DR SHIRLEY Coulson, the new Synod General Secretary, began at the end of January.
Journey asked Dr Coulson how she hopes to assist the Church.
Journey: How are you settling in?
Dr Shirley Coulson: I have had many expressions of welcome and feel blessed by the prayers and support of so many people across our Church in Queensland and even interstate.
The role of General Secretary is certainly a complex one and coming in to this role at this time in our history is challenging;
however, it is also an exciting time as we engage in the Together on the way, enriching community process of discerning our shared direction and revitalising the church in the context of our time and place.
I have tried to make this first month a listening time.
J: What particular skills do you feel you bring to the role?
SC: The skill set and life experiences I bring are somewhat different compared to those who have fulfilled this role in the past.
My background is in education and for the last 27 years this has been in Catholic education where I have held a range of leadership positions.
A significant part of my role in these positions has been in strategic planning and facilitating organisational change in ways which preserve the integrity of the mission direction and reflect core Christian values.
This means that I bring enthusiasm for, and experience in, the type of intentional journey being undertaken in the Together
on the way, enriching community process.
Having been a part of congregations in a range of contexts I believe I may also bring new eyes to this journey.
At the same time I know I have much to learn from those with understandings, insights and wisdom greater than my own.
J: Do you think it is an important step for the Uniting Church for a lay person to hold this role?
SC: When this position was first drawn to my attention I rejected it – ministers have always been appointed to this role!
I was encouraged to reflect that, in the Uniting Church, we have always recognised the importance of sharing the gifts and graces bestowed by God in service and building up the Church.
We have structures which promote lay participation and a strong record of lay leadership in church governance, but in many of our church contexts we have also tended to “leave it to the minister to do” forgetting that we are all called to participate in
Christ’s mission in the world.
I feel privileged to be a part of this ministry with so many people committed to sharing their gifts and graces in the service of Christ.
J: What are some of your hopes for the Church in Queensland?
SC: In the Uniting Church we acknowledge that it is Christ who rules and renews the Church and that because of this we are able to “live and endure through the changes of history” (Basis of Union para 4).
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, I am confident that we will rise to the challenge of our times.
There is no doubt that some difficult decisions lie ahead and we will need to change some of our past practices as we commit to “a fuller participation in Christ’s mission in the world” (para 15b).
We have a wonderful opportunity in the witness of word and action that has already occurred in the discernment of our call and vision for 2020.
My hope is that all members and councils will embrace this opportunity and commit to making this vision a reality for the Church in Queensland.
Photo : Queensland Synod General Secretary Dr Shirley Coulson. Photo by Mardi Lumsden