A Movement Of The Holy Spirit
Last year, the Moderator, Rev. Myung Hwa Park, undertook a series of gatherings called UTalk, which aimed to connect ministers in a way that would engage and inspire them to share their experiences.
As Rev. Park explains: “The whole idea came about to encourage ministers in their ministry. Ministers are very isolated in many ways and meeting up with others is one way of affirming their sense of call. Sharing about ministry in a place where they can be understood is very important.”
Ministers who have been involved have been really positive about the gatherings.
“One of the things we forget is that ministers are set apart for this ministry,” Rev. Park continues. “Many operate in isolation and the gatherings have enabled sharing of the frustrations, uncertainty and experiences. Moments of enlightenment have been shared and they discover common ground.
“In the future I would like to open the gatherings up to ministers in placement, ministers who are chaplains and specified ministers. I am also planning a Korean-speaking UTalk. In June, we are aiming to have a ministry conference, which will address the issues that have come up from these gatherings.
“I want ministers to feel free to run UTalk in their own contexts; to have facilitated a model that they can share. So the second half of 2016 we will be encouraging people to use this model and continue to share this reflective practice.”
In their own words, ministers share their UTalk experiences below.
It was fun to meet old friends and interesting to hear about the experiences of the present Moderator. It is 21 years since I was Moderator and both UCA and the community in which it lives out its calling are very much changed. In such exciting and challenging times I stand in awe of the work Myung Hwa does and the leadership she gives with such grace and hope and commitment.
Those special UTalk hours were helpful to me, as was my reflection on my 42 years in ministry, including 11 years’ service with the UCA.
We listened well as pre-selected speakers shared briefly a bit of their own stories. I should think many of us listening could identify with sacrifices, pains, and stretching for the love of God. Those who spoke encouraged my own reflection for many days following, reflection which took me inevitably and humbly down Memory Lane.
UTalk meetings might help retirees’ appreciation of their past life choices. It might also increase the important sense of self-worth as mortal ‘standard bearers’ of the Love of Jesus Christ, in these difficult days of various and disturbing conflicts.
When I was heading towards the UTalk gathering for retired ministers, I must say I had no idea how it would feel to be there. Then I walked in and saw all these people, most of whom I had not seen for decades. In the past, I had shared critical moments of my life and ministry with many of them and, when we talked together, the memories and feelings flooded back.
I saw that some people who had been strong leaders were now quite vulnerable and others were simply quietly wise. As I talked with many of them, I looked at the extra years of life on their faces and often heard of journeys which included grieving for lost loved ones. I felt so comfortable and comforted as I shared similar experiences.
I felt very honoured to have been invited to speak about where I am in my life now and when I left the gathering, carried with me so many gifts from people I respect. I give my grateful thanks to our Moderator for initiating such a special event.
As one of the more ancient of the retired ministers, I found it refreshing to have a collective looking-back at our varied ministries. We are all unique people with individual approaches to the mystery of grace; these gatherings gave time for the personal to be revealed, without polemics, but with calm reflection. I was struck by the way humanity shines through ministry. Perhaps it is good for the Church to learn that, for
many ministers, the journey has been painful as well
I am not sure whether our Moderator was helped by our reflections, but we were encouraged by her quiet confidence, which is built on such a wide experience of the family of God.
Can our loved church be UNITING still? We thought that we may indeed unite the gifts of many cultures, even though we falter along the way to the broader unity of Christians — because that is not a small sign of grace.
John A Pender
First up I would like to record my commendation and appreciation of the steps taken by the Moderator to establish this program. I believe this to be a very timely exercise for the life of the Church.
I have participated in two sessions of UTalk workshops. At the first workshop, I was invited to share my reflections on ministry. I made the point that I believed the UCA had embraced an ethos of ‘Doing’ at the expense of ‘Being’. I have been very surprised at the endorsement of that observation both at the workshops and in subsequent communication. It seems to me that a consequence of this is a diminished sense of the sacred and the holy. Essentially, it has to do with the spiritual nurture of the individual.
At the Leura workshop, I found myself in a small group sharing with five other retired ministers. What became painfully obvious was the disconnection these ministers felt from the Church that they had served in ministry.
It was not that they wanted to do more in their retirement, but more that they were a living part of the fellowship of the Church.
There is a way to go with these workshops and part of the challenge is to know where they are taking us in regard to our understanding of ‘being church’ in the world today. Patience is necessary.
In essence I believe there is a need for a period of healing in the life of the Church that allows for the recovery of the life-giving fullness of the Gospel.
The first gathering I attended was in 222 Pitt St, and consisted of many retired ministers. The Moderator was a gracious host and it was fascinating to hear the variety of reflections on ministry that were presented. I enjoyed listening to the experiences of my colleagues and the camaraderie of getting together. Some retreads, like myself, like to dwell in the past, so to go to a Utalk on the Mid-North Coast helped me to stay in touch with what are some of the current issues with which ministers are grappling now.
It pleases me to think that the Moderator has set herself the task of listening to ministers and I hope this will lead her, in her time as Moderator, as she guides the church in her openness and Spirit-led way.
Find out more about UTalk
If you would like to know more about UTalk events planned for this year, contact the Secretariat on 02 8267 4382 or email Sue Willgoss.