Report for 2018
A DECADE OF MINISTRY
When Manna Gum began in 2009 it was truly an experiment in faith. The idea of asking people to support a ministry that did not feed the homeless, build toilets overseas, plant trees or conduct advocacy campaigns, but rather asked people to reconsider their material lives, seemed a little outrageous and somewhat uncertain. In that year, world governments were dealing with the fallout of the Global Food Crisis and the Global Financial Crisis, the Millienium Drought came to a climax in the Black Saturday Bushfires, and the Copenhagen Climate Summit collapsed in disarray. Manna Gum’s message of reclaiming a biblical perspective of human economy seemed urgent then, and ten years on, that sense is not much diminished.
By the grace of God and the generosity of his people, Manna Gum has been granted ten years in which we have begun to develop and spread this message. We owe a great debt of gratitude to all those who have supported this ministry in various ways. The work has only just begun and we pray that we will be granted ten more years, if God wills it.
OUR WORK FOR 2018
On a personal note (for Jonathan), 2018 was a bit of an annus horribilis. The first half of the year was dominated by a back problem that severely limited my work. It improved somewhat for the second half of the year but has continued to be a bit of a pain in the annus. The second half of the year was marred by my mum’s diagnosis with bowel cancer and subsequent treatment, while others in our local community here in Long Gully have had to bear even greater burdens and challenges. But by the grace of God we are still walking, and light and life continue to break through.
The work of Manna Gum managed to limp on over the year, and even brought some new a blessings. 2019 is promising some exciting prospects and there is a hint that the wind may be in the west.
Manna Matters Newsletter
This continues to be Manna Gum’s flagship for communicating its message and comes out three times a year, going out free-of-charge to almost 700 people. It is a modest little publication, but feedback continues to testify that it offers something important that is largelgy missing in the Christian world: an ongoing reflection on the the theological, analytical and practical challenges of living out Christian faith and witness in the context of a crazy and destructive global economy.
One of the joys of this publication is compiling and documenting stories of the positive and significant ventures in alternative economy that real-life, ordinary people are pursuing. In 2018 Manna Matters included features on Green Collect in Footscray, Melbourne; Kokonut Pacific, based in Canberra and operating in the Pacific; and The Farm Next Door in Norlane, Geelong. If you know of stories that really should be told, please get in touch.This year also saw, amongst other things, the concluding articles in my 6-part series on ‘Christianity versus Capitalism’, and more contributions from Dave Fagg on the church, poverty and the poor in Australia. Check the website for these and all back editions of Manna Matters.
Home Economy Weekends
For the first time, in 2018 Manna Gum was able to offer home economy weekends in both Victoria and New South Wales. These weekends are a fun, practical opportunity to be introduced to some of the lost arts of household economy, from preserving to pasta making, bracketed with some reflection on the theological significance of such practices. In July the Seeds Community in Long Gully hosted a class of young adults from Whitley College and in October Matt and Ashley Anslow hosted a group of twenty people on their beautiful property at the back of the Blue Mountains. The concept of these weekends is simple but the testimonies of participants is that they can be unexpectedly profound.
Speaking and teaching
A highlight of 2018 was Jonathan presenting a workshop in October at the annual Conference of the New Economy Network Australia in Melbourne. The workshop was on ‘Recovering an Old “New Economy” Movement: Mobilising Churches for the New Economy’. This was a new experience presenting Manna Gum’s message to a secular audience. It was a lot of fun and was received enthusiastically . Other speaking and teaching in 2018 included:
- A workshop by Kim at the Surrender Conference in March on reclaiming a Christian practice of household economy.
- In April Jonathan was keynote speaker at a Fair Trade Conference in Canberra.
- An afternoon teaching ‘A biblically-shaped economics’ at Eastern College, April.
- In June, presentation of a paper on ‘A Post-Capitalist Vision: The Christian witness of R.H. Tawney’ at the University of Divinity’s Research Day.
Below the surface of the visible work of Manna Gum is the significant labour of the ongoing writing on Jonathan’s Ph.D project, ‘Christian Witness in the Midst of Capitalism’. This is a long term investment for the work of Manna Gum, but it is already yielding welcome fruit in terms of refreshing and deepening the well of ideas and perspectives that Manna Gum draws upon, and opening up new audiences with which to communicate. Although a slow work, it has been very life-giving.
Manna Gum Reference Group
In May, Manna Gum’s management committee and advisory council met for a day long discernment of Manna Gum’s work and direction. This was a valuable time to renew the vision underpinning Manna Gum’s work and clarifying our priorities for the current season. It was yet another example of the truth that God’s voice is most fully heard when we gather to listen to it together.
One of the outcomes of the day (amongst others) was an agreement to refresh Manna Gum’s governance arrangements to better reflect its needs, current realities and future directions. The two bodies were merged into one, the Manna Gum Reference Group. Elvira Hewson stepped down from her long service on the management committee and a couple of new members came on board. The Manna Gum Reference Group now consists of Peter Chapman, Greg Hewson, Anthea Taylor, Rev Simon Holt, Lauren Ash, Ian Barns, and Kim and Jonathan Cornford. We have been very blessed to have the wise and humble service of such people.
At the end of 2017 we finished with a substantial shortfall (about $8000), but we had a generous response to our 2018 Annual Appeal, and, most importantly, the number of monthly donors has steadily crept up, such that we finished 2018 with a substantial surplus. Whether in seasons of plenty or seasons of little, we are thankful to all those who have supported this work in some way.
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