An extraordinary purpose

An extraordinary purpose

As Doug Taylor moves on from his role as Deputy Executive Director of Uniting, he looks back on his time with the organisation and reflects on the genuine vision to change lives and change our community for the better.

It was seven years ago and I was sitting in a pew in my local Uniting Church congregation. I had little awareness of the work of the church beyond my local ministry. I was quite involved as a Lay Preacher and very busy with a young family and a demanding leadership role in the ‘for purpose’ sector. However, after a few conversations with the then Executive Director of Uniting, Peter Worland, and an interview, I found myself as part of the leadership team helping to build a new organisation – Uniting.

Uniting had only just formed, bringing together the Synod’s work with children, young people and families as well as our ministry with older Australians.

At the time, I remember telling people that Uniting was a bit like an oversized infant because while we were a big organisation, we were really creating and helping nurture something new. It was an enormously exciting and challenging time. Together, we were connecting new teams, creating the foundations of a new culture building a new brand and integrating systems.  

A genuine vision to change lives

I came to Uniting because I wanted to serve the church I had been a part of for many years. I also sensed there was a genuine vision to change lives and change our community for the better.

Uniting supports the ministry and mission of the Synod by bearing witness to the love of God in Christ, as understood by the Uniting Church. Our purpose statement is to:

  • Inspire people: acknowledging all people are made in the image of God – Genesis 1:27
  • Enliven inclusive communities: there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor male and female – Galatians 3:28, and
  • Confront injustice: proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free – Luke 4:18.

The vision I sensed and we articulated proved to be true throughout the organisation – from our frontline teams, to our support employees, from our executive and board.

On behalf of the church, the Uniting team reaches widely across the community and impacts so deeply. Let us take a moment to understand the numbers and recognise how we are helping change lives:

  • Our social justice advocacy and campaigns are helping drive and shape public opinion on issues that are important to the Uniting Church and society including: First Australians, climate change, drug law reform, aged care, and young people in foster care and residential care.

Going the extra mile

One of the great joys of my role has been spending time with teams across the organisation. I take great heart from the work of our team members who are so diligent and always ‘going the extra mile’ in their care and support. Our 10,000-strong workforce and 1,500 volunteers are always demonstrating their unwavering commitment to the people we serve and to making a difference.

I always ask colleagues when I first meet them, “Why are you at Uniting? And why have you stayed (for those who are our inspiring longer-term team members)?”

Here for the people

Every employee will say they are here for the people we serve, for their colleagues, and because of the values of the Uniting Church and our belief in the inherent value of people and our commitment to Social Justice. Now, don’t get me wrong, my colleagues always have suggestions about what we can do better – we know we’re far from perfect. But the consistency of the response sums up well who we are and what we are about.

A bright future

Uniting is a ministry of the Uniting Church I have seen up close and it is a ministry of which I am enormously proud. It has a bright future that needs to further focus on two important things:

  • Realise the opportunity to minister together

The Uniting Church believes in the Mission of God. As David J Bosch says, “Mission is not primarily an activity of the church, but an attribute of God. God is a missionary God.” My encouragement to my colleagues in Uniting has always been to see their work as valuable and as part of God’s reconciling work in the world. I wonder if the wider church shares this same view? Can we think about God’s work in the world beyond the ministry of our congregations?

For the wider church -and remember I say this as a member of the church, my challenge is to get to know Uniting better and celebrate the work which has emerged from generations of our church leaders who have faithfully served the community.

I was reminded of this at the June Synod meetings where there was a wonderful response to Uniting’s report on our advocacy ministry , which we do with and on behalf of the Synod. Honestly off the top of my head I could tell another 50 stories about the work of Uniting which would have a similar impact. And yes, the obvious encouragement to Uniting is to tell our story more often!

Today Uniting attracts wonderful people who want to be part of the work of the Uniting Church in the community – and these combined efforts should be something we celebrate. As well as that Uniting reaches over 100,000 people across the community. Isn’t that a perfect opportunity to share and minister together?

  • Nurture a shared purpose

My second challenge is for my Uniting colleagues.

I see Uniting is like an enormous garden. A garden with many different trees, flower beds and shrubs. Rich with colour and foliage that’s life giving to the birds, insects and people that inhabit it.

As a somewhat failed gardener I have learnt the hard way that a great garden needs constant care and nurturing. You need to water, fertilise, prune and weed your garden to keep it rich with life. To help this Uniting ‘garden’ thrive we need to continually nurture our purpose.

When I think of our purpose at Uniting I think of three dimensions;

  1. we bring to life the mission of the Uniting Church (as I have outlined above),
  2. create impact for and outcomes for all people but particularly those who are vulnerable or experience disadvantage and
  3. create sustainable services that are financially sound, safe and of high quality.

My hope is that we all tend the Uniting garden with every choice we make, against the three dimensions of mission, impact and sustainability.It’s an extraordinary purpose. But I believe it’s achievable and it is what is needed to create a world that is truly inclusive, just and connected.

I have every confidence that all of this will happen and want to pay tribute to our leaders. A special thanks to Simon Hansford and Jane Fry. Their leadership through this period of change continues to be significant and timely and I’ve very much enjoyed their input and encouragement. Thanks to Heather Watson and the Uniting Board for their wise and careful governance. We are blessed to have a board that is so invested in our work and demonstrates our values in their actions and deliberations. Thanks also to Tracey Burton and the Executive team. I can’t tell you how proud I am to have been a part of this outstanding group of people who are leaders in their professions but also people so committed to doing what’s best and right. We are in safe hands.

Doug Taylor


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