Presbyteries foster partnerships for faithful discipleship
The Presbyteries of Ku-ring-gai, Mid North Coast and Canberra Region presented reports at the Synod meeting in Newcastle on September 26.
Mid North Coast Presbytery said it was operating from a three-zone concept “to learn to know each other and to create better ways to implement education”.
The presbytery is “putting primary importance on the development of team approach to ministry”. An appointed ministry agent oversees the zone gatherings and is able to identify opportunities for education.
Mid North Coast believes it is on the cusp of needing to implement different models and forms of worship to meet the needs of the future, addressing such questions as: If people can no longer get to church, how can we take church to them? How do we present a relevant God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to children, young people, and the community as a whole? How do we identify injustice in the community?
Presbytery concerns are around issues of continuing obligations towards governance, reporting and the level of exposure as individuals and as a church; for instance, “We have buildings which have been constructed in a different era which need to meet the new guidelines for OH&S.”
The presbytery said, “Our ageing demographic has an increasing demand for pastoral and spiritual care, crisis care and palliative care. Funerals and follow-up pastoral care have high priority. Under-resourcing is an issue as many ‘learn on the job’. They may not have adequate technological resources or know-how.”
To support laity, Mid North Coast runs workshops on theology, scripture, pastoral, palliative and spiritual care. It has had an educational program to develop lay presiders and lay preachers and is progressing on the ministry of pastor as a viable alternative.
Mid North Coast Presbytery has an evolving EcoMinistry.
The Rev. Dr Jason John shares his time between the congregation of Bellingen and part-time presbytery duties — the latter funded by a current SMRF grant — leading this ministry by establishing new eco-faith communities, deepening existing congregations’ eco-theology and practising and collaborating with others of goodwill outside the church.
He experimented in ways to get people on board — from stories on flyers to ads in the local newspaper — and works from the belief we “have to get out of the building and get outside to connect with the God of life”.
Canberra Region Presbytery focuses on “crossing borders” and highlighted the valuable partnerships it has built; for example, with Housing ACT, UnitingCare Disability and UnitingCare Ageing for the realisation of the Ross Walker Lodge — public housing with mentoring for people with some form of disability.
Speaking about the building Ross Walker Lodge and starting a social service, the Rev. Duncan MacLeod said, “A lot of small churches — we are a congregation of 55 — could think of the use of their land and other resources or skills for community service. Probably a lot congregations are struggling with the question when to say no and when to say yes. Go to your local council or UnitingCare agents; it is not outside the possibilities of small congregations to do something like we did.
“How do we relate to communities? … By travelling with local people on risky paths together.”
Mrs Holly Wright, from Riverina Presbytery, asked if Canberra Region could advise how other presbyteries could create “such amazing resources” as the Ross Walker Lodge.
Mr MacLeod replied, “You have to have the willingness to look beyond what is understood as how we operate in ministry and look who it is you can work in partnership with.”
The presbytery is supporting the development of a local ecumenical partnership between the Uniting and Anglican congregations in the Snowy Mountains. They share a minister, Owen Davies, are collaborating in community engagement and work with Frontier Services to connect with remote locations.
In partnership with the Anglican Diocese of Canberra Goulburn, Canberra Region Presbytery pilots the Mission Shaped Ministry Course. It continues to support staff and volunteers in two universities, ANU and the University of Canberra, in hospitals and regional centres, in the armed forces, in the police force and in prisons.
Miss Sarah Bryan from the Hunter Presbytery asked what Canberra Region was achieving in the area of youth work and tertiary ministry. Mr MacLeod said that area was a bit “at a low ebb” but “we’re looking to establish a new faith community focused on young families in Goulburn.”
Chain Reaction, a creative ministries team based at Weston Creek Uniting, with support from YWAM and congregations from other denominations, is providing encouragement for children’s ministry in the region, interstate and overseas.
The Ku-ring-gai Presbytery made a leap forward in the area of youth ministries with the employment of Ms Joanna Drayton as the SNaK (Sydney North and Ku-ring-gai) Leadership Development Consultant shared by the two presbyteries.
Through her leadership, supportive hubs have been developed for those involved in youth and family ministries; mentoring for leadership development provided and guidance given to workers to access resources and training opportunities.
Ms Drayton said, “We meet young people where they are at: in schools, bowling parks … and pubs! We invest in people, our most important resource. We are discovering extraordinary people with extraordinary talents who will lead this church well into the future. By hanging out with those dudes, we are creating a future for our church.”
The Rev. Christine Bayliss Kelly from Parramatta-Nepean Presbytery said, “Thank you so much for your support, Jo, North Sydney and Ku-ring-gai.”
The Rev. Ann Hogan from Hornsby, presenter of the Ku-ring-gai Presbytery report, took the opportunity to advocate for sharing resources. She pointed out that it was really hard to get rich congregations who were stashed with resources to share with congregations of limited means. She hoped that mentality would change.
This presbytery decided that the best approach to develop a direction for the future is to facilitate the sharing of resources and advocates this belief with their vision statement “Fostering partnerships for faithful discipleship”.