What sort of community do you want to live in?
The answer changes as the seasons of our life blow through.
At age 18, I was concerned with music rehearsal rooms, a good pub, scoring the best lecturers for my university classes and cheap books.
When I was 30 I wanted to walk to a good café for breakfast, to make sure my Nana was getting good care in the nursing home, safer roads around NSW (I travelled a lot for work), and to learn about photography.
These days I want the best medical care for my family (as baby No 2 is due!); good childcare for Daniel, a better deal for asylum seekers and to keep searching out good coffee (Colin I’m looking at you).
There’s obviously so much more I could write, so many different ways to approach the question. And truth be told those lists are very much focused on my needs. But whichever way I choose to answer this question one of the common links throughout is my reliance upon trained, educated professionals. Across all sorts of fields, whether they be medical, education, mechanical, or hospitality – my life is enhanced and resourced by belonging to a community of well trained, well educated people.
Some doctors may be very well reimbursed for their vocation. But let me tell you, the reward my family gets from having such wonderful medical staff at the Royal Hospital for Women in Randwick, can hardly be measured in dollars.
Well-trained childcare workers are desperately underpaid for their work. Yet I am entrusting the most important part my life (Daniel) to them today.
Education may be a blessing to individuals, but it is also an incredible gift to our community.
As I have worked in Tertiary Ministry at UNSW I have been privileged to watch many young people learn, grow and discern something of where life is taking them. And it’s true that in the mix of their thinking is the chance to earn a good salary at the other end. But these are the people who will be my children’s teachers, the medical staff of my latter years and the engineers who design the world we will be living in. I want them to succeed, so that we might all be blessed. Which is why I am passionately opposed to the changes to higher education regulation and funding announced in the Federal Budget 2014-15. Whatever financial pressures that sector and our country may be facing, changes that make it much more difficult for lower and middle income Australians to access higher education is a backwards step. Education is both a right and a privilege, but it is also a gift to the whole community.
And this matters to us as a church very much indeed.
When we seek to follow Jesus, we cannot help but turn our gaze to issues such as poverty, homelessness and domestic violence. We’re called to be stewards of the WHOLE creation, so issues of climate change cannot be ignored. In all of these areas, we are better situated as a community to respond with well-trained and fully formed professionals. As I write, the weekly Alcoholics Anonymous group is meeting in the rooms behind me. They are largely self-directed. But they are resourced and facilitated by the wonderful people from the Junction Neighbourhood Centre. Imagine deregulated uni fees that could shift the cost of a law degree from around $50000 to $120,000. How many lawyers could then afford to work for community organisations with such a debt?
When Jesus was asked by John the Baptist’s followers to prove that he was the one sent from God, he responded by saying, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard; the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have good news announced to them” Luke 7:22-23. When people ask us what Hope Uniting stands for, I pray that we too can point towards that sort of freedom and life bursting forth. And when people ask what sort of city we live in, I hope that it is pictures of justice and joy that spring from our canvas. And in that struggle, education remains one of God’s great gifts to us that we might keep seeking after justice, compassion and mercy.