Pointers 30-4 December 2020

Inside this issue:

Australians’ Attitudes to Relationships, Sexuality and Human Life
The attitudes of Australians to relationships, sexuality and human life differs widely between various religious and non-religious groups in the population. For many, religious beliefs are about values, morals and relationships, and the intersection of all three characteristics affect their everyday decisions and lifestyles. That is, their religious beliefs become the basis for making ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choices in life. For some, decisions are made on the basis of an understanding or interpretation of their religious Scriptures. For others, the teachings of their religious organisations become the foundations for what is right or wrong. And for many others, a combination of Scriptural teachings, adherence to religious organisational doctrines, as well as following one’s ‘conscious’ in matters of morality, become the basis for decision-making. The 2018 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes asked a number of questions about Australians’ attitudes to sexuality, relationships and human life. Analysis of the data has revealed some important findings and some fascinating trends.

Charting the Faith of Australians: Thirty Years of Pointers
With the December 2020 edition, Pointers completes thirty years of production. During that time, around 120 issues have been published and around 500 articles have been produced. Pointers is neither a newsletter nor a fully-fledged journal. It falls between the two, which has sometimes produced some confusion over its status. However, I believe it has fulfilled a valuable role for the Australian churches and church-related organisations.

Building Community
Life has been changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Between March and October 2020, much Australian community life was suspended, particularly in Victoria, with four months of hard lock-down. There have been hard borders between most states. Many people have not been able to meet even close members of their families face-to-face let alone their friends. People were told to work from home if they could. Many industries and businesses closed and hundreds of thousands lost their jobs. Throughout much of Australia, there were limits on the numbers of people who could meet in religious communities, and many have had no face-to-face meetings for eight months.

World Christian Encyclopedia (3rd edition) Released
The third edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia was launched in March 2020. It is a huge volume with articles covering Christianity in every part of the globe.

Church Online
In October 2020, Dr Peter Brierley, former director of the Christian Research Association of the UK, reported some research in the UK about church online. It was the result of just 180 responses from one Anglican diocese in the UK, but it gives some clues as to what information might be sought and how people might feel.


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Pointers September 2020

Inside this issue:

Is the Church Liquifying?
The most popular metaphor of what is happening to religious faith in contemporary Western societies is that of secularisation. It is a metaphor of the replacement of religious thinking by scientific thinking. While many scholars have suggested their own versions of secularisation, there is widespread doubt about the value of that metaphor. Another metaphor has been suggested by the British-Polish social theorist, Zygmunt Bauman: the liquifying of modernity. Perhaps his image is that of a huge, solid iceberg, very solid and stable, which begins to melt as it is surrounded by warm currents of water. The iceberg breaks apart. Small sections of ice continue to float. But some of the ice melts entirely into the water which surrounds it.

Listening to the Homeless: Social Housing in the Corner Inlet area of Victoria
In 2019, the Christian Research Association was contracted by the Foster Conference of the St Vincent de Paul Society to investigate people’s attitudes and experiences of homelessness in the Corner Inlet area, a location in the South Gippsland region, approximately 200 kilometres south-east of Melbourne. The project aimed to understand more about the circumstances leading to homelessness, the challenges individuals faced in such situations, the support structures needed to assist, and to determine the extent to which there may be a need for additional social housing in the area.

The Carmel Framework: Engaging Religious Education Students with Truth
I have been teaching secondary school Religious Education (RE) for 27 years, and engagement has been a dominant issue over that time. The big question in conferences, workshops, forums or staff meetings is: how do we get students to engage with this subject? I need to clarify what I mean by engagement. There have been numerous resources to assist staff to engage students at an entertainment level, such as games and quizzes, which support topics within most curriculums. The real challenge, however, is to engage students at a much deeper level; that is, at a life and faith level.


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Children’s Prayer – A Multi-faith Perspective

This book provides strong arguments for giving prayer a central place in the education and nurture of children. It is based on research in Australian Catholic, parent-controlled Christian, Independent, Jewish, Muslim and government schools. The author demonstrates focused attention and care in the data collection from the words of children and their drawings of people praying. She takes us through her thorough processes of analysis and synthesis.

The research shows that prayer is valued by all children, whether they come from a religious background or not. For some children it is a way of associating with their communities and traditions of faith. For others, prayer is practised in an individualistic manner.

Prayer is a way to perceive and respond to the experiences of life. It can help in dealing with the challenging emotional states of anxiety, loneliness, fear, anger and guilt. It can give hope for the future. It provides a way of seeking help for others, as well as expressing praise and thanksgiving.

Vivienne Mountain has a background in teaching and in clinical counselling. She lectures in Spirituality and Ministry with Children at Stirling Theological College, University of Divinity, Australia. She has published three books as well as contributing chapters to a number of others and articles for national and international journals.

Vivienne Mountain PhD, MA (Theology), MA (Creative arts therapy), MA ( Philosophy and religion), B Ed, B Th.

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A Vision for effective Youth Ministry

Many young Australians are struggling with issues of mental health, anxiety about the future, and addictions to drugs. Behind these struggles are often questions of what life is all about. Youth ministry is more important today than at any time in recent history. Yet, many churches are finding it difficult to connect with youth beyond those whose families are involved in the church.

This book has arisen out of Australian research into youth ministry, from visiting youth groups and talking with youth leaders and the youth themselves. It offers a vision for the development of youth ministry, recognising the diversity of youth and the backgrounds from which they come.

It explores how to build a youth ministry team and the qualities needed in the team. It discusses issues of training, payment, and support for youth leaders and building bridges with parents, church and school.

What are the factors which will really make a difference in developing youth ministry? Based on research, our conclusions are:

  • The vision for developing the spirit of young people

  • The commitment of the whole church to youth ministry

  • The youth ministry team with strong relationships with God, each other, the youth, parents, the church and the wider society;

  • A diversity of activities: both age-specific and intergenerational for fun, friends, inquiry and developing the spirit.

The Authors:

Rev Dr Philip Hughes has had pastoral experience in inner city, suburban and rural churches, and has been the senior research officer of the Christian Research Association since 1985. He has two adult children and one grandchild.

Stephen Reid has worked for the Christian Research Association since 2007 and has one teenage child and two younger children.

Margaret Fraser has worked for the Christian Research Association since 2011. She has two children who are completing university and two who are teenagers.

All three authors were involved in interviews with youth, youth leaders, clergy and parents for this study.

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