The Student’s Desk

That we may know Christ

The Minister’s Desk Newsletter – December 2013

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So, where was this all leading? That was the question being asked for many years as I studied. My exit thesis was accepted on the second submission and came back with a distinction. Subsequently I was licensed to preach on the 17th March – an acknowledgment that I had completed my training. Yet the question remained, “Where was this all leading?” It wasn’t until mid March that any prospects of employment began to take shape.

The newly appointed CEO of Presbyterian Social Services asked the question I’ve long been waiting for, “Jason, what do you want to do?” Around 3 weeks later after further correspondence, I was appointed as the Disability Advocate for the NSW Presbyterian Church for 14hrs/week. The task: to educate the church on matters of disability and to equip the church to respond to the needs of people with disabilities and their carers – no small task for anyone! But there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. Consequently, 2013 was very much a whirlwind of a year.

Prior to taking the position, I had agreed to co-author a conference paper with Lindsey Gale (CBM, Melbourne) for the ‘Disability, Theology, and the People of God’ conference at Carey Bible College, Auckland in July. Happily, all this was considered part of my new position as research and development. This was a compilation of my exit thesis “The Role of the Holy Spirit in a person with a Disability and their relationship with the Church”, and Lindsey’s research into the results of the National Church Life Survey in regard to disability in the church. It was a mammoth project. Somehow, I think I had the easy end of the deal! All I had to do was come up with the theology – most of which I had already written. I just had to “de-nerd” my thesis by taking out all the Greek, which grated me… Anyway! Once upon a time, I didn’t know Greek either. I have since learned our paper has been accepted by the publisher for the conference book which is great news – and a relief!

So, this meant some travelling. In April I went to Melbourne to begin co-authoring the paper. This also provided an opportunity to catch up with friends, and share my faith at one of the schools. I also went to Auckland for the conference. Last time I was in New Zealand, I didn’t take the opportunity to have a look around after my training placement. This time, I was determined to take the opportunity! With the OK from work, I hired a motorhome for 10 days and toured parts of the North Island. It’s certainly one of the best holidays I’ve had. Some of the highlights were the Coromandel Peninsula, Hobbiton (Lord of the Rings movie set), and Rotorua. I really enjoyed learning about Maori culture as well. The geothermal areas were a freaky but intriguing place to be. I was really blessed with the weather. Of course, it rained. But it didn’t affect my activities. Hobbiton was well timed. Just as I was leaving, it began to rain – YES!! I found their winter isn’t that much colder than their summer, so staying warm and confortable wasn’t that much of an issue.

Apart from higher academic works, I’ve also had articles published in the Presbyterian NSW state magazine, ‘The Pulse’, and the National Magazine, ‘Australian Presbyterian’. I’ve been visiting churches and Presbyteries promoting Luke14 – the education initiative developed by CMB. Highlights have been to visit Mittagong Presbyterian who have an active ministry to include people with disabilities, and to visit Toukley Presbyterian on 2 occasions. Never had I received a reception to one of my sermons such as I did at Toukley. It was very encouraging. Much of the work is done at home, such as reviewing Scripture teaching material for children with intellectual disabilities, and continuing research into theological developments and current affairs in the area of disability.

A big blessing has been to have my church on board with my work. Gosford Presbyterian agreed to host all 5 Luke14 workshops dispersed throughout the year. This is giving me the opportunity to get a feel for the workshops and find out what works, and what doesn’t work. It’s been great to have a team of people supporting me as I run these workshops. So far, I’ve run two workshops, with the next one on Kids and Teens on the 9th March, 2014. I’m continually praying that churches will recognise the need, and make a decision to take positive action.

It was thrilling, then, to formalise this work with my ordination into the Presbyterian Church as a minister on the 20th October – something I was wondering if it would ever happen at the start of the year! To hear Dr. Ian Smith open God’s word, and have so many of my friends and family there was such a blessing. A few of my friends came from deep in the woodwork. This was an encouragement and a surprise. Being ordained and appointed to my position now means I have a say in what happens in the denomination the same as other ministers. I think this is a very good thing for the NSW Presbyterian Church, and not just for me.

So work is only 14hrs/week – what do I do the rest of the time? Again, I taught year 2 Scripture at Wyoming public this year. This is still a challenging exercise reinventing the lessons so I can deliver them with my limitations. I expect to be doing this again next year. I’m still running church services at Allambie Heights’ Cerebral Palsy Alliance. This year, we finished the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ series. We went through 1 John – which worked remarkably well. Now we’re half way through the ‘I am’ statements of Jesus in John’s Gospel. It’s been particularly encouraging this year to see these people affirming the Gospel. I’m also giving pastoral support in my own time, and leading my Bible Study group when required. I’m still involved with disability camps at Springwood, largely helping out with the teaching side of things So, life is full, and I have found myself some weeks with my head in 4 different parts of the Bible, in more than one language. I’ve enjoyed the interaction I have online discussing points of theology, and nuances in the Greek.

I have also made a point of bike ridding and exercise – not that it’s happened as much as I wanted. But I have grown acutely aware that the fitter I am, the more I can do. If I’m to keep up this work rate, along with looking after myself, I need to be fit! So I’m thankful that my work is only 14hrs/week with all the flexibility that I need.

Apart from tripping around in a Kiwi motorhome, I’ve also had opportunity to take shorter breaks. I took the opportunity to end a 12 year absence of attending Katoomba Easter Convention – a weekend of Christian teaching by international speakers. It was very refreshing. And I had a few days relaxing at Jervis Bay with friends this past spring.

So, where is this all heading? No idea! But God knows, and I very much look forward to the adventure. God had brought me thus far, doing what no one has been able to perceive. And I’m thankful to have your prayers and support along the way. College might be over (for now), but the hard work has only just begun.

In case anyone is wondering, I’ll still be writing under the title The Student’s Desk. “The Minister’s Desk” is only a celebratory title. I may no longer be at college, but I still consider myself as a student of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. That’s what the word ‘disciple’ means – student. If I’m not a disciple, then it’s high time I resign from the ministry! Evidently, I’m intent on remaining a disciple. Then there’s the prospect of a research master’s… one day.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

December 23, 2013 Posted by | Newsletters, Site News | 2 Comments