The book that I’m wondering through Lent with this year is called Wilderness Taunts by Ian Adams. The daily reflections are responding to the demands and challenges of being a hopeful human being in 21st century. It was published in 2016 and I’m quite relieved that the author didn’t have the COVID experience to further colour his ruminations – I’m finding them quite challenging enough!

The book …imagines what might be the taunts that we face now, whenever the light of our hope is confronted by the darkness in the world, and by the shadows within ourselves…  

The whole human community continues to be taunted by the antics of a devastating microbe and it feels as though nothing can be taken for granted anymore. ‘Church’ as we had known it forever has been shaken out of familiar places, patterns and habits and is having to draw on deep reservoirs of faith to sustain hope and discipleship. I confess that somedays I find it easier than others.  

As I contemplate the hopefulness that I see infusing and informing the planning and preparation for Synod 2021 which is due to kick off formally in April, I’m struck by the sheer audacity and tenacity of the church in its determination to gather, witness and work together despite very complex challenges. 

Not surprisingly perhaps, I think a lot about the Synod meeting at the moment – doing something completely differently is peppered with interesting moments! I’ve been reflecting on the hope embodied in recent Synod decisions:

  • Saltbush was a proposal born out of the faithful witness of disciples in rural and regional NSW and a strong desire to see that witness grow; 
  • Pulse was born out of an equally bold hope that the witness of the UCA has something valuable to learn from and share with people in the first third of life (or born after 1970); 
  • Makaratta reiterated and restated the commitment made over many years to walking together with First People and to the Covenant with the UAICC; 
  • Climate – at the last Synod, I was slightly taken aback by the vehemence and passion of young people across the church, including many from our UCA schools, who insisted on being part of the presentation and practically invaded the stage! Grounded as we all are in the story of creation, reconciliation and renewal and given the responsibility to be wise stewards of the earth, the ‘groaning of creation’ cannot go unheard in church. 
  • Finally, Growth – still in my head the most surprising resolution in all my experience of Synod meetings which committed all the councils of the church to reorganizing themselves for growth in discipleship, relationship, impact and number. Of course, COVID 19 has disrupted and delayed some of that reorganization even as it has concentrated attention on the growing thirst in the community for words of hope and promise. 

My hope for this Synod is that we can reaffirm our commitment to directions already set by previous Synods – to rural and regional ministry, to ministry with people born after 1970, to walking together with First Peoples, to being wise stewards of the earth and, in so doing, to growing the witness of the church in all the communities where we serve. What I also hope (quite fervently!) is that we will collectively ‘organise’ ourselves across the whole church to adequately resource the implementation of these initiatives.

I remain convinced – more convinced than ever – that the vision of a contemporary, prophetic and courageous Uniting Church as first imagined in the Basis of Union has a vital witness to make in responding to the dilemmas faced by the whole community and in helping people to navigate the white water of complex transitions.

Always bearing in mind, as Ian Hunt affirms in Wilderness Taunts that:

your future is, if you allow it to be so, just one element in the greater future that is already taking shape. Nurture awareness of the deeper streams that are at work and step into them…

AMEN to that! 

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