This week's reflection focuses on reconciliation as we approach National Sorry Day (26 May), Reconciliation Sunday (26 May or 3 June) and Reconciliation Week (27 May - 3 June).
The fire living inside
Posted in Faith
Jesse Size was one of two candidates for ministry who the Presbytery resolved to ordain at the November 2017 Presbytery and Synod meeting. He will be ordained on Saturday 12 May, 2pm, at Port Augusta Uniting Church. In this article, Jesse shares his passion for breaking down barriers and his personal journey towards becoming a Deacon in the Uniting Church.
Journeying in faith
When I was still a reasonably new Christian in my early 20s, I started doing some youth work for a couple of Uniting Church congregations, not knowing a whole lot about the denomination.
It was my involvement in the Hungry No More community through Mount Barker Uniting Church that particularly shaped me for ministry. Every week we met at tables and ate together. Here I met Jesus in those struggling with addictions. I met him in people dying from terminal illness. I met him in the desperately hungry and those in constant housing crisis. I met him in those who were doing all they could to shrug former lives of pain, crime and hardship. I met Christ in the laughter and joy of the small children.
The stories I heard people tell me each week chipped away at the way I saw the world and the way I saw people. Somehow, here I was able to experience faith, ministry and community in a new way that meant I wouldn’t be the same on the other side.
Experiences like this helped affirm that this was part of my vocation. My wife Chelsea and I spent some of our early marriage living in a missional order focussed on living with people on the margins. This was a really important space for us to wrestle with the challenges and dynamics of working in vulnerable communities. It also gave us an opportunity to learn from those who had been doing this kind of thing for some time, and confirmed for us our call to be in places of vulnerability.
Around six years ago we relocated to Port Augusta, where we worked in schools, running youth groups and kids clubs, and having a lot to do with the Port Augusta Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and Dusty Feet Mob dance group. This has been a really powerful part of our family’s story, allowing us to connect more deeply with what’s gone before us while at the same time drawing us into a space where we wonder what it might mean to be part of a new story that involves reconciliation, healing and hope.
Throughout this time I became a candidate. I remember coming across a description of a deacon as a pathfinder – going where others don’t go, lighting the way for the church to respond to people in the community who are hurting, disadvantaged and oppressed, and building unique community in that place. I knew that was the fire already living in me so I followed these impulses into my formation within the Uniting Church.
Looking forward in the Uniting Church
What I love about the Uniting Church is that no matter what things look like moving forward, we’re always guided by the same vision of reconciliation and renewal – a vision that urges us to be brave and to move in step with God and each other.
We’re being asked, as the Church, to take seriously the call to go where the brokenness is, to go where the hurt is, to enter into the spaces between us that keep us from walking together. We are called to go forth into every sphere of human life that creates and perpetuates the wrongs of injustice, the brutality of oppression, the callous disregard of what is sacred, the distance between ourselves and another. We’re here for the restoration of human communities; human lives repaired and rebuilt through forgiveness, grace, inclusion, compassion and love.
The hope and the joy of it all is that the crucified and resurrected Christ is already in these spaces before we ever get there. We’re here together, led and enabled by the Holy Spirit – a fellowship of reconciliation, an instrument through which Christ may work and bear witness to himself. Renewal and reconciliation for the whole creation – that’s what we’re caught up in as the Uniting Church and that’s what I love about it.
I resonate strongly with the notion of crossing boundaries and breaking down barriers. There’s a natural movement within me towards “outsiders”, beyond the walls of the church. Similarly, in a community, I’m often particularly conscious of the invisible barriers that make it hard for others to participate. If the barriers are too firmly entrenched I often think: “How could we go and build community over there where they are?” In a congregational context, the question I bring as a part of who I am is: “What does it mean to be a servant community with a special attentiveness to those who are vulnerable?”
I really value faith that is embodied and practical, which really means learning and entering into the ways of God together, taking seriously the implications for our lives in ways that offer to transform us and maybe even the world. I think it’s vital we learn to build our lives on a contemplative foundation, learning to breathe with God, allowing the deep things of God to call out the depths within us.
In this next season, I’ve been really fortunate in Port Augusta to have a church community willing to encourage me, and to journey with me in these questions. One of the most electric realities I know is sensing God’s invitation to step into these spaces together. This is the work of the whole church, a risky enemy-loving, go-the-extra mile way of being in the world.
Caption: Jesse Size (centre) with Rev Mark Schultz and Rev Sue Ellis at the November 2017 Presbytery & Synod meeting.
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