Dying for change


I love being in ministry in Richmond.

It is not just because the Tigers have been my team since I was a child.

It is not just because being located in the inner city means that  you get to mix with a wildly diverse group of people; artists, people seeking asylum, academics, people who are homeless, retired people and students.

I also love being here, because I get to minister with people who are authentically struggling and engaging with the big questions of life and meaning and God, as they seek to be followers on the way of Jesus.

However, there is a tragic side of life in Richmond at the moment too. In the last 12 months over 30 people have died through overdose in this area.  Sometimes these people have died on the streets, sometimes they have died in their cars.

It is not just the tragic loss of life of these people, this also means that 30 groups of families and friends – like spokes going out from a wheel – are dealing with the agony of the loss of their loved one, first through the pain of living with this person’s addiction and now through their death.

I recently co-sponsored a proposal at the Uniting Church Synod meeting regarding Medically Supervised Injecting Centres, together with my colleague Rev John Clarke, the Director of Mission for Uniting.  We proposed to the Synod that we adopt a policy of advocating for the introduction of a Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Victoria.

Not only does the overwhelming evidence indicate that such centres save lives, in Jesus, the one in whom Christians celebrate we behold the Divine, we discover the God who stubbornly forgives, heals and challenges all people into newness of life.  For followers of Jesus, for Christians, this demands that our responses to those facing addiction must be shaped by Jesus’ way of responding to people, with compassion and opportunities for healing, if they are to be faithful.

I was deeply moved by the response to our proposal at Synod. Some 300 people voted unanimously (in Uniting Church language with ‘consensus’) to support this proposal.  After we spoke, several people came to me in tears, sharing the stories of addiction in their communities and how important this proposal was.

On All Saints’ Day, Wednesday 1st November, we are having a Service on the Steps at 6pm, in which people are invited to come and light a candle for a loved one who has died.

Everyone is welcome to this service – if you have lost a loved one through overdose, illness, accident or suicide you are warmly invited, because the great love of the Divine, as revealed in Jesus, reaches out to all.

Blessings for you all,



Rev Dr Sally Douglas