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Leaders inspired by belonging

Queensland Uniting Church leaders enjoy the final day of the conference. Photo by Joshua Baldwin

SIXTY FIVE young leaders from all parts of the Uniting Church in Australia emerged inspired from the Uniting Church National Young Adult Leadership Conference in Sydney in February.

The six-day conference brought together young adults from across Australia who were nominated as key leaders in the Uniting Church.

It aimed to recognise, celebrate and develop the gifts and voice of young people in the church with leadership skills, helping them be theologically informed and visionary leaders of the Church.

Run by an Assembly facilitation team (led by Tom Kerr), the event was hosted by Uniting Church President, Rev Alistair Macrae, and Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress Chairperson, Rev Ken Sumner.

Assembly communications manager, Amy Goodhew, was overwhelmed by the atmosphere at the gathering.

"These young leaders are generous of spirit, loud and very, very enthusiastic," she marvelled.

Mr Macrae said apart from being inspired by meeting so many young Church leaders he was impressed by their overall thinking.

"Their focus was not 'what can the church do for young people?' but 'what is God's vision and mission for the Church and how can we be part of it?'

"The enthusiasm, optimism and ideas that these young leaders demonstrated is an encouraging indicator of the future of our Church and a testament to their faith and intelligence," said Mr Macrae.

"I'm looking forward to seeing what actions come out of this meeting of young minds."

Law student and member of Pomona Uniting Church on the Sunshine Coast, Anna Mulcahy, said the conference renewed her hope that the Uniting Church is capable of change and gave her a greater understanding and insight into what "Jesus intends and expects the church to be".

She is exited by the opportunities the Uniting Church provides for her to live out who God has called her to be.

"I have learnt that as a collective group, the young adults of the Uniting Church need to stop waiting for permission to claim our place in the church and start acting like our voice matters," she said.

"I have learnt that my generation in the Uniting Church is fed up with being confi ned and restricted by the decisions of those who have gone before us in the church.

"We greatly desire to burst the Christian bubble that our local churches tend to live in and to start living the Gospel as a church rather than just preaching it.

"We appear to want to make social justice personal to our local congregations rather than just delegating it to our justice

"I have learnt that as the Uniting Church in Australia, we have a lot to be proud of in so many areas but a long way to go in so many others.

"Our congregations need to be better educated in the Basis of Union.

It is unacceptable to have so many people reach their 20s without ever having heard of it and learnt exactly what it means
to be a member of the Uniting Church."

Ms Mulcahy has been left inspired to identify the gifts she can offer the Church both locally and nationally.

"I want to be part of the change that sees our Church stop rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic and instead make
changes that see it transformed into the living embodiment of what Christ intended our churches to be, with those united
in the love of Christ standing shoulder to shoulder regardless of socio-economic background or circumstance, all belonging as a community of love under the grace and provision of God."

Moreton Rivers Presbytery office administrator, Salote Hukehuke, said the conference was inspiring and challenging and left her with a greater appreciation of the Uniting Church as a whole.

"To be honest, I've never heard the term 'young adult' before in the context of ministry," she said.

"I've always heard 'youth' and I thought you were in 'youth' until you were married!

"I'm Tongan and I think a lot of young islanders are at their most vulnerable after they finish high school."

She said one of the biggest things she took away from the conference was a greater understanding of the Uniting Church.

"I learnt more about the Uniting Church in Australia, its structure and various agencies, especially UnitingJustice and UnitingCare; learning a bit more about our Indigenous and Aboriginal brothers and sisters and how life is for them; and,
being reminded of the power of prayer.

"My prayer life was really lousy prior to the conference, so I joined the Prayer Power group for a prayer boost. I got that and
so much more!

"Now it is about starting conversations with my minister, church council and youth about my experiences at the conference
and about how we can start to connect and engage more with our community at Highgate Hill [Brisbane], and connect with
other churches in our presbytery and other Uniting Churches.

"Mostly I've been inspired to strengthen my own relationship with God fi rst every day, because if that is not right, then everything else means nothing."

The conference was designed to have multicultural participation and cross cultural interaction.

Thirteen young indigenous leaders and 15 second generation leaders took part and their many languages were used throughout prayer and worship.

Those gathered delved into what makes us a Uniting Church and were inspired by the Uniting Church's 1977 Statement to the Nation.

The group will produce its own contemporary version in the coming weeks.

UnitingJustice Australia National Director, Rev Elenie Poulos, was a presenter and spoke to the group about national justice work the Assembly undertakes.

"If these young people are an indication of the state of the Uniting Church in Australia, then we are a church truly blessed and we should be very excited not only about our future but about the present," she said.

"I met a room full of young people who are engaged with their church, engaged with the world and passionate about making a difference.

"This was a group of young people who are theologically, culturally and linguistically diverse and spending time with them was a first-hand experience in what a gift this diversity is to the Church.

"We are definitely at our strongest when we value each other in our diff erence, and work together to make the most of our

Participants strongly believe such a gathering should be a regular feature of the Uniting Church's national life.

Equipping people for leadership roles within the Church is part of the Queensland Synod's Vision 2020, Together on the way, enriching community.

By supporting and mentoring these young adults we are enabling them to help sustain the church and assisting them to best use their God-given gifts and passion.

Photo : Queensland Uniting Church leaders enjoy the final day of the conference. Photo by Joshua Baldwin