Professor Rod Jensen, former chair of the Ministerial Education Board and lifelong active layman in the Methodist and Uniting Churches, passed away on Sunday 23 August.
Prof Jensen was an inspiration to many people who have wanted the church to engage more intentionally with contemporary society, to make appropriate adaptations and changes that would address the obvious fall in worship attendances and the aging of congregations.
After comprehensively researching ‘the problem’, he published his findings and reflections in Two Small Books on Laypeople and the Church. In essence, he called upon the laypeople of the Uniting Church to take responsibility for leading the church to position itself for a rapidly changing world.
He also challenged the clergy and leaders of the Christian church to come to terms with its decline in positive and effective ways.
Many lay people heard this call and as soon as Rod’s book was released, they formed the Uniting Church Lay Forum, who under Rod’s leadership and encouragement identified the central themes for renewal of the Uniting Church as:
The need to present the Christian message in a manner consistent with the experience and insights of modern society
The need to appeal to the contemporary generations of younger groups
The need to eliminate the divisiveness of ideological splits in the church by the encouragement of diversity within and between congregations and in methods of ministry
The need to engage the laity in open and frank discussions of different theological developments and approaches to worship
The need to interpret the Christian message in the light of developments in modern science and technology
The need to cultivate spirituality rather than religion in our churches.
This enterprise has begun.
The Lay Forum is well and truly established and Rod’s founding influence, commitment to working with all stakeholders in a supportive and sensitive way, his love of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, his writing and research and indefatigable faith in humankind will sustain and inspire the Forum for a very long time.
In Rod’s own words the nucleus and momentum for change must begin with us (the lay people of the church).
Thank you Rod for your friendship, knowledge and example.
Paul Inglis is a Community Minister at the Dayboro/Mt Mee Uniting Church