This was my first experience of Synod, which met over four mostly twelve-hour days recently. I didn’t quite know what to expect, as the general congregational image of Synod which I inherited was of a long unexciting meeting with lots of routine business to transact. I was pleasantly surprised as the program unfolded. Sure, there was a lot of reading to do as reports and proposals were made available in advance. There were approximately 43 reports and 26 proposals to be considered.
The program began each day with devotions, and bible studies and was punctuated with prayer, and my general impression was that I was at a spiritual gathering, not a long boring meeting.
The theme of the gathering was encapsulated in the biblical text ISAIAH 43:19, which was used to encourage us to look forward, not backward.
Proposals to be considered included Safeguarding for people with disabilities, Response to Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying Legislation, Reform of the Community Development Program, Workers from the Pacific on Australian Farms, Statement from the Heart, Greater Inclusion of Adults under 50, and the Disability Action Plan.
As well as reports from the eight presbyteries, reports from Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) Victoria, UAICC Tasmania, Walking Together Group and Synod Ethics Committee.
From the proposals and reports the activity of the Uniting Church in caring for people and promoting social justice could be readily seen. The respect and care for our First Peoples was also prominent.
Response to the Victorian Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) Legislation
The discussion of a Uniting Church response to the introduction of VAD in Victoria was held against a background of the necessity to provide guidance (and indeed, permission) to Epworth Health, Uniting and Uniting Agewell, and the desire to engage in a faithful Christian theological exploration of our response. The extensive consideration resulted in a proposal which was adopted and has subsequently been the subject of a pastoral letter from the Moderator.
The protocol for speakers throughout the four days was for them to address their comments to the assembled Synod members through the Moderator, and to identify themselves, their presbytery or other affiliation, and the particular First Peoples’ land on which they lived and worked.
Overall, I was impressed by the spirit of respect that pervaded the gathering, and the many dedicated people who gave their time and talents to the activities of the Uniting Church. As a first-timer I took some inspiration from my four long days at Synod 2019. Maybe the gloss had rubbed off somewhat for some seasoned Synod veterans, but I like to think not.
Living and working (sometimes) on the land of the Wurundjeri people.