N.Elaine A. Valenzuela-Jimenez
Last Valentine’s Day (14 February) was a day of loving and a service day of release for Rev. James Stewart Murray who retired on 29 February. Pastor Jim as we fondly call him is married to Helen with two children-Ken and Joanne. He became the Minister of the Word at St. Albans Uniting Church in Australia (SAUCA), the home of the first Filipino Congregation and at Sydenham/Caroline Springs Uniting Church in Australia in September 2011.
His ministries demonstrated his capacity to work cross-culturally, as well as the ability to minister effectively in both traditional and non-traditional congregations. Since then, he has nurtured people in their Christian faith and spiritual development making the church congregation grew with new members from the Pacific Islands, Africa and Vietnam. He also guided the faith community at Sydenham-Caroline Springs UCA (which was started by members of St. Albans in 2004), through a number of changes, it ultimately led to their recognition as a congregation of the Uniting Church in Australia. He was also ministering at Burnside, an elderly home care. While his theology is influenced by the liberal traditions, he recognised and respected the gift of diversity that characterises the Uniting Church. Thus seeking to affirm and encourage the faith journey of everyone in a congregation while anticipating some change in people as well as himself. For he believes God is continually making all things new.
Outreach has been an important component to his ministry. He has initiated the church’s active support to Uniting World’s global mission, Share Appeal, Christmas Bowl, Lentara Uniting Care and through SAUCA’s Mission Support Group SAUCA developed partnership with three community-based projects in Tondo, Sampaloc and San Andres Bukid, Manila, Philippines, in partnership with United Church of Christ in the Philippines, United Methodist Church in the Philippines and the IEMELIF Church community ministries. We offer our thanks to God for opportunities in ministry as we grow in faith and service. He believes in mission, like worship, is essential to the life of any congregation. A congregation is called to be engaged continually in the transforming work of kingdom – according to its gifts and graces.
He has lead Christian Education programs that assisted members to wrestle with issues of faith in a changing world. In regards to this, working with the elders and Mission team at SAUCA and “HealthWest” he helped to obtain funding for two – Project 3021 community services program such as monthly Community Lunch and monthly Morning Tea for the elderly. Additionally, SAUCA, with Pastor Jim’s assistance, received a grant from the Lenten Share Appeal to assist the Vietnamese fellowship in their Community Service and their weekly Elev8 program which assists students to do their homework after school. Working with the Presbytery, he helped SAUCA/Sydenham-Caroline Springs in their successful submission to BOMAR (Board of Mission and Resourcing) to partly fund a Regional Multicultural Youth Worker. At Sydenham/Caroline Springs, Pastor Jim and the leadership group initiated a number of outreach events and developed a good relationship with the local Neighbourhood House. There are also different Bible Study groups held in St. Albans, Werribee/Hoppers Crossing, Craigieburn/ Broadmeadows and Sydenham/Caroline Springs.
The service of release for Pastor Jim coincided with the 24th Anniversary of St. Albans Uniting Church which is indeed a celebration of ministry. The joint choir of St. Albans UCA and Sydenham-Caroline Springs UCA sang Cornerstone as their farewell song to Pastor Jim giving thanks to God for his great faithfulness.
Pastor Jim, we will be missing your relaxed style of working and down to earth approach which has helped many people understand the gospel in a way that is relevant for today. May the rest of your journey be full of God’s gift of grace and love.