Amanda Hay is a candidate for Minister of the Word. David Hay works for Uniting. Together they attended the 15th Assembly, and while it wasn’t “a romantic getaway”, they both say it was a privilege to be part of it. Together they reflect on their experience.
When David and I were elected to be members of the Assembly, we often joked that it wasn’t quite the romantic getaway we needed but felt nervous, excited and curious as to how this Assembly would be. The 15th Assembly was the third UCA Assembly I have been a member of and the experience of being at this one was unlike anything I had experienced before. This Assembly experience has been sticky; many parts of it clinging in my mind, heart and Spirit as I returned to Sydney.
What struck me most was the trust that was present to allow people to be vulnerable enough to tell their stories. This Assembly, we carried people’s journeys with a grace and gentleness, amidst struggle and pain, in a way that made me proud to serve in a church which can do that. I learnt a lot about who I am and how I carry the stories, hopes and fears from those who are around me among others who were trying to do the same. I believe there was a deep sense of journey and a knowledge that we, the church, will need to hold each other in grace as a we continue to walk together, far past when the week was over and we all headed home.
For me I take memories of deep listening and struggling with the best and the worst of the church. I take with me the relationships I have made with people from across Australia who hold diverse backgrounds and views and my hope is that I leave parts of myself with those I encountered throughout that week. I felt so privileged to experience Assembly; with its wonderful and gracious leadership, the fellowship of those around you and the awareness that although this was not a romantic getaway, I was still able to experience it with my husband.
It was my third time attending Assembly, so I knew a little of what to expect. I was particularly grateful this time around that I could unpack the day each evening with Amanda (and often with others from our Synod over a glass of wine). This Assembly meeting was the most exhausting (physically, emotionally and spiritually) of any church meeting I have been to. It is also the most life-giving. For me this life-giving exhaustion is encapsulated by my time in the working groups. Assembly working groups met each day and this is where much of the relationship building, discernment and wrestling about detail of proposals took place.
I was blessed to be in a group with people from across the country whose strong, vastly different views were held with faithfulness, honesty and integrity; people who also listened deeply to each other, to understand each person’s view and reasoning, even when the views were mutually exclusive. To walk with people, most of whom I hadn’t met before, and join in faithful listening for the movement of the Holy Spirit is a truly moving and special experience.
Everyone comes to the Assembly carrying the expectations of the communities they come from, and though you gather and seek to discern for the whole church, your communities form part of your discernment. For the last 18 months I have been working at Uniting, I went with the expectations of those I work with, all of whom have chosen to align themselves with the values of Uniting, values of the UCA. I brought with me the excitement of many of these colleagues that the UCA is willing to have meaningful and difficult conversations around a range of important issues. For some, yes, the Uniting Church they work for has enough space to bless the lifelong commitment to their partner in marriage.
My closest work colleague is a devout Catholic, on the last day I joyfully shared a newly passed resolution with her, that we stand in prayerful solidarity with the 2020 Plenary*. That the Uniting Church doesn’t just look to itself and that an important event in the life of her church is prayerfully supported by those who could easily let big moments in her church go unnoticed.
*For more information about the 2020 Plenary visit plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au/