Past success shouldn’t rule out innovation in the future. North Queensland Presbytery minister Rev Garry Hardingham encourages the Uniting Church to continue to be a pioneer in faith and service.
One of the problems of viewing the world through a rear-view mirror is not being able to focus on what’s in front of you.
In April, my fellow ex-flying patrol padre Bob Heathwood, current padre David Ellis and I attended the unveiling of a slide-show at John Flynn Place, the museum celebrating the history of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) and the outback padres that worked alongside them.
It was a wonderful dinner, but there was a strong theme that emerged as speakers took up their places to recall the foundation of the RFDS and what it meant to the people and the church of the time. There emerged a sense that once the RFDS was put in place and the pioneers had done their thing, history was somehow frozen.
And here is the danger for the church.
As someone who came to faith later in his life, not having experienced the church in the so-called “glory days”, I fear the Uniting Church is in danger of slipping into a “what good could ever come out of Nazareth” mentality. We did our bit and now we will just fade off like old soldiers.
There is much we can celebrate: UnitingCare and BlueCare, Lifeline and our hospitals, top-quality schools and childcare centres and myriad other great examples of passion that bore fruit for the wellbeing of our communities. We have the right to be proud of the way we have served God and the world. I think rightly we can afford glimpses into the rear-view mirror.
But we must continue to move forward. To dream, to hope, to vision and to take risks. After all, is this not why the church exists?
Recently in Townsville the little congregation of Wulguru took a big step out in faith by establishing the Holistic Cancer Help Centre, a place where people can come and find nurturing and support in the most difficult time of their lives. In many other congregations we see people beavering away at finding new ways to express Uniting Church faith in the world.
The pioneers and the heroes of our church do not just live in the sepia tones of past glory, they are amongst us now harbouring a spark and coalescing a vision.
In this year, the year of Living the Gospel, let’s refocus on what has made the Uniting Church great in the past so that in generations to come, they may peek back in the rear-view mirror and say, “Now those people had faith, courage, vision and passion.”