Reflecting on my experience of ACET from 1992 to date, two quotations come to mind for me. I will start with Micah 6:8, ‘You have been told what is good and what God requires of you: to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.’
ACET was not long on the road when Terrie Colman-Black – looking cold and miserably wet – called in to introduce herself to me in the Rialto Community Drug Team (RCDT). It was the beginning of a very good relationship between ACET and the RCDT. Jointly working together with very vulnerable individuals and families in the South Inner City, I witnessed at first hand the dedication, professionalism and humanity of ACET workers and volunteers. Their sense of care and compassion was a real blessing and a grace for all who crossed their paths.
People who felt judged and excluded found, in ACET workers, love and acceptance. All of this was carried out with a spirituality that Micah spoke of – a balance of personal honesty and humility, a genuine care for others and a sense to confront exclusion and marginalisation.
I know a lot of families in this part of the city that have lost many family members. There are parents who have lost two, three, four or even five children. A major miracle for me is to witness parents like that in some way getting on with life. ACET has played no small part in this miracle of grace and hope.
During my time with the RCDT, there were two other activities along with the family work that we undertook with the active participation of ACET, especially of Terrie.
Our Quilt Group was one of the first bereavement and community support groups set up, and it is still in operation. The newly renovated St. Andrew’s Community Centre in Rialto proudly exhibits the original RCDT Quilt. The other activity that we have jointly embarked on is our annual ‘Friends Remembering Friends’ Memorial Service held in the community centre each November. It started 19 years ago. Last year, Terry’s daughter gave us a beautiful rendering of ‘Ave Maria’!
One of the great ACET workers over the years was Moyra O’Neill. She did sterling work with families and individuals. When she subsequently joined the RCDT a number of years ago she brought with her the ACET spirit and dedication in her work as a community prison links worker.
ACET has been a source of inspiration for me over the years from a Christian perspective. I liked its ecumenical flavour and its genuine humanitarian approach. It has been one of the ‘proofs’ for me that Jesus indeed is real!
I conclude with the other quote – a paraphrase from theologian J. Metz – ‘that the memory of Jesus is sacred and subversive’. This is something that I believe. I hold that ACET over the years, in spite of massive difficulties – economic, staff shortage, etc. – has witnessed faithfully to the name and sacredness of Jesus but has done so with the conviction that the way things were and the way broken people were regarded and excluded had to be challenged and subverted. They did so in the mind and spirit of Jesus. And I thank them.