Loving greetings in the Hope of Israel!

All families experience strains and stresses, and the brotherhood is no exception. Properly and sensitively managed, the difficulties we experience as individuals and ecclesias contribute to our development and can strengthen us in our walk (1 Cor 11:19). On the other hand, when we respond inappropriately to challenges that arise we can do irreparable harm to ourselves and others.

Next year marks 60 years since the Unity Agreement came into effect in Australia. Today there is a fast-declining cohort of brothers and sisters who can recall the days before reunion. Those who can remember that time will confirm that, regardless of the stresses and strains the brotherhood has experienced in the past 60 years and continues to experience, the ecclesial environment in the period since 1958 on the whole has been more constructive and edifying than it was prior to reunion. It is evident, however, from recent discussions and comments of which I am aware that some brothers and sisters do not fully appreciate what the Unity Agreement involves. I have found this to be the case especially among younger brothers and sisters, but the problem is by no means confined to that age group. In some cases, ill-informed and disparaging comments have been made about the Unity Agreement, calling into question and undermining its value.

Sometimes things which have been in place for a long time can be taken for granted and we may need to remind ourselves of their value. In our family lives we often do this by marking significant milestones such as birthdays and anniversaries. While there is no Biblical warrant for such celebrations, they serve a valuable purpose in helping us to focus on the lessons we can learn from the past. Should our Lord delay his return until next year, 2018 would be an appropriate time to reacquaint ourselves with the Unity Agreement and the contents of the Unity Book more generally. The diamond jubilee of the Unity Agreement would be an excellent time for ecclesias around Australia to promote amongst their members an awareness of the Agreement and the Unity Book. In that context, it would be timely also to remind ecclesias of the value of the Ecclesial Guide, which is cited in the Agreement, and encourage all brothers and sisters to familiarise themselves with the advice contained in the Guide.