Reflection on my time at St Philip's, and ministering to people with disabilities

Revd Andrea De Vaal Horciu
Sunday 4th August 2016— Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Thank you so much for having time to celebrate the time I served at St Philips. In the 3 years I served as Cross Cultural Minister, Assistant minister and children and families minister. I have been touched by so many of you, with your service, faith, humour, and friendship. 
 
I do miss you all. As you know at the end of last year I decided to have a break from church ministry. At the end of the year after 10 funerals and working with all the families, Dinka families and my ministry at St Philips I decided to have a rest and take some timeout. This time has been a time a quiet and reflection and has given me a clearer vision of what God has calling me to do. Bishop Stuart Robinson has appointed me to serve as the Chaplain for the Anglican School Googong, I work at Googong one day a week. 3 hours in the early years centre, leading a music time and reading stories. 3 hours in the school offering pastoral care and support.

A few weeks ago I was licensed as Honorary Deacon at Holy Cross Anglican Church. I haven't taken on a ministry at Holy Cross I have just been attending the services, and preached for the first time a few weeks ago.

I continue to serve as Chaplain for School chaplaincy ACT at Malkara Specialist School and I serve as a learning support assistant two days a week. In my time serving with school chaplaincy ACT at Malkara And Black Mountain I have grown and continue to grow and learn about myself as a person.

A family I journeyed with, who sadly lost a little girl in her early teens told me, that they were not a religious family but they did notice the difference in their daughter when they prayed and sang hymns to her. Her mum Joe, then told me how sad it was that her daughter never experienced the love of God and heard of the stories of Jesus in Sunday school like other youth of her age. This is how my passion and idea of the Holiday program came about.

There are Christian camps and holiday programs for youth that are a wonderful opportunity for young people to experience Christian community, engage in learning about life and faith, enjoy growing together and developing friendships and relationships in Christ. Youth with disabilities are very rarely catered for or even invited to those groups.

Young people with disabilities deserve similar opportunities to other youth in developing their life and faith in the love of God and in their experience of the Gospel.

That’s why the holiday program is being developed by Synergy and our diocese and with the support and of SCACT, and will run in the October school holidays.

I really feel it is important that all people are ministered to together. We don’t want to see special services that people with disability attend but we want to see people with and without disability worshipping together, serving alongside one another, ministering to one another and each of us using the gifts that God has given us. We want church to be a place that recognises the diversity of humanity and allows each member to play their part in the body of Christ just as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 12. It is because of this as a part of the holiday program we are also developing a mentor program. The mentor program gives year 11 and 12 students the opportunity to buddy or mentor the youth on the program.

Mentoring is an important part of this outreach ministry. It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to come and learn more about disabilities, build their skills and self-esteem, and gain a real sense of accomplishment.

We are so blessed that the mentoring program will be professionally run, with training and support. I believe if youth have experience of disability as they grow they more likely to include people with disabilities in their work places community and their churches. My prayer and hope is that the Holiday program becomes a stepping stone for youth with disabilities with the help and support of their mentors or buddies to be included in the camp pelican camps and their local worshipping community in the future.

As part of the training, we have CBM Luke 14 which will be presented by Dr Louise Godbel. The will workshop on the 24th September.

I have taken on the new role as the CBM Luke 14 regional coordinator working with Dr Louise Gosbell to assists churches to grow as places of acceptance, and helping them reflect on God’s inclusive love. Louise with Monica short will be talking about inclusion at Synod this year. Which a real answer to prayer and blessing.

My greatest learning has been that disability is part of every community, and God calls his church to welcome and include all people.

This year and next year my plan is to work with the Luke 14 team, to encourage churches to respond to the call to invite all people to be welcomed and loved. I truly believe that if we include all people we will find the outcome of a much richer community. This is were I feel God calling me in too in future ministry.

I want to say thank you again. It has been an incredible four years with you all. My time at St Pips was wonderful time of learning and growth. I have been so blessed to be Ordained and trained in my time here. I have learned more than I could have ever imagined. I’ve learned to take joy in community with watching all the babies and children grow and being a part of so many baptism, through Pips Playgroup and the Dinka community. I’ve learned to listen more than I talk, listening to past stories of life experiences from people from both congregations. I’ve learned that our hearts have an endless capacity to love. I’ve learned by example and with the help of Rebecca and Robin or Groby as we call her our grand friend , how to serve selflessly. Through my work with our beautiful African Dinka Community working alongside Peter I’ve been encouraged that church, not just its building, is full of life when we worship with heart and spirit. Linda, has taught me so much about being a deacon about the deacons role at Easter learning about painting the Easter Candle and learning to serve on the altar and singing the canticle.

I’ve been reminded that far more important than skill, is a care for all God’s children near and far, this is a precious gift I will always have with me. 

St Philips will always hold a special place in my ministry journey and in my heart. Thank you for welcoming me into a faith community that invites, welcomes, and honours all people and nurtures them to grow in Christ. This faith community was such a gift to me and my family.