group without them.

This year I was also delighted to welcome a number of Playjays families at other Church events – Messy Church, Christmas Eve, kMotion and Nooma. Playjays is offered without any expectation of Church involvement, but by building links with the families over the years we’re gradually becoming the Church that they know, the Church, as the Church that they don’t go to. A small step, but as playgroup always reminds me, the first steps are always small, but still greatly celebrated… Chris The Stamp Committee Newsletter for 2015 has recently been published. In 2015 the Committee was able to allocate $28,000 to the mission of the Uniting Church in NSW/ACT for an exciting range of projects.

Uniting Mission and Education will receive $15,500 and Uniting (formerly Uniting Care) $12,500 for activities within congregations, communities and Synod agencies. A full list of the allocations will be shown on the notice board in the narthex.

It is interesting to note that since 1977 the funds raised by the Stamp Committee have reached $714,000.

So please keep the stamps rolling in!

David Maclean Coffee Mornings A group meets on the third Tuesday of the month at 10am for coffee in the lower hall. Often there is a speaker and in October it was Jane Kennedy who works for Uniting World. She came to tell us more about the literacy project in Vanuatu. Literacy is the lowest in the Pacific at less than 50% of the population, so coupled with low school attendance, the choice of our congregation to assist is much needed. The Education Officer for Vanuatu is Jonathan, a former School Head and whose wife is the only qualified Librarian. Many of the teachers in outlying islands are untrained.

It is hoped to train 10 librarians this year as this resource has been determined as an important starting point. Thereafter efforts can be put behind other material resources. Jane emphasised that the partnership is committed to working with Education Authorities in Vanuatu to determine what are the best places to direct effort. Vanuatu needs support in things which are useful to them in meeting their objectives.

It is proposed that St John’s might join a delegation to visit Vanuatu in the second quarter of 2016. Ted Metcalf is co-ordinating with Uniting World on objectives for such a trip and expressions of interest should be directed to him.

Ted Metcalf

–  –  –

For the fifth year in a row, several local Uniting Churches got together on a selected Spring Tuesday in Children’s Week to conduct 'A Day in The Park'. This is an event planned principally for mothers, and carers with pre-School aged children. It provides a chance to take an hour or two in Wahroonga Park and enjoy a range of light entertaining experiences. Mothers, fathers, grandparents and nannies doing child minding also bring along their charges, and were all welcomed in the park.

Activities included play dough, minibouncy-castle, balloons, petting zoo, craft and reading. Children and parents/minders all enjoyed the experience as a different way of having a morning activity.

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