Later this month some 350 people of the Uniting Church in this state will gather at Alexandra Park Conference Centre for the 32nd Synod in Session. The word “synod” comes from the Greek language: “syn”, meaning together, and “hodos”, meaning a way, a road.
So a synod really is about “together on the way”. Archbishop Mark Coleridge, in talking about the recent Roman Catholic Synod on the Family, also articulated that synods aren’t one-offs; they are a dialogue with those that have happened, and set up the dialogue for the next.
More prosaically, I call synods “a gathering of the tribe”. They are about the business of reporting and deciding, but they are also about catching up with old friends; worshipping and breaking open the scriptures together; hearing the diversity of views that make our church a rich place for reflection; picking up some resources from the bookstore and the trade fair; and opening up space to reflect on the themes that are influencing our life.
The 32nd Synod’s theme (“on purpose”) and the symbol of the runners takes inspiration from Hebrews 12, “being surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with perseverance the race set before us”.
If the church is called into being to be a sign and foretaste of the promised reign of God, then the Synod will be asking “How are we going with that?” “What have we learned that informs our next lap in the race?”
The Synod’s fruitfulness is directly related to our readiness to speak our truth in love and to listen in love; that is how we discern more clearly the word of God that is ever ready to come to us.
Over the past three or four Synods, Together on the way enriching community has been the over-arching theme.
At the 2014 Synod, the members discerned, though not as a formal resolution, the following priorities:
- Develop our worship times as places that were accessible to the non-churched.
- Grow our capability to confess our faith.
- Grow leaders and plant new Christian communities.
- Grow our ministry to young people.
- Ensure we are resourcing each other across the state.
This Synod we’ll hear the message from the other councils as to what they discerned and how they went, and then we’ll discern together again.
It is messy, cyclical and not as direct as some would like, but we are the Uniting Church and we are seeking to live out the vision of the church given to us in the Basis of Union: a vision we believe was inspired by the Spirit, a new gift to the whole church and the Australian people.
Rev David Baker
Moderator, Queensland Synod