Sunday Night Live Sermons
SHOWING THE WAY
Thanksgiving Service 2004
Wesley Mission has shown the way for nearly 200 years. Our vision of the future must be set in the context of our past. If we do not know from whence we have come, we have no reference points to guide us into the future. The theme, “Showing The Way” was chosen by staff and members who worked in the branding workshops on developing our new logo and theme. Why do we now introduce the theme of “Showing the Way” for our members and staff? We acknowledge that we are leading in many areas but ‘Leading The Way’ is too arrogant and worldly. ‘Showing The Way’ describes what a faithful servant does — leads by example. That leadership is attributed to us by our peers and the community. We model ourselves as Christ’s servants to the community. Our basic purpose is making God known, and our competitive values are our innovation, leadership and influence enabling us to be our nation’s most influential word and deed church.
1. SHOWING THE WAY ON THIS SITE.
Today our church and head office is situated on two acres in the heart of Sydney. This site was found by Rev W.G.Taylor, who persuaded one of his members, the Hon. Ebenezer Vickery, M.L.C., to buy it to centralise the Church’s activities in the Lyceum Hall in 1905. We will celebrate our centenary on this site next May. The Lyceum Hall remained until we rebuilt and opened Wesley Centre in 1993. The Lyceum was a vaudeville theatre set between two brothels and a hotel also purchased by the Mission. We were saying we desire to minister in the heart of down-town Sydney, among needy people. Our prime location is observable from all directions being adjacent to Sydney Tower. The three storey up-market shopping complex is also on land owned by the church.
Thousands of people each week enter our doors. The forty storeys of office space mark it as one of the city’s high-rise towers. Wesley Mission has shown the way in refusing, against church pressures, to confine itself to the CBD, and on insisting that a city church has a ministry to the whole city, and to the regions surround it, defying the traditions of parish limits and recent artificial presbytery boundaries. We maintain that against newly formed agencies like Uniting Care, that tries to muscle in on our work. Tomorrow one such group, with a majority of members not even belonging to the Uniting Church will meet and try to replace our logo!
Wesley Centre is the headquarters of Wesley Mission’s ministry. That is conducted in more than 450 programs in other buildings round Sydney situated in more than 100 suburbs and regional areas. We are an old Church with new ministry areas built at a cost of $40 million and opened free of debt! We had thirty two opening celebrations attended by 35,000 people in one month. Wesley Mission has shown the way in terms of multiple worship services in one building. We hold fifty-five services of worship each week in many languages including Japanese, Chinese, Samoan, Indonesian, Rotuman, including daughter churches in Spanish, Tongan and Fijian, reaching out to ethnic communities. We have planted more than a dozen daughter congregations. Simultaneously we launched an ambitious building program — another one hundred million dollars of land acquisition, of buildings and the construction of new facilities would be undertaken in the next twenty five years while new initiatives in evangelism were undertaken across the nation by television and radio.
Our members provide missionary support in USSR, India, Israel, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Africa and India. Over two hundred new services for the poor and needy would be established. All of these would require additional property, the appointment of new staff, and a sustained fund-raising program beyond our imagination. We are the largest Church in Australia in terms of income, assets, paid staff, volunteers, media outreach, service to the needy, and in the numbers of people attending its largest services, such as Christmas specials at Darling Harbour. The last ten years we have added an additional five staff every week and a new building every month.
2. SHOWING THE WAY IN OUR MINISTRIES OF CARE.
In the widest ministry of any church in the world we provide psychiatrists and hospitals dealing with the mentally ill, have 400 counsellors guiding people in crisis, speak to the entire nation through television, radio, film, video, DVD and the internet, build relationships with corporations, provide beds and food for tens of thousands of people. We support hundreds of disabled people and train fifty thousand unemployed people in job skills. We nurse dying cancer victims, care for children with AIDS, operate a nursing service providing registered nurses and personal care workers to public hospitals, nursing homes and private patients. We train hundreds of young adults in creative arts and ministry, support the prisoner, confront the politicians, and teach business management to corporations. We serve a million meals a year, pack pharmaceuticals, run a mega citrus orchard, operate a commercial laundry, manufacture metal household goods, and run three conference centres.
3. SHOWING THE WAY TO OUR NATION.
Wesley Mission has shown the way in speaking on social justice issues. Rev Dr Alan Walker attacked Governments for failing the people. Dr Keith Suter and myself speak on major social issues every week on radio and television. Key personnel are on National and State Government Boards. I have regular and direct access to the Premier and the Prime Minister on any matter of concern and daily contacts with Cabinet ministers. My sermons are accessed by computer inquirers world-wide. Six million hits were made upon our web-site last year. Last month we recorded 895,000 hits from people down-loading sermons and other material.
4. SHOWING THE WAY IN INNOVATION.
Rev W.G.Taylor showed how to adapt a cinema as our worship centre. A theatre for ordinary people. We reach non-Christian people, on the streets through church greeters who invite people to come in, and every week they do. Wesley Mission has shown the way in its use of media. We set up our own multi-million dollar film company financed entirely by investors to make documentary films in the Middle East, all of which have been screened in a dozen countries and watched by millions. We became the first and only local church, to convince a major network to allow us to make a weekly national television program at their expense which has now been running for a record breaking 27 years. Although berated by the church bureaucracy for purchasing Radio 2GB, over the past 17 years, our presence on radio has brought in over $30 million in bequests. They have never apologized for their ignorant attacks. We have the money still coming in.
Wesley Mission has shown the way in care for families and children. We cared for orphaned children brought from England and Ireland at a time when the colony had no infrastructure of care. Last year our Child and Family Services served 3,600 children. Wesley Mission showed the way in 1892 with our Medical Institute near St Mary’s Cathedral as a radical centre for the treatment of alcoholism. This Medical Institute was followed by our three hospitals and half a dozen out patient day care centres for mental, sexual, trauma, and eating disorders. Wesley Mission showed the way in adult education. Our School for Seniors has 1500 students on our city and Central Coast campuses. From 1889 young men studied in our Evangelist’s Institute and over the next eighty years we trained over half the ministers in the Methodist Church. In 1972, under Principal Rev Fred Nile it became the Jesus Institute, training young people in street evangelism. It became the International Christian Leadership College with students every year from overseas countries.
In 1988, we accepted the vision of Dr David Johnston to make a centre of training for ministry and the arts. Today Wesley Institute has international recognition. For example, the Counselling Department of Wesley Institute have just finished counselling victims and training counsellors in Sudan, Kenya and Uganda who work among the kidnapped, rapped and mutilated people from terrorist attacks. Women had their noses and ears cut off, children have been violated and mutilated. Led by Dr Graham Barker, our team of counsellors, raised over a $100,000, went there, and conducted counselling training for more than one hundred people involved in helping their fellows. Did you read about that in any Synod magazine?
Wesley Institute has 400 students from 30 countries. We have a qualified faculty who between them have earned 37 PhD.’s as well as many other doctorates in psychology, education, theology and other disciplines. No other educational institution in the Uniting Church has such a large and a qualified faculty. We have over 90 full time students studying Bachelor of Theology degrees in Korean and English. We now pay half the tuition of all ministry students studying for Uniting Church ministry. By training ministers in the same institution as trains people in drama, radio and television presentation, dance, the visual arts, counselling and psychology, we are on the cutting edge. Other ministry training institutions look old fashioned in their nineteenth century paradigm.
Wesley Mission is a leading trainer of people to work in the aged care, social welfare, creative arts, disabilities, child care, homeless and many other industries. We train counselors for Life Line, the 1,500 students in School For Seniors, our own staff and thousands at our Wesley Uniting Employment Centres across the state. But at Wesley Learning and Development, in O’Connell St City we employ thirteen staff and have two thousand six hundred students in one hundred courses including literacy and numeracy, office administration, tourism sales, hospitality, childcare, horticulture, landscaping, assistants in nursing, apprenticeships and other courses. Wesley Mission showed the way in work among the homeless, the drug addicted, the street kids. Wesley Mission showed the way in the development of telephone counselling when Alan Walker established “Life Line”. In 1979, we set up Credit Line, and started a new program of financial counselling that swept the country.
Then we showed the way in settling up the first full time problem gambling counsellors. We showed the way with our eating disorders program to help young women suffering from anorexia and bulimia. We showed the way in ministering to refugees and boat-people. We have showed the way in rehabilitating people through Grace Manor, and Turnaround. Wesley Mission showed the way in Aged Care providing accommodation for over 1,000 aged people in eight aged care centres. Wesley Mission continues its historic role of ministering to the financially disadvantaged. Few churches anywhere in the world provide such a vast array of accommodation for the poor.
During the 1980’s and early 1990’s, Wesley Mission spent almost one hundred million dollars of the construction of three villages. Now, in 2005, another $80 million will be spent in additional buildings. Yet Wesley Mission shows the way in providing services to the frail, the aged and the disabled in their own homes. Every day over 300 nurses and personal care workers start their cars and head for the list of homes they will visit to care for our clients. Wesley Mission showed the way in our new Family Make Over. We brought together a wide variety of our resources to create a multiple resource, cohesive program to work with dysfunctional families whose multiple problems require a total response. Wesley Mission says that at the Lord’s Table were the symbols of bread and wine representing the sacrament, but there was also the towel and the basin representing the service to which Christ calls His people. Philip once asked Jesus: “Show us the Father.” Following the example of Jesus, we show people the Father by our word and deed ministry.