Insights asked leadership across Uniting Financial Services, Uniting, Uniting Resources and Uniting Mission and Education to reflect on the year that was and the year that will be. Together they hope that Christmas will be a time of blessing and renewal. This time, hear from Uniting Mission and Education – Interim Executive Director, Tara Curlewis.
Each year as I approach Christmas, I hope that the Good News of the first Christmas and the message of the angels to a bunch of tired shepherds will be made real in people’s lived experience. Luke’s Gospel (1:13-14) records, “suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’”
For the team that makes up Uniting Mission and Education (UME) 2018 has been a year filled with change, uncertainty and also times of joy. We have rejoiced with Bronwyn Murphy, Kath Merrifield, and Bradon French as they answered God’s call into new ministry with wider Synod responsibilities. We saw a refocussing of UME that enabled a closer working relationship with Uniting Resources with the finance teams combining and Kath Tetley, our communications person, being integrated with the Synod Comms team. The Uniting Earth team joined the Uniting Social Justice team. The UME Board with its new chairperson, Michael Anderson, commissioned a major review of the portfolio. For the UME team this has been a time of uncertainty with roles changed and some concluded and new internal teams identified.
The growth and mission of the church is important in our Synod with a focus on Growing Healthy Churches, Developing Vital Leadership (lay and ordained) and Enabling Transformative Community Engagement. Within UME we support the Synod focus with four interrelated teams: Mission Strategy and Support considers future initiatives and directions and mobilising the ministry of the Pulse Team. Mission Enablement seeks to develop healthy relationships with presbyteries and support by resourcing in ways that presbyteries find most helpful for congregations. This area initially includes two small teams the first focusing on resourcing mission initiatives and building on the Mission Shaped Ministry Programme embraced by Parramatta Nepean and Sydney Central Coast Presbyteries this year.
A second focus is assisting as required in developing a healthy approach to regular Life and Witness Consultations. The Saltbush team sits in this space too. The three western rural presbyteries and gathering the scattered communities is a vital focus. Saltbush includes identifying ways to be a church where resources are scarce, and the distances are great.
Vital Leadership Team additional leadership having an intentional focus on developing leadership and discipleship across the church. The identification of people to train for ministry remains a significant focus and sits with equipping lay people for the specific areas that God calls them to exercise their gifts. The United Theological College Team (UTC) this year have travelled to regional areas to hold courses, and intensives. Mid-year we rejoiced as many joined the intensive at the Port Macquarie campus of CSU. 2019 will see the reintroduction of a Principal of UTC.
In 2019, I hope that UME will enable people, leaders and congregations to flourish in healthy and exciting ways. That UME can assist in equipping and encouraging growth in discipleship, developing vital leadership, and growing healthy congregations. My hope is that our Uniting Church may participate actively in God’s transformative grace with people in our towns, cities and our neighbours in the world. This Christmas I continue to hope that the joy of the shepherds who rushed to Bethlehem to find the Christ Child will be your experience and the experience of many in our community.