All I Want for Christmas
A candid look at the year that was and will be.
Within each of us are personal hopes and aspirations for a healthy, safe and prosperous new year for all humankind. What’s on your Christmas list this year? We asked the Moderator and his colleagues to reflect on the year that was and the year that will be, and asked what they would like for Christmas.
Rev. Dr Brian Brown
Moderator of the Synod of New South Wales and the ACT
I want some of the obvious things; Common Good things! To be a proud participant in a humane society that decides to give children of asylum-seekers freedom from detention, and their families the right to live and work in the community. I want to be part of a generous society that, instead of cutting crucial foreign aid, actually increases it. A society that values and nurtures both the human and natural environment by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and protecting prime agricultural land, precious water resources and fragile eco-systems.
For the church – for all those people who work so hard in congregations, presbyteries and departments of the Synod of NSW and the ACT – I want the gift of rest.
I am full of admiration for our resilience, but people are tired. I want us to be able to have a break and not feel guilty. Jesus worked his heart out for the Kingdom, but also knew when to withdraw to a quiet place. He also said “Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Rev. Dr Andrew Williams
When I look back over 2013, these were the three issues stand out for me:
• The Synod meeting in April
• The World Council of Churches Assembly in Korea was wonderful
• The growing sense of collaboration and cooperation in the Synod
Looking to 2014 there is much I hope to achieve. But, as with anything in life, you need to prioritise. Here are my top three.
• Focussing on being a growing church
• Strengthening and resourcing the appropriate leadership for such a church
• Continuing to be known as a church that passionately seeks justice in society
When I think about what I want for Christmas, my first answer is “sunshine” because I will be in Europe with my family and may be facing a frosty time. Perhaps the fuller response is worship that brings me into the presence of God and reminds me of God’s searching love for humankind. I want to feel a sense of hope and joy and confidence that God is still ‘working His purpose out’ with us.
Executive Director Uniting Mission and Education
In 2013, I very much enjoyed the challenge of discovery –within the life of our Synod are many extraordinarily gifted people and many wonderful possibilities. I also believe our response to how our nation deals with asylum seekers has been wonderful.
The biggest challenge to UME has been the reduction in the Synod budget. But we have sharpened our focus in thinking about how we can best assist congregations and Presbyteries in equipping people for ministry and mission and in resourcing ministry and mission ventures.
More and more, the Church is coming to terms with the changed and changing context of the communities we serve. It seems to me, there is an awakening happening amongst people in congregations that seeks to engage in local communities and wider social and political issues.
God’s love for God’s creation is greater than we can ever imagine. And yet such love is expressed in the helplessness and vulnerability of a baby born without a home; a child who would grow to offer acceptance, forgiveness and freedom to all people.
Chief Operating Officer, Uniting Resources
This year has been a very busy year for doing things more efficiently and effectively. Despite the many challenges, we achieved some great outcomes. I’m immensely proud of the people I have the honour to work with. When I look to 2014 there is just one thing I want: true unity.
I believe the church has started to change to become more agile and sustainable for the 21st century. There is still a long, long way to go, but I sense and hear more people understand change needs to occur in order for the Church to flourish and thrive.
Budgetary constraints are affecting the work we do in Uniting Resources to support presbyteries and congregations. Finding alternate funding sources or structures will help ensure we have the resources to support our congregations and their mission.
Over the Christmas period, I hope people take a moment to appreciate that our Synod staff are as committed to the Uniting Church as its members and Ministers, and are doing the best they can to assist with ever increasing workloads, limited capacity and resources.
Executive Director, Uniting Resources
Every year is filled with challenges, but for me the three most significant were:
• Building the infrastructure to support the needs of the Church.
• Understanding the financial position of the Church.
• Cultural issues around the organisation, staff and the way we conduct ourselves.
I’ve observed some notable changes for the Church over the past year. In Pitt Street, I see greater cooperation and interaction between Secretariat, Uniting Financial Services and Uniting Resources, as well as with our colleagues in UnitingCare.
The Standing Committee is evolving and becoming more active in the affairs of the Church. I admire the efforts of staff and the commitment they have shown in undertaking their duties, which are not always popular.
Looking to the future, the Church has several major challenges that require a commitment to making changes that will be difficult in order to ensure the Church retains a place in society.
This Christmas there is one thought I would like people to keep close to their hearts: Ephesians 2: 8-9
Executive Director, UnitingCare
The greatest achievement this year was working together with the Synod Executive under the leadership of the General Secretary Rev. Dr. Andrew Williams to develop a Leadership Charter.
By working in partnership, UnitingCare NSW.ACT and the NSW/ACT Synod of the Uniting Church have had enormous success in utilising our shared resources to create positive social change.
The challenge for 2014 will be to deliver a single effective board for UnitingCare NSW.ACT. This single board needs to be empowered to make strategic decisions for the direction of UnitingCare.
I would like to see the church become more adaptable through decisive decision making. If it was easy it would have been achieved long ago. To grow the Church we must focus our resources on doing good work in the community.
Through this thinking, our Churches can become hives of activity, filled with young volunteers who once again see the Church as the centre for their social justice concerns and the hub of their local community.
This Christmas I would like Australians to ask themselves: Is our country really going to permit desperate asylum seekers to be cast off to far away islands?
Executive Director, Treasury and Investment Services
The three ‘Rs’ were the main challenges that stood out for me this year: restructure, recapitalisation and relationships. Dividing the teams into porfolios, prudential and partnerships gave each the opportunity to use their gifts and talents, and build stronger teams. This has been a very positive move.
On the recapitalisation front, Uniting Financial Services is now capitalised in the same way as other major financial services organisations in the market. While our relationships have been tested over the past year, I’m pleased to say they have strengthened.
With respect to the Church, I think we have seen a change. I sense there is an openness and a willingness to discuss difficult things – more a case of uniting for the common good rather than individuals trying to run their own operations in isolation. I look forward to the Church becoming more confident in what God has called it to be.
Have a blessed and restful Christmas season as you and yours reflect on our many blessings while allowing that gratitude to drive our generous love and service to all those in need.