This is the latest blurb that is published on the front of our weekly bulletin

It’s Time For Poker Machine Reform

Australians are the world’s most prolific gamblers, with poker machines causing over half our losses. 

NSW has about double (or worse) the rate of poker machine losses compared to every other Australian state and territory.

About 40% of all poker machine losses come from people experiencing significant harm from gambling.

Worse still, the highest losses are concentrated in the poorest LGAs in Sydney.  

As pastors, we can’t remain silent as we hear from people experiencing gambling addiction, who are at risk of physical self-harm, family members impacted by gambling harm facing repossession of a car or furniture, or even children going hungry.  

Recent research reports the prevalence of harmful gambling has continued to rise over the last decade. 

The NSW Treasury budget papers project taxes on gaming devices in clubs and hotels alone will grow to over $2 billion in the next financial year, with an average annual growth rate of 12.55% over the next four years.

And gambling taxation is rising as a share of NSW Government revenue.  

We lament that it could be said NSW and its government have the world’s biggest, most destructive gambling addiction, and a growing reliance on a truly regressive and socially destructive form of taxation.  

The Bible says, “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honours God” (Proverbs 14:31). 

The Bible also reminds rulers to “Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:9). 

We believe that there are concrete reforms that both the government and the opposition can commit to in the long term.

This is an edited version of an open letter to the NSW Premier and the NSW Leader of the Opposition, by the Dean of Sydney, Sandy Grant, and the CEO and Superintendent of Wesley Mission, Stu Cameron

Jesus Walks Us Through Death

Three years ago I had an oesophageal cancer removed.

I had hoped that was the end of it, but last Friday I was informed that my cancer has returned, and it’s spreading.

Initially I was in shock, but then shock gave way to sadness, and after sadness I found thankfulness.

I’m sad to have to say farewell sooner than I expected: to my family, to my Christian family, and to God’s beautiful world.

But I’m thankful that when I was 20 years old, and heedless and ignorant of God, he laid his hand on me.

I am foreknown, predestined, called and justified by God (Romans 8:29), and I will be glorified.

I’m thankful he gave me Lesley, and for the privilege of many years of ordained ministry, amongst a multitude of many other things.

In the imagery of Psalm 23, the Lord who is the shepherd walks with his sheep through the valley of the shadow of death.

The Christian meaning of this psalm is that Jesus, who is revealed as the good shepherd, walks us through death, as the one who died for our sins.

Then the psalm moves to the imagery of a banqueting table set up by God, which is surely a picture of table fellowship with him in heaven.

How do people face death without God?

There’s euthanasia, of course, which is a tragic attempt to try and stay in control and chose when to exit.

Then, there’s the ‘Thanksgiving Memorial Service,’ where a lineup of family and friends praise your achievements.

But one of the wonderful things about our late queen’s funeral was that she was the one person of whom an endless list of celebrities could have truthfully praised her.

But instead, she chose for us to have a simple service in the Abbey of hymns, Bible readings, prayers, and a sermon.

When the time comes, that’s what I want… minus the pomp and ceremony, of course!

It’s hard to be told the cancer is back, but we’ll keep praying and seeking treatment, as we give thanks to God for your love, support and prayers through this difficult time.

GRAHAM ERRINGTON

(Photo credit: brewbooks via Flickr)

Full Steam Ahead!

This week our Anglican Synod voted to return us to full status after 46 years as a Provisional Parish.

As we reflect on this remarkable revival, there are three things that we can observe.

Firstly, we’ve been part of a special family.

Within our diocese, and around the world, we share a common Anglican bond with orthodox brothers and sisters.

Our passion to see Christ proclaimed faithfully drives us to work together, no matter how big or small we might be.

We saw that when the small-ish parish of Oak Flats shared ministry resources with the much-smaller parish of Jamberoo… even though we didn’t share a common boundary.

And through that partnership, an un-viable parish has returned to full health.

We give great thanks to God for Oak Flats Anglican!

Secondly, we’ve loved our village.

We’re the only church in the village with a resident minister, and we’ve worked hard to serve our community.

Together we’re involved in ministry to Jamberoo Public School, and I’m privileged to serve in our RFS brigade.

And there are two special weekends when the village joins us on our lawn.

On Christmas Eve we invite the whole village to join us for carols, and on Easter Day we welcome the village to hear about the resurrection of Jesus and to witness the baptism of people who follow him.

Thirdly, we’ve been intergenerational.

Every week we include people of all ages in our services, and our meals after church are a great way to get to know older and younger people, alike… and to compete in handball!

Yet above all, the reason that our church has come back to life is because the Lord graciously brought people to us so that with them we might serve him, together.

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy!

JODIE McNEILL

God Saved Our Queen

As we woke to hear of the passing of the Queen, we were reminded afresh that our greatly-loved, longest-serving monarch was mortal.

Most of us have only ever handled coins that were graced with her image, and her longevity has brought us unparalleled stability.

But now she has departed this life, and her crown will be worn by King Charles III.

Throughout her reign, she made it known that she gladly submitted to the gracious rule of King Jesus.

Unlike most monarchs, she heeded the word of the Lord, who warned all the rulers of the earth to serve him with reverent fear and to rejoice with trembling (Psalm 2:10-11.)

For, though she ruled great nations, she submitted to God’s royal son (verse 12a.)

And because of her wisdom, she now truly knows the joy that is for all who take refuge in King Jesus (verse 12b.)

We know of her faith because she chose to publicly share her personal trust in Jesus when the opportunity arose.

In her final Christmas broadcast last year, she said that Jesus was, “a man whose teachings have been handed down from generation to generation, and have been the bedrock of my faith.”

And in her life, she demonstrated that even the most powerful woman in the Commonwealth understood the heart of true leadership.

For, as she shared in her 2012 Christmas broadcast:

“God sent his only son ‘to serve, not to be served’. He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer… that his example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others.”

Our Queen gladly served the King of the Universe, and though she has now breathed her last breath, she is with Christ Jesus, the one who gave his life for her, so that she might have the eternal life she now enjoys.

JODIE McNEILL 

Does Religion Matter?

At the last census, the number of Australians who said they associated with Christianity was over 11 million people… that’s 44% of Aussies.

Now the big news was that it was a million less than five years before, with the largest decrease in your age bracket… the 18 to 25 year olds.

But even though there are many religious people around, we’re still pretty shy about revealing our faith.

Just before Covid hit, there was a survey of 54,000 people by the ABC.

They surveyed all sorts of different things, but one of them was their attitude to religion.

Journalist Annabel Crabb analysed the results and said that 60 per cent of Australians would prefer that people keep their religious views to themselves.

What’s more, almost half of all religious people, “agreed that religion should be a hush-hush affair.”

But not only was religion something that people wanted to keep quiet.

It also didn’t seem to have any real impact on peoples’ lives.

That same journalist went on to say that, “when given a list of eight attributes and asked which was most central to the respondent’s sense of self and identity, Australians placed religion stone-cold, motherless last.”

And what’s more, Crabb said that, “only 15 percent of respondents thought the country would be better off if more people were religious”.

And to top it off, she observed that, “one of the survey’s most striking findings is the poor esteem in which religious leaders are held.”

Even though four out of ten people identified with a Christian religion, most Aussies don’t think that religion matters.

And that’s not really surprising, is it?

But that’s our challenge, because we are amongst the 15 percent who think that our country would be better off if more people knew Jesus.

And that’s why we’re praying that each person in our village, valley, and region would know how to follow Jesus and why it matters.

Will you join me in that prayer?

JODIE McNEILL

(Photo credit: Gafcon)

The gift of unity

It’s surprising to read how many times the Bible speaks of the need for God’s people to be united, together, as one.

Perhaps the most vivid expression of this is seen in the prayer by Jesus to the father on the night before he died.

In John chapter 17, Jesus says:

Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. (verse 11)

As good as it is to strive for unity, we must remember that our unity is a gift from God in response to the prayers of Jesus to the father.

What’s more, the unity that Christians enjoy must be true to who God is, which means that it must be based on his true word.

Yet the closer we stand to God’s word, the further we’ll be from the world.

For Jesus then says to the father:

I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. (verse 14)

So, the more we’re united with Jesus, the less we’ll be united with the world.

This means that when people try and change the church to be like the world, they’ve completely missed the point… and may well have missed the truth.

I give thanks to God for the unity we enjoy as a church as we are united together in Christ.

May his Spirit continue to lead us to obey his wonderful word, so that we might boldly tell our village, valley and region how to follow Jesus and why it matters… even when people find it hard to follow Christ.

JODIE McNEILL

Constellation of Conviction

Thank you for your prayers for this week’s Gafcon Australasia Conference in Canberra, where I had the joy of leading the team of organisers as we gathered over 360 people from around Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands to be encouraged to stand firm in the gospel, and to preach Christ faithfully to the nations.

At the conference, the all-new Diocese of the Southern Cross was announced, and our former Archbishop Glenn Davies was installed as the interim bishop.

It would be so much better if every one of the 23 dioceses of the Anglican Church of Australia was led by a bishop who delighted in and defended the teaching of the word of God, including the Bible’s doctrine of marriage and human sexuality.

But some of these dioceses are led by bishops who not only welcome same-sex marriage for Christians, but also actively frustrate their own ministers who don’t join them in embracing that sin.

However our own Diocese of Sydney has no intention of leaving the Anglican Church of Australia, which means that this development has no effect on any of our parishes, schools or organisations.

Indeed, as our Archbishop Kanishka Raffel confirmed, “we are committed to the reform of the Anglican Church of Australia from within our existing ecclesial structures, including the General Synod.”

Further, he stated that the all-new Diocese of the Southern Cross has been set up for churches and ministers, “who have left their diocese because they cannot in good conscience accept the authority of those who have departed from the teaching of Christ.

“It is a sadness that this new Diocese has become necessary,” reflects Archbishop Raffel, “but I extend the hand of fellowship to the Diocese of the Southern Cross and may God bless Bishop Davies and his work.”

JODIE McNEILL

(Photo Credit: Roger Fitzhardinge via Facebook)

United in Truth

This week in Canberra over 350 delegates from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands will be gathering to unite as Anglicans to encourage each other to proclaim Christ faithfully to the nations.
The inaugural ‘Gafcon Australasia Conference’ will provide important support to Anglicans who serve in dioceses where the leadership has strayed from the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s people (Jude 3).
Throughout the world there have been Anglican leaders who have chosen to follow patterns of the world in behaviour, which has been seen in their acceptance and encouragement of same-sex relationships, including amongst bishops and ministers.
As so many have moved away from the Bible’s clear teaching, it has become increasingly important for us to work together to defend the truth and protect God’s people from those who have deserted the truth.
The first ‘Gafcon’ (Global Anglican Future Conference) met in Jerusalem in 2008 to offer such fellowship and support, and now this Australasian conference will continue this ministry to those closer to home.
Six people from our church are registered to attend this important conference, and so we would value your prayers as we serve and learn with others from our geographical region who seek to be energised in defending and promoting the good news of Jesus.
Please pray for me in my role as Assistant Chair of the Conference Working Group, and for all who are involved in teaching and training in the main sessions as well as the seminar groups.
I’m also presenting a seminar with the title, ‘How Anglican liturgy can help intergenerational ministry’, where I look forward to sharing with the conference some of the great things that the Lord has done in our own church here at Jamberoo.
Please pray for those who are facing serious opposition as they stand up for the truth, and pray that all who gather might offer a great support to each other as we seek to make the truth of Jesus clear and pure to this world that critically needs to know Jesus.
JODIE McNEILL

Intergenerational Liturgy

These two big words are rarely used in common speak, but they both mean a lot to us as we ‘do’ church here at Jamberoo Anglican.

The first word, ‘intergenerational,’ describes our passion to fully include people of all ages and stages, as much as helpfully possible.

That means that we want our church to work for children, youth, seniors—people of all generations—as we gather each Saturday night and Sunday morning.

The natural response to this challenge would be to try to err on the side of making it feel like a special ‘all-age’ service, with lots of kids’ songs, puppets and memory verses.

Or, we could keep church just like it’s been for decades, and train the children to endure the adult-ness of the service, as we assume they will eventually learn the big words and get used to the formality.

But, in our church we’ve tried to cater for all of the people, most of the time, so that every person will participate and benefit, even if some of it is a little out of our comfort zone.

Ironically, a way we have achieved this is by using what the second, big word describes, namely, ‘liturgy’.

This word is commonly used to describe the words we say together during our church service, like set prayers, creeds, and the public reading of psalms.

Conventional wisdom would say that liturgy was the last thing that younger people would want, and yet it’s a surprisingly good and powerful way to achieve our desire for intergenerational church.

For, by saying words together that have been prepared in advance, it actually helps people of all ages to have the confidence to participate in church, and the joy of being fully involved, no matter how old they are.

In fact, accessible and intelligible liturgy doesn’t need to feel ‘formal’ but can actually be a really-helpful ‘scaffold’ for younger people seeking to fully engage with the ‘grown ups’ with whom they share church, week in and out.

JODIE McNEILL

Cross-Cultural Imagination

This week I messaged one of our missionaries, sharing about the joys that Mandy and I experienced during our recent holiday overseas.

She responded by saying that, “there is something very energising about entering into the other world of another culture… it does good things for our imaginations.”

As we were immersed alongside people who spoke a different language and followed a different rhythm of life, it forced me to look afresh at our own culture, and to consider again how our ‘normal’ is not the same for everyone.

What’s more, it gave me insights into how to engage with a world that needs to know how to follow Jesus and why it matters, as I had a fresh look at what we value and cherish.

Two of our church members are heading to Fiji in September with the Year 13 program to learn and to serve in an environment that is very different to their own, where they will also be given the opportunity to have their imagination energised.

As they experience life in a different culture it will help them look afresh at the life they live now, and will expose them to the joys and challenges of cross-cultural ministry.

Yet because the Year 13 program has been partnering with Christians in Fiji for fifteen years it means that this cross-cultural partnership has grown and flourished between our two countries as we’ve shared in gospel ministry… and long-term benefits are being seen.

The blessings of this cross-cultural experience flow both ways, as the Year 13’s are equipped for a lifetime of Christian service as they taste missionary life for a moment.

As Elise and Oscar prepare for this special adventure would you please join with me in praying and financially supporting them as they get ready to have their cross-cultural imagination energised, to God’s glory!

JODIE McNEILL