Synod Meeting 2014: Highlights from Day 1
Shaping the Agenda at Synod
The Rev. Chris Budden, representative of the Business Committee for the Synod Meeting suggested that, for the first time members of Synod could shape the agenda and set priorities for sessions that they felt had higher priorities for conversation and deliberation.
Good News from Day 1
Good News segments throughout the day dealt with such diverse subjects as:
- Sustainable care for our disability community. This was a moving UntingCare segment about client services and lives transformed through their disability services. UnitingCare Ageing is making positive change in people’s lives.
- Community Development: Highlights of this segment included Gulargambone Women’s Group and the community development work done at Manning Uniting Church.
- Uniting Women conference: This celebratory highlight of the recently successful conference designed for and by women of the Uniting Church. Speakers shared their moving stories and this was a conference of inclusive voices.
Uncommon Voices : 1 Kings 19:9-18
The first of the Bible Studies were presented by the Rev. Jione Havea with Hanuatauna Onzem, Mariana Waqa, Leitū Letitia Havea, Tau’alofa Anga’aelangi and Hee Won Chang. This moving study highlighted the need for finding a voice for the voiceless in our community of faith.
It asked many confronting questions. Can we make room for the still small voice? Is there space for the diversity of gifts in our community, because one size doesn’t fit all? Does our definition of the Common Good include the uncommon voices? “Are our voices pointless whispers” – do young people fit the definition of the Common Good. Does our definition of Common Good include LGBT people? Is our Common Good tokenistic? Which voices do we ignore and which voices do we listen to? Over the coming days Rev. Havea and his team will help us understand the nature of the Common Good.
Hanuatauna Onzem also presented a moving and powerful piece called the Illusion of Inclusion, and the artwork “Come Out” as part of the first Bible study Uncommon Voices.
Ex-Moderator’s Reflection: Rev Dr Brian Brown
The Rev. Dr Brian Brown spoke of the incredible privilege to serve the Church for three years. “My experience over this time has strengthened my faith and encouragement, that has been tangible. I believe all Christian mission and witness begins when Christ says, “Follow me.” I am full of hope for the future of The Uniting Church in Australia. God can use us to make a difference. Many people ask me what the Moderator does. I’ve finally found a description; to Moderate the powerful and argue for the weak.”
The Rev. Nicole Fleming spoke about Rev Dr Brown’s contribution as Moderator for the last three years. “You have turned up as your genuine self in all you do. You have exercised a public and inspiring ministry. You have been an agent of hope and change, modelling hospitality and inclusive love. We pray for you and Helen.”
Education, Formation and Discipleship
Duncan MacLeod spoke of a shift in the way education and discipleship will be done. “Adaptive solutions that take us to the heart of who we are as the people of God. The work of Theological education is done at the grass roots,” he explained. “Theological education is at the heart of congregational ministry. We are calling it the Uniting Learning Network – across the Synod there are hubs of education and discipleship. We are reframing the way we understand the role of every member as a theological trainer and educator. Resourcing these nodes of learning is key. We want to recapture the original vision of the Centre for Ministry.”
The true treasure of the church
In a day filled with talk about property and setting the agenda, the meeting for day one concluded with Ben Myers encouraging us to think about the true treasure of the church.
“The display cabinet is not the treasure of the Church. What is the missional use of property?” he said. “In everything we do we are pressing towards a clear expression of the good news of our Lord. Our lives are constantly pressing towards an articulation of the Gospel. The Gospel is our treasure after all.”
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