As I was writing this column, my very last “Moderator’s Reflection” for Insights, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the incredible opportunity and privilege that was given to me to serve the Synod. I still find it hard to believe that the Synod of NSW and the ACT put its trust in me to serve as Moderator for this critical time of the Church’s witness. So let me begin by thanking and praising God for calling me, a “poor gentile widow”, to exercise this leadership, which I can only justify with the words of Saint Paul who said in his letter to Corinth: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” (1 Cor 1: 27) Not that I think I have shamed the wise or the strong, but I am prepared to call myself, sometimes, foolish and weak!
Almost every morning, I have woken up wondering how I could ever carry out the task I have been given, as a faithful vessel for God’s grace and mercy. I prayed each morning that God would excite my heart to journey beyond doubt and a sense of my limitations, as I sought for courage and vision that would not only inspire me but also others.
People have asked me if I have been able to achieve anything as Moderator. I might have disappointed many with my answer: “No, nothing.” But I have not even attempted to “achieve” anything — other than witnessing to God’s love and Christ’s ministry, the same mission that is the role of the Church to which I was called. Yes, I have witnessed the sincerity and hospitality of people across the Synod. I am especially deeply convinced of the presence of God in so many of our ‘small’ churches — both in urban and rural places — as they faithfully share God’s love with their communities. They do this through SRE, op shops, drop-in centres, shelters for homeless people, student housing, prayer gatherings and worship services.
It is a costly and challenging choice to be a Christian in a world fashioned by materialism and consumerism. The recent Census revealed that almost one third of Australia’s population said they have no religion. While the huge increase in people’s disinterest in spiritual matters concerns me deeply, I remember a strong witness made by a small country church in central NSW, in a town with a population of less than 300 people.
The Congregation only meets for one Sunday per month but opens the church gate every Sunday, just in case anybody passing through the town would like to worship there. This little church reminded me of the zeal of the Psalmist who said, “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” (Psalm 84: 2)
At a recent evangelism conference in our Synod, “Gospel Yarning” called for a re-ignition of our call as disciples, to spread the good news of Christ Jesus. As Moderator, I have always tried to remind and emphasise the ultimate truth that Christ is the head of our church, to be clearly seen through all our worship, service and witness. We are the body of Christ who follow His ministry and teaching, spreading the good news of God’s love for the world in Jesus (John 3:16).
Forty years on, the Uniting Church has been constantly reshaped to respond to the mission of God in our world; an inclusive, open and daring church in Australia. We have made a strong commitment to the First People through UAICC, as well as to our environment, strangers, refugees and asylum seekers, to people of different cultures and sexual orientation, as we endeavour to live out our calling as a genuine reflection of God’s kingdom.
As a pilgrim people on a journey to the Promised Land, we are called to share the goodness of God in Christ Jesus with those who we meet on this journey. Let me encourage you to continue to witness to Christ’s ministry of healing, reconciliation and transforming life, and we will indeed say together: My cup overflows with blessings as we journey beyond the old limits!
Moderator, Rev. Myung Hwa Park