In celebration of International Women’s Day, more than 100 women across the Synod of NSW.ACT recently attended Uplift 2.0, a networking forum that provided the opportunity to connect, be inspired and share knowledge.
Host, Rev. Jane Fry, General Secretary of the Synod of NSW and ACT, founded the forum in 2018.
For the benefit of all
In her welcome, Jane shared some of the unofficial early history of the heritage listed Chatswood South Uniting Church. She recognised the collective efforts of these early women of the Church who developed education programs for children, welcomed refugees and founded fellowship groups.
Jane said, “I’m proud that women have always played a very significant and integral role in our Church. We’re talking about these incredibly resourceful womenfolk from the 1850s. However, I think they all would have been astounded and mystified with any claim of being called a ‘leader’ or ‘strategic innovator’. They simply wanted to build community for the benefit of all.
“I was (again) bowled over by the energy, excitement & enthusiasm in the room & moved by the pride with which women spoke of the work they do – all sorts of work from all areas of the church – to make a real difference in the world,” said Jane.
Heather Watson, Uniting Board Chair facilitated a panel discussion with guests Rev. Charissa Suli (National Consultant in the Assembly Resourcing Unit), Jannine Jackson (National Director for Frontier Service), Nicole Rose (Head of Risk, Safety and Compliance function for the Synod of NSW.ACT.) and Gillian Coutts (Uniting Deputy Chair).
Mindfulness, mentoring, self-care, education, grace and grit and self-determination fuelled by support and transition were the themes of these women’s heartfelt stories.
“Women are the unsung heroes in our Church who often made and make the connections in the community. We need to place more value on the sharing of women’s stories.
“These ‘kitchen table conversations’ are powerful beyond belief and yet, many women do not see themselves as leaders,” said Rev.Fry.
Panellists all openly shared their stories of how their careers and life choices were formed with honest and surprising stories of inspiration and hope.
Rev. Charissa Suli is a National Consultant in the Assembly Resourcing Unit and has a heart for mentoring youth and young adults. Ordained in 2014, Charissa, second-generation Tongan describes her role as “all about building bridges”.
Jannine Jackson is National Director for Frontier Service. Frontier Services is a national charity of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) which raises funds to support a network of Patrol Ministers, and delivers practical community support through volunteering programs such as Outback Links.
Jannine said how she, “didn’t have an ideal upbringing or best start in life”. What motivated her was not having someone tell her she could do something – but that she couldn’t, so she could then prove them wrong!
From being a homeless teenage mum to her current position, Jannine said much of her success could be attributed to, “always doing the very best I could possibly do – regardless of how much I did or didn’t like it. My children, and providing for them, helped me focus on what my priorities really are.”
Nicole spoke of the defining moment that changed her career path from a lawyer in London to a finding ways to creatively engage people into compliance the Uniting Church in Australia. “When a great friend on their deathbed decides to tell you what life is all about, you listen. When they surprise you with the words, ‘It should be fun’ you pay attention and, if you’re really smart, you follow their advice.”
Gillian inspired women with her story of battling breast cancer and being the breadwinner when she was motivated find a new career that focused on “hosting conversations that matter among people that are suffering.” She adds, “I wanted to bring really passionate people and connect to them through their hearts.”
The theme for International Women’s Day this year was “Balance for Better” and also “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change” and these themes were explored through the panel discussions.
Anything is possible
At the end of the discussion, Tracey Burton, Uniting Executive Director, acknowledged all women “who have come before us”, thanking the panel for sharing their inspiring journeys so generously and the team for organising the event.
“What I will take away from Uplift.2.0 is to be brave; that there’s no substitute for hard work and perseverance – and then anything is possible. We all need to keep asking, “Who are the voices we are not hearing?” and “Who might we help by giving a helping hand?” said Tracey.
Pictured: Panel speakers (from left to right) Rev. Charissa Suli, Jannine Jackson, Nicole Rose and Gillian Coutts
To view the gallery from the evening go to the Facebook page.