UME: Extensive, varied, exciting
Now 15 months old, Uniting Mission and Education is showing that collaboration is not only possible – it is also beneficial.
Executive Director the Rev. Kath Merrifield said consolidating the new team and its priorities has taken time but UME is making progress toward articulating how the church can work and engage with people differently.
“Our journey has not always been easy and in lots of ways the work has just begun,” Ms Merrifield said.
UME assists the church to provide education, theological insight, strategy, research and resources for leadership, initiatives, discipleship, ministry and mission.
Achievements in the first 15 months included:
- The resourcing team has conducted over 45 workshops/training activities and an additional four events;
- Connecting with more than 500 leaders across the Synod in every presbytery;
- Each UME consultant has visited around eight presbyteries in the year including 500 individual congregations;
- Gathering Uniting Church parish missions together to share stories, offer support and encouragement;
- In June UME brought together representatives from the UME board, Ministerial Education Board, UTC faculty and the UME resourcing team to explore ways of developing a Synod vision for theological education, resulting in changes to the shape and responsibilities of the UME and the Ministerial Education Board;
- Struggled with how to resource ministerial opportunities and how to make better decisions around ministerial priorities.
UME presented Synod with a video report covering its work with UAICC, Corrimal Uniting Church, Goulburn Uniting Church, parish missions, university mission workers, schools, colleges and learning institutions including the Margaret Jurd College.
UME has worked with rural presbyteries and congregations to offer education, training and opportunities for isolated people to come together through the UME resourcing team.
Questions from the floor included concerns that not enough was being offered in lay preacher training since funding had been cut. A member of Synod requested more lay training, especially for Tongan and other migrant ethnic church communities. Another asked about increased online and correspondence options for study outside Sydney.
Ms Merrifield said it had taken some time to gain a clear picture of the situation in congregations and that UME’s focus initially had been on providing much needed rural training but that online and cross-cultural training resources were on the agenda for attention in the future.
Emma Parr said in her line of work (Safe Churches training) much of the training was best done face-to-face to ensure people were resourced rather than simply instructed to obey Synod policy.
Another question asked how UME was supporting ministry with young people. Ms Merrifield pointed to designated staff member Bradon French, Next Generation Consultant, and said dimensions of Graham Anson’s work also dealt with youth.
There were also concerns about recent media coverage regarding incidents at Wesley College and measures being taken to ensure Uniting Church ethos, identity and mission were taken seriously inside Uniting Church schools.
Ms Merrifield said the Wesley College allegations had been referred to an investigator. She said the church had a voice in school councils, including Wesley College, and she was confident that, through that involvement, Uniting Church ethos was being made clear to, and within, Uniting Church schools.