MInister’s Message

MInister’s Message

COVID-19 continues and so does the uncertainty about what we can and can’t do. The church COVID-19 team is watching the advice carefully and following the guidance of the Victorian government and the VicTas synod. This will frustrate some of you and comfort others, but there is little we can do. At times like these, I find the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr helpful, and I know some of you do too:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

Reinhold Niebuhr

Let’s seek that grace, courage and wisdom as we continue to travel these uncertain times together. In the meantime, let’s remind ourselves of the future we are travelling towards as the new church building grows and grows, as the timber church begins its renovations, and as we begin to plan partnerships, furnishings and who will meet in which room. 

Long before I had even heard of Manningham Uniting Church, you worked together on a statement describing your vision as a church.  That statement says:

Inspired by God, and seeking to emulate the life of Jesus, we will identify and reflect God’s love by creating, participating in, and walking with communities locally, nationally and globally.

This is describing God’s mission, or God’s work here on earth. This mission does not belong to us but to God and is modelled by Jesus and the way he lived. Manningham Uniting Church’s values are to be Christ-centred, risk-taking, relational and hospitable.  These guide the way we respond to the call of God’s mission. 

  • we will follow the example of Jesus
  • we will step out in faith into areas that are unchartered
  • we will work alongside others rather than for others
  • we will offer our hospitality as the body of Christ

Not everything we try will succeed in the way we expect. Some projects may need to cease if they are no longer fulfilling God’s mission. We need to take advice from others who work in different missional areas in order to understand where we might be effective and where we could potentially cause damage. We need to understand the level of our competency and may need to work in partnership with others who are qualified in specific areas. God’s mission is something in which we invest.

We invest our resources – money, skills and time – in God’s mission. We do not expect it to break even financially or make a profit. Great if it does, but that is not the aim. To this end, Manningham Uniting Church chooses to invest in specific missional activities inviting the congregation and wider community to join in. Budgets are set for the missional activities each year and the mission portfolio, which oversees these activities, reports to the Church Council. Good stewardship of the resources we have as a church is the responsibility of Church Council and all the portfolios and groups who work within budgets. This is shared with the congregation.

One current example of mission is Playgroup. As a church, we invest money, time and skills in living out the vision to walk with the community in a way that emulates Jesus and is inspired by God. Playgroup reflects the church’s values through the activities, the behaviour of the volunteers and the way all people are welcomed and included. We don’t expect Playgroup to make a profit or break even and we know it requires volunteers to make it happen but we have a playgroup in order to fulfil God’s mission. A future example which you will see in the new church building and which is still being planned is the café. Again, it will reflect the church’s values through the activities and the way it is run and managed, and we know we will need to invest in it with our time, skills and money in order to fulfil God’s mission. But the aim of the café is to enable us as a church to work missionally, often in areas that are as yet unchartered.

So, despite COVID-19 and the grief and frustration that many of us are feeling, there is much to look forward to in the near future. After so many years of hard work planning the physical building and the community building, discerning where God is calling the church of Manningham Uniting to be, we are at the point of really imagining ourselves walking through the front doors, sitting in the worship spaces, and listening for the guidance of the Spirit. And listening is so much easier to do once the concrete trucks and heavy machinery have moved out, much as we have loved getting to know our builders.

Remember these words in the month ahead:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

Reinhold Niebuhr

Rev Claire