Let’s raise our voices in confidence!
The life of a Moderator is exciting: I am welcomed and fed, listened to and given more respect than I deserve; I go places, attend functions, hear stories, find myself exposed to and challenged by different ideas; and, best of all, I meet faithful people of many differing and interesting hues.
At times I find people who are despondent about the church or disgruntled about something, sometimes with some validity but at other times it seems to have become a pastime.
In such instances, one can almost see the energy draining out of a church. A grumbling church is unlikely to be a growing church, a whining church won’t be a witnessing church, a moaning church won’t be a motivational church. If we must have a grumble, a whine or a moan, for Christ’s sake let it be direct, quick and focused, in a private corner, not spattered all around.
I confess at times I feel despondent, but let us not be apologetic about our particular insights, which highlight the hospitable, generous, inclusive and unconditional gospel of Jesus.
Just the other day I was sitting next to a man in a pew on a celebratory occasion in a church of another denomination and when I introduced myself, unsolicited, he was quick to express his admiration of the Uniting Church, its inclusive and caring nature, its contribution to the debates about social issues, its adaptability to changing times.
This is not a lone experience: I have had this conversation many times.
We need to have confidence in ourselves, to see ourselves as others see us, not those in other denominations but those with whom we seek to relate beyond the church. Time and again the Bible reveals God speaking through the minority voice.
There are so many opportunities for us to make connections, to draw people into the presence of God. I see the opportunities all over the place but I ask myself, “Do we have the confidence to allow who we are to become part of the conversation?”
In this past month I have shared with congregations at Caringbah and Moss Vale and spoken to Judith Dalton, the lay pastor at Eden, all gearing up to be involved in Jesus. All about Life — different congregations with different ways of being in the community thinking about how to talk about the Jesus agenda. Let us be confident to express our experience of Jesus in our way.
I attended the Glebe Café Church’s Get off your arts festival in which all sorts of people from the community were participating. They gained some exposure to the gospel simply by being in a space where the Uniting Church was sponsoring and promoting creativity and by being exposed to a beautiful, contemporary and thought-provoking song of nativity composed and sung by Glen Powell.
I was in the congregation for the Cross Cultural Youth Praise and Worship at Bankstown Uniting Church and was blown away by the rich resource in music and worship offered by young people in the Uniting Church across many cultures. I hope no-one sees our cross-cultural adventure as a problem to grumble about, but as a gift from God that we might offer a new face to the world.
I led the devotions at the African Ministry Gathering and was reminded of the Uniting Church’s strong ministry with refugees and chastened by Ghanaian representatives who said if we were more proactive in making ourselves known there would be others who would want to join the Uniting Church. The implication was that we lack confidence in ourselves.
I had a meeting with representatives of Uniting Network to keep me informed as to the issues being addressed by gay and lesbian Christians within the Uniting Church. I was reminded that — as difficult and painful as it may have been and continues to be for many, because of our willingness to hear the questions being raised — the journey we have been on, revisiting our historical and biblical understanding, is an expression of the gospel we proclaim.
God has given us a voice. Let us be confident in what we have to say.