The first of the “Living Jesus” Ecumenical gatherings, held on the Sunshine Coast in mid-February, was an unqualified success with a crowd of over 400 in a church full to overflowing.
These gatherings, which feature personal witness by five of the heads of Churches in South East Queensland, will continue throughout March and April as a prelude to Easter.
The participating heads of Church are Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, Rev Bruce Johnson (Uniting Church), Pastor Noel Noack (Lutheran Church), Rev David Loder (Baptist Church) and Archbishop John Bathersby (Catholic Church).
At least three of the heads of Church are present at each gathering, with the host venue alternating between the different denominations.
For the initial event at St Catherine of Siena Church in Sippy Downs, the speakers were Archbishop Aspinall, Archbishop Bathersby and Rev Johnson.
Crucially these evenings are not a series of lectures, but rather a sharing of people’s personal encounter with Jesus.
All three spoke of their childhood and upbringing, with a lot of humour and funny stories thrown in, and also how they came to be called to ministry in the Church.
Discussing his own experience of the living Jesus, Anglican Archbishop Phillip Aspinall related some misgivings he had about a mooted appointment as Assistant Bishop of Adelaide.
He was grappling and turning the decision over his head, and didn’t gain clarity until attending an annual ordination service at the Cathedral in Hobart.
That morning he heard the scripture passage where God calls Jeremiah to go and do a job. A few minutes later they sang the song called “The Summons”.
As Archbishop Aspinall said “one thunderbolt probably would have been enough but two within a few minutes of each other was unmistakable. I had my answer. “
“I think we’d be amazed how often the scripture readings, the prayers and the songs and hymns do speak directly to us if we have specific questions in mind.
“Perhaps the problem is not that God’s not speaking but that we haven’t learned to listen.
“Jesus said that where two or three are gathered in my name I am there in the midst of them.
“We meet the ‘living Jesus’ in the community of the church, gathered around the scripture at the Lord’s table,” he said.
Two Sunshine Coast locals, Anna Vencio and Paul Ford, contributed their own faith stories in response to the three Church heads, a practice that will continue for the remaining five gatherings.
A question and answer session was held just before the close of the evening, during which the Uniting Church Moderator the Anglican and Catholic Archbishop’s worked beautifully in concert.
Their genuine ease with each other seemed to take some in the audience by surprise, many not knowing that the full cohort of the Heads of Churches meets on a regular basis throughout the year.
The Cleveland Baptist Church on Brisbane’s Bayside will be the venue for the next Living Jesus gathering on Wednesday, February 23.
The free event begins informally at 7.00pm over a cuppa and concludes with prayer by 9.30pm.
Complete details about all the “Living Jesus” regional gatherings, as well as promotional resources and links to a podcast of the first gathering at Sippy Downs, can be found at the website www.livingjesus.org.au
Released by The Catholic Communications Office
February 18, 2011