MEGACHURCH – OCTOBER 29, 9.30am

Dear Friends,

I am always excited about and look forward to our whole church gathering together for our annual MEGACHURCH SUNDAY. This year we will meet on Sunday October 29 at 9.30am in the St Peter’s Anglican Primary School Hall. Our annual MEGACHURCH SUNDAY gives us the opportunity to give expression to our unity in Christ, our unity in mission and our unity in caring for one another. It is a great opportunity to be reminded about what our most important work is.

Our world, hopes in lots of things, but such things are always hopeless hopes. Sure they might make you feel good for a time, even a long time! But none of them provide you with an everlasting hope. None of the world’s offerings provide you with a sure and certain hope in this life. None of the things people hope in can really, truly satisfy.

But God does. God satisfies us by forgiving our sin, empowering us by the Spirit, adopting us as his children and giving us to each other to share his vision for the world.

What God offers is hope that works. What we as a church do, is offer that hope to the world. We offer this hope because every person in the world starts this life without hope – and God’s desire for each one is that they may be able to approach him with confidence and freedom as their Father and friend. That each person may be gathered into God’s people and gather with members of God’s household and grow into holiness by the work of the Spirit.

MEGACHURCH this year will be focussed on the moment 500 years ago when a revolution began in the church because the Scriptures were opened and people found hope in Christ again. It will be a day to remind us with great clarity that we have a God who has spoken to us by his Word.

Join us for MEGACHURCH Sunday as we call on God to do a mighty work in Campbelltown.

In Christ,
Nigel

Domestic Abuse Apology

Dear Friends,

This week at Synod, we made an apology to those who have suffered domestic abuse in our churches and not received adequate care and support. I was privileged to be a part of the apology. The wording of the apology is: 

That this Synod grieves with victims and survivors of domestic abuse, and prays for their healing and recovery. We give thanks to God for those women and men, clergy and lay people, who have faithfully supported, cared for and protected such victims in our churches and communities. 

We grieve that God’s good gift of marriage can be distorted and dishonoured through the sin of perpetrators. We pray for their repentance and restoration to faithful living under Christ. 

We also deeply regret that domestic abuse has occurred among those who attend our churches, and even among some in leadership. We apologise for those times our teaching and pastoral care have failed adequately to support victims and call perpetrators to account.

I gave a speech during the consideration of the apology, some of which follows.

Moving to Campbelltown was an eye-opening experience for my family and me. For the things that were hidden on the north side behind closed doors, high walls, thick make up, and societal politeness are on display in our streets.

At least once a month I hear couples fighting in the park just outside my office window. Sometimes alcohol is a factor but often it’s just broken people in broken relationships trying to make sense of this broken world. Both of those people there, out the front of my church are someone’s children and I can guarantee neither they nor their parents ever thought they would end up like that.

Sadly – I admit, that sometimes I have been too busy or too preoccupied or too slow to go out into that park and speak words of hope into the hopelessness.

It is for this reason and more that I am so thankful to speak to this apology – not just because I feel personally that I need to make it, but because we Christians are the people who know from the Scriptures what family and community should look like and we have not always pursued what is best for others, protected the vulnerable and helped the oppressed.

Domestic abuse is in the homes of our church members. Members of our church are caring for people right now because their Christian spouses are aggressive and violent towards them and their family. It’s a Fact … It’s unacceptable. It’s ungodly. And I need to do better at helping people. I am still learning how and I encourage you to encourage our staff and your growth group leaders to learn with me.

One of the many things I have learned is the need for constant and caring but not overbearing follow up. In the busy-ness of parish life we clergy can forget to freshly enquire about how things are going for someone, we can forget to ask what we can do to help and we can forget to pray for and with the people involved. I have forgotten to do these things and I am deeply sorry to those who I have failed.

I hope this apology might go some way towards all of us lifting our eyes, increasing our care, taking responsibility for failure and signalling that we will pursue what is best for the people in our midst in the future for the Glory of God.

Nigel Fortescue

Children at the Lord’s Supper at Campbelltown Anglican Churches

Children and Church
At Campbelltown Anglican Churches, we believe children are full members of our church who need to be taught and instructed in the Christian faith like all the adults. To this end, we welcome children at all of our church services and we seek to ensure that they are given opportunities to participate in our gatherings and to be taught in ways appropriate to their age.

We want to see children participating in all parts of church life and we would like to give the children in our church community the opportunity to share the Lord’s Supper.

The parents or carers of children are best placed to decide whether they are ready to share in the Lord’s supper; but as a guideline, where a child is keen and their parents or carers are content that they understand the Gospel and that they understand that the Lord’s Supper is a sign of Jesus death and resurrection, the child may share with the congregation in the Lord’s Supper.

The Lord’s Supper for Children at Church at Ten
At most of our congregations, children already share in the Lord’s Supper. At Church at Ten, due to the structure of the service, this is not possible. However, starting in October 2017, we are going to give an opportunity for children to share in the Lord’s Supper with the congregation. We will use our “family spot” to have a slightly longer time with all the children in church when we will share the Lord’s Supper together. Afterwards, the children will go out to their programs and the service will continue for the adults.

What should you do now?
I would suggest three things:

  1. If you have children in your care, please consider whether the children you bring are ready to share the Lord’s Supper. Do they have an understanding of the Gospel? Do they know Jesus died for them? Are they showing trust in God? If you answer yes to these questions, then those children are ready to share the Lord’s Supper.
  2. Have a conversation with the children you bring to church who are ready to share the Lord’s Supper about what it means and how we do it. We will share the Lord’s Supper as we usually do at Church at Ten. Focus on the Lord’s Supper being a sign or symbol of Jesus’ death that helps us remember it and encourage each other because of it. Taking the Lord’s Supper is not the way to be saved.
  3. Come ready on October 22 to share the Lord’s Supper with all the children in your care who are ready!

If you have questions about this, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would only be too pleased to talk through it all with you and to help you.

Nigel Fortescue
October 2017

Humanity’s value and dignity continued…

This piece was written by Dr Peter Orr – a lecturer at Moore College.
We will be looking at Part two this week.

2. Human life is valuable because in its dominion it displays the glory of God (vv.3-8)

In the psalm, David actually hesitates as he considers the position of humanity. He looks at human beings in relation to the universe and in fact to God himself. He looks at the vastness of the universe and he can’t fathom why God should care for mankind when we seem so insignificant. And the universe is only the work of God’s “fingers” (verse 3). The image is that God spun this vast universe into existence off the end of his fingertips.

But it is this vast, powerful God who creates the universe so effortlessly that gives humanity its dignity: “You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas” (vv5-8).

In these verses, David is echoing Genesis 1 and he underlines the dignity of humanity over and above the animal world. Our dignity stems from the fact that God has crowned humanity and given us dominion over all of creation. Nothing in creation is excluded. Humanity was created to rule it all. Human life is valuable because in its dominion over the rest of creation it displays the glory of God

And so, because of this placement and positioning by God, human life is more valuable than animal life. The fundamental difference between a day old baby girl and a day old kitten is that the baby girl has been given this position above the rest of creation. Human life is valuable because in its dominion over the rest of creation it displays the glory of God.

Yet there is a problem with all of this. It just doesn’t seem to fit with our experience of the world. We don’t seem to be able to control the world like this psalm supposes. This psalm just doesn’t seem to fit what we know of our world, which is ravaged by sickness, disease and death. And so really this psalm awaits a greater fulfilment. Someone of whom these words could be truly said. Someone who is “humanity” personified.

Perhaps as David was writing this psalm he was not so much reflecting on everyone around him, but rather looking forward to someone who would fulfil all that human beings were meant to be. And that is precisely how the New Testament writers understood it.

3. Human life is valuable because of Jesus! (vv.1-9)

Hebrews 2:5-9 reflects on Psalm 8 in relation to Jesus. In 2:9 the writer names Jesus as the one who fulfils this psalm. He fulfils the psalm by becoming a man, undergoing the suffering of death and then, being raised from the dead, he is crowned with glory and honour. Jesus is the man supreme, the true son of man.

The writer also notes that even now we don’t see this world as it should be: “at present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him” (v.8). People still die; people still rebel against God. This is not the world of glorious, perfect dominion that the psalm promises us. But the writer has already alerted us to that in 2:5; he is applying the psalm to “the world to come”. We will not see Psalm 8 ultimately fulfilled until this world is restored by Jesus when he returns to consummate his rule.

And so Psalm 8 shows us that human life – even in its weakest form – gives glory to God. We were created with a dignity given by God but our dignity is marred. As such, when we look at humanity we can’t help but get a confused picture. And so there is a tension that runs through each human being… except one. Because there is one who fulfils this psalm perfectly. Jesus has been crowned with glory and honour. And although we do not see everything subject to him, when this world is renewed he will be seen as its rightful king and Lord.

So, crucially, this is the ultimate answer to our question. Why is human life valuable? Human life is valuable because God became a man in Jesus. Jesus remains a man and always will remain a man. God has crowned and glorified humanity in Jesus.

When we have no objective truth to appeal to all we can appeal to is economics: “It does not seem wise to add to the burden on limited resources by increasing the number of severely disabled children”.

It will increasingly fall to Christians to care for the weak because our society will no longer have any reason or desire to do so. And so it is crucial that we, as Christians, take the message of this psalm to heart and see that all humanity is valuable.

Because of Jesus we can love, cherish and value all men, women and children. May God help us.

Humanity’s value and dignity

This piece was written by Dr Peter Orr – a lecturer at Moore College. We will be looking at it in two parts.

Have you ever thought about one of the underlying assumptions behind almost every Hollywood thriller?

It is the value of human life.

Basically, because we value human life, the hero will bend over backwards to ensure that the nerve gas isn’t released into the city’s gas supply or stop the nuclear warhead from being detonated.

These movies would be pretty short if the hero simply did a cost-benefit analysis and concluded that it would be simply too expensive to save the city. No, the underlying assumption is that human life is precious.

But when we try and analyse why human life is valuable things get a bit more tricky. As Christians we know that human beings are created in the image of God and animals are not.  But when we are pressed we often find it hard to say more than that.

Increasingly, though, it will be important that we are clear on the value of humanity since, as Western society turns its back on its Christian heritage, voices are being raised that question the assumption that there is anything special about humanity. For example, the Australian philosopher Peter Singer argued some years ago in the journal Metaphilosophy that to favour human life over animal life is actually a form of “speciesism”.

The Bible gives us a different perspective, and perhaps the clearest example of its perspective is in Psalm 8. David asks the question in verse 4: “what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” And the psalm gives us three parts to the answer.

1. Human life is valuable because even in its weakness it brings glory to God (v.2)

The first point David makes is that God’s glory – his strength and his majesty – is shown in the weakest member of humanity: “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger”.

Even young children praise God – their mouths can testify to God’s strength and that silences those who oppose him. That is how Jesus uses this psalm in Matthew 21:16 as he enters Jerusalem and people complain about the children heralding his entry.

The idea is also that God proves his strength in that he can sustain even the weakest member of the human race. If anything shows humanity in its frailty it is a baby. What chance of survival does a baby have if left on its own? But even more, what chance does a baby have when it is surrounded by the type of people described in this verse: foes, the enemy and the avenger? A baby wouldn’t stand a chance. But God declares his greatness in saying that he can and does sustain infants and nursing babies in this situation.

Children give God glory – whether by specifically praising him, or implicitly through the fact that he sustains them. Thus the value of the weakest, frailest human life is that it testifies to God.

This perspective is by no means universally held. Peter Singer has denied that all human life is equally valuable in a series of distressing statements: “Human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons… Killing them, therefore, cannot be equated with killing normal human beings”. Further, he argues, “It does not seem wise to add to the burden on limited resources by increasing the number of severely disabled children

The message of this psalm couldn’t be more different. Humanity, even in its weakest form, is purposeful and valuable because it gives God glory.

Part 2  next week.

Are we having a good conversation?

Dear Friends,

I love talking about controversial ideas as much as the next guy but did you know that there is an art to good conversation?

Sadly, I’ve been the cause of many bad conversations and once you are in one it’s hard to back out. Too many times, while the other person is speaking, I am thinking about what I’m going to say next. What they’re saying is largely irrelevant to me. I’m just been reloading my rifle and waiting for them to take a breath so I can fire away again. Simply, I stop listening.

The key element in the art of good conversation is listening. Listening leads to understanding and understanding leads to deep, accurate and empathetic conversation. I’ve heard the witticism, “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason” but good listening is not just about silence.

In Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Habit #5 is Seek first to understand, then be understood. He described five forms of listening:

  1. Ignoring: not really listening at all.
  2. Pretending: humming along while not really following.
  3. Selective listening: hearing what you want to hear.
  4. Attentive listening: paying attention to the words.
  5. Empathic listening: intending to understand what the other is trying to communicate.

I know I engage in all five forms from time to time! Empathic listening is not about agreeing with the other (showing sympathy). It is about understanding what message the other is trying to convey. It is the only form of true listening.

So how do you listen like this and have a good conversation. I want to make six suggestions:

1. Turn your heart on. When the conversation starts, decide to love and value the person you are in conversation with despite their point of view. This will help you have the right attitude and be willing to listen.

2. Cultivate a curious mind. Ask questions of the person you are speaking to so you can dig deeper into their thinking. What, why, when, who, where, and how are the best friends of curious people and will help you understand what is being said so you can respond helpfully.

3. Watch the emotions. Emotions help us understand the depth of the views held but neither validate nor establish truth. If your listening is being impacted by your emotions, it may be best to put the conversation on pause until you can be calmer.

4. Say what you think. Telling the truth is crucial for good conversation but putting all your thoughts out for critique is also important. Consider the possibility that you could be wrong and ask more questions.

5. Stay on topic. Ad hominem arguments or the introduction of other topics into a conversation to try and win the argument will usually muddy the waters rather than provide clarity.

6. Finish well. Agree to disagree. Decide to carry on another time. Take some things away to ponder some more. But work hard not to walk away as bitter rivals in a heated debate. As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone! (Romans 12:18)

There are important things for us to converse about at the moment so let’s make sure we are having good conversations that help grow understanding rather than bad ones that undermine relationships.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (James 1:19-20)

In Christ
Nigel

Confirmation 2017

Dear Friends,

Increasingly, rites of passage are being seen as crucially important in the development of children and a society. They mark important moments of transition between stages and particularly that transition from childhood to adult. As one who is part of a family experiencing some of those transitions at the moment, it is not always easy – for those watching or coaching nor for those going through it – but it is exciting. In our culture, learning to drive, finishing school, getting your first real job are all part of the process.

From a spiritual perspective, so are baptism and confirmation!
This year again we are offering an opportunity for people to be confirmed.

Confirmation is an Anglican rite that those who were baptised as children can offer themselves for. (Generally, those not baptised as children are baptised as adults instead of being confirmed). People who ask to be “Confirmed” are seeking to confirm publicly that the promises made in their infant baptism have come to fruition. Confirmees stand before the church to say that they have taken on faith for themselves and to affirm that they themselves are believers in the Lord Jesus and intend to live a life serving and following Jesus.

Confirmation is therefore a big deal. It is a public confession that you are a Christian and are determined to follow Jesus. In the past it was also the point from which people were allowed to take the Lord’s Supper however unconfirmed children are able to participate now if their parents are convinced they are believers and they have discussed this with the minister!

I was confirmed in 1988 and there are still photos of me beaming from ear to ear holding my certificate while wearing white pants, a white shirt and a thin red leather tie! I treasure that moment – not because it made me a real Christian, but because I stood before my family and friends and declared, “I follow Jesus!”

So, who can be confirmed? Anyone aged 15 or over who has been baptised and is ready to stand before the church and affirm their faith and their determination to follow Jesus.

Please speak to me soon if you or your teenager is interested in being Confirmed. In order to prepare people for Confirmation I will be running a four week course in Term 4. The Confirmation service will be on Sunday 26th November.

In Christ
Nigel

Schools and Ministry

Dear Friends,

I have a friend who writes to me several times a week to remind me of how ridiculous the Christian faith is. Recently he wrote about SRE (Scripture) classes:

The time is well overdue for SRE to be removed from Schools in every state… We should have a proper State approved curriculum course on the world’s religions taught by qualified teachers – qualified by the Dept. of Education, not the Churches – and Clerics should be disqualified for this purpose. Too many are predisposed to proselytise and not teach. Lay teachers trained by the Church only should not be permitted either. We have much evidence of the harm they can and do cause.

There is consistent pressure being applied to the government in NSW to change the SRE laws and remove the opportunity to teach children from the Bible during schools hours. This happened in Victoria this year and many think we are not far away.

One of the things that encouraged me when I came to Campbelltown in 2010 was the enormous number of Schools we had a connection with – not just St Peter’s Anglican Primary School and Broughton Anglican College, but Campbelltown Primary, Campbelltown East Primary, Campbelltown North Primary Campbelltown High, Bradbury Primary, Kentlyn Primary, Ruse Primary, Briar Road Primary, John Warby Primary and Airds High.

It’s an incredible list. While SRE or Chapel will take place in most of those schools this week (and I have had the privilege of doing some this year), our church does not currently provide teachers for all those schools. We are however partners with CAHSM (Campbelltown Area High School Ministry) and are therefore involved in another 5 high schools!

It is a great work. Making connections with children and young adults who are keen to learn and often don’t have the opportunity to attend a church Sunday by Sunday is an invaluable ministry.

To this end, I want to urge you to pray. As you read this, take a moment to pray:

  • Pray for our two partner schools St Peter’s and Broughton, for our Headmasters, our Chapel teams and the teachers who have daily opportunities to share their faith;
  • Pray for our local primary and high schools, that SRE would be preserved in these schools and that children and young adults would deepen in their faith; and
  • Pray for God to raise up more teachers for all this work, that we may have a vast army of people ready and equipped to help the next generation found their life on the rock that satisfies, Jesus.

If you want to see some of this work, join us for Chapel in St Peter’s Church Tuesday to Friday mornings at 9am for half an hour. Seeing a couple of hundred kids sing praises to God and think hard on the truths of the Bible is profoundly encouraging for the soul.

Thanks for your prayers,
Nigel

Marriage, Plebiscites and Being Godly

Dear Friends,

The Same Sex Marriage Plebiscite has arrived – not as many had hoped through compulsory means conducted by Australian Electoral Commission but as a non-compulsory ‘poll’ through the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

This is not new news! My Facebook feed is almost solely devoted to the issue and every form of media is littered with polls, stories and opinions.

How as Christians do we dissect this whole thing? Here are my six thoughts:

  1. As Christians, God urges us to be courteous and respectful of all views, to listen well and speak kindly. We must be those who exemplify love of others, thoughtfulness in speech, care for the vulnerable and respect for those with whom we disagree. James 1:19 comes to mind. If you cannot do that, please don’t enter debates online or in person. Pray for yourself.
  2. Pray for our nation and for the grace and wisdom to accept whatever decision is made. Know that God’s mission will carry on no matter what happens: he will work through the gospel witness of Christ’s church, calling people out of darkness and into the light of his kingdom.
  3. Read widely to understand what is at stake in this decision. The issues are so much bigger than Marriage and run to self-identity, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and Christian education. These are massive issues for me and strongly inform my decision on how to vote.
  4. Grab a copy of the Diocese booklet “What God has put together” from the Welcome Table at your congregation. Consider following the Coalition for Marriage on Facebook. Our diocese is one of the four partners supporting this organisation.
  5. Talk together at church and in your GG about this with eager ears and careful tongues. There will be a variety of opinions among church members.
  6. We won’t be preaching on this in church over the next month but we may arrange for an evening on which the key issues are canvassed and discussed. We will hand out a variety of helpful articles over the next month for you to read, think over and pass on.

If you’d like to talk through the whole thing or think about how to answer questions people ask, make an arrangement to come and have a cuppa and a chat with one of the staff. We’d only be too pleased – as always – to help.

God bless.
Nigel

National Church Life Survey

Dear Friends,

The results of the National Church Life Survey have arrived. You may remember that we participated in the survey with all the churches across Australia in late 2016 to assess our vitality and health. The survey results focus in on nine core qualities that have been shown to be central to the life of a vital church.

The Parish Council has had the opportunity to look at the results and as a staff we have begun to do some analysis but we need your help!

The nine core qualities seen in a thriving church are:

An alive and growing FAITH;
A vital and nurturing WORSHIP;
A strong and growing sense of BELONGING;
A clear and owned VISION;
Inspiring and empowering LEADERSHIP;
Openness to imaginative and flexible INNOVATION;
Practical and diverse SERVICE;
Willing and effective FAITH-SHARING; and
Intentional and welcoming INCLUSION

The results indicate that we have improved in some areas and dropped back in others.

In order to process all of this, we are inviting you to join us in some short focus-group discussions.

At St Andrew’s, Jason and the Wardens will arrange a meeting soon to give you the opportunity to comment on the results.

At St Peter’s we will be arranging five focus-group meetings centered on what the results say for each of our 5Ms – Magnification, Mission, Membership, Maturity and Ministry. This will help us continue to plan in accordance with our vision. You are invited to join us for some of the five or the lot!

The Ministry Meeting will be held on 10th September, 2017 at 12.30pm
The Mission Meeting will be held on 24th September, 2017 at 12.30pm
The Maturity Meeting will be held on 22nd October, 2017 at 12.30pm
The Membership Meeting will be held on 5th November, 2017 at 12.30pm
The Magnification Meeting will be held on 26th November, 2017 at 12.30pm

If you would like a full copy of the results please email me (nigel@campbelltownanglican.org) or call me
(4625-1041) and we will get them out to you.

Between now and then, here are two observations from the survey.

1. The aspect of church that you value the most is “sermons, preaching or Bible teaching”. That a majority of church attenders indicated that listening to God speak to us is valued more than anything else is cause for great thankfulness. This has spurred us on to work harder at this!

2. Two of the aspects of church life that you would most like to see given greater attention in the next twelve months are “building a sense of community” and “spiritual growth”. This is really helpful for us to hear what you are thinking!

Please pray for staff as we analyse the results and prepare for our focus group meetings.

In Christ
Nigel