Their testimonies, together with an address on “The Challenge of a City: 200 years on,” by the guest speaker, the Rev Dr Keith V.Garner of Wesley Mission, presented food for thought and something to consider. Here was something to go away and chew on!
Led by the Rev. Hon Fred Nile MLC, politician after politician presented testimonies which left no doubt where they stood in their spiritual life. They were committed to the Lord, His Church and witnessed in Parliament through their openly meeting together in the Parliamentary Prayer Fellowship.
The Hon Greg Smith MP presented the Grace, referring to words learnt through his Catholic upbringing.
Then followed the Hon Marie Ficarra MLC, the Hon David Clarke MLC and the Hon Tanya Davies MP, who spoke of their reason and reactions to being members of the Prayer Fellowship. Each added an unexpected and unscripted extra word of appreciation for the life and involvement of the Rev Fred Nile, without whom such a group would not have existed for so many years.
They spoke of difficult times and how that Fred, joined by his wife Elaine Nile, had kept the group together and faithfully met for fellowship and prayer even though they were small in number in previous years.
They have now gone from strength to strength and with the establishment of a new Government, more had been added to their number.
Readings and statements were also presented by the Hon Greg Donnelly MLC, the Hon Matthew Mason-Cox MLC and the Hon Charles Casuscelli MP, as well as the incorporation of prayers at each table.
The Rev Dr Keith Garner shared something of his personal experiences when arriving in Australia to lead the Wesley Mission as its superintendent and chief executive officer.
He referred to the early beginnings, 200 years ago, but presented a challenging address on the needs of today. He called for today’s churches and members of Parliament, not to lose their nerve in speaking out for the poor
“The Christian churches need to work together in public witness if they are to be an effective voice for the Gospel,“ he said. Dr Garner reminded parliamentary members that compassion and concern were not the preserve of one political ideology. He also called for a whole of government and community approach to addressing issues like homelessness.
“There are still many in our community who have no-one to speak for them and, even in a sophisticated and developed city like Sydney and other towns and cities across our State, they are experiencing poverty and few are willing to advocate for their plight.
He said a worrying trend was the growing number of younger people and families who were now homeless.
“The latest figures produced by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare tell us that 99,000 people accessed homeless services in the last quarter of 2011,” Dr Garner said.
“One of the most striking factors is the high number of people in the 18 to 34 age bracket.
“The breakdown of families from the impact of financial stress is a major problem.
“We also remind ourselves of that dreadful drug ‘in a bottle’ – alcohol. Our society has a dependence on the bottle.
“We must not be afraid if we are considered ‘dated’ on matters of morality or ‘ill-judged’ in our friendship with the modern-day outcasts. This could be the missing jewel in the contemporary Christian landscape.
“This is the time to name the Name, care for our people and provide a gospel for humanity.”
“We need to recover our nerve and speak for those who have little voice,” he said.
He concluded: “There are still many in our community who have no-one to speak for them and, even in a sophisticated and developed city like Sydney and other towns and cities across our State, they are experiencing poverty and few are willing to advocate for their plight.
“Poverty in absolute terms may well be difficult to identify in Australia, but poverty of opportunity and a decent quality of life is still a concern for far too many people. This remains a Christian issue for those of us who belong to Jesus Christ, whose first night was spent in emergency accommodation and, when he was buried, it was in a borrowed tomb.”
The members of the Parliamentary Prayer Fellowship stated that they “welcomed those present to this annual event, to share in praise, worship and celebration.” They could have added that they also served food for thought and there could be a challenge to digest, to witness where they work and live in today’s world.
Guest Speaker, Rev Dr Keith V.Garner (Photo: Ramon Williams)
Rev Hon Fred Nile MLC (Photo: Ramon Williams)
Hon Greg Smith MP led the Grace (Photo: Ramon Williams)
Hon Marie Ficarra MLC (Photo: Ramon Williams)
Hon David Clarke MLC (Photo: Ramon Williams)
Hon Tanya Davies MP (Photo: Ramon Williams)
Hon Greg Donnelly MLC (Photo: Ramon Williams)
Hon Matthew Mason-Cox MLC (Photo: Ramon Williams)
Hon Charles Casuscelli MP (Photo: Ramon Williams)
General Scene panoramic (Photo: Ramon Williams)
Dr Garner addressing the gathering (Photo: Ramon Williams)
Rev Dr Keith Garner spoke on The Challenge of a City: 200 years on (Photo: Ramon Williams)