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Lent Event Tag

Growing up in an ecological crisis. 

 An Australian child born in 2023 will experience four times as many heat waves, three times as many droughts and one and a half times as many bushfires during their lifetime as someone born in 1960. And for those born in more vulnerable parts of the planet, hunger, disease and homelessness are all on the rise due to the impact of changing climate.  

Childhood provides very little respite from these realities. If young people aren’t seeing evidence in their own communities of extreme weather events, there’s plenty of information at their fingertips via social media. 

It’s not surprising then that a recent survey of 10,000 children and young people (aged 16-25 years) in 10 countries, including Australia, found that 59% were  very or extremely worried about climate change, with 84% at least moderately worried 

Action can also be an antidote to anxiety! Acting on climate, in ways large or small, can give hope and courage to others.
Lent Event is a great place to start.

If the young people in your life are worried about climate change, here’s a good article about how to manage eco-anxiety

 

At the same time, spare a thought for children growing up in our immediate neighbourhood, the Pacific and South East Asia.  

These are children who already know what it’s like to live in communities that flood too often, where fresh food is scarce, and waterborne disease keeps them from school. For some, ‘home’ will be uninhabitable by the time they’re adults – in Tuvalu, for example, young people are resigned to the fact that they have no future on their island homes and plan to relocate to Fiji or other parts of the Pacific as soon as they’re old enough.  

In the face of overwhelming challenges, where is the next generation finding hope? Who has the task of educating, equipping and inspiring them to overcome anxiety with action? 

Rev Nyoman Agustinus, Bishop of the Bali Protestant Church (GKPB), believes the Church can play a unique role. 

“We are called by God to see this earth as our home, care for it, protect and preserve its beauty,” he says. “This means that as early as possible we must provide education for children. If children learn to love the earth from the beginning, this will help them to protect the earth so it will be a healthy and comfortable home for them in the future.” 

Parts of the Church throughout the Pacific and South East Asia have been proactive during the past decade in educating members about the important role they can play in protecting the environment, many with the support of UnitingWorld theologians and resources. They see the critical role that the next generation will play and are committed to inspiring children to face the future with hope. Rev Agustinus says:

“In the Balinese church, we urge all pastors to show their love of nature and teach creation care in everything they do. This means catechism education and providing material for Sunday school teachers. We strongly encourage Pastors, Vicars and Sunday school teachers to provide education that is not limited to learning just in the classroom but can extend to a ‘natural school’.  Children can have direct contact with nature, step on mud, and plant trees with their families – as they grow, these trees will remind them of the role they play in looking after the earth for generations.” 

Part of the approach is helping children see that their individual actions are connected to a wider global reality. What impacts people in Bali – difficulty predicting when to grow and harvest crops, extreme weather events that destroy livelihoods, displaced communities due to flood – impacts people all over the world. 

“We want children here to know that individual acts become collective acts, and this is what will change the world. Let’s all be good role models and with our actions we will set an example: our children need to see this solidarity from other Christians around the globe.”

Watch Rev Agustinus’ message in the short video below.

You can play your part in encouraging our young people to overcome eco-anxiety and take action for the planet, both here in Australia and around the world. 

Learn more at www.lentevent.com.au 

 

Under a sky bluer than an eye, fisherman Kekai sets his line and waits.

He’s further from the shore than ever before and, with the crippling cost of fuel for his boat, he’s hoping for a catch. Fast. But it’s quiet on the sea; warmer water means the fish are seeking the deep, and trawlers are cleaning out the area more and more frequently.

As Kekai scans the horizon, he contemplates yet another canned dinner – salt in the water table from multiple king tides is poisoning his vegetable garden and no more fresh food will arrive at his tiny Tuvaluan island until next week.

“This is the frontline of changing climate for Pacific islanders,” says Rev Seforosa (Sef) Carroll, Fijian-born Australian theologian and academic.

“Diabetes is on the rise because of the change in diet; malnutrition and waterborne diseases plague the children because it’s so hard to grow anything. Clean water and sanitation are really difficult when the land is constantly flooded by salt water.

And it’s really sad, because these are people who are traditionally independent, used to caring for their land, taking from it what they need to survive, and generally in tune with creation.”

Changing climate has wrought havoc on what should be a delicately woven web of relationships between humans and the natural world. And while there’s much more agreement these days about the reality of climate change – most people are aware that we now face not just an ecological crisis, but a ‘here and now’ climate emergency – implementing solutions is more challenging.

So ‘which God’ can fix climate change, and how?

“People in the Pacific are inherently spiritual, it’s just in their DNA,” Sef says.

“But they have this hangover from colonial encounters with missionaries that gives them a view of God that actually isn’t all that helpful. The God many worship is generally seen as transcendent and uninvolved with humanity, responsible for weather and other big events, but somewhat distant.

“Many believing Islanders are convinced that this God won’t let their lands be destroyed because of the promise to Noah in Genesis after the Great Flood. So they wait patiently for the next miracle, even while their entire sense of identity is eroded as they watch their land disappear. Doubt creeps in: where is God in their suffering?”

This is where theology really bites and cultural views of God matter deeply. The temptation to see increasingly devastating weather events as evidence of God’s punishment for sin can lead to doubling down on morality codes, while at the same time jettisoning any sense of personal responsibility or agency in the face of the emergency. Sef says:

“‘Which God’ we worship – our understanding of God’s identity – really matters.  That kind of purely transcendent God is not the God of Jesus, of Emmanuel, God with us. It’s not the God that says we are caretakers with responsibility and empowerment by God’s Spirit. And helping Pacific people to shift from this kind of inheritance theology to one that says that through Christ, God is suffering with creation and God is suffering with us, is really critical. That theology can help people to be proactive and inspire them to action.”

Faith drives meaning and behaviour in many parts of the Pacific Islands. But shifting long-held understandings takes time, and that’s a commodity we simply don’t have.

“We’re sitting on a ticking bomb here,” Sef says. “And it takes time for people to unlearn and relearn theology, and to gain a new understanding of faith.”

It’s why UnitingWorld’s partnership to train ministers and theological colleges is so critical. Resources like Bible Studies and workshops are opening eyes to who God is and how God is at work in and through God’s people in the world. But the work is slow and painstaking, and it can’t be the only solution.

“Pacific Islanders might be the ones most impacted in our region by changing climate, but it’s on all of us to step up to acknowledge the impacts in our own neighbourhoods and across the globe, and to play our part. Every single one of us needs to ask ‘which God are we worshipping?’ A God who is only concerned with our ‘spiritual lives’ or a God actively involved in collaborating with us in reclaiming creation? I dream of a rigorous theology embraced by Christians around the world, inspiring us to action where we are, with what we have. It’s going to take all of us, doing everything we can.”

Watch Sef’s message in the short video below.

This year, UnitingWorld’s Lent Event is creating a movement of people committed to urgency, solidarity and faithful action for God’s creation.

We’re calling on you to do something personal – make a change to your life that benefits creation during the 40 days of Lent and pray it sticks throughout the year.

We’re calling on you to do something practical – make a donation to support projects across the Pacific and elsewhere that open minds to new understandings of God and drive faithful action, empower communities to protect their environment through tree planting initiatives and provide clean water.

We’re calling on you to get political – contact your local representative to chat about their approaches to climate change, educate yourself about policies, and help hold government accountable for their actions.

‘Which God’ will fix climate change? The God of Emmanuel, who is with us in suffering, invites and empowers us for action.

How will it happen? All of us, acting in solidarity and with urgency.

Join us today at www.lentevent.com.au

 

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of coming home – to a physical place, a person or community. In English, the word home perhaps feels a bit restrictive, conjuring up bricks, mortar, a mortgage and soaring interest rates. But for our Pacific neighbours, language has gifted words with stronger wings.

Vanua, for Fijians, means land, home or village. But with multiple subtle variations throughout the Pacific Islands, it captures so much more than that. It gives voice to the connections people have with land, sea and sky, as well as their relationships with one another and their obligations to stewardship. Theologian, Rev Dr Cliff Bird from the United Church of Solomon Islands, explains:

“When we start with the idea of ‘home’ among Pacific Islanders, we instantly have an understanding of relationship and mutual obligation. When we say that creation is ‘home’ not only to people and animals, flora and fauna, but God too, then we are expressing a powerful theological concept that is woven throughout Genesis. And this is a critical part of our framework for teaching people about what it means to act in the midst of this current ecological crisis.”

The period of Lent, Cliff says, is a perfect time of reflection on our relationship to the home we share with our neighbours and God. It provides an opportunity to reflect on the human impact we bring to our home and on the kind of activities that shape the place that nurtures and sustains us.

“When we think about how we treat our individual homes, it can bring focus to the way we treat our collective home – the planet,” Cliff says. “How does what we buy impact on this home we share? What are the commercial and industrial activities that we support, and how do they damage the earth and ocean? How do we dispose of garbage, including the clothes we wear?”

Cliff is heartened by the knowledge that individual acts become community acts and from there, they can become national and global realities.

Watch Cliff’s message in the short video below.

This year, UnitingWorld’s Lent Event is creating a movement of people committed to urgency, solidarity and faithful action for God’s creation.  

We’re calling on you to do:

  • something personal – make a change to your life that benefits creation during the 40 days of Lent and pray it sticks throughout the year.  
  • something practical – fundraise or make a gift to support critical climate action in vulnerable communities
  • something political – use your voice to influence your community to demand urgent climate action

We’ve put together this list of things you can do to make ‘home’ more liveable for all of us, for longer.  Check it out and share it with those who are looking for ideas and encouragement.  

Join us today at www.lentevent.com.au

Lent Event is inspired by a simple but powerful idea. That every one of us has a role to play in building a world free from poverty and injustice.

It’s especially true of the issue of climate change.

Climate change is worsening every threat to peace, security and human wellbeing in our world.

It’s going to take all of us, doing all we can, with all our hearts, to fight it.

We believe people of faith have a powerful role to play in taking meaningful climate action, as well as inspiring hope and courage to face the future.

Join us for Lent Event. 14 February – 28 March, 2024

Commit to 40 days of faithful action for God’s creation. Start wherever you’re at with a large or small sustainability challenge. Use it to fundraise to help vulnerable communities who are fighting to build resilience and mitigate climate impacts. Raise your voice.

Along the way, we’ll be considering the role of faith in caring for God’s creation through a series of short devotions and video interviews with our partners and theologians.

Here’s a little pitch video with the help from some of our partners sharing the world we want to see…

Sign up today and start inspiring others to join! www.lentevent.com.au

We’re excited for two big events this half of 2022 and hope you’re ready to be engaged and inspired!

Lent Event

Live simply, so others may simply live.

Lent Event calls you to join other Christians in a pledge to give up or take up something in solidarity with those who live with less. Learn about how to be a good global neighbour through our Bible study series and donate to support our work, knowing that every dollar is part of God’s mission in the world, ending poverty and building hope.

What could you GIVE UP? What could you TAKE UP?
Buying things you don’t need; wasting food; checking your phone; arriving late; gossip; disposable plastic; mindless eating; worrying about things that can’t
be changed; going through the motions; procrastination…
Composting; gratitude; patience; a new skill; prayer; forgiveness; secret acts of kindness; exercise; a budget; a new idea; graciousness; regular giving; meditation; memorising scripture…

Join a team to have more impact!

Join others online who are choosing to walk 10,000 steps a day to raise money for clean water; reducing screen time or technology to support children in school or cut back on plastic use to raise funds for climate change advocacy and disaster relief.

Visit us at www.lentevent.com.au for all the details.

Seven Days of Solidarity

Celebrate with us the work of our global neighbours!

Seven Days of Solidarity is your chance to hear inspiring stories of Christians at work in some of the world’s most challenging places. When you sign up, we’ll send you a story for each day of the week that includes ideas for action and prayer. Get your congregation on board and celebrate over two Sundays with a launch video and original worship music, impact stories, prayers, a sermon and easy ways to support the work in giving. We’re celebrating Seven Days of Solidarity during Lent (28 March to 4 April) but you can choose any time that works for you or your church.

Find out more at www.sevendaysofsolidarity.com.au

Have you seen the film “Don’t look up”?  

 A stellar performer for Netflix throughout January, it follows the progress of two astronomers as they desperately try to warn a pre-occupied population that a killer comet is on a collision course with the planet. In response, politicians, celebrities and ordinary people find refuge in the idea that if they simply ‘don’t look up’, they’ll be protected from reality. 

It’s an uncomfortable watch, but many of us probably have some sympathy with the desire to keep our heads low and our focus narrow right now. It can feel like the only way to stay sane.  

There are, however, really life-giving reasons to keep looking up.  

Looking up focusses us on the story of Christ.

At the foot of the cross, Jesus’ friends stayed to look up into the reality of his suffering and then to care for his body. They found redemption not only in their own actions, but in the ultimate, astonishing act of God in bringing new life. The same is true for us.

Looking up, and sharing the stories of others, allows us to realise our collective power to bring about change.

Understanding our experience relative to others around the world also helps us celebrate our wins and work against the losses.  

UnitingWorld calls you to embrace this call by taking part in two events in the first part of 2022. 

 Seven Days of Solidarity, during Lent March 27-April 3 or any time that suits you, shares a vision of God at work through our global neighbours. You’ll hear inspiring stories of the challenges faced and changes created by ordinary Christians around the world. Better yet, respond in worship, prayer and giving across two Sunday Services. Find out more and download videos, prayer, sermon and liturgy at www.sevendaysofsolidarity.com.au. 

 Lent Event, from March 2 – April 14, is a call to live simply so others can simply live. For forty days, take action to bring about change for others. Join a challenge to give or take something up in solidarity with those who live with less. Ask friends to support you, and hear about how your efforts can put power in the hands of ordinary people to earn an income, keep their children in school or get access to clean water. Check out www.lentevent.com.au for details. 

Together, UnitingWorld’s Lent Event and Seven Days of Solidarity point us back to God’s faithfulness and focus our eyes, heart and hands on building a Kingdom of peace and justice.  Look them up this January – you won’t regret it. 

 

The world is turning to Lent in record numbers. But why? Isn’t it just an outdated Catholic attempt to demonise chocolate?  As enlightened people who live by grace, why would we get involved?

Lent provides an opportunity for us to reset.

It’s a call to refocus, reflect and refresh our souls. A 40-day commitment to the “time out” we need.

And this is not just a religious yearning. “Lenten” practises have grown in popularity over the past couple of years – Mindfulness May focuses on mental health; Ocsober, Dry July and FebFast suggest giving up alcohol or sugar to kickstart body and mind while raising funds for others.

Lent, though, is unique in that it combines body and soul to concentrate on spiritual growth. Like its Islamic counterpart, Ramadan, Lent emphasises reflection and generosity, driven by a conscious turning to God and others. It calls us to slow down; to become aware of our bodies as well as our hearts and minds.

At the end of Lent, we’re different. We’ve tended the soil ready for new life.

Lent is as old as the Church itself. In 300AD, the Nicaean Council (from which the Nicaean Creed developed) referred to the forty days leading up to Holy Week as a special time of preparation for Jesus’ death and resurrection. Commemorating the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, it imagined that people would pray, fast, give and celebrate.

The preface written to the very first Lenten Mass puts it nicely:

Each year you give us this joyful season
when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery
with mind and heart renewed.

You give us a spirit of loving reverence for you, our Father,
and of willing service to our neighbor.

As we recall the great events that gave us a new life in Christ,
you bring to perfection within us the image of your Son.

And while Lent is most often associated with the Catholic tradition, it’s always been an Ecumenical practise. The Church of East and West were united at the time of the Nicaean Council that gave it life, and more than a billion Christians worldwide are on board every year. Some Evangelicals and Pentecostals have been suspicious of spiritual disciplines as an attempt to buy God’s favour, but Lent has evolved with us to represent far more than empty rule keeping. It’s an increasingly well recognised part of the Christian calendar, and growing in popularity as secularism and commercialism continue to cannibalise the meaning of Christmas and Easter.

What could you do for Lent?

Reflect: Set time aside to meet with others and explore the Scriptures using some of the many excellent resources available.

Say sorry: Repentance is a central part of the Lenten tradition. Most of us aren’t great at apologising, but there’s bound to be someone who would benefit from our confessing where we’ve failed. At the same time, take the opportunity to forgive someone. It’s good for everyone.

Sit with grief: The lead up to Jesus’ death saw his friends and family grappling with the vacuum soon to be left in their lives. While most of us prefer to ‘move on’ from difficulty, our loss, sorrow and suffering are no less real for our efforts to distract ourselves. Setting aside time to acknowledge our grief nurtures self awareness, gratitude and compassion for ourselves and others.

Fast: early Lenten practices encouraged fasting with the idea that hunger increased our awareness of our bodies and cultivated a sense of gratitude. These days, people fast from all sorts of things, from impatience to social media to caffeine. It’s the impact of fasting that matters – how does it stimulate our awareness of ourselves and our world? Find ideas about what to give or take up here.

Be generous: Lent is designed to sharpen our focus and extend it beyond ourselves and our own concerns. It’s about making space in your mind and heart for those around you. Extending generosity by setting aside some of your financial resources for others can have a big impact.

UnitingWorld is the part of the Uniting Church with the privilege of nurturing relationships with our global church family, and we love the season of Lent! Through Lent Event, we provide a Bible Study series to help you think through what it means to be a global neighbour, and encourage you to take action with a 40-day challenge to give or take up something that helps make the world a better place. With stories that show how your prayers and gifts are building hope and ending poverty around the world, we aim to cultivate generosity, compassion and awareness of others.

If you’re ready to take a new look at Lent, go for a deep dive online to find resources, and check out www.lentevent.com.au for simple ways to get involved.

This Lent, I took up a Lent Event challenge. In an act of defiance against the gathering gloom of a world bent on madness, I decided to seek each day a story of the Kingdom coming. Not just any feel good story. A story of people, faith and God, making a difference. It was my act of re-commitment to mission – for a world renewed and reconciled.

When your brain is the kind that turns everything a day brings into a list of problems to be solved, then this is a difficult challenge.

I managed 20-something days straight before I flagged. They were the 20 days in which a disaster story from China became a global pandemic.

I learnt the obvious lesson. As I looked for and wrote up my stories of God working in the world, I remained hopeful and resilient. I was calm, I wrote my COVID-19 risk management plan, put in business continuity provisions for my team and slashed our income forecasts. But it got harder to do. The news got grimmer from our partners in lockdown. I was worried about my staff, our partners, my kids, my parents, my minister husband trying to pastor a community that couldn’t meet. And soon, I couldn’t see past the tsunami of problems, I was too tired to go hunting for that elusive glimpse of God at work. I stopped doing the stories.

The day I got the email from South Sudan, from my friend who reminded me that hand-washing was the privilege of those who had clean water, that staying home was only an option for people who owned fridges and spare food.

That was the day I lost it.

That email was on my mind as I dropped into the supermarket to pick up some stuff. But my fellow Sydney-siders had cleaned out entire aisles. With our wealth, our security, our abundant food and our healthcare systems, my brothers and sisters thought they needed to hoard toilet paper and dishwasher tablets, leaving none for others.

I wasn’t sad or scared. I was furious. The rage and contempt I felt in that moment for my fellow humans was such that I had to run out of Town Hall Woolworths before I yelled at someone. In that moment, I felt that no race so greedy, selfish and stupid should survive; that dying in our millions was exactly what we deserved.

And then into my black mood came the little messages. People telling me that they were holding me and my team in their prayers. People asking after my husband and kids. People telling me what a great job my staff were doing. They’ll know who they are when they read this.

And slowly, in the darkness, I could see God at work again. In the thoughtfulness of people, who were not my close friends or family, but who reached out to bless and encourage me. When I was too downhearted to see great works of justice and reconciliation that God was doing in the world, what saved me was seeing God in the acts of kindness extended to me. God, acting through people, to pull just one insignificant person out of my own mire of despair.

I’ve always loved the story of Peter stepping out of the boat onto the water at Jesus’ invitation. It’s a lovely metaphor for how we stay above the waves when we keep our eyes on Jesus, but get overwhelmed by the tumult when we lose focus. But I’ve always thought that keeping my eyes on Jesus was about my personal devotional practices – to pray, to study the scriptures, to gather in worship.

But now I think it’s more than that. It’s keeping your eyes peeled for Jesus out and about in the world. Training myself to seek out and recognise the breaking-in of the Kingdom in everyday life is a necessary discipline. To be Christian is to believe in a God who is alive and active in the world. Easter isn’t just a celebration of the resurrection two thousand years ago, it’s a celebration of Jesus alive today – changing lives, changing communities, getting stuff done. How can I join in this great work, if I’m not training myself to see it, recognise it, bear witness to and celebrate it?

So I encourage you to do it too. Keep looking for Jesus in the world – he’s out there walking on water every single day.

–Sureka

[P.S. I also gave up eating between dawn and dusk during Lent – which makes it sound grander than simply skipping lunch and daytime snacks between breakfast and dinner, which is what I did. But I did manage to stick to that one, which wasn’t hard after the first few days. And the $$ I saved has gone to Lent Event, with a big thank you to all those who sponsored me.]

Dr Sureka Goringe is the National Director of UnitingWorld. This reflection was originally posted on her Lent Event fundraising page here.

Click here to donate to Lent Event.

Attika has been to hell and back. Many of you know her story: her village was destroyed in conflict between Muslims and Christians in 1999; she lived for years as a refugee before returning to a community shattered by suspicion, resentment and economic ruin.

Last year, Attika (pictured above) painstakingly built a new home with $5 weekly savings from a small business our partners helped her establish. A few months later it was destroyed in a series of earthquakes. She lives today in its shell with her daughter, waiting for the chance to rebuild. Due to begin re-construction with a team of Muslim and Christian builders funded by UnitingWorld, the work is now on hold as Ambon goes into lockdown to deal with the global threat of COVID-19.

It’s hard to predict how many of us would react to such a prolonged season of suffering. And yet here’s where this story has a new and delightful twist: Attika has become our church partner’s newest Emergency Team volunteer. Connecting with the Protestant Church in Maluku through livelihood training among a group of Christian and Muslim women, Attika is now a vital part of the volunteer effort. Together, the team deliver food, clean water and emergency supplies to those hardest hit by last year’s earthquakes on the island and check in on people isolated by COVID-19.

“I could never have believed something like this would happen to my home,” Attika told us. “I am so, so sad to see it. But working with the team at Sagu Salempeng Foundation (our church partner organisation) helps me forget my pain and makes me so happy! I have found something to keep me strong.”

N.T. Wright famously said: “Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project, not to snatch people away from earth to heaven, but to colonise earth with the life of heaven.”

Surely Attika’s experience of finding new life in service to others is what he had in mind: absolute dedication to each other in the midst of suffering; the ability to love beyond boundaries; the promise of redemption.

Attika refuses to give in to despair, and nor does she long for release. For her, there’s heaven to be found here and now, among the living. This is the reality of resurrection life.

Thank you to all who’ve been part of Lent Event this year. Your gifts are very much needed to continue this vital project, building peace while giving people the chance to increase their incomes and overcome poverty.

Help us continue this vital work with our international partners.

Click here to donate to Lent Event.



YOUR 2019 LENT EVENT GIFTS IN ACTION!

Our staff have just returned from critical training sessions with IPTL, our partner in Timor-Leste.

They’re delighted to report that more than 17 teachers took part in new training to implement strategies that protect children against violence, including verbal abuse. As a result:

  • Attendance in Sunday School is up among children and their parents
  • Education and awareness among community leaders is increasing
  • Seven focal point workers to keep child protection on the agenda have been newly appointed.

Cycles of poverty and violence are deeply entrenched within Timor-Leste, and you’re playing a critical role in shaping the future for a whole new generation.

Thank you!