What an exciting Church we are! What an amazing experience we’ve had over recent days!
We, the Uniting Church in Australia, a Church that is described as a pilgrim people always on the way to a promised goal, gathered for four days of Synod meetings in late September. Freshly installed, I was seated in the driver’s seat of a bullet train commissioned to navigate a journey into the future.
Thanks be to God that our Synod was not a business meeting but a gathering of God’s people, listening to each other’s stories and wisdom, sharing the same bread as we gave each other a blessing; seeking the spirit of God to lead us into the future.
The members of Synod heard how the mission of God is being carried out in spite of financial constraints and declining membership. Good news stories were told day after day; telling of Spirit-filled worship in cities and the bush; sharing news of excellent services for the community from childcare to aged care; reporting courageous acts for justice and peace undeterred by fear and risk, and witnessing to faithful discipleship being carried out in work for a fairer society.
Yes, we have serious concerns. Many Churches are struggling to keep the checks and balances as they struggle to continue to exist as institutional Churches. But as a mother of two children, I learnt that a family’s wellbeing does not depend on how much money we have or how big and nice our house is. As long as we love each other and care for each other, we can leave the rest to the hands of God.
A month before my installation, I joined a Murray Darling Basin (MDB) Tour. This was my response to an initial invitation made at the Synod meeting last year.
I joined sixteen others who were willing to learn more about the MDB and be connected with the people, fauna and flora of that beautiful part of our Synod. The tour became eight days of amazing grace!
As I stood on the Mungo desert, seeing the remains of a mother and child tens of thousands of years old, I realised what it means when we say ‘time immemorial’.
An Aboriginal teacher taught me how to connect with the land on which I have now made my new home by tapping my feet on the ground to help me feel a connection with the earth. I watched those most beautiful rivers — the Murray and the Darling — which nourished the earth for the trees, animals and birds, and quenched the thirst of wanderers, both the first people and also the late comers.
I then met people who helped me understand what it means to be a new comer in this vast ancient land of dreams and opportunities.
The World Council of Churches in Busan declared that the mission of God is no longer from the centre to the fringes but from the margin to the centre. We need to take this message to heart; be prepared to look beyond our traditional centres of comfort and predictability and be open to new ways of being Church.
It is my prayer that we continue to be an exciting Church, having an amazing experience as we pay attention to the uncommon voices, stretch ourselves to uncommon boundaries, enter into uncommon locations, and take uncommon responsibilities as a living sign of God!
Rev. Myung Hwa Park, Moderator