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Report for 2021

Jonathan's interview with Meredith Lake on "Soul Search" (ABC Radio National), attracted a lot of attention. You can listen to it here.

 

Manna Gum’s profile within Australian Christian networks seems to be steadily building as each passing year seems to add further validation of both the urgency and necessity of Manna Gum’s message. From the beginning, Manna Gum has always been conceived as primarily a ministry to the church whose core work is to evangelise the church with its own gospel. Contrary to common assumptions, Manna Gum’s focus on economics and ecology has never been simply a “social justice” message – although it is certainly that too – but has always been about recovering the health of Christian faith and Christian communities, and the vibrancy of their evangelical presence in the broader world.

Generally, we have relied upon the word of mouth of people like you to spread this message – sharing Manna Gum’s resources (newsletters, website, podcasts) is an important way you can support and extend our work. A highlight of 2021, however, was the airing of an interview I did with Meredith Lake on ABC Radio National’s Soul Search program. I gather that the episode attracted a bit of attention, and it certainly provided a welcome filip for spreading Manna Gum’s profile to new people and places. (You can find a link to the program on our website.)

On a personal front, 2021 was a big year for me. It included a significant healing from a debilitating back complaint that had affected my life and work for too many years, followed by the death of my father, Bill Cornford. Both experiences (which I wrote about in Manna Matters, August 2021) have  helped me to frame other things going on in the world and in my life in a bigger perspective.

 

New staff member

  

Perhaps the most significant development of 2021 was the taking on of Jacob Garrett at one day-a-week to replace Matt Anslow, who went to a new job. Jacob is responsible for the production of Manna Matters and the MannaCast, which he has taken on with aplomb, as well as beginning to stir some ideas for getting Manna Gum’s message out to a younger audience. This frees me to devote more time to writing and speaking/teaching, and helps to extend Manna Gum’s reach.

For a young man, Jacob brings significant skills, intellect and creativity to Manna Gum’s work, but most importantly he brings a vocational committment to its message. The role he is filling was made possible by a once-off financial windfall in 2020, however we are gradually spending this down. We really want to keep Jacob on, but to be able to keep paying his wage we need to raise an extra $10,000 per year (see the financial report over). For us, this represents a big step of faith, so please give careful consideration to our Special Appeal.

Manna Matters and MannaCast

Manna Matters continues to be our flagship communication tool, and we endeavour to span a wide range of topics from big ideas to practical knowledge. The mailing list for Manna Matters continues to grow steadily, however one concern is that it is overwhelmingly growth of email distribution – physical mailing is actually declining. This is for very good reasons – people want to reduce their impact on the planet and the cost burden on Manna Gum – which concur with Manna Gum’s message of taking care in our economic lives. Perhaps counter-intuitively, however, we would prefer that more people opted to receive hard copy. This is because we place a high value on materiality, and all the studies confirm that people read more deeply off a page than a screen. Plus, we know that emails tend to get buried in people’s inboxes, despite their best intentions, and online communication has a much higher ecological footprint than most people realise. Manna Matters is printed on 100% post-consumer waste paper (no trees cut down) and posted in recycled paper envelopes. So if you are currently getting electronic, consider the switch to good, old-fashioned paper.

 
You can listen to MannaCast here.

We are still finding our way to a regular schedule of recording for the Manna Gum podast, and still learning the art of it, however all the feedback is that it has been a very positive addition to Manna Gum’s communications. Interestingly, the podcast seems to reach a different segment of people from Manna Matters. If you have a listen, please leave a rating, and even better, a review (especially in iTunes), as this has a big impact on how it comes up in people’s searches.

 

Speaking and teaching

All speaking and teaching in 2021 succumbed to the Zoom pandemic. These included:

  • 2 lectures for the Masters in Transformational Development at Melbourne College of Divinity (Mar 24): “A Biblically Shaped Economics”
  • 2 lectures for “Theology, Money and Markets”, Otago University (Apr 14): (i) “The Rise of Capitalism”; (ii) “Capitalism, Socialism and the Christian Witness of RH Tawney”
  • TEAR Cohort training:  (i) “Comprehending the Ecological Crisis” (Apr); (ii)”Embodied Economic Witness” (Jul)
  • Whitley lecture, Intro to Theology: “Salvation” (May)
  • University of Divinity Seminar: “Catholic Action and Anti-capitalism” (May)
  • Soul Search Interview with Meredith Lake, ABC RN (May)
  • Churches:
    • Surf Coast UC, 3 talks: (i) Church as Economic Community (Aug); “Treasure in Heaven 1” (Oct); “Treasure in Heaven 2” (Oct)
    • Essendon Baptist: “Money in Proverbs” (Sept)
    • Ashburton Baptist: “The Household Covenant” (Sept)

Jonathan speaking to Essendon Baptist Church. Preaching on Zoom has some some advantanges, but is never quite the same.

Thesis

My Ph.D thesis work (broadly on the topic of Christianity and capitalism) is a long-term investment that is already yeilding dividends for Manna Gum’s work in terms of intellectual stimulus, depth and extending Manna Gum’s networks. Nevertheless, while there is great value in a season of such focussed academic work, the challenge is always to keep it grounded in the real world. The St Matthews/Seeds Community here in Bendigo has been critical for this, as have been many of Manna Gum’s friends and supporters.

Jonathan Cornford

Financial Report

As can be seen, there was a shortfall of about $10,000. This is because our income has remained level but we increased our wages bill by $10,000. This was what we planned, as we spend down the windfall from 2020, however we obviously cannot sustain this into the future. Our challenge for 2023 is to grow Manna Gum’s annual income so that we can cover Jacob’s wage ongoing. Ideally, this is primarily through an increase in monthly supporters, however once-off donations can make a substantial contribution to this too. See our Special Appeal.

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