Bob and I along with Rev Claire and John attended the 2019 VicTas Synod meeting in early July
I always return from a Synod meeting on a ‘high’ and wishing that more members of the congregation share in the same experience. It is wonderful to witness the enormous breadth of the wider Uniting Church’s work and to see the spirit of God working amidst robust debate as the blue and yellow cards of the consensus method of decision slowly give way to orange to arrive at consensus, (although agreement or a formal majority vote is occasionally required).
Each day began and ended with worship and half an hour each day was spent in Bible study, this synod led by Rev Liz Boase from Uniting College, Adelaide.
The theme of Synod sprang from Isaiah 43:19, which says: “See I am doing a new thing. Now it springs up. Do you perceive it?”
In the bible study over the four days, using this and other passages, we were asked to consider the directions we choose to follow in the church – Upwards, Downwards, Inwards, Outwards. It was a most relevant exploration, one we hope may be offered within our MUC congregation in the near future.
The major proposal was UCA’s response to Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation. We worked in two, two-hour working group and also two lengthy plenary sessions involving all 270 members. It was quite moving as people bravely expressed their passionate feelings around this sensitive issue. Consensus was ultimately reached after the proposal was refined and reworked with assistance from a Facilitation Group working around the clock. The final agreed Resolution is available on the UCA VicTas website (www.ucavictas.org.au) and a pastoral letter to the congregation from the new Moderator Rev Denise Liersch, will follow.
Being NAIDOC week, it was inspiring to hear about the work of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress in both Victoria and Tasmania. Alison Overeen, Centre manager at Leprene, Tasmania was particularly inspiring. She spoke passionately, saying that the work of hearing indigenous voices speaking the truth and pursuing a treaty should be part of the church’s core business! Synod resolved to support the 2017 Statement of the Heart made at Uluru as the preferred pathway towards reconciliation.
Another moving event was the launch of the UCA Vic/Tas Disability Action Plan developed under the leadership of Rev (Deacon) Andy Calder, Synod Disability Inclusion Advocate. Meredith Allan, who uses a computer to give voice to the words she types, spoke. Meredith had just returned from addressing the United Nations on disability inclusion. The Plan was launched by Dr Colleen Pearce, Victoria’s Public Advocate and is available at our worship locations.
Perhaps the overriding takeaway from Synod was that the church remains in a precarious position in terms of its sustainability. The capacity to maintain and grow mission is dependent upon the release, for missional purposes, of underutilised property within congregations and presbyteries. We are asset rich and cash poor. In the words of Rev Dr Jenny Byrne “It’s raining”!
Interestingly, MUC’s stewardship in reimagining our property resources for local mission, at the same time releasing resources for mission within the wider church, was on display.
Another proposal addressed the ‘missing generation’ of 30-50 year olds in church leadership. A reworked resolution calls for exploring new ways of doing church in order to re-engage with the under-50’s and aim towards 30% of members at the next Synod meeting being under 50!
The work of the JIM Cluster led by Dr Mark Zirnsak is always interesting and on this occasion we addressed and resolved a proposal around fairness and justice for Pacific Island workers on Australian farms.
The work of Uniting, Uniting AgeWell and Uniting Housing Aust. was explored in novel ‘Choose your own Adventure’ sessions. In a session on Chaplaincy I was moved by stories about our Uniting Church Chaplain, Cath McKinney in Victoria’s two women’s prisons and hope MUC can become involved in supporting her work,
A group of 5 young adults summed up each day’s events with a theological reflection in such a wonderful way that we can be assured that with leaders such as these the church is in good shape!
The message of Synod’s concluding session was …. “we are in a different space, a different paradigm, where our community looks different and our mission looks different and in this context God enters into our expression of great love and suffering, right into our midst, and births new life”
For a video recap go to https://victas.uca.org.au/see-synod-for-yourself-with-this-video-recap/