The theme of “Sow” was at the heart of worship, reflection and business during the second day of Synod in Session. Journey reports.
Synod in Session saw the launch of Project Plenty, a new whole-of-Synod strategic planning exercise that will shape the Synod in the future.
The 18-month process will involve consultation with presbyteries and congregations and collaboration and alignment with agencies and schools.
At the heart of the process is the question: how can we as one church contribute most effectively to God’s mission in Queensland and the world?
As the church considers this question, Moderator Rev David Baker encouraged members to go beyond the “poverty mentality” which has become part of church life.
“I think we are being called to question underlying assumptions, things we have accepted as normative,” said David. “In the midst of the challenges we face as Christian community—the sense of aging, declining, keeping up the assets … the questions I want us to think about is the generosity of God.”
David quoted Paul as he reminded the people of Corinth of their life together in spite of their tensions.
“We are being asked a question in the gospel, do we want to live a life of generous confidence in God that he will fulfil his promise?” said David, acknowledging that the church will be challenged as the process unfolds.
“The end of Easter story is Pentecost, the rebirth of the human family. If we are feeling threatened, that’s a good sign that we are on the road.”
Making mission possible
The important role of the Synod office fundraising and bequests strategy in delivering missional impact across Queensland was highlighted in the first business session.
An inspiring message of how the church can deliver hope, provide opportunities for emerging leaders and grow new communities of God was delivered by the new Mission Possible video.
Called to be a light to the world
The General Secretary Rev Heather den Houting’s report was received by Synod and highlighted the impact that the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and the forthcoming Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability will have on the way we have and will operate as a church in the world.
In her report, Heather said that as a church, the Uniting Church has always responded to caring for the most vulnerable in our community.
“We recognise the call of Christ to be a light to the world in these ways. This call is constantly upon us and is an imperative of our faith. However, we cannot ignore or minimise the stories of how as an institution we have sometimes failed to notice and condemn abusive practices within the life of the church.
“Our call to repentance as the body of Christ is to humbly own our past and always plan for a safe church for all people in the future.”
Heather said that the task of imagining our life together in the future required deep and truthful discernment as a church, asking ourselves who we want to be in the world and how we might participate most fully in the mission of God.
“In this regard particularly, never hesitate to ask the hard questions. This can only add to the strength of our foundations. Now is the time to sow for the next period of our life together.”
Change and growth at Trinity
Rev Gwen Fisher, Chair of the Board for Christian Formation (BCF), described the period since the last Synod as one of change and review in the delivery of ministry education across the Synod.
Gwen highlighted the decision to advise the Adelaide College of Divinity that it would be seeking a new TEQSA accredited provider and the improvement in numbers at Trinity College Queensland.
“In early 2019 the enrolment data for Trinity was 44 students enrolled for Semester One, including four students in the Activate program. This represents a substantial improvement on enrolments over the previous three years,” said Gwen.
“There are 12 students who are candidates for ordination. We achieved a total enrolment in lay education courses of around 158 people during 2018, which is an exponential increase from 40 people in 2016.”
Trinity faculty took the opportunity to launch Trinity on Tap, a new free online learning resource. Each Trinity on Tap resource will include 21 podcasts and a supplementary guidebook containing diagrams, quotes and questions. The first unit, Old Testament on Tap, is now available.
Abundant grace, liberating hope
President Dr Deidre Palmer reiterated the Assembly’s theme for her triennium, “Abundant grace, liberating hope”, and explored its connection to the everyday work of the church.
“This theme highlights for us Christ’s call to be a church that embodies God’s abundant grace, compassion and love in our daily life. The overflowing of God’s abundant grace through us will be seen as we create unity and contribute to a world where people exercise and experience God’s good news of reconciling love, justice, healing and hope.”
Deidre said that the church is called to offer hope.
“In a time where our world is overshadowed by violence, by hatred and suspicion of the other, the church is called to live an alternative narrative of hope and reconciliation.”
Rev Andrew Gunton was named as Moderator-Elect by Synod in Session following the ballot of Synod members.
Andrew has previously served as the Presbytery Minister at Moreton Rivers Presbytery, as well as Associate General Secretary in the Queensland Synod office in an interim capacity. He has also served as a congregational minister in Rockhampton, Arana Hills and Oxley-Darra.
Presbyteries look to mission opportunities
The Presbyteries presentation focused on collaborative and collegial mission and ministry during the period of challenge experienced since the last Synod.
A video on the Presbytery Mission Program shared the needs and opportunities across Queensland. “This will be a priority over the next term, with five presbytery mission project appeals being rolled out through videos, digital media and Journey magazine over the next 18 months,” said Rev Chris Crause, Presbytery Minister for Mary Burnett.