What our ministers plan for 2024

What our ministers plan for 2024

Insights caught up with five Uniting Church ministers to find out what their ministry will involve going into 2024.

Rev. Karen Paull: Narooma Uniting Church 

A Deacon’s Perspective 

In February 2023, Rev. Karen Paull, a Disaster Recovery Chaplain, had the opportunity to serve the Mt. Dromedary Parish on the NSW South Coast. Her role involved ministerial leadership in the Parish, with a focus on two remaining congregations and the potential for planting or re-planting others. The Narooma congregation, though small and older, was active in the community, and the Cobargo congregation required a rethinking of how to meet effectively as a smaller group.

As a Deacon, Rev. Paull’s passion lies in outreach and innovation. She appreciates the ongoing outreaches initiated by the Narooma Uniting Church, including a free two-course meal served every Wednesday, a well-managed Op Shop, and three smaller community initiatives: a weekly contemplative walk, a monthly lawn bowls and lunch event, and a monthly labyrinth walk, two of which she co-led. She also witnessed the planting of a monthly Family Church at Cobargo, derived from a community members request. 

“Balancing the demands on my time fairly is challenging. Faithful members of the Church deserve the support of a Minister, and wider community work beckons” said Rev Paull.

As she is one of the rotations of Sunday Service leaders, she finds the lectionary helpful in providing continuity and benefiting from the wisdom of others. “For the congregations, I am a ‘fresh’ voice as my content has a diaconal edge, so whereas the readings are cyclical, the interpretation is different.” 

Rev. Paul expresses gratitude for a restful post-Christmas break, as she anticipates a busy period ahead with development of a significant new initiative, rising pastoral care demands, and the growth of initiatives and partnerships. 

“Ministry is always a juggle. I have great people around me, helping me see the whole picture, including my own energy levels. But most of all I find God to be faithfully managing it all. My job is to listen to Him and follow” she added.

Rev. Geoff Flynn: Tamworth Regional Uniting Churches

Strengthening Community Bonds in Tamworth

Rev. Geoff Flynn, who took up the role of leading the Tamworth Regional Uniting Churches in September 2023, has expressed optimism about the future of the congregations. After a period without a minister, Rev. Flynn’s arrival has brought renewed energy and enthusiasm to the community. He mentions that the Christmas services and Gospel outreach during Country Music Week were well attended, and he looks forward to upcoming celebrations such as Easter and Pentecost.

Rev. Flynn also highlights the importance of worship teams in preparing for services, noting that the use of a lectionary provides a wealth of resources for them to access. He finds the three-year cycle of the lectionary to be enriching, as it allows for new discoveries even in familiar biblical texts.

Looking ahead, he outlined several plans for the year, including calling a second minister to complete the ministry team, integrating various children’s ministries, strengthening ecumenical partnerships, fostering a greater sense of community among volunteers, supporting social justice initiatives, and replanting a community worshipping centre.

“Given the current global and local events, I see the Tamworth Churches through our Op Shops are contributing to social justice and community well-being by recycling clothing and making it available at very affordable prices to those experiencing financial hardship. Our inclusive worship services offer people hope in uncertain times and the consolation that Jesus will return to save our messed-up planet: said Rev. Flynn.

Rev. Heewon Chang: Hope Uniting Church

Navigating Grief and Hope

Reflecting on 20203, Rev. Heewon Chang from Hope Uniting Church, acknowledged the significant challenges her congregation faced, including the referendum and the escalating conflict in Israel and Palestine. She emphasised the importance of crafting spaces of lament during worship and ensuring that these issues were continually reflected in prayers and sermons. 

“The challenge was not to do it as a one-off but to continually hold the issue throughout the period as the situation in Gaza worsened,” said Rev. Chang.

“There were many candle-lightings, writing prayer chains, holding moments of silence…Christmas was hard, especially when you hear that all Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem are cancelled and when you are confronted with the images of Christ in the rubbles, so those realities were reflected in the Christmas sermon, where I had to really unpack what it means for Christ to be born when the world seems so unchanged.”

The theme at Hope Uniting Church this year is ‘Connections – Connecting with God, Connecting with community and connecting with each other’, inspired by last year’s mission planning, where the community expressed a desire to deepen relationships. 

Rev. Chang highlighted the church’s potential to contribute to social justice and community well-being, particularly in raising awareness about the war and occupation in Gaza and advocating for climate justice. He also discussed the cyclical nature of the liturgical calendar and the lectionary, noting that while the stream remains the same, each year brings new interpretations and contexts. 

Rev. Chang shared plans to deepen existing relationships with the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry at the Reconciliation Church in La Perouse and with Mascot UC and build new ones with the local community in 2024.

Rev. Graham Anson: Corrimal Uniting Church

Embracing Change and Growth

Rev. Graham Anson, has served at Corrimal Uniting Church for the past three years. He has been instrumental in fostering an outward, wider community focus within the church. Rev. Anson emphasises the importance of moving from merely helping and serving to genuinely meeting and connecting with others.

“We’ve developed and are living into our mission plan – I see a large part of my role is holding us on this track… We believe community and connection are the antidote to what we think is the great malaise of our time – loneliness and social isolation,” he said.

Rev. Anson’s leadership has centered around the mission plan of “Growing Community and Connection For All.” In their approach to decision-making and evaluation, prioritising nurturing connections and fostering community growth is key. His leadership approach focuses on areas of strength rather than need. This has led to a continuous sprouting of new life, both externally and internally.

Despite the challenges facing many congregations, Rev. Anson remains hopeful about the future of the Corrimal Uniting Church. He highlights the presence of many good-hearted, faithful, and active individuals within the church, which gives him confidence in the years ahead. The recent employment of a Family and Community Worker using Sales Proceeds has already shown promising results.

“I said to the congregation early in my time here that if we are going to go out, let’s not go out with a whimper, let’s go out having a red hot go, and ‘having a go’ we are,” he said.

Looking ahead to 2024, Rev. Anson sees it as a consolidation year. His role will be to lead, preach, and resource the congregation as they continue to nurture connections and grow the community. He considers himself blessed to be part of such a vibrant and dynamic community.

Rev. Andrew Hwang: Sydney Korean Community Church

A Focus on Spiritual Renewal

In 2023, the Sydney Korean Community Church (SKCC) marked its 30th anniversary. Founded at Linfield Chapel, it has served as a spiritual home for the Korean diaspora for three decades. After the departure of the previous long-serving minister, who became a missionary in Paraguay, the church faced the challenge of finding a replacement. Despite the common difficulties faced by Korean churches during such transitions, SKCC followed the proper procedure and entrusted the JNC with the task of finding a new minister. Without any significant challenges, a new minister was inducted, settling into the church and focusing on worship, preaching, and pastoral care to serve as a beacon of Jesus Christ.

In 2024, the church plans to centre its Sunday sermons around the Acts of the Apostles, also known as the Acts of the Holy Spirit, which narrates the birth of the church on Whitsunday. This focus aligns with the preparation for the Fourth Congress on World Evangelism in Korea, where many churches are collaborating to preach from this book.

Rev. Hwang has urged the congregation to adopt eco-friendly practices both at home and in the church. 

“The climate crisis is at a severe level. According to a recent University of Western Australia report, the global temperature has risen by 1.7 degrees Celsius since industrialisation” said Rev. Hwang

He plans to expand this initiative into the local community and has already begun by creating a website for the church where Sunday worship services and other spiritual content will be uploaded.

The church is developing a website to share Sunday worship services and spiritual content. This will be beneficial for those unable to attend in person due to illness, age, or other reasons. The goal is to also provide Christian materials to young people and enable non-face-to-face communication.

Rev. Hwang recently returned from a break in January, during which he planned for the ministry this year, and is now ready to begin anew.

Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, Minister Hwang is preparing to gradually resume church meetings and activities, including small group meetings, prayer meetings, sports activities, and Korean language classes.

Rev. Glenys Biddle: Port Stephens Uniting Church  

Navigating Change with Grace 

Rev. Glenys Biddle, renowned for her adept navigation of change within the church, addressed the challenges faced by the Port Stephens congregation in the recent past, particularly the closure of the Soldiers Point building. The subsequent move to Salamander Bay for worship, albeit a contentious decision, was approached with flexibility, creativity, and a commitment to soliciting feedback.

In her pastoral role, Minister Biddle focuses on empowering mature worshippers, particularly in regions like Tomaree Peninsula which has the largest percentage of people over 55 in the state in its population, encouraging them to contribute their wisdom to societal issues while embracing change actively.

“The beauty and the potential recreational activities of the local area help these mature age people to maintain stronger relationships with their family than is sometimes the case. From the beginning of this placement, I have also encouraged the congregation to actively engage in change so that change is not experienced as an imposition over which people have no input and no control, yet at the same time helping them not to bury their heads in the sand and think that realistically things can remain exactly the same as they always have been,” said Rev. Glenys

Adopting a disciplined approach to preaching, Rev. Biddle utilises the lectionary to address challenging texts and contemporary issues. 

“For me, every worship service is fresh and new because the time, the people and the social context demand that I honour God by preaching in new and fresh ways.” 

During Advent and Lent she looks in detail at how a particular theologian thinks about the birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. This year she is looking at St. Francis and Clair of Assisi, to introduce fresh perspectives on topics like the Cosmic Christ and ecological concerns.

Technological integration in worship is another aspect of Minister Biddle’s approach, incorporating visual elements to engage the senses. Pastorally, she increasingly connects with individuals through text, email, Facebook, and phone calls.

Looking ahead, Rev. Biddle anticipates community-focused events like car boot sales and collaborative efforts with local services. Despite the dynamic nature of ministry, she finds solace in personal practices such as devotion, walking by the beach, playing with the dog, and maintaining close friendships, underscoring the importance of sustaining relationships within the faith community. 

“Ministry is sustained more than anything by the strong relationships that you build with ordinary people who reflect the image of God in some way that is delightful and by the ministry of the whole people of God,” said Rev. Biddle.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top