Education and mission merger to reap rewards
Opportunities and partnerships will be hallmarks of the newly-formed Uniting Mission and Education (UME), both in its transition stages and once it is fully operational.
The future of this fledgling hybrid — formed out of a realignment of the Board of Education and the Board of Mission — will therefore involve a move:
- from expertise to collaboration;
- from institutional to local focus;
- from fixed to flexible structures;
- from individual competence to missional communities; and
- from events and programs to missional engagement.
Members of the Uniting Church’s Synod of New South Wales and the ACT meeting in Newcastle on September 26 heard in detail from the Combined Boards Working Group about how and why the UME was formed and what its new staff, once appointed, would do.
Financial difficulties had been but one impetus for the merger/realignment. The increasing cooperation of the two boards in recent years had also propelled working groups and others to see how integrating the two boards would offer the best road forward.
The lynchpin in the staffing of UME is the Relationships and Resourcing Team, which will act as a “resource team which builds capacity through collaboration in implementing programs and projects which ‘train the trainer’.”
It will incorporate a “strengths based approach” and “prioritise opportunities where passion and potential are evident”.
The demonstrated ability to work cooperatively and effectively within a team is a critical criterion for all people in the team.
“The church’s mission into the future will be best served if there is a generosity of spirit, the work is well targeted and cooperation and collaboration with presbyteries increases,” a report co-authored by the Chairpersons of the Board of Mission and the Board of Education said.
Presenting the report to Synod, Chair of the Board of Mission, Peter Godwin, described the integration process as a journey from anxiety to hope.
Working group member Geoff Smith compared the formative stages of UME with Moses on Mount Nebo looking out to the Promised Land.
In conclusion, he led Synod in part of a prayer by Archbishop Oscar Romero:
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realising that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.