Change for the better
The last few years have been fairly tough for many working within the Synod.
While I hear many expressions of appreciation of the ministries and services offered by various and many people within the Synod, there is fairly constant underlying buzz of criticism of the Synod; quite often from an ill-informed standpoint, sometimes reflecting particular interest groups or philosophical and theological perspectives.
As someone whose role is within and yet somewhat independent of the Synod structures I can only say that, for the most part, I am full of admiration for the work of those who serve the Synod and the church at large in so many ways, often giving way beyond what any remuneration could compensate and ensuring the vitality of the church in ways that cannot be measured.
I hear many people say that the church is not what it used to be — even despairing at what it has become. I am glad it is not what it used to be because God is not calling us to be what we used to be. If you are despairing it is because you are looking backwards to where God has been and not forward to where God is.
I hear it being said that we are going to simply become a community service organisation called “UnitingCare” and the Uniting Church will fade away.
It is possible that without vision that could happen. However, I do not believe it will because through UnitingCare we are at the cutting edge of ministry, not only through the provision of service but also through ministry exercised by chaplains and pastoral care teams connecting with thousands of people on a daily basis.
The same can be said of chaplains in other contexts, such as those serving in our schools and in various emergency services. We need to imagine new ways of being church in growing arenas of Uniting Church involvement, where there are opportunities that actually connect us with those living in the world around us.
Last year the Boards of Education and Mission began the process of merging as required by resolution of the Synod and decisions of the Synod Standing Committee. That process determined that significant and valued ministries would come to a conclusion.
I have heard it said that the Synod’s work is being determined by financial constraints but I believe it is the work of the Spirit pushing us into a new place, where we cannot be dependent on others to do the work, to be at mission, reflect theologically, and stand up for justice on our behalf.
I believe God is saying it is time for us all to take responsibility for bearing the gospel message.
That is not to say that the ministries that are coming to an end had no value.
On the contrary, they have been preparing us for this time. It has been an urgent task to educate and encourage, to resource and give confidence to the people of God to be the people of God in their own context, to participate with enthusiasm in organisations such as the Sydney Alliance and the Central Tablelands Alliance, to begin thinking about how to create fresh expressions of church alongside traditional models.
The face of the church is changing: ministry is becoming more diverse, is being exercised in ways we would not have dreamt of in 1977; resource ministries are enabling lay-led congregations to survive and thrive where, with a more traditional understanding of ministry they would close.
The roles of the Synod and presbyteries are evolving and at times it is tough wrestling with questions about how these councils are to operate.
As we seek to fulfil the mission of God, it is vital that we don’t waste time and energy fighting over limited resources but rather work together to see how we can be most effective in resourcing the people of God in the new place God has brought us to.