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UnitingWomen conference promotional poster, featuring woman of varying cultures laughing and interacting. Photo was supplied..
This September, women around Australia will gather for the first UnitingWomen conference in Sydney. Photo: Supplied.

Peculiar things we do: Conferences

Why travel to Sydney when you can watch a webinar? Ashley Thompson explores.

In Australia, many Christians wait in anticipation for annual gatherings. We go to great lengths, spending precious leave and flying interstate to listen to keynote speakers whose content is often easily accessible online or in their latest book.

We attend conferences for a variety of reasons, such as professional development, networking and the excitement of visiting a new environment. But there are other less obvious reasons to meet our peers face to face. Consider the creative offbeat conversations that take place over morning tea and the unexpected friendships that may arise. People can surprise us and making ourselves vulnerable can open our eyes to another perspective.

Karen Schloss, a member of Logan Uniting Church south of Brisbane has attended Hillsong Conference in Sydney 19 times.

“I believe when we position ourselves deliberately in conference opportunities, God opens our eyes to what he is doing across the universal church,” says Karen.

One of the biggest criticisms of conferences like Hillsong’s however, is the suggestion they create a “spiritual high” that doesn’t last.

“I have a fairly strong view about people applying this type of label to any conference,” says Karen. “I believe that when people limit their view to that of a ‘spiritual high’ and use this view as a reason for not attending a conference, then they are robbing themselves of an opportunity for God to work deeply in their lives and in turn lessen their potential impact in their community for eternity.”

Rev Melissa Lipsett, Executive Minister at Newlife Uniting Church on the Gold Coast, believes people should spend their conference dollar wisely. Newlife chooses to host to Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit, a two-day event presented via videocast at sites throughout Australia.

“Experiential conferences can provide a great opportunity for people to bond and get to know each other but we host the Global Leadership Summit because we believe empowering leaders is one of the greatest impacts we can make not just in our own community but for the kingdom,” says Melissa.

This year the Uniting Church hosts many different conferences including the Basis of Union conference, Catalyst for Renewal; Preaching for Transformation, UnitingWomen, Queensland’s Synod in Session and the Presidents’ Minister’s conferences.

One comment

  1. Conferences are great and as Ashley pointed out in this article UCA has been involved in many. BUT I think we’re also missing out on a great opportunity. Where are all the people taking leave to spend 5 days at Synod or Assembly? We need more of our young adults (anywhere from 18-50) to come to these important councils of the church to hear the big picture and to experience the same highs of God’s presence amongst the governance of the church. Its not all church politics and boring reports, its about seeing what OUR church is doing as part of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Its also about building realtionships and friendships and getting to know who is responding to God’s call to be a part of leading the UCA forward.

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