Learning to work together
When most of us were relaxing over the Christmas period, putting thoughts of work to the back of our minds, Duncan Macleod was readying himself for a new challenge. He’d recently accepted the role of Director, Uniting Learning Network, and the start date of mid-January was looming.
The Uniting Learning Network (ULN) is a network of educators, encompassing the theological college, UME resourcing team, presbytery staff, educators across the Synod congregations and presbyteries, and agencies like UnitingCare. It’s led by Duncan, who is responsible for providing leadership across the network, helping members work collaboratively, and building connections with the wider church.
The goal of ULN is multi-faceted and involves defining a strategic direction for theological education, identifying the opportunities and strengths of our educational offering and empowering areas of the Church to plan ahead and make good decisions.
“I’ve got two years to create a healthy, collaborative culture; to get people meeting together, and build a level of trust, energy and direction. For me, the most significant step in the next 18 months is to build a stronger connection between what we already have in place and what other areas of the Church can bring to the table. It’s about building confidence that we’re going somewhere. We have a lot to offer and even more to share,” said Duncan.
“As a result of the GFC, the Uniting Church has been forced to re-think everything. This means we need to start looking outside ourselves, our silos, and start recognising how we can all benefit and gain by collaborating with other parts of the Church. Part of my job is to help people recognise they are part of something that’s much bigger,” said Duncan.
As with any new undertaking, there are a number of challenges. “As I see it, there are three main challenges. Firstly, conversations and decision making takes time. So I’m working with the Synod and UME Resource Team to make sure we commit time to that process.
“Secondly, is the time it takes to plan in an academic environment. For example, we are working on a Master of Ministry that will be helpful for continuing education for ministers and pastors. But to get that up and running we have to think two years ahead.
“The third challenge is the ever-present reality that budgeting is tight and it’s not getting easier. So being very aware of the impact that has on staff when they have to make decisions about how they use their time, and recognising some people have more flexibility than others.
“The second stream is formation. We need to shift our focus to providing continuing education for a range of specialist ministries and determine how we best equip people for these roles.
“Thirdly, is having a new generation of Christian communicators. We’re focussed on lay preachers who preach and lead worship, but we’re finding a lot of people under the age of 40 are not focussed on that. They are more interested in being equipped to talk about faith and communicate in many different ways with their communities. I’d like work on this stream to be underway during my time as Director,” states Duncan.
For now, Duncan’s focus is working through a number of processes and laying the foundations for long-term work, and ensuring everyone has the opportunity to connect with Christian gospel and build a sense of meaning and purpose.