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Preparing to feed our thirst

AS I WRITE this I am preparing to travel to Sydney to attend the 12th Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia.

At the forefront of my mind are the questions, “How will this Assembly impact upon our life in Queensland?” and “How is it relevant to our current financial situation?”

I was heartened to read the article about our new President of the Assembly in the last Journey.

His Assembly theme Living Water, Thirsty Land and his question “Do we go into shutdown and fear mode, or consider that God wants us to do and be something different” resonated with my own thinking about our life and ministry together.

However the Assembly’s vision will not make this a reality unless each congregation seeks to live out its calling with passion and creativity.

On the Way Together was a theme that I offered to the 2008 Synod. It turned out to be appropriate in the light of our financial situation. However it too needs to be embraced as we re-shape our sense of what it means to be the Uniting Church in Queensland.

We struggle against fragmentation. We can all find ourselves swamped by the issues that confront our congregation, our presbytery, our UnitingCare agency or within the Synod and forget that each part is one organ or limb in the body of Christ.

The fear and pessimism created by the GFC and the ageing of our church can cause us to lose our sense of calling. We see ourselves competing with each other for limited resources; each one fighting to hold onto the resources we currently hold at our disposal.

We need to remember Paul’s words; when one part of the body suffers we suffer together and when one part rejoices we rejoice together. Without recognising it, we find ourselves operating as if there is a hierarchy of councils in the Church and we look to the Assembly or Synod to provide answers for us.

We expect the President or Moderator to tell us how to solve the Church’s problems. However, within our Uniting Church polity, the answers need to come from congregations and those who serve on the frontlines of our agencies.

I invite you to consider with me some questions that might help us take bold steps together.

How is God calling your congregation to make his kingdom visible where you are?

Most of our congregations were established by people with creativity and passion, which drove them to step out into new places so people might hear the message of Christ.

What are the new ways Christ is calling you to engage in worship, witness and service? Do you share the passion of our forebears to see lives transformed by Christ?

How do you link with other congregations in your region, supporting one another and sharing resources so that we might be more effective?

How can your presbytery be more effective in supporting you and equipping you in your task? What might the Synod do to enhance your mission?

Are there opportunities to partner with a UnitingCare agency in serving your community in the name of Christ?

Is there a school associated with the Uniting Church that might value your partnership in mission? How might the Moderator assist you?

As you look beyond the Uniting Church to work with other denominations, are there resources of the Assembly Christian Unity Working Group that might help that co-operation? If you were to look overseas, can UnitingWorld provide wisdom and support in building links with our partner churches?

If we stopped seeing the councils of the Uniting Church as administrative bodies or controlling authorities, we would find ourselves surrounded by a wealth of resources that could fire up local imagination.
When the Basis of Union speaks of the congregation being “the embodiment in one place of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, worshipping, witnessing and serving as a fellowship of the Spirit in Christ”, it does not intend us to believe that the congregation is the whole church.

We can only participate fully in the mission of God when we recognise our own limitations and look at ways we can make the pilgrim journey together.

The new President of the Assembly has drawn our attention to the deep spiritual thirst that pervades our nation and reminds us that we, who have received of the living water, are commissioned to share that living water in a thirsty land.

God is still seeking to reconcile the world to himself, and he has chosen to invite us to share with Christ in that mission. Let us listen to that call and respond in trust and obedience.