Upper Yarra churches - along the Warburton Rail Trail - plan to express their unity in the essentials of their common faith. This year may be the year which ushers in the new millennium, the referendum on the Republic, and reconciliation with our indigenous folk. It will also be a significant year in which, for the first time for a 'far too long' period, a broad spectrum of churches will work together on a number of fronts.
This historic tack has been under negotiation now for approximately two years. We pray we will have the willpower, wisdom and strength of purpose to arrive at a public statement of position this year. In recent times up to 18 leaders of churches, missions, and church-related community help organisations have been meeting monthly. They have planned this initiative and have discussed and dialogued the meaning of unity.
We have been careful to stay with the operative word 'essential' and avoid becoming bogged down with issues that, although important, are 'non-essential'. Many people become scared of words such as unity and ecumenicalism, but I think this has more to do with bad experiences surrounding previous attempts to achieve what those words were meant to encapsulate.
Three years ago the embryo for this unifying move was conceived. It was a concept for unity that was non-threatening. It was based on the belief that God's love was for all and a relationship of son or daughter status was available for all who accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour.
We determined each of God's family members has equal weight and value in His sight. We likened the situation to a set of weighing scales. On one hand we have, for the sake of this explanation, the Anglican Church with all its great and long historic traditions - faithful to God's Word and a distinctive liturgical form of worship that has helped many to meaningful relationships with God. On another hand, for instance, we have have the Church of Christ, with a free form of worship - and an opportunity for the laity to administer the sacriments. The Church of Christ has a long and godly history and is known for their missionary support. In fact, all of the denominations have some excellent distinctives.
So What? So let's affirm them all, let's not scratch away until the pile is level. One may be red and the other blue - let's not mix them to make grey. Diversity in form and shape as seen in our denominations is really as essential to God's family as difference in siblings in an earthly family.
Where we are going? We aim to make every effort to express our common faith and our belief in our one Lord and one Word of God (the Bible). We aim to express our faith in a tangible way to the community of the 'Warburton Trail'. We aim to be the people helpers Jesus wants us to be, meaning:
To go the extra mile - providing food, clothing, accommodation and personal and pastoral care. To point people to the Great Healer and Comforter without whom we, His creation, are incomplete.
Each month this space will lead with topical issues and put a Christian spiritual spin on them. Also we will include a 'Leigh Matthews' type interview with a church or mission leader in our Valley.