It was a cold winters day. The phone rang. “Bob here,” said the voice. “We are having a dinner on Sunday night. Food and a nice wine provided. Why don’t you join us”? I went, found people from other nearby congregations talking about merging. I soon learnt merging was a difficult word. Sharing resources or working together were more acceptable phrases. As I reflect, I am tempted to do some research. But no, that will only sanitise my thoughts. It all comes down to another phrase, “I remember”.
“I remember” thinking it would be a good idea to come together. I thought how easy this is. Later, I realise many in our community had one idea. That idea was their idea, or their own faith community’s idea, of coming together. There were at least four different ideas reflecting many years of doing things their way in their faith community. Being a Uniting Church was no guarantee all were Uniting. Those different experiences through the process of coming together have echoed the wisdom of those who came before us when they called us a Uniting Church. We are still Uniting.
“I remember” a special meeting called to which four men were invited. An impasse had been reached by a group working on the MUC governance model. It was said, the words ‘Operations Manager’ was not a role identified in a congregation in the Uniting Church. In a moment of change, those four men shared their common view of the importance of this role moving forward at MUC. This role, under another name, was built into the governance model.
“I remember” my first meeting with Jason. I was asked to attend a meeting at Westfield Drive. After the meeting I had an opportunity to have a conversation with Jason. I do not remember what the conversation was about. But I do remember his quiet nature and his absolute support and encouragement. I knew at that moment Jason was a strong supporter of ‘coming together’. Jason was a steady hand, a quiet voice, always encouraging in a turbulent sea.
“I remember” the day I spoke with Natalie after church. “What’s the possibility of meeting with people in the Synod Office about property and buildings”? I asked. Natalie’s response was instant. “When do you want to meet”? It was the first time a vision of what might be, flashed by me on a white board. It became known as the Asset Strategy Program (ASP). This vague idea, became a living, breathing, vision for the future. A vehicle that gave shape, distilled dreams, and created a framework to imagine a sustainable mission to this community well into the future.
“I remember” the day the congregation voted to accept the governance model that had been developed by a small, energetic group of people. They came together to share ideas, to build on their ideas, to give substance to their dreams for the future. At the heart of the governance model was one council, one congregation. This was a courageous decision for the congregations to make.
It has been over 10 years. Memories have a wonderful way of creating another story which sits alongside the reality of that time. Then there is that question, “Where is God in my memory of these times? As I sat with Jason chatting, him encouraging, we talked about those moments when, out of nowhere, came a moment. It was a wink from God, a reassurance, that through the tough times, the disappointments, God rode the roller-coaster with us. Always present, supporting, offering Hope. I see the opening of the new Templestowe Community Centre and Uniting Church building as not an end, or a beginning. It is simply a moment in time for a pilgrim people, always on the way to a promised goal.