The final day of the 34 Synod at Alexandra Park Conference Centre signalled the wrap-up of business, the presentations of agency reports and closing worship. Journey reports.
Wesley Mission Queensland CEO Geoff Batkin and Rev Dr Peter Hobson Superintendent Minister presented the Wesley Mission Queensland (WMQ) report to Synod.
Geoff began by honouring the ministry of former Superintendent Minister Rev Lyn Burden, who served Albert St Uniting Church and WMQ for almost 12 years, and welcoming Peter.
“I see so many compelling stories how the Uniting Church responds to people in need through the power of community and collaboration,” Geoff told Synod. “The WMQ family includes over 3000 staff from more than 50 countries and more than 1500 volunteers; over the course of each year our services touch the lives of more than 100,000 people in need—children, young people, people living disability or mental illness, families and also older people.”
Since the last Synod, WMQ has continued on a path of planned and responsive growth in response to emerging community need. This entails a program of redevelopment and/or significant renovation of older aged care homes, growing service responses for people living with disability or mental illness, growing support services for palliative and end-of-life care services (Hummingbird House and Hopewell Hospice and Paradise Kids) and expanding retirement living offerings (Rosemount at Sinnamon Park).
Synod members saw elements of the work of WMQ through videos on the ORCA project, Hummingbird House, Hopewell Hospice and Paradise Kids, and the new church plant Newlife Brisbane at Albert St Uniting Church.
In his presentation, Geoff outlined the challenges of delivering aged care and the hope that the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety would act to ensure the viability of this sector.
“The overwhelming message is that there is not enough staff, and that means there is not enough funding to provide the number and quality and training of staff that our oldest, most vulnerable residents need,” he said.
Geoff also highlighted WMQ’s commitment over the next five years to partnering with Uniting Church congregations to provide supported disability accommodation options for people with high and complex care needs.
UnitingCare Queensland sets clear goals for challenging times
The UnitingCare Queensland was introduced by Chair Nigel Alexander and presented by Craig Barke CEO.
Highlights from the report include the development of an affordable housing strategy and implementation plan, implementation of CARE phase II targeting foster and kinship carers across the state, and continued work to implement initiatives to support clients and employees in transitioning to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
UnitingCare Queensland has also established effective partnerships across services with the Sleep-Well Service Pilot and the Project Search initiative and forged partnerships with external organisations to support vulnerable children, families and young people through the Newpin program and the Brisbane Recovery Centre for Out-of-Home Care Reform Pilot.
Craig told Synod members that UnitingCare Queensland was committed to forming and re-forming relationships at the congregational level, acknowledging that the links had not always been close in the past.
“We operate from over 500 sites and there’s every chance we have a site near your congregation, and we are keen to provide a way for your congregation to exercise their call,” he said.
Craig outlined the continuing challenge of operating in a tough environment in which the organisation is increasingly exposed to competition and financial pressures.
“Over the past five years we have continued to experience below-average financial performance, driven by Government funding cuts, increased operating costs and an inflexible industrial relations environment in health and aged care,” he said in the report.
“This below-average financial performance presents a significant challenge as we also maintain a large ageing asset base of facilities which are increasingly costly to maintain to a standard that meets the reasonable expectations of the people and communities we serve.”
In response to these challenges and in order to implement long-term planning, UnitingCare Queensland has developed a 2030 strategy which sets clear strategic guardrails to rein in costs and grow the organisation where sustainable and where there is strong community need.
Moderator’s Medals were awarded to Robyn Carmichael (Ashgrove West Uniting Church, Frontier Services volunteer), Bev Taylor (Beenleigh Uniting Church, emergency relief work), Bev Currie (Lifeline Sarina), Betty Perrin (Rosewood Uniting Church, op shop volunteer), Bev Lacey (Maroochydore Uniting Church, volunteer chaplaincy), Marlene Burgess (Malanda Blue Care thrift shop), David Seeto (St Andrew’s Hospital, cardiac support), Craig and Julianne Ashton (Stanthorpe, aged care work), Irene Batzloff (St Stephen’s Toowoomba, hospital chaplaincy), Bau Earle (The Gap Uniting Church), Jan Bayton (Pine Rivers Uniting Church, emergency relief work) and June Rice (Moggill Uniting Church, Moggill community centre).
The medals will be presented by the Moderator at community celebrations during the year.
After the days of deliberation and discernment, decision-making, listening and prayer, Synod concluded with closing worship.
Music for worship was provided by John Frederick (Trinity College Queensland), Tim Petersen (Moreton Rivers), Emily Mills (North Queensland), Va Tuilovoni (Moreton Rivers) and Catherine Solomon (South Moreton).
Pastor Cain Hartigan (Cunnamulla and Burke Wills Patrol Frontier Services, The Downs Presbytery) read 1 Thessalonians 5:12–24.
The theme of remembering the legacy of the past and sowing for the future was explored by Rev David Baker (Moderator) and Rev Heather den Houting (General Secretary) in their messages.
“The one who calls us is faithful, so let us live in the light of the promised coming and let us live with peace and confidence,” said David in his message of encouragement.
“We plant for someone else, not for ourselves, because we are part of the big narrative of God’s mission for the world,” said Heather.
“We can find ourselves in God’s mission if we recognise we are part of that process of sowing something that we may benefit from, but might actually provide something for generations down the track. As we look at the legacy that has been left for us, what is the legacy we are planting?
Uncle Michael Douglas provided a Farewell to Country.