The 34th Synod at Alexandra Park Conference Centre on Friday 17 May 2019 was officially opened by the Moderator Rev David Baker. Journey reports.
Moderator Rev David Baker welcomed Assembly President Dr Deirdre Palmer and Assembly General Secretary Colleen Geyer, as well as visitors from the Ekaristi Church in Dili, Timor-Leste, Bevinda Pinto and Isac de Jesus.
A powerful Welcome to Country by the traditional Gabi Gabi owners, represented by Lyndon Davis and three other dancers began with the distinctive haunting sounds of the didgeridoo. The group shared local stories, songs and dances linked to Indigenous knowledge and experience of the region.
Communities of faith
The Moderator prefaced his address by thanking the Synod in Session major sponsor Wesley Mission Queensland.
In his address he called on the church to remember the core and heart of our life together, and to never underestimate our distinctiveness.
“We are communities of faith gathered around,” said David.
“Our fundamental purpose is people, not property or money, our call … Jesus Christ is what we have to offer, not ourselves. We are called to be communities of faith that bear witness to God’s coming reign.”
In his report to Synod, David said that the greatest challenge the church faces “is that we worry about ourselves; that we seek to shape our life in a way that addresses only our concerns and fears about our life”.
“To be the church here is to be a people who have confidence and hope for the life of the world; to believe that we have to offer the promise and the challenge of the kingdom of God to the life of Queensland.”
Reports to Synod from the Synod Ecumenical Relationships Committee and the Synod Inter-faith Relationships Committee were included in the day’s proceedings.
Report highlights included the Queensland launch of the study guide to the Assembly document Friendship in the Presence of Difference in 2018, and the hosting of an Iftar Dinner at the Uniting Church Centre in June 2018 during Ramadan in partnership with the Islamic Council of Queensland.
In their report, Synod Inter-faith Relationships Committee Secretary Rev Heather Griffith said “This work is about building relationships, creating friendships, not arguing points of belief. Working in the interfaith space actually enables us to express our own Christian convictions with more clarity and greater love and respect for those who hold to other faith positions.”
Covenant in action
The opening session also saw the launch of the newly released Covenant Action Plan, the culmination of two years of work. Project workers Natalie Lewis and Erin Mawhinney described the plan as the next chapter in the Synod’s commitment to ongoing engagement with First Peoples.
“Over next ten years, the vision is to fully express covenant in all we do, in strong, healthy and intentional relationships.”
The national covenanting process commenced in July 1994 with the reading of the Covenant Statement by the President of the Uniting Church Assembly to the Chairperson of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.
Speaking to Journey, Rev Kath Behan, Director of Mission Engagement, described engagement with First and Second Peoples as “at the heart and soul of the Uniting Church’s DNA”.
“This Covenant Action Plan builds on the last 42 years of the Uniting Church acknowledging the significant place of First Peoples.”
Called to seek the kingdom
The opening worship on Friday evening was led by Rev Catherine Solomon and her team.
Worship and communion commenced with the room joining in song for Forever Reign; the worship band was a quartet of young people including Trinity College Queensland’s New Testament Lecturer Dr John Frederick.
Moderator Rev David Baker, in his reflection on the Gospel readings, spoke about the call to seek the kingdom of God rather than worrying about the details of our daily lives.
“This is a passage about worrying about the right thing, what’s worth worrying about,” said David. “I see this as a call to not get lost in the trivial.”
He used the quote “Configure your life to aim for the highest possible good”, adding that “church is a place we can help people to configure their lives”.
“We do have something to offer, a vision of the kingdom.”
David left the audience with much to consider for the next few days of business:
“So I leave this thought with you, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’; how are we seeking that highest gospel good, how are we being ready to take the journey of discipleship that inevitably becomes part of that, the journey of speaking about our hope but engaging with it, the journey of letting go of the outcome that we want and being ready to let God create something new amongst us.
“I pray that as we journey through this Synod and from this Synod into our life that we will be truly seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness..”