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Convocating Together in Ministry

Last week, about 60 ministry agents from across the synod came together for what is traditionally known as the Ministers Convocation with the Moderator.

Convocation is a term that describes the calling together of a formal gathering, usually in academic or ecclesial contexts, for the purposes of focussed discussion, input and recognition of the particular role of those assembled.

In the context of the Qld Synod, the Ministers Convocation is an opportunity for those in Specified Ministry in the UCA (Minister of the Word, Minister of Deacon, Ministry of Pastor) to gather in community and be encouraged in their call.

The theme of this Convocation was “Fit your oxygen mask first”, with the aim of providing Ministry Agents with tools to address their own health first, effectively equipping them to provide adequate care for others.

Over the course of 2 days, we were privileged to hear a diverse range of speakers contributing various perspectives on wellbeing and resilience, mental health first aid, support and services available in times of crisis, as well as strategies for building wellness capacity in a time of uncertainty and change.

What became very clear to me was how the particularity of being a Specified Minister in the UCA can often be forgotten in the chaos of expectation and need that exists within our communities and ministry contexts.

With ministry contexts in the room ranging from pastoral and spiritual care to practical support for family and community breakdown, to companioning alongside illness, aging, disability, emergency work, and education, to leading in large and complex corporate organisations, the role of a Specified Minister is particularly nuanced.

With often undefined and misunderstood expectations for the role of a ministry agent, especially in multi-disciplinary teams, and with a long history of assumptions about what a minister should or should not do, it is not a surprise that ministry has one of the highest rates of burnout of any profession.

I cannot help but wonder that in our current climate of transformation across not only the Qld synod and its entities but also of the wider Act2 work of the National Assembly, there is an even greater need for the church to recognise the role that Specified Ministers play on behalf of the church, in holding and keeping the story of faith alive in the liminal spaces where the world around us dares not to speak.

But in order for this to be a life-giving place to inhabit, Specified Ministers must live out the call of Christ in their own wellbeing and resilience as a witness to what God’s dream of reconciliation for all Creation can be.

Otherwise, the story of hope we are seeking to tell the world is only noise and not a gift.

This is a sobering yet very privileged call, as a ministry agent, to resist the pull of the chaos and instead choose a way of being in the world that audaciously proclaims there is more to life than what we see.

God, may we humble ourselves before you, that you would work in us and through us, that we could indeed say, ‘It is well with my soul’.

God, in your mercy – hear our prayer.

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