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Pope Francis issues new call for dramatic climate change measures

Apostolic Exhortation
Laudate Deum
of the Holy Father
To all people of goodwill on the climate crisis

Wednesday 4th October

Pope Francis has released a new document on the environment that he has described as the “second part” of his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, and warns of “grave consequences” if humanity continues to ignore the threat of climate change.

Laudate Deum’s publication date – October 4th – is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, from whom Pope Francis drew his pontifical name at the start of his papacy in 2013. It is also the start date of the first month-long assembly in Rome of the ongoing Synod on Synodality.

The apostolic exhortation, titled Laudate Deum (“Praise God”), is meant to address what Pope Francis calls the “global social issue” of climate change. He said that in the eight years since Laudato Si’ was published, “our responses have not been adequate” to address ongoing ecological concerns. In 2021, he launched the Catholic Church’s seven-year “Laudato Si’ action plan: “We need a new ecological approach that can transform our way of dwelling in the world, our styles of life, our relationship with the resources of the Earth and, in general, our way of looking at humanity and of living life”. Later that year the Pope joined religious leaders in calling upon the global community to “achieve net zero carbon emissions as soon as possible” to head off potentially devastating temperature rises.

Releasing Laudate Deum this week, the Pope noted that climate change is one of the principal challenges facing society and the global community impacting the world’s most vulnerable people, and that the climate issue is “no longer a secondary or ideological question.” The effects of climate change “are here and increasingly evident”. He warned of increasing heat waves and the possible melting of the polar ice caps, which he said would lead to “immensely grave consequences for everyone.”

“No one can ignore the fact that in recent years we have witnessed extreme weather phenomena, frequent periods of unusual heat, drought, and other cries of protest on the part of the earth that are only a few palpable expressions of a silent disease that affects everyone”.

The Pope criticised those who “have chosen to deride [the] facts” about climate science and stating bluntly that it is “no longer possible to doubt the human – ‘anthropic’ – origin of climate change.”

“It is not possible to conceal the correlation of these global climate phenomena and the accelerated increase in greenhouse gas emissions, particularly since the mid-20th century. The overwhelming majority of scientists specializing in the climate support this correlation, and only a very small percentage of them seek to deny the evidence.”

Pope Francis described a “technocratic paradigm” that has “destroyed” the mutually beneficial relationship with the environment that humans have at times enjoyed. Humanity’s “power and the progress we are producing are turning against us”.

Francis noted that climate mitigation efforts over the years have been met with both “progress and failures,” though he expressed hope that next month’s 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference – COP28 (Nov 30-Dec 12) could “allow for a decisive acceleration of energy transition, with effective commitments subject to ongoing monitoring.”
(UN Climate Change on Facebook]

He argued, however, that longtime global diplomatic arrangements have failed to meet the challenges of the climate emergency. “It continues to be regrettable that global crises are being squandered when they could be the occasions to bring about beneficial changes”. The world, he argued, should look toward “the development of a new procedure for decision-making” to solve global problems.

The Pope pointed to what he described as the “spiritual motivations” of climate action, noting that the Book of Genesis records that, upon his creation of the universe, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”

“‘Praise God’ is the title of this letter,” Pope Francis wrote at the encyclical’s conclusion. “For when human beings claim to take God’s place, they become their own worst enemies.”

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World Habitat Day – 1st Monday in October

In 1985, the United Nations designated the first Monday of October of every year as World Habitat Day to reflect on the state of our towns and cities and the basic right of all to adequate shelter. It is also intended to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat.

Yesterday was President Jimmy Carter’s 99th birthday. Until poor health prevented them from being involved, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter were enthusiastic hands-on partners in the Habitat for Humanity team. This year the build commenced on Sunday 1st October, without the active involvement of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.

Habitat for Humanity is the world’s largest non-profit provider of housing for low-income families. In Victoria H4H has several projects to build affordable housing across metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria. Among the staff and volunteers there are many actively involved in their local church as well, seeking to put God’s love into action and bring people together to build homes, communities, and hope.

H4H work is premised on these values:

  • We believe access to appropriate and affordable housing is a basic human right
  • We believe in the empowerment generated by home ownership
  • Home ownership provides a foundation for a better life for Partner families today and for future generations
  • With support from the community, Habitat for Humanity Victoria helps Partner families build the strength, stability and independence they need to create improved outcomes for themselves and their families in areas such as education, employment, health and lifestyle.

Recent projects have seen homes built in Drouin, Geelong, on the Mornington Peninsula and in Yea.

The biggest affordable housing project is the Yea Heights Estate development at Prospect Rise, Yea. It had its origins in the desire to assist families affected by the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires. After developing the site and connecting all required services, 21 affordable houses have been built on this estate which provides “a place to call home” for our partner families and their children.

Crib Point
In February 2018 new parcel of land in Crib Point was acquired, on the Mornington Peninsula. Habitat is building six 3-bedroom houses, each with a modest garden. The build is well underway and five families have been selected to become Habitat homeowners. Crib Point is Habitat for Humanity Victoria’s first project under the new ‘development model’. Additional to the support of the Hugh Williamson Foundation and the hard work from the Rosebud Restore, the Crib point project is funded by selling two of the houses to offset the cost of the remaining four. This makes our model more sustainable and self-sufficient, growing the impact we have.

Crib Point story in the media

H4H also mobilise volunteers to assist shelter accommodation and vulnerable homeowners with maintenance projects they’re unable to tackle themselves. If you’re a handy person, that might be one way to be involved.

Volunteer overseas for International Women’s Day 2024
Join a team of passionate men & women in Siem Reap, Cambodia in March 2024. Support gender equality to enable and empower women as you build safe homes side by side with local communities. Perfect for individuals, groups and corporate teams looking to make a true difference.

03 8720 9200;



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UN International Day of Older Persons: 1 October 2023

On 14 December 1990, the United Nations General Assembly designated October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons (resolution 45/106). This year’s United Nations theme is ‘Fulfilling the Promises of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for Older Persons: Across Generations’. It highlights the importance of ensuring older people can enjoy their rights and fundamental freedoms.
Globally, the number of older people (defined as those aged 65 years or older) tripled from around 260 million in 1980 to 761 million in 2021.
Since 1991 the general Australian population has aged, with those aged over 70 years old rising from 10% to 15%.
In the same period, the percentage over church attenders over 70 has increased from 16% in 1991 to 36% in 2021.
Church attendees in Australia are more likely to be aged over 60 (48%) than the population at large (26%).

Churches are enriched by older people who watch faithfully for where God is leading and nurture others across the generations. We take a moment today to give thanks for their wisdom, many gifts and loving care – and to give thanks to God who calls people of all ages to abundant life and wholeness.

The first Sunday in October is the suggested day to celebrate, but you can celebrate on any day that suits your community!

Uniting Care Worship resource (PDF)
Worship resources online here.

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Disability Royal Commission – final report tabled; 222 recommendations for change

The final report by the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability has been tabled in Federal Parliament. It is Australia’s largest-ever investigation into the lives of people with disability.

There are 222 recommendations for change including:

  • Phasing out segregated education
  • Establishing a Federal Government portfolio for disability
  • Creating a Disability Rights Act
  • Establishing a new complaints mechanism
  • Changing guardianship legislation
  • Creating a national disability commission
  • Changing laws around sterilisation
  • Improving accessibility to information and interpreters
  • Reforming the way the justice system interacts with people with disability
  • Increasing culturally-safe supports for First Nations people and removing barriers to the NDIS in remote communities

Commissioners said:

The social transformation needed to make Australia truly inclusive requires us to take account of the history of exclusion that has shaped the settings, systems and daily lives of people with disability through to today. Inclusion involves social transformation that enables people with disability to live, learn, work, play, create and engage alongside people without disability.”

NDIS Minister Bill Shorten says this report is a ‘historic moment’

“It is literally, genuinely, a historic moment for Australians with disability and, in fact, all Australians. The numbers and the stories in this very important royal commission are harrowing. The fact that the Royal Commission estimates that for people over 20 with a disability, there are 400 avoidable deaths each year, the fact that really, for the last quarter of a century and beyond, that 47 in every 100 adults with a disability are excluded from the labour market, is shocking.”

In 2016, the Faith Communities Council of Victoria (which includes the Victorian Council of Churches) issued this statement concerning people with disability:

As representatives of many religious traditions and different faiths, we stand together in affirming that all people have gifts and contributions that enliven and strengthen the community to which they belong and seek to ensure that people with disabilities have equal opportunity to participate in the faith community of their choice.

The Council recognises the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (2006) which states discrimination should not occur on the basis of religion amongst other factors. Furthermore, the Australian Disability Discrimination Act 1992, (DDA) makes it unlawful to discriminate against people on the basis of disability.

For people with disabilities, and their families and carers, participation and belonging have at times been problematic because of a range of architectural, cultural and theological factors. People with disabilities request the following from faith communities:

  1. (i)  their physical and sensory needs are addressed in order to be present at times of worship and social activity
  2. (ii)  they experience a sense of unconditional welcome and belonging and are not treated differently on account of disability and
  3. (iii)  they be consulted as to their particular participation in the life of their faith community.

Across the state, the Faith Communities Council of Victoria shares the call that faith communities and faith leaders play their part in ensuring that people marginalised by disability experience a sense of welcome and social inclusion, based on the principles of justice, equality and love.

Faith Communities Council of Victoria (FCCV) is comprised of the following peak bodies: Baha’i Community of Victoria, Brahma Kumaris Australia, Buddhist Council of Victoria, Hindu Council of Australia (Vic), Islamic Council of Victoria, Jewish Community Council of Victoria, Sikh Interfaith Council of Victoria and the Victorian Council of Churches.

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El Niño declared in Australia

Please see the information below regarding the predicted summer season outlook. 

“VCC Emergencies Ministry is gearing up for the summer season ahead.”

Australia is officially in an El Niño event after a La Niña pattern brought three years of cool temperatures and record-breaking rain.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has made the long-awaited announcement ending months of speculation.

What is El Niño and how is it different to La Niña?

The cycle of La Niña and El Niño – known as ENSO, or the El Niño-Southern Oscillation Index – works a bit like a pendulum.

La Niña occurs when water in the eastern tropical region of the Pacific Ocean is cooler than average as the “trade winds” – the planet’s prevailing east-to-west winds – strengthen, creating warmer-than-normal water around Indonesia and Australia’s east coast.

This leads to increased rainfall and brings the risk of heavy flooding in Australia.

However, when those conditions are reversed – trade winds are weaker, and water is warmer than average in the eastern tropical Pacific but cooler close to Australia – an El Niño is declared, and our continent will experience hot, dry conditions and come under the threat of drought.

When the “pendulum” sits in the middle and ocean temperatures are closer to average, it is referred to as “neutral” ENSO conditions – and it is more likely to bring less extreme weather conditions.

And, if you’re wondering what the two terms mean, “La Niña” is Spanish for “the girl” or “little girl”, while “El Niño” translates to “the boy” or “little boy”.

What is El Niño predicted to bring?

Put simply, the weather event will bring hotter, drier conditions, which will, in turn, increase the likelihood of bushfires.

It is Australia’s first El Niño event in about eight years.

The declaration came two months after the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organisation had previously declared El Niño’s arrival, predicting hot weather and tumbling temperature records.

Conditions for an El Niño event have met the required three of four criteria, the BoM said today.

“Oceanic indicators firmly exhibit an El Niño state,” it said in its climate driver update today.

“Central and eastern Pacific sea surface temperatures continue to exceed El Niño thresholds.

“Models indicate further warming of the central to eastern Pacific is likely.

“Overall, there are signs that the atmosphere is responding to the pattern of sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific and coupling of the ocean and atmosphere has started to occur.

“This coupling is a characteristic of an El Niño event and is what strengthens and sustains an event for an extended period.”

When was the last time Australia had an El Niño?

Australia’s last El Niño event occurred during the summer of 2015-16, while the last time the Bureau declared an El Niño alert was in April 2019.

The country had a severe drought throughout 2019 and the strong El Niño system was partly responsible.

The 2019 drought was measured by the BoM to be Australia’s most intense ever recorded.

In preparation for the Summer season, VCC EM is actively recruiting new volunteers Statewide and will be hosting core training and refresher training sessions for our EOC (Emergency Operations Centre) volunteers, along with recruiting additional volunteer Operations Officers to bolster our capability and capacity for the months ahead.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer with VCC Emergencies Ministry, please visit to find out more, or call any of the staff on (03) 7037 6010 for additional information.

Information provided by Edmund Murphy, Chief Operations Officer, VCC Emergencies Ministry

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Pray for Artsakh’s Endangered Armenian Christians


The Armenian Apostolic Church has declared a worldwide day of prayer for October 1.

Armenians have controlled Nagorno-Karabakh since 1994, after a three-year war resulted in the deaths of 30,000 people, displacing an additional 100,000 in mutual exchange between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is populated mainly by ethnic Armenians who have run their own state there – the Republic of Artsakh – since the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In December 2022, Azerbaijan began a blockade of the Lachin corridor, the only connection between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. In February, the International Court of Justice in The Hague issued a binding order that Azerbaijan must immediately allow the unimpeded movement of people and goods along the corridor. Azerbaijan ignored this. During the summer, the situation worsened for the 120,000 residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, with acute shortages of food, petrol and medicine. Malnutrition was rife. The situation became so serious that several organisations warned of a possible genocide under Article II, (c) of the Genocide Convention: “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”
The bombardment on September 19 has finally driven the ethnic Armenian population from their homes. More here.
The Nagorno-Karabakh enclave is home to around 400 holy sites now at risk of erasure, some of these were desecrated or destroyed after Azerbaijani forces retook territory in and around the region during a 44-day war in 2020.

Update: 29th September 
Karabakh Armenians dissolve breakaway government
Ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh say they are dissolving the breakaway statelet they had defended for three decades, where ~ 85,000 people (75% of the population) have fled since Azerbaijan launched a lightning offensive on September 19th. One official stated that 99.9% of Artsakh’s Armenians will cross the border to Armenia, the world’s first Christian nation. In a statement, they said their self-declared Republic of Artsakh would “cease to exist” by January 1 in what amounted to a formal capitulation to Azerbaijan. More here.

As a result of the Azerbaijani attack on the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh on September 19 and the forced exodus that followed it, this region will soon be empty of ethnic Armenians – for the first time in more than two millennia. Armenia’s Apostolic Church is distinct from both Orthodoxy and Catholicism, and is closely related to the Ethiopian and Egyptian Coptic churches. It is central to the identity of Armenia, with its many historic monastery complexes.

27th September
There is grave concern about the unfolding crisis in Azerbaijan, with thousands of Armenian refugees fleeing their ancestral homeland over fears of ethnic cleansing. Until last week, Armenians in the region claimed self-sovereignty under the auspices of the “Republic of Artsakh.”
The contention is over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnically Armenian region within the borders of Azerbaijan (between Russia, Turkey, and Iran). For decades, the local population (ethnic Armenians) has wanted to become part of the nearby nation of Armenia, a request that’s been forcibly denied by Azerbaijan, with ethnic killings on both sides.
In recent times there’s been an uneasy truce maintained by Russian peacekeepers, but since the end of last year, Russia has pulled back and Azerbaijani troops blockaded the region, causing food and medicine shortages.
Then, a week ago, those troops stormed Nagorno-Karabakh, with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev claiming to have restored Azerbaijani sovereignty “with an iron fist”.
There have been reports of deadly explosions in the area. Ethnic Armenians are fleeing to find safety. (adapted from The Squiz)

See also this article, posted September 25, 2023 by Catholic News Agency.

A prayer for Armenians in the conflict zone
Blessed are you, O Lord who dwells in the heights, and blessed is the glory of your greatness.
As we have in the past, we come to you in a supremely difficult time for our nation. With broken hearts and tears filling our eyes, we are united in grief over the loss of our ancestral holy lands of Artsakh. We are forced to leave behind our sacred temples of worship, and silence our joyful prayers within our glorious churches.
In this state of unbearable pain, we appeal to you, O Lord, to hasten to our aid in your divine mercy and love. Dispel our deep sorrow; heal our wounded spirits; pull us back from the error of hopelessness and despair. Grant us the humility and wisdom to accept the things we can no longer change; and give us courage to effect needful change where we still can.
Lord, today we are overwhelmed by the sense of loss and tragedy that has come upon us. But we know that you are always near to the brokenhearted, and you rescue those who are crushed in spirit [cf. Psl. 34:18 2]. We trust that all things are possible through you [cf. Philip. 4:13 3]. Help us realize that even when matters lie beyond our understanding, you still know the plans you have for us – plans to help us prosper and not come to harm; plans to give us hope for the future [cf. Jer. 29:11]. We cast our anxiety to you, lean not on our mortal understanding, and trust in you with all our heart [cf. Prov. 3:5]. For we have faith that in all things, you work for the good of all who love and honour you [cf. Rom. 8:28].
We are humble, Lord, and you are our glory; your very name is wondrous, triumphant, and holy. Surrounded by the great cloud of our newly martyred witnesses to you, we praise you along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always, and unto the ages and ages. Amen.
(Source: Armenian Church)

Slow and Silent Genocide: Please Pray for Artsakh’s Endangered Armenian Christians
From an article by Lela Gilbert
After the demise of the Soviet Union, Artsakh’s Christians voted to secede from neighbouring Azerbaijan and to unite with Armenia. As with many such disputes in today’s world, there is a religious component. The Armenian Christians chose to be independent of the Muslim, Turkish-oriented Azerbaijanis. Unsurprisingly, the horrific memory of the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century is never far from their minds. Meanwhile, the enclave is surrounded by Azeri Muslims, some of whom are radically opposed to Christian believers.

Only one roadway, the Lachin Corridor, provides a highway to and from Artsakh and Armenia. And for the past several months that road has been blockaded by the Azeris, cutting off the delivery of all provisions to Karabakh, including food, medication, and emergency services.

In the early 1990s, the dispute over this territory turned violent and deadly. A ceasefire was signed in 1994. However, in the early 2010s, the peace agreement began to fall apart. In the spring of 2016, there was a four-day conflict, which led to many casualties. Since 2020, violence has continued.

Today, the Christians in Artsakh are in dire straits. The Lachin Corridor, the sole roadway connecting Artsakh with the most basic necessities, has been blocked for several months, gradually leaving the Christian community without food, medication, electricity, and other basic provisions. And unless international intervention takes place, some 120,000 Christians may either find it necessary to flee their beloved homeland or lose their lives to starvation, violence, or disease.

The International Court of Justice has ordered Azerbaijan to lift the blockade, which is widely condemned by human rights groups, including the United Nations and the International Red Cross. In 2021, French President Emmanual Macron declared, “Azerbaijani armed forces have crossed into Armenian territory. They must withdraw immediately. I say again to the Armenian people: France stands with you in solidarity and will continue to do so.” Yet Azerbaijan continues to resist.

In February 2023, Reuters reported:

“The World Court ordered Azerbaijan on Wednesday to ensure free movement through the Lachin corridor to and from the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, as an intermediate step in ongoing legal disputes with neighbouring Armenia. The Lachin corridor, the only land route giving Armenia direct access to Nagorno-Karabakh, has been blocked since Dec. 12, when protesters claiming to be environmental activists stopped traffic by setting up tents …”

But such protests have fallen on deaf ears in Azerbaijan. In fact, the situation has deteriorated even further. In July, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev declared that Azerbaijan would “return more than 150,000 people to the Karabakh and East Zangezur regions” over the next three years. According to Aliyev, “the return of 140,000 people is envisioned by 2026 in the Karabakh region alone.”

The Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh will be expected to surrender their international right to self-determination. They will be forced, against their will, to become citizens of Azerbaijan — an anti-Armenian authoritarian regime, with an awful track record of human rights violations. Local people are terrified that the deal will be signed over their heads.

Today, the disturbing story of Artsakh’s endangered Christians continues to unfold. Those Christians who have chosen to remain in their homeland have run out of food and medication. For months, the only way of escape has been the Lachin Corridor, which is barricaded by Azerbaijan. No matter how many times world leaders call for the Azeris to withdraw from the Christian enclave, nothing changes, and the deaths continuously rise.

Let’s remember the little enclave of Artsakh, where a few thousand struggling Christians are holding on to their faith, their hope, and their very lives. Please remember the Armenian Church in your prayers.


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Blessing of the Animals

The sun shone brightly as animal lovers with their pets and friends gathered in the garden at the front of St Mary’s Catholic Church on 24th September. The event was the Blessing of the Animals, an annual event organized by the Combined Churches of Yarram.

Dogs of many shapes and sizes, cats, snails, a miniature goat were in attendance and all behaved very well.

Father Antony and Rev Tony led the service and representatives from each congregation took part in the prayers, readings and music.

Father Antony, who recently returned from his hometown in India, spoke of the significant part animals can play in our lives and our responsibility to nurture and care for them. A spectacular afternoon tea followed as all enjoyed chatting and sharing animal stories in the sunshine.

Photos below:

The elderly French bulldog receives a blessing.

Father Antony blesses Sue’s snails

Lily, the King Charles Cavalier receives a blessing.

Father Antony and Rev Tony with Max reading the prayers.




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The Last Will Be First – Garry Worete Deverell

The Last Will Be First
Text: Matthew 20.1-16
Social Justice Sunday

(first published on Gary’s blog)

On Easter Monday, 1996, at the famous Stawell Gift Athletics Carnival, an extraordinary running race was held. It was the 400m handicap race for women. Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the language of athletics, the word ‘handicap’ does not here refer to a race for people with an identified disability. It refers, instead, to the practice of spacing the runners out as the race begins so that the ones with the strongest pre-race record start at ‘scratch’, that is, the starting line, and the other, weaker, runners are given a variety of head-starts further along the course. In theory, this means that were everyone to run their personal best times, they would all finish with a dead-heat at the finish line. On this particular occasion one runner, Catherine Astrid Salome Freeman – a sixteen year-old Kuku Yalanji girl from Woorabinda in Queensland – was the only runner to start at scratch, and the next closest runner was placed a full 54 metres ahead of her as the race began. Some old and grainy footage of that race has been ‘going viral’ on social media over the past couple of weeks and it is worth a look. For it shows the young Cathy Freeman not only catching the field of white runners ahead of her, but also enduring a big shove from one of them as the field passes the 350m mark. Amazingly, Cathy keeps her form and comes home to win the event by a whisker.

That Cathy did so, and went on to become both a world and Olympic champion in this same event, is something of a modern miracle. For she is Aboriginal. She belongs to a people whose lands and waterways were stolen at the point of a gun, whose ancestors were massacred, poisoned, raped, shackled, removed from country and kin, enslaved in missions, orphanages and individual homes as domestic servants, and now continue to be the single most disadvantaged ethnic group in the country on any measure. Twice as likely to be living with a disability. 4 times more likely to live with a chronic disease. 4 times more likely to take their own lives. 37 times more likely to be imprisoned than any other Australian. 1000 times more likely to die in police custody. On that Easter Monday in 1996 Cathy was at the back of the line on handicapping. But she was also at the back of the line when it came to the likelihood that she would even be there to compete. That she was able to slip pass every single white runner, including the one who tried to take her out of the race with a physical shove, is absolutely amazing. From last in the race to first. From last in this country to sporting royalty.

The story we read just now from Matthew’s gospel also talks about the last becoming first. In one of Jesus’ most intriguing parables, he says that the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who has a vineyard. The landowner goes out at dawn to the marketplace in town where willing labourers are most likely to gather. He hires those who are there after agreeing to pay them the usual daily wage, a denarius, and they head over the vineyard to pick grapes. But there are not enough labourers to secure the harvest, so the landowner goes out again at 9, 12, 3 and 5 to hire more workers. Each are hired on the promise that they will be paid ‘what is right’ for their time. Now, at knock-off time, each of the workers are paid, beginning with the last hired, and finishing with the first. Those hired at the beginning of the day are incensed to learn that all the other workers, even those hired at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, are to be paid the full daily wage, just as they are. They complain bitterly about these latecomers ‘being made equal’ to themselves, even though they have worked longer. But the landowner responds ‘Did you not agree to work for a denarius? That is what you have been paid. Are you calling me evil because I am generous towards these others?’ And so, says Jesus after he tells his story, ‘the last will be first and the first will be last’.

Now. I’ve used this story in bible studies across twenty-five years of ministry, and I can report that almost every white, middle-class, person who hears the story for the first time responds, like clockwork, ‘but that is so unfair!’ This has convinced me that many white-middle class people tend to identify most strongly with the people hired at the beginning of the day. Why? Because they are raised from birth to believe that if you don’t work, you don’t eat, and that justice is primarily about getting what you deserve because of your hard work. If you work hard, you rightly expect to be rewarded in proportion to the amount of work you have done. Since justice is proportional, it follows that those who work less than you should be paid less than you. Now, if that is what you believe, if life is most properly a meritocracy in which the hardest workers take the lion’s share of the rewards, then the behaviour of the landowner in our parable is guaranteed to offend. For it strikes at the very heart of this white, middle-class, work-ethic. It questions, and possibly even mocks, that ethic’s certainties about what is fair and what is just.

Of course, if you are white and middle-class, there are probably a lot of things that you cannot see. You may not be aware, for example, that you have a disability, an ailment that quite a few scholars are calling, very simply, ‘white-blindness’. White-blindness is an incapacity to see what life might be like for people who are not white and middle-class, for people whose very different social location may teach them really quite different lessons about the world and how it works. For when I, an Aboriginal man, read this parable, I identify not with the people who were hired at the beginning of the day, but with those who were hired at 5 o’clock. For I know, deep in my marrow, that those who are ready to work at 6am in the morning enjoy a long list of advantages that I simply cannot count on. They, for example, are most likely able-bodied. They are four times as likely as I am to be able-bodied. Which gives them a significant advantage when it comes to being job-ready. The fact that they are ready to work at 6 o’clock in the morning almost certainly means that they also enjoy good mental health. I, on the other hand, do not. Generations of racism from the most powerful towards my people means that I carry with me a weight that is very, very difficult to slough off. It is difficult to get up each day with a certainly that I will be treated fairly when multiple generations before me were not. And that has been confirmed, many hundreds of times over, in my own experience. Simply by being Aboriginal, I am three times more likely to regularly experience high levels of psychological distress than other Australians, and that makes getting out of bed in the morning quite difficult, sometimes. I won’t go on, but I hope you are getting the picture.

From a biblical studies point of view, it is clear that those who are more latterly hired by the landowner are very likely to have been the most marginalised members of Judean society at the time. Landless peasants who are continually exhausted because most landowners exploit their labour for pittance. Widows or ‘unclean’ women who have no male patriarch to protect them. Aboriginal people like the Canaanite women we encountered in chapter 15, the one whose daughter was tormented by a demon, a demon some scholars happily name ‘colonisation’. And so on. They are late to marketplace because they have learned – through cold, hard, experience – that there is little to be gained by being there early. They are outcasts, they are rarely picked for the work available, and therefore there is little point in turning up at all.

If you read the parable from that point of view, then the point of the story is not about the proportionality of justice, as white middle-class social programming might suggest. It is not even about a failure of such justice. It is about grace, grace here defined as an excess of loving generosity toward the last and the least. To all who believe that justice is satisfied by getting what you deserve, this might come as very bad news indeed! Because if you believe in meritocracy, grace proclaims the very opposite: that it is the last and the least, those who are least deserving in the eyes of the meritocracy, who can expect to receive the love and mercy of the creator and landowner of all the earth.

For the vast majority of people who live on this planet, who are not white and middle-class, the grace at the heart of the parable is actually the very best of news. For it tells us that while the world run by white people may have forgotten us, if it even acknowledges our existence at all, God has not forgotten us. From the lips of Jesus, the very son of God, we learn that God will take us from our customary place at the very back of the field, and help us along, with Cathy, to the winner’s podium. The last, those who get barely enough work to get by, will nevertheless be made equal with those who can depend on work every day.

Let’s be clear, however, that none of this happens by magic. Faith will not, for example, immediately deliver the poor and the oppressed to the front of the queue. Faith, rather, will assure the poor one, the enslaved one, that she or he is loved, accepted and free in Christ. And this knowledge, in turn, will give her the confidence and courage to have a go, and keep having a go, even if the chips are down and the system is against you. You know, when Cathy won her gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 she had some help. She said that her ancestors rose up from the ground beneath her feet to fill her with the strength and confidence she needed to prevail against the odds. Here Cathy is speaking in an Aboriginal way about the divine. For us, the divine is at work in our ancestors, who live in the earth and flora and fauna, all about us, just as the Holy Spirit lived in Christ and now lives in his church. Cathy is saying, therefore, that the confidence and help of her ancestors filled her with everything she needed to run, and to run without giving up. The divine does not run the race for us. God gives us the power and courage, rather, to finish the race as equal partners in the gospel with all who have had a better start in life.

For, in the end, it is grace that saves us all, through faith, whether we are at the bottom of the social pile, or in the middle, or at the top. It is not our work, nor our status, as the most powerful would measure it. Such is the way of Christ. Such is the way of the gospel. So, on this Social Justice Sunday I leave you with just two simple challenges. If you are poor, God in Christ has come to raise you up, so trust that his grace will get you there, even to the banqueting halls of heaven. If you are wealthy, then God would have you leave those chains behind for the sake of the poorest and least. For by emptying yourselves of such riches (as Christ did) and sharing your wealth with the least (as Christ did) you will become rich in the eyes of God.

Glory be to God – Creator, Son and Holy Spirit – as in the dreaming, so now, and for ever. Amen.

Garry Worete Deverell
Social Justice Sunday 2020

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UN International Day of Peace 2023

21 September is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace. It is a day that was set aside by the United Nations General assembly for everyone around the world to devote to keeping peace, despite any differences they may have, as well as play a part in building a peace culture that will last for generations to come.

The theme for the IDP 2023 observance is “Actions for peace: Our ambition for the #GlobalGoals.”

It is a call to action that recognizes our individual and collective responsibility to foster peace. Fostering peace contributes to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will create a culture of peace for all.

2023 is also the 75th anniversaries of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said,

“Peace is needed today more than ever. War and conflict are unleashing devastation, poverty, and hunger, and driving tens of millions of people from their homes. Climate chaos is all around. And even peaceful countries are gripped by gaping inequalities and political polarization.”

A reflection by Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ (first posted here):

The International Day of Peace is always timely. Unfortunately so. There is no end to wars and disputes between nations and between groups within them that take lives, devastate towns and impoverish nations. Peace is something that everyone wants, but most wars begin when one group or another tries to impose peace on its own terms. To build peace, you need to go further back and ask those who claim to want peace what they are willing to do and what interests they are prepared to sacrifice in order to build it. A test of their seriousness might be to ask what they are willing to do to support the people destroyed by wars in which their own nations have been involved.

Most wars are fought in order to make peace – sometimes to impose peace by winning the war, often to force an aggressive nation or group to accept the terms on which peace can be built, and sometimes to assert control over the peace that will follow. Leaders of most nations describe themselves as peace-loving and their enemies as violent aggressors. In this lack of mutual trust, war is the natural result. Fear and suspicion lead nations to enlarge their armies and piles of deadly weapons, enlarge their capacity to manufacture weapons, recoup the cost by selling weapons to other nations and armed groups with which they are conveniently allied, and join in military adventures their strong allies initiate.

The result for the unfortunate people who are the victims of this cycle is that they live in fear of war, are driven from their homes, become refugees in their own or in another land and are deprived of basic human rights. They are then excluded, and their need ignored, by the nations that participate in their destruction directly or through their proxies.

The cost of war-making is enormous, both directly for the people whose lives it takes or ruins and indirectly for the nations engaging in it. It multiplies distrust and alienates resources that could better be spent positively on peacemaking through aid to impoverished peoples and to healing the wounds of war. And it unites nations in fear as they seek allies against common and enemies.

All this is the gloomy background to International Peace Day. As in so many international challenges, it suggests how important are the personal and communal relationships that are the building blocks of national policies. The rage and suspicion that we see in war-making are bred in the violence of family relationships, the choice we make between hatred or understanding in our social media postings, the vituperation of political discourse, the ways in which playground fights are handled and learned from, and how we handle frustration on the roads and in shopping centres. Peace begins in the negotiation of differences through apologies and reconciliation in personal relationships and in the learning of other ways of response than lashing out.

International Peace Day looks at the largest possible canvas. Peacemaking begins in the most intimate of relationships and the learning of the simplest of formulae: please, sorry, thank you.

Prayer For Peace
As the fever of day calms towards twilight
May all that is strained in us come to ease.
We pray for all who suffered violence today,
May an unexpected serenity surprise them.
For those who risk their lives each day for peace,
May their hearts glimpse providence at the heart of history.
That those who make riches from violence and war
Might hear in their dreams the cries of the lost.
That we might see through our fear of each other
A new vision to heal our fatal attraction to aggression.
That those who enjoy the privilege of peace
Might not forget their tormented brothers and sisters.
That the wolf might lie down with the lamb,
That our swords be beaten into ploughshares
And no hurt or harm be done
Anywhere along the holy mountain.
(Source: John O’Donohue from Benedictus: A Book of Blessings)

More prayers and resources for worship here.

Raising Peace Festival – various events starting Wednesday 20th to Sunday 24th September.

News Sandy's Comments

What Australians think about their neighbourhood

Scanlon Foundation Research Institute
Season 2 Episode 2:
What Australians think about…their neighbourhood

Our sense of belonging is vital, as it provides us with a sense of identity, social support, safety, opportunities for civic engagement, and personal well-being. It helps build stronger communities, promotes unity, and enhances the overall fabric of society.

But there remain some concerns. The most recent results from the Scanlon Foundation Research Institute’s Mapping cohesion surveys reveal a decline in Australians’ sense of belonging, especially among the young and economically disadvantaged. Yet, interestingly, despite Australia’s rapid demographic shifts, a strong sense of community persists within neighbourhoods.

This episode, with host Anthea and guests Bronwen and Mahamed, explores these changes in the context of Australia’s fast-growing regions.

The implications of Australia’s evolving neighbourhoods are unpacked, as well as and demographic changes on our sense of belonging, both on a national and local scale. There will be discussion around how we can ensure no communities in our rapidly expanding regions are left feeling disconnected or overlooked.

Talking points in this episode:

  • How social and community infrastructure plays a role in community connectedness
  • Looking at opportunities in outer suburban areas
  • The role of volunteers in building neighbourhoods
  • The cultural shift moving away from CBDs to achieve the ‘city’ experience
  • How community services need to reimagine how they engage with young people


Bronwen Clark
CEO – National Growth Areas Alliance

Bronwen Clark is the CEO of the National Growth Areas Alliance. Bronwen has spearheaded the significant advocacy wins for the Alliance at the federal level. Through campaigns such as ‘Catch Up with the Outer Suburbs’ and ‘National Nightmare Commute Day,’ she has gained widespread reach in community and political spheres. As the Chair of Volunteering Victoria, she plays a vital role in promoting active citizenship and building resilient communities.

Mahamed Ahmed
Community leader and youth advocate
Mahamed Ahmed is a dedicated leader committed to building inclusive communities, especially for young people. Through his work in youth advocacy and participation, he addresses key issues and promotes positive masculinity. With a focus on empowering individuals and fostering a sense of belonging, Mahamed’s efforts have a lasting impact on creating stronger, more supportive communities.

Voices of Australia is a Scanlon Foundation Research Institute podcast exploring all things interesting in the world of social cohesion.

Voices of Australia is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Now available with video also, in addition to audio-only.
(podcast options – also previous episodes available)

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