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Image of Williamstown Uniting Church from the front

A Special Welcome

A Special Welcome…


We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich or dirt poor.  We extend a special welcome to those who are crying newborns, or as skinny as a rake, or who could afford to lose a few pounds   …

We welcome you if you can sing like Pavarotti, or are like our minister, Avril (who can’t carry a note in a bucket). You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing”, just woke up, or just got out of prison. We don’t care if you’re more Christian than the President of the Uniting Church, or haven’t been in church since little Jack’s christening.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but haven’t grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast.

Spider-Man and Leia

We welcome keep-fit mums; football dads; starving artists; tree huggers; latte sippers; vegetarians; and junk food eaters.  We welcome those who are in recovery or who are still addicted.

We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps, or if you don’t like organized religion – we’ve been there too!

We welcome you if you’re new to Australia and still trying to work out what this crazy country is on about. We’re wondering too.

If you blew all your money on the horses, you’re welcome here. We offer a welcome to those who think the earth is flat, who work too hard, or don’t work, who can’t spell, or who are here because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.

We welcome those who are inked, pierced, or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid, or who got lost on the Westgate Bridge and wound up here by mistake.

The West Gate Bridge

We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts … and you!

Regular Worship Times and Places

10 am Sunday mornings in the church
(Holy Communion on the first Sunday of the month)
followed by morning tea.

1.30 pm on the first Wednesday of the month in the church
a smaller, more reflective service followed by afternoon tea.

4 pm on the third Sunday of the month in the Children’s Centre,
behind the main church building, a service for Young Families
starting with afternoon tea and some free playtime.


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You are welcome to join us for worship

Our regular worship times and places are:

Image of Williamstown Uniting Church from the front 10 am Sunday mornings in the church, 36 Electra St, Williamstown,
(Holy Communion on the first Sunday of the month)
a joyful service followed by morning tea.


1.30 pm on the first Wednesday of the month in the church
a smaller, more reflective service followed by afternoon tea.Tims Photos - Our prayers aflame
4 pm on the third Sunday of the month in the Children’s Centre,
behind the main church building, 
a service aimed at Young Families starting with afternoon tea and some free playtime.

Why 1 - Beloved children

Please come and join us.

Williamstown Map


From the Minister: Celebrating Easter – The Silly and the Sublime

The church’s celebration of Easter lasts for fifty days, from Easter Sunday to Pentecost. It’s an appealing aspect of the Christian faith that after fasting for the forty days of Lent the church feasts for an extra ten days during Easter. There is more joy than there is penitence in the Christian calendar.

Luckily for us, in the wider world Easter only lasts for the four days from Good Friday to Easter Monday. I say ‘luckily’ because the Easter holiday seems to inspire some silliness among non-celebrators, and there have been three particularly silly Easter-related items in the media this year. Continue reading

Love Makes A Way

From the Minister: Will Love Make a Way?

Is the tide turning?

On Tuesday the 23rd of February I spent five hours sitting with seven other people in the office of the Liberal Party Headquarters in Victoria, praying, singing and making 267 origami hearts. At the end of the five hours we were escorted out of the building by some very nice police officers.

There was method in our apparent madness. We went to Liberal Party Headquarters to ask the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration to allow the 267 asylum seekers currently at risk of being sent back to Nauru or Manus Island to be allowed to stay in Australia and to bring all asylum seekers currently on Nauru or Manus Island into Australia. We were willing to sit and pray until those commitments were made, but we left peacefully at the end of the day rather than forcing the police officers present to physically remove us.

Love Makes A Way

Continue reading

Pieter Aertsen
Peasants by the Hearth

From the Minister: To give up chocolate or eat sausages?

Easter is a ‘moveable feast’. The date of Easter is based on the lunar cycle which is much more complicated than the solar calendar; it occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox (in the Northern Hemisphere – for us it’s the autumn equinox). Easter Sunday can be any date between March 22 and April 25. The Archbishop of Canterbury recently suggested that the world’s churches might agree on a common date for Easter, which might be the second or third Sunday of April. That would make all our lives easier, but I don’t think we should hold our collective breath waiting for it. Continue reading

Stuart McMillan at the last Assembly

From the Minister: Hearts on Fire

‘Hearts on Fire’

On Sunday the 12th of July I will be heading off to Perth to attend the 14th National Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia. Despite the fact that this will involve seven full days of meetings, usually not the most enticing of prospects, I’m looking forward to it. It’s a privilege to be able to attend the Assembly and get a sense of the breadth of our Church. We worship God, witness to Christ, and serve the world in so many amazing and different ways. Continue reading

Ration Challenge1

From the Minister: The Act for Peace Ration Challenge

I am frequently overwhelmed by a sense of how lucky I am.

That sense can come when I’m walking by the sea, when I’m reminded of how lucky I am to live in Williamstown. It can come when I’m leading worship, when I’m reminded of how lucky I am to be able to follow my vocation. It can come when I’m playing with my nephew, nieces, or any of the many other children in my life, when I’m reminded of how lucky I am to be have children to love even though I don’t have any of my own. It can come when I’m browsing in a bookshop, when I’m reminded of how lucky I am to be able to buy a book without worrying about my budget. It can come when I watch the news at night, when I’m reminded of how lucky I am that I was born in Australia. I wasn’t merely born in Australia; I was born to a stable, Anglo-Celtic, middle-class family. In so many ways, through absolutely no effort on my part, I won the birth lottery. Continue reading

From the Minister: June 2014

Love Makes A Way

Recently I was arrested for trespass. I don’t imagine that that’s something you expected to hear when you called me here as your minister, so I’ll explain exactly what happened.

On Monday the 19th of May two groups of Christians, one in Melbourne, one in Sydney, entered the foyers of the electorate offices of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition; sat down; and began to pray. When the groups were asked to leave, we refused – unless the Government and the Opposition agreed to release the more than one thousand children currently in immigration detention. The eight people sitting and praying in Tony Abbott’s office was removed and arrested after three hours. The twelve people in Bill Shorten’s office were removed and arrested after nine hours.

The Uniting Church contingent

The Uniting Church contingent

Continue reading

From the Minister – May

The Importance of Aging and the Gift of Senescence

Notes: ‘senescence’ comes from the Latin senescere, meaning “to grow old”; ‘generativity’ is the concern for establishing and guiding the next generation and comes from a sense of optimism about humanity.

Oh no! Australians are living longer and so the population is aging. The Treasurer, Joe Hockey, tells us that we should “celebrate the fact that effectively, one in every three children born today are going to live to 100,” but he also tells us that this means we will have to work longer, because all these centenarians are just going to cost us too much. They’ll increase Australia’s health costs, and take up hospital beds because there won’t be enough nursing home places. Woe is us!

Maybe an aging population isn’t such a great disaster. It is certainly better than the alternative – life expectancy in Sierra Leone is a mere 47 years!

What matters is not how old we will all get, but whether or not that aging will be meaningful, healthy and positive. This is something that the Uniting Church is particularly concerned with. We are an aging church. Most Uniting Church members are aged sixty-plus. How can the church ensure that our aging is a good experience rather than a frightening and depressing one?

One extremely helpful book I have read on aging well is called exactly that: Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development, (written by George E. Vaillant and published in 2002). The Harvard Study of Adult Development started with a Harvard University Health Services examination of 268 members of Harvard classes between 1939 and 1944. This began with a physical exam and included regular follow-ups over the years. The second arm of the study began with Harvard Law Professor Sheldon Glueck recruiting 456 young men from inner-city Boston neighborhoods between 1940 and 1945 as controls for a study of juvenile delinquency. They were added to the study in the 1970s.

Today, just 68 of the Harvard cohort are still alive, many in their early 90s, while 120 of the Glueck Study are alive, most in their early to mid-80s. Over their adult lives, the subjects of the have answered biennial questionnaires, allowed health information to be gathered from their doctors, and sat for in-depth interviews. In recent years, they’ve also submitted to neuroimaging scans and have given blood for DNA analysis.

What has the study found? It has found that ‘positive aging is not simply avoidance of physical decay, and it certainly is not about the avoidance of death’ (p. 161). It has found seven factors that predict healthy aging: not being a smoker or stopping young; adaptive coping style; absence of alcohol abuse; a healthy weight; a stable marriage; getting some exercise; our years of education (pp. 206-10). And it now provides wonderful pointers on how we can all grow old with grace.

  • She cares about others, is open to new ideas, and within the limits of physical health maintains social utility and helps others. Unlike King Lear, who demanded that his daughters take care of him, she remembers that biology flows downhill.
  • He shows cheerful tolerance of the indignities of old age. He acknowledges and gracefully accepts his dependency needs. When ill, he is a patient for whom a doctor enjoys caring and remembers to be grateful. Whenever possible he turns life’s lemons into lemonade.
  • She maintains hope in life, insists on sensible autonomy (to do for oneself what one is able), and cherishes initiative. She remembers that all life is a journey and that development goes on for all of our lives.
  • He retains a sense of humor and a capacity for play. He willingly sacrifices surface happiness for basic joy. As Voltaire suggested, he cultivates his garden.
  • She is able to spend time in the past and to take sustenance from past accomplishments. Yet she remains curious and continues to learn from the next generation.
  • He tries to maintain contact and intimacy with old friends while heeding Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s injunction that “the seeds of love must be eternally resown.”  (pp. 310-1)

Another extremely helpful book I’ve found was written by Mary d’Apice and is called Noon to Nightfall: A journey through midlife and aging. The author is writing specifically from a religious background and so she talks a lot about the spirituality of aging.  She writes so beautifully that I’d just like to share a few quotes from her for you to reflect on:

  • Each season has its own special beauty, its time of blossoming and of producing its distinctive fruit. (p. 28)
  • We find a genuine expression of love in the willingness to receive from others as well as to give. To accept help, kindness or concern from another means to surrender the dominant position, which rests always with the giver, and to allow the other to take that position towards us. (p. 67)
  • Generativity is the prelude to the advent of wisdom. It is out of the pain and trauma of accepting our own limitedness that springs the capacity to be a bearer of life and hope to others. (p. 69)
  • The coming of senescence, a gentler term than aging, is usually the time to hand over to younger generations the many responsibilities assumed in midlife, to quit the centre stage and leave the throne of power for the seat of wisdom. (p. 168)
  • To age graciously is perhaps one of the most difficult of life’s tasks for those who live in a western society. (p. 168)
  • Death need not take us by surprise. The whole of life is filled with opportunities to rehearse this final passage. The ready letting go of youth, of health, of plans and perhaps of friends, when this is asked of us, can all become a preparation for the last great renunciation that each is called upon to make. (p. 229)

Politicians tell us to worry about our aging population. The media tells us to worry about ourselves: will we have somewhere to live; enough to live on; something meaningful to do? But God reminds us that we are deeply loved, worthwhile, at any age, from the very beginning of our existence in our mother’s womb until we make that final journey and find ourselves at home with God. We can age graciously and look to death as simply the last of life’s passages, rather than something to be feared.

As for me, I’m now apparently well into middle life. According to Mary d’Aspice: “The movement into midlife brings with it a deepening concern for all one has produced in life whether it be children, institutions or ideas … The person who can put aside self-interest for the good of others is the caring, generative adult.” (p. 22)

I hope very much that I will grow into a caring, generative adult, and then into a graciously loving old person – with a cheerful tolerance of the indignities of old age!

From the Minister – March

Seeking to bring light to the world

One of the things that has always characterised the Uniting Church has been our willingness to get involved in politics. In The Statement to the Nation, made when the Uniting Church was born in 1977, the Church said: ‘We pledge ourselves to seek the correction of injustices wherever they occur’ and the World Council of Churches has said that one of the things that makes a church a church is ‘advocacy even to confrontation with the powers that oppress human beings’. The Church has tried to avoid party politics, but has always spoken out on issues of the day, particularly those that affect the most vulnerable.

There are two particular issues in which the Uniting Church has long been interested that are of particular concern at the moment. The first is the treatment of asylum seekers and the second is the place of indigenous people in Australia. Continue reading