We have a good news story to tell!
As Moderator I am privileged to share with congregations, meet people, and see the Uniting Church in action in many different and varied contexts.
I have shared with the Uniting Church congregations working in cooperation with the Anglicans at Canowindra under the able leadership of the Rev. Margaret Finlay (an ordained Anglican priest). The relationship is valued and strong, the commitment to one another is a positive witness and a good foundation for outreach into the community.
I have spent a morning with the ministry team at Bidwill in the Mount Druitt area and been impressed by the involvement in community work in conjunction with others, the significant use of the church buildings for worship and community activity and the vision to find ways in which the church can help resource people, provide hope, build a sense of pride in their community creating a new image for themselves.
The Rev. John Dacey spoke of the possibility of lay-people hearing the call of God to come and live in the community, help resource the church, discover a new perspective of people often stereotyped in the media, and be enriched by the experience.
Maybe some of you reading this are being called to share in this ministry.
I visited West Epping congregation and was reminded of the amazing development of the Lent Event program which has grown out of one person’s vision and a congregation’s courage in taking it on. People across the globe have benefited through the money raised for Uniting International Mission programs.
The Riverina Presbytery has hosted me over a week for my Moderator’s visitation of that Presbytery. The visit made me very aware of the significant role of the churches in rural communities and the commitment of congregations to maintaining ministry in new enterprising ways.
The drought is not over and I would encourage metropolitan and coastal congregations and organisations to continue their support for the drought appeal.
Our rural chaplains who make recommendations to me about these funds are best placed to help ensure funds raised are used most effectively and where they are most needed.
I participated in the National Ministers’ Conference in Bali and an exposure visit to Java.
The conference was a great opportunity to share with 63 ministers from across Australia, to reflect on the Uniting Church, its Basis of Union, the mission of the church and the role of ordained ministers.
The papers delivered by the Rev. Dr Andrew Dutney, the opportunity to hear from our partner churches in Indonesia, to be exposed to the issues they face in a pluralistic society and to experience their hospitality, blessed us.
I preached in the Klatten Church (not far from Yogyakarta) and was grateful to have the support of Raymond Joso, the pastor of our Indonesian congregations in Sydney.
I believe there has been and continues to be an important role for the Uniting Church to strengthen and deepen its relationships with churches of Indonesia, not only for the sake of the gospel but also that we might be part of a process of growing stronger political ties and encouraging the predominant desire in Indonesia to develop a moderate, democratic and pluralistic society.
The willingness of the Uniting Church to hold a conference in Indonesia despite the Australian Government travel warnings was noted and appreciated by the Indonesian Church.
Although I am impressed by the far-reaching, significant and often under-valued influence of the Uniting Church, my travelling around and the correspondence I receive makes me all too aware of the challenges we face in terms of resourcing the many and significant ministries we have in a church that is declining and ageing.
What are we to do?
I believe we have a story to tell and we need to share the story of what we do and why we do it — it is good news, it is gospel.
I believe there are people who want to hear this story and be a part of it. I am also aware that many congregations support good and worthwhile projects and organisations outside of the Uniting Church, but my experience suggests that we could build a stronger more effective church if some of those resources could be channelled into projects of UIM, ministry in the western part of Sydney and in rural areas.
For my part, having taken teams of people to work among the poor in Mexico and seen the value of that, one of my priorities is going to be investigating with UIM the possibility of similar projects in a country such as Indonesia where we have partner churches.
I wonder what God is calling you to do?