Looking for clothes that suit your style?

Looking for clothes that suit your style?

I have an image of the Uniting Church being like a person who has spent a lot of time trying on a whole lot of clothes that just don’t fit, aren’t the right colour, just don’t look good or don’t seem to be the right style.

Think of David, putting on the King’s armour and realising it was not going to work for him in his battle with Goliath. The traditional clothing of the church that has gone before doesn’t fit the Uniting Church for who we are called to be as we witness to the presence and power of God active in the world today.

Last year I experienced the Uniting Church discovering some clothes that really fit who we are. Some are completely new clothes that just fit our style and body shape and some are old clothes that have just needed to be altered to look right.

So what are some of these new clothes?

There is:

The NSW Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network , which the government has given the Uniting Church responsibility for coordinating. This includes writing and implementing a training program for chaplains across denominations and faith groups. The Uniting Church with its ecumenical and inclusive ethos is well placed to provide this coordinating role in the sensitive environment of disaster recovery, a glove that fits the Uniting Church hand.

There is our involvement in the Sydney Alliance, an organisation, which, through the creating of power through building deep relationships within and across unions, community and faith organisations, brings about societal change for the common good. As we build relationships we have the opportunity of sharing our story with people who have no connection with the church and we discover that, amazingly, the clothes we wear attract some of those people. Even more amazingly, as we look at some of their clothes, we become aware that God has been the seamstress. In March take the opportunity to participate in a two-day training session with the Sydney Alliance — it will open your eyes to the way the Spirit of God is working.

The interest in “Fresh Expressions” , a movement looking at how to do church differently but in parallel with the traditional church. Fresh Expressions are often small, relational, creative and conversational groups, maybe respecting the tradition but not being bound by it. As we develop our lay and resource ministry within the Uniting Church we are well placed to explore such possibilities in a church that has a heritage of building many, often small, communities of faith accessible to everyone. We need to clothe ourselves in a new accessibility which is not so much geographical but cultural. This means a church clothed in diversity not uniformity.

Our understanding of God’s mission , as expressed in the Basis of Union, to bring about “the reconciliation and renewal of all creation”. At the end of November I dedicated the water tanks at Springwood Uniting Church, built as an expression of the mission of God. Similar projects can be viewed on UnitingEarthweb Group’s website: www.unitingearthweb.org.au. What a witness to the mission of God it would be if all Uniting Church buildings were clothed in solar panels and water tanks!

The work of chaplains in many settings . I was a guest at a dinner put on by Defence Force Chaplains for heads of churches and as I heard the presentations it became apparent to me that this long-term ministry, which at times causes an ambivalent response within the Uniting Church, is in fact another glove that fits the Uniting Church hand. This is a ministry in a context with largely young people — of many faiths and none — facing serious issues of life, even death, where there is the potential to bear witness to the presence of God. Here is an opportunity for ministers and others to learn how to connect with those who are otherwise not involved in the church.

Let us begin to wear some of these clothes proudly, witness to who we are, and then allow the Holy Spirit to do the rest.

PS: Another Moderator’s Mexico Mission is planned for the first two weeks in January 2011. Through building houses for the poor of Tijuana, be a part of a transforming experience. Why not sponsor a young person, send a group from your church or make it a family holiday with a difference. Expressions of interest welcome.

Niall Reid

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