Pacific Churches in Communion
Written by Dr Deidre Palmer, President Uniting Church in Australia
Church leaders from across the Pacific Region gathered online to share on a number of aspects of our life and mission at the Pacific Church Leaders Forum on 14 April.
I joined 20 other participants in discussing the current situation with COVID-19 in our respective countries, the rollout of vaccines, and the churches’ involvement in education with messaging about the vaccine and the virus.
An excellent presentation by represenatives of the World Health Organisation (WHO) emphasised how safe, effective and quality vaccines are our best hope for bringing the pandemic under control, together with other public health interventions, such as physical distancing and mask use.
WHO commended “the critical role of faith communities in the COVID-19 response” including providing spiritual support and services to communities, sharing information, delivering health and education services and promoting mental health and combatting social stigma.
They encouraged churches to mobilise the community to be vaccinated and to reinforce other preventative measures.
We spoke about the important work of the churches in helping combat misinformation and rumours that are damaging to vaccine efforts.
As we listened to each church’s experience of COVID-19 and its impacts, we particularly upheld in prayer Papua New Guinea, as they struggle with the rising community infections and deaths from COVID-19.
We heard an update from the General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches, Rev James Bhagwan about programs and advocacy areas of the PCC, related to deep sea mining, just and safe Pacific communities for women and men and World Oceans Day on 8 June.
We were urged through a letter from the West Papua Council of Churches to request our governments to ask the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the ongoing violence and oppression being inflicted on our West Papuan sisters and brothers.
This Pacific Church Leaders’ Forum is a wonderful opportunity for our Pacific churches to be in communion, even though we are physically apart.
We share stories of hope and struggle and we offer support and give voice on issues of justice and human rights as an expression of our solidarity with each other.
We join in worship, expressing our praise and thanks to God, praying for our concerns and for strength and wisdom as we compassionately embody the Gospel of Christ in our communities and nations.
As the Uniting Church, we are blessed by our partnership with the Pacific Conference of Churches, and I invite you as members of the Uniting Church to pray for our partners, and to take action that gives expression to our common vision of God’s justice and peace being realised.
One way to do this is by participating in the Pacific Day of Prayer on Friday 7 May . The Secretariat of the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) has encourages Australian churches to use the prayers, bible studies, suggested liturgy and related information.
Photos- ABOVE: Screenshot of Pacific Church leaders Forum 14 April TOP: UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer and General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches Rev James Bhagwan at the UCA President's Conference in Fiji in 2019