Speaking at the end of the 25th Queensland Synod, Bayside Youth Worker Tim Griggs said, “It is exciting, inspiring and challenging to be part of a church that keeps God’s mission and ministry the priority.”
The meeting, held over six days at Carrara on the Gold Coast, was different to previous Synods with a noticeably younger age profile and the seating arranged around 48 round tables.
Ms Betty O’Farrell from Inala, who has been a lay member since the days when the Synod met in the Suncorp Theatre, found the tables a great improvement.
“It’s a chance to really talk with people from ‘out of town’, and hearing their stories is such an inspiration to me,” she said.
Youth and Children’s Ministry Director Mr Michael Jeffrey noted the average age of Synod had dropped.
“This was demonstrated by the numbers who participated in the Charles Farnsworthy Memorial football game,” he said.
Opening the business sessions of the 25th Synod the Moderator Rev Dr David Pitman flagged significant changes that have taken place in the way Synods operate.
He said meetings are no longer about getting as many decisions made “as quickly as we can” and the business of Synod is no longer about people getting their own way.
“We have rejected the notion that the majority should passively listen while the same few speak on almost every issue and that arguments are won by denigrating those who disagree with us,” he said.
Dr Pitman said Synod now meets together as a community of faith, seeking through prayer and conversation to discern the mind of Christ together.
“We should find ways to maximise the participation and contribution of everyone who is present,” he said.
“We are not ready to meet together until the demons of cynicism, distrust, disrespect, fear and doubt have been exorcised from within us by the grace of God and we have been filled afresh with the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Mr Pitman said notwithstanding their own personal convictions members of Synod should listen carefully and respectfully to what others have to say, especially those who hold different views.
“God may well be speaking to us through them!”
Dr Pitman also indicated he would be ensuring the voices of younger, female, Indigenous, and multicultural members of Synod were heard.
Youth delegate Frith Foottit experienced the full gamut of emotion, from initial scepticism and cynicism to hope and expectation.
Rev Lorna Skilton Synod member from Toowoomba said, “The presence and active participation of younger people was inspiring and gives me a sense of hope.”
There was high praise for the Carrara venue at Emmanuel College where the Synod meeting was accommodated in the school sports stadium with other school venues used for meals, food preparation, offices, prayer and meeting spaces.
Synod member Jenny Brecknell from Chapel Hill said, “As a temporarily disabled person in a wheelchair I was delighted to discover that the venue was disability friendly.”
Summing up the Synod Mrs June Rice from Moggill said, “I guess the best part is an adrenalin shot in learning the Uniting Church is on a gigantic mission and hearing the exciting stories of what is happening around the state – praise God.”