Singing with their ‘Hearts on Fire’, children of the Uniting Church in WA began the installation of the incoming President of the Uniting Church in Australia to members and guests of the 14th triennial Assembly, held in Perth this week.
After a welcome to country by Rev. Sealin Garlett, Chair of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress WA, youthful representatives shared prayers with the congregation for the vastness of our land, the redness of the Earth, the green plant life, the colours of the earth and the clear white of the creator. Colourful balloons and fabric created a warm backdrop for the moving service.
President-elect Stuart McMillan was led to the stage by members of an Arnhem Land choir as they performed traditional dance and song. For his installation, Stuart wore some traditional dress of the Yolngu people, a clan of whose Stuart was adopted into during his life in the Northern Territory.
Retiring President, Rev. Prof. Andrew Dutney prayed, thanking God for calling Mr McMillan to the role.
“Fill him with the Holy Spirit and give him the gifts for this ministry. May he have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus and be a true disciple, an example to the church and a faithful witness in the world, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen,” Rev. Prof Dutney said.
In his installation address, the new President spoke on the theme for the week, ‘Hearts on Fire’.
“If you know fire, you will know that with some kindling and a little blowing, from the white ash will come forth new flame, and fire will burst into life,” Mr McMillan said.
As the Uniting Church celebrates 30 years of the formation of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Congress, as well as 30 years since it declared itself a multicultural church, the Bible readings were read in four different languages, Tongan, Korean, Yolngu and Greek.
Stuart encouraged the congregation to think of the concept of ‘unity in diversity’ as a gift of grace.
“Our church does amazing things to help those most disadvantaged and often marginalised in our society. And friends, in adversity, when we come together as the body of Christ, for the sake of the least, God does amazing things!”
Members of the congregation were invited to light candles which shone brightly in the darkness. As Stuart extinguished the Christ candle, sending forth members and guests of the Assembly the smoke grew thinner and thinner and spread throughout the room.
“The light has changed,” Mr McMillan said. “You can change your light too. I invite you to blow out your candle and allow the light to fill the room. It is no longer in one place at one time. Now the light is all around us. Now the light is everywhere.”