Faith formation in action
This is Part Three of a three part series on lay leadership in the Church. Read Part Two here.
Faith formation is about practicing discipleship.
“You are not learning in a vacuum, you are learning it to apply it to your life,” says Rev. Bronwyn Murphy.
“This isn’t just head knowledge, it involves the heart and your life. So part of the deal is to grow and apply the knowledge to the way you live your life. This is why we call it ‘Living Our Faith’ rather than just a lay preacher’s course, because we don’t just want lay preachers, we want active disciples.”
For congregations who are moving from being passive ‘pew sitters’ to a more active expression of faith through discipleship courses and training assist individuals who can have conversations about the application of knowledge to congregational life and experience. By sharing together groups can discuss life and faith and grow in the process.
“These are the skills we need if we are serious about discipleship and nurturing,” says Bronwyn.
“It’s living out our faith, rather than let a minister live it for you. Lay ministry demands that people take responsibility for their own faith and growth.”
Is Sunday church a thing of the past?
There is a growing need to identify where people are forming relationships and seeking out spirituality. Bradon would like to identify those people who are thinking out of the hour on Sunday ‘hymn-sandwich’ box.
Research tells us that the frequency of attendance to church is dropping. Googling ‘why people aren’t going to church’ offers story after story explaining the simple fact that people are making meaning and relationships elsewhere. For certain age groups, gathering in a large space with people you don’t know presents challenges to many. In the age of Google, questions of spirituality are in your hand. It’s how and why we gather as a people of faith that becomes more important than the where and when.
“There is a new dynamic where leadership is always going to be organic but there’s a common vision and purpose where the identity is shared,” explains Bradon.
“They give us a vision of how we would like to move forward, where people share this common experience of grace and transformation, whether it be linked to sustainable food growing, the arts, video games or advocacy and action. Wherever there is shared passion and purpose we can share the good news in those spaces but not necessarily with a program and a structure.
“At the moment we default to things we can recognise and they are the things of our legacy and our history but not things of our future that will serve us well.”
Pulse wants to identify, support and equip emerging leaders and network young people that have a shared passion and a sense of belonging to the Uniting Church.
“We want to strengthen the cohort and lift our gaze beyond the immediate congregation experience to support leaders both practically and digitally,” says Bradon. “We want to regenerate what it means to offer leadership to the Uniting Church. At the moment if a 21 year old expressed a desire to be a leader the prevailing wisdom would be to do a period of discernment and get ordained.
“We want to crack that open and make space for entrepreneurs who have an idea and passion…We also want to support our existing leaders to reimagine and to take risks in terms of working with emerging generations and not out of desperation, but out of solidarity and hope.
“The gospel means something to millennials and they mean something to the Church. We want to equip them to do that well, not just with skinny jeans and a Facebook page, but with integrity and empathy.”
Worship, witness and service
“I think we have forgotten that worship is supposed to be linked to witness and service and if you separate worship you have just created a club,” explains Bradon. “It’s the witness and the service that gives the worship integrity and if you don’t have this you don’t have anything. Worship is meaningless if it isn’t lived out. If a minister isn’t empowering and growing people they are failing at the task.
“In the Basis of Union, discipleship is all assumed, but we stopped telling that story and went for professional ministry and that has not been good for the Uniting Church. I think it is about changing the ministry styles into the future as well. Just having a minister up the front every Sunday is not healthy.”
Both Bronwyn and Bradon agree that the challenge to break our addiction to the Sunday hour as a form of Christian growth and formation is one that Uniting Mission and Education is addressing. UME is doing this through training, faith development, relationship building, theological training and identification of new and emerging leadership.
“Our relational formation is not done on a Sunday, but in our everyday lives as Christians,” says Bronwyn.
“We have had enormous change in the Church of the last ten years and it is really the tip of the iceberg,” says Bradon. “We need to be equipping our prophets, change-agents, artists and dreamers to lead us and be resourced by those who’ve traditionally led us, like the theologians and the pastors, to actually flip that around and de-centralise from maintenance to adaption and engagement.”
For training and leadership opportunities visit the Uniting Mission and Education website ume.nswact.uca.org.au
For more information about Pulse visit ucapulse.org.au