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Boundary riding – Church and Community

In a new column for Journey, Rev Peter Armstrong—UnitingCare Queensland’s Associate Director of Mission—shares the inspirational stories from around the state of community partnerships and how congregations are living out the church’s call to make a positive difference in society.

“There are times around here when the only people at a funeral are us and maybe the Police.”
[A Bluecare Nurse from regional Queensland]

“Thanks for being there for me since I was nine-years-old. I just wanted to let you know that I have just graduated from university with an engineering degree.”
[A client of UnitingCare’s Commonwealth Young Carers Support Scheme]

“It’s as simple as sitting with a person and reading the Bible. They calm down, become focussed and there is a special connection.”
[A church volunteer serving an older person with dementia in residential aged care]

“If we can offer people social, physical and spiritual care then we can be a place not just for community but with community and of community.”
[A vision for a local church, building new facilities, in partnership with UnitingCare]

The call of the Uniting Church in 1977 as proclaimed at the inaugural worship service says, “As a people journeying together we affirm our calling under God: to preach Christ the risen crucified one and confess him as Lord; to bear witness to the unity of faith and life in Christ, rising above cultural, economic, national and racial boundaries; to engage in fearless prophetic ministry in relation to social evils which deny God’s active will for justice and peace; to act with God alongside the oppressed, the hurt and the poor; to accept responsibility for the wise use and conservation of the finite resources of this earth for the benefit of all; to recognise, treasure and use the gifts of the Spirit given to all God’s people for ministering; and to live a creative, adventurous life of faith, characterised by openness, flexibility, hope and joy.”

This call draws us, as a church, into the life and lives of our local communities. It compels us to be in relationship with our neighbours, friends, strangers, foreigners and enemies. We live out this calling through our worship and witness and service.

Over the last 42 years the Uniting Church has followed this call in to community with courage, compassion, discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. We have seen the development and changes in worship, witness and service through this period, and no doubt there will be more developments and changes to come.

The changing mix of volunteering, ministry, paid staff, funding, generosity, people, property and programs will continue. I don’t know for sure what this will all look like in another 42 years but what I do know is that our offering to the wider community will be better if we do this together across all of these differences. It will be community partnerships that will make the biggest difference in individuals, families and communities as the church is a neighbour where we are.

It is not lost on me that when Jesus wanted to talk about being a neighbour (in Luke 10:30–35) he told the story of community partnerships of care …

“A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ ”

In the story is a person not of faith, a volunteer, a paid person, a property fit for purpose and the extension of service delivery into the future with only a promise and hope of being funded. Sounds familiar doesn’t it.

In future “Boundary riding” Journey articles I look forward to sharing stories and ideas of community partnership and hopefully fire up our call, as the Uniting Church, to ride the boundaries in our communities—where God’s kingdom may be near and life in all its fullness experienced.

Rev Peter Armstrong is a Uniting Church minister in placement at UnitingCare Queensland in the role of Associate Director of Mission – Community Partnerships. If you would like to talk about how you and your congregation can be in community partnership with UnitingCare, please phone Peter on 0418 433 193 or email peter.armstrong@ucareqld.com.au

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