John Morrison – 5 November 2017

This week has been a momentous one with several significant events, including some unusual synchronicities.

On 2 November there were commemorations to mark the 75th anniversary of the re-occupation of the village of Kokoda by the allied forces. Local Papuans along the track courageously assisted them as carriers and scouts, helping to get supplies to the frontline and stretchering the sick and wounded. The Australians affectionately called them “fuzzy wuzzy angels” and held them in high esteem.

Our focus has also been on PNG this week for another reason. The Manus Detention Centre finally closed, 18 months after the PNG Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional, illegal and a breach of human rights. At the time of writing, the 600 men are fearfully refusing to leave the centre even though supplies and services have been cut off. As well as the unconscionable treatment of detainees, the Australian Government has repeatedly treated the PNG government and people, especially Manusians, in an appalling manner. Acting like an overbearing colonial power, it has bullied, coerced and blamed PNG, souring previous goodwill.

Our 10-night prayer vigil in the church ended on Tuesday night, the day of the closure, but with an acknowledgement that we need to keep praying. Coincidentally, that was Halloween (“All Hallow Even”), the eve of All Saints’ Day. Hence the banner we erected next to our church sign.

The 31 October was also the 500th anniversary of the event that is credited with kick-starting the Reformation – Martin Luther nailing his “95 Theses” to the door of Wittenburg Castle Church. Of particular focus was the issue of “indulgences” whereby the abolition or reduction of penance for sins could be purchased. Luther, and the Reformation generally, emphasised salvation by grace through faith rather than works.

Luther translated the Bible from Latin into German to make it more accessible to the general population.

Based on their reading of the Bible, various Anabaptist groups (“re-baptisers”) in Switzerland, France, Holland and other parts of Europe believed that reformers like Luther didn’t go far enough. They rejected the institutional state-based Church, establishing intentional covenant communities comprising people who were baptised as believers.

That brings us to today and Miriam Downey’s baptism and welcome into membership. In being baptised, she is outwardly expressing her faith in Jesus, and in becoming a member she is committing herself to the body of believers here at Canberra Baptist. We celebrate and rejoice with her.