On the Sunday morning of Synod I preached on the theme, “Running Free”. It was a sermon about the sinful burdens we choose to carry and how, as a result, our lives and relationships are inevitably damaged.
It was also a clear declaration of the good news that in Jesus Christ we can know the reality of forgiveness and new beginnings and be set free to live as God intends.
You can listen to that sermon (and many other contributions to the life of the Synod) HERE.
The sermon was intended to be a reminder to us all that whenever we gather as the people of God, for whatever reason, we invariably bring some baggage with us. That is why our prayers of confession are such an essential and life-giving dimension of our corporate worship.
We cannot fully worship God, or express our fellowship with one another, while weighed down with guilt, or fear, or prejudice, or unforgiveness, or mistrust, or disrespect, or anger! What we take with us into all our expressions of being church largely determines the outcomes we will experience.
I went to Synod expecting to be inspired by the worship, stimulated by the Bible studies, encouraged by stories from the congregations and the reports provided by our various agencies, commissions and boards, and challenged by proposals charting the future of our ministry and mission. I was not disappointed in regard to any of these matters. As I heard someone say recently in another context, “What we do for people as a church is truly amazing!”
The Synod Celebration, the opportunity to remember and give thanks for the first 30 years of the UCA, was a great event, particularly memorable for the contribution made by about 150 students and staff from three of our schools: Calvary College, Moreton Bay College and Forest Lake College. It was our privilege to have the President and General Secretary of the Assembly with us for this special occasion.
A number of the decisions we made were enormously important! The determination to establish a synod-wide Network for Christian Formation, adequately staffed and resourced, was perhaps the most vital and strategic.
In addition we affirmed the integral place of Multi-Cross Cultural Ministry in the life of our church and the key role our schools can exercise as missional environments, and committed to providing part-time support staff for both these aspects of our work.
We were confronted, yet again, with the strategic nature of chaplaincy in a wide variety of church and community contexts. We were moved by the profound contribution made by the Rev Rronan Gurrawarra, who delivered the Norman and Mary Miller Memorial Lecture.
His insight into conflict resolution, grounded in traditional indigenous culture and practice, was illuminating and timely. It was also significant that we heard Rronan speak in his own language as well as in English.
This was both an invitation to careful and respectful listening, as well as a reminder of the cultural diversity that is such a rich dimension of our life together.
Not all my expectations were fulfilled and I learnt something very important about my own humanity and vulnerability when that occurs.
I also discovered that we are not yet as far advanced on our journey as a church as I had believed.
There is still much to do in nurturing honesty and building bridges of trust and respect across the divides that we have created.
No matter whether we were delighted or disconsolate about certain outcomes, none of us is ever exempted from the obligation of being pilgrims together on the way to the promised end.
As I was myself reminded during Synod: “Once the decision has been made, it becomes our decision!”
The vast majority of those who are reading these words were not members of Synod. Nonetheless, these insights and lessons are relevant for us all.
As I have had cause to say on many occasions, the unity that is ours in Christ transcends our differences and disagreements. It is only in our commitment to live and express that unity that we honour Christ. It is only within the security of that unity that we can speak honestly with one another in a spirit of love and acceptance.
I encouraged the Synod on the first afternoon to take to heart the words of C.H. Dodd, who, in his commentary on John’s Gospel, chapters 13-15, writes, “The implication is that the interchange of intimate conversation among friends… is itself the process of uniting (people) with Christ.”
It is my prayer that we could dare to see all our times of meeting together as a sustained period of intimate conversation among friends, with Jesus in our midst, constantly reminding us that the source and content of our unity lies in mutual service and love for one another.
Photo : The Moderator of the Queensland Synod Rev Dr David Pitman