SOME YEARS ago I heard an interview with a farmer who said he had changed from being a cattle producer to being a
“preserver of soil”.
For years he had focused on producing cattle as efficiently and cost effectively as possible.
He kept data about the amount of fertilizer he used to keep his farm producing.
He knew the most cost effective fodder to use and made sure that he cleared as much land as possible to grow the most feed.
He had data about the rates of growth of the different cattle breeds and he knew just what it cost to produce every kilo of
Then he realised that his land was degrading.
He realised that if he continued his current practices, it would not be long before his land would not be productive.
So he focused on the wellbeing of his soil, not on the cattle.
Now he kept data about the soil composition and about how various grasses and legumes impacted on the soil.
He took care of the waterways and revised all his land management practices so that everything he did nourished the soil.
He planted tress to help prevent erosion and made sure his stocking practices did not compact the soil too much.
The by-product of this change of focus was that his cattle were healthier and more valuable and he was now making a much better return from his farm.
He had created a sustainable cattle farm.
We are in the situation at present where environmental sustainability is being seen as increasing costs to everyone, from
miners, to primary producers, to consumers.
I am not sure if this will be a long term reality or if once we have made some significant changes we might fi nd that we are
all much better off , even if it does increase our expenses.
However, I am most interested to consider how what I learnt from that “preserver of soil” can help us sustain the Church.
For many years now we in the Uniting Church have been focused on how we grow the church.
How do we reach more people and encourage them to join us?
How do we incorporate more people into the congregations?
What do we need to change to attract younger members?
The financial shock that confronted the Synod in 2008 has caused us to take a long hard look at what it means to be a healthy, mission focused, sustainable church.
In a social context that regards the Church as largely irrelevant, it is confronting to be asked to consider how the church faithfully fulfils its calling.
The last Synod considered the question, “What sort of church is God calling us to be?”
We expressed our answer as: Uniting in Christ: acting with love; living with hope; witnessing in faith; working for justice.
In adopting this statement of Call, we identified five Gospel Values that we believed were important at this time: faithfulness, compassion, humility, truthfulness and justice.
These values take our attention off the issue of “How do we get more people?” to “Who are we called to be?”
It is focusing on the soil not the cattle.
Instead of measuring our effectiveness by counting the people who come to our worship services, we are considering our
effectiveness by asking if we are growing more like Christ.
The Together on the way, enriching community journey is about ensuring that we are becoming a united community of disciples growing in our own relationship with God and one another so that all within our church fi nd themselves being concerned about how they participate with Christ in reconciling the world with God.
This reconciling work encompasses an engagement with the whole of creation.
As we focus on being a faithful, mission focused community, numerical growth will be a by-product.
The Together on the way journey is not about making sure everyone is doing things the same way or toeing some party line.
It is about renewing the Uniting Church in Queensland so that we are all focused on making Christ known individually and
The financial shock that confronted the Synod in 2008 has caused us to take a long hard look at what it means to be a
healthy, mission focused, sustainable church.
Photo : Rev Bruce Johnson (Moderator)