Below is the brief summary of the Synod Standing Committee meeting—held on Thursday 1 October—to inform the wider Queensland Synod community of the discussions, deliberations and decisions arising from that meeting. This meeting was held in the Rollie Busch Chapel at the Synod office in a COVID safe manner.
Hearing from presbyteries
The Carpentaria and Downs Presbyteries reported on the work and witness of their ministries.
The Committee was heartened to hear that the Carpentaria Presbytery rose to the challenge after riots in Aurukun earlier this year. Congregational members of the Cairns churches worked tirelessly to support, encourage and welcome people into their homes and churches. UnitingCare Queensland provided significant support, as did the disaster recovery committee who immediately released money to help resource the Presbytery with pastoral workers.
After the amalgamation of the North Queensland and Calvary Presbyteries into the Carpentaria Presbytery on 1 March 2020, COVID-19 brought a number of challenges, particularly for First Peoples communities. This included members of the Aurukun community being returned just prior to lockdown with inadequate supports in place. Pastor Leonard Paul was chartered from Mornington Island just before the lockdown occurred. Leonard’s commitment to the people and his ability to act as a peacemaker, despite a lack of suitable accommodation and communication infrastructure has been truly heartening.
It has also been pleasing to see the number of congregations who adopted online services during COVID-19 with collaboration between ministers and congregations occurring as ministers refused to let COVID-19 barriers get between them and their congregations. A weekly online catchup was initiated by the Presbytery which has been well attended.
In order to support a number of new treasurers, the Presbytery decided to oversee a number of administrative functions on behalf of congregations.
All congregations in the Carpentaria Presbytery are now meeting face-to-face under the Industry COVID Safe Plan for Places of Worship. The Committee heard that the Presbytery is celebrating that the lockdown was not a hiatus, but an opportunity to identify new initiatives and creative engagement, particularly in First Peoples communities where fundraising events and missional intent has flourished.
The Presbytery of the Downs reported that all districts of the Presbytery are still drought declared as well as facing bushfires and floods in addition to COVID-19. The resilience of the people within the Presbytery is being tested with high levels of uncertainty and stress taking its toll. As such, the health and well-being of ministry agents is of high importance.
The Committee heard that ecumenical relationships and agreements are vital for the Christian Church in regional, rural and remote communities. The best example of this is the patrol ministries (Leichardt which is funded by the Downs Presbytery as well as the Cunnumulla, Burke and Wills Ministry which is funded through Frontier Services). The impact that this ministry has upon those in our regional, rural and remote communities cannot be understated.
The Uniting Church’s decision regarding marriage resulted in most of the St George Uniting Church congregation resigning their Uniting Church membership. While this was saddening, the Presbytery continues to resource ministry and a UCA church presence in St George.
The Presbytery is hopeful that the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and the emerging trend of Queenslanders visiting parts of regional Queensland will lead to exciting new opportunities for local communities.
There is a tangible sense of collegiality within the Presbytery of the Downs where the ministry agents maintain a sense of “togetherness”. This combined with a growing team of lay people who see their call to spread the gospel in their local community and strong agency partnerships means there is strong hope in the western parts of our state.
Reports from boards and committees
The Synod Standing Committee received the annual Report on Child Safety which was submitted to the National Office for Child Safety. This report looks at progress the Queensland Synod has made to implement and embed the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The Committee is encouraged by the commitment and responsiveness of the church in Queensland to ensure that our church activities are safe for all.
Reports from the Moderator and the General Secretary
Unfortunately, the Moderator Rev David Baker was unable to join us as he was ill at the time of the meeting. However his report included an overview of a meeting of the Ecumenical Tertiary Chaplaincy Committee which resulted in that program being wound up, on the recommendation of member churches. It is anticipated that Queensland Churches Together will take the lead to review our ecumenical chaplaincy services generally. The Moderator also reported on religious instruction in state schools. The Uniting Church is part of a well-organised ecumenical and multi faith coalition which is continuing to advocate with the State Government for this important ministry.
The committee appreciated the heartfelt thanks of the Moderator for our time and commitment during the 34th Synod. We prayed for David and wished him a speedy recovery.
In the General Secretary’s report, Rev Heather den Houting updated Synod Standing Committee on the impacts of COVID-19. The emphasis at the moment is on the mental health support required across the life of the church and the communities we serve as part of Mental Health Month across Australia. We gave thanks for Wesley Mission Queensland and UnitingCare Queensland as there is a growing capacity to work with combined effort across the life of the church in this space.
The General Secretary also provided an update on the regulations review, an initiative being coordinated by the National Assembly. There is general support for the review with some clear areas for attention including:
- Governance generally
- Non-congregational forms of church
- Managing external compliance demands and
- Resourcing and risk.
The Synod Standing Committee also resolved by consensus to appoint, in due course, three lay members of the 16th Assembly to satisfy the age requirements of Regulation 3.3.8 (a) (3). The committee also authorised the 35th Synod Business Committee to co-opt the following three members to attend the 35th Synod in Session, in accordance with Regulation 3.3.7 (c):
- Annabel Demack (Chapel Hill Uniting Church)
- Nia Lavaki (Park Uniting Church) and
- Namila Davui (Zillmere Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress).
Congratulations to those who received extensions or nominations to positions within several Synod governing bodies. The ongoing service of these members to the mission of the church is gratefully acknowledged.
The new Synod Standing Committee for the 35th Synod will meet on Thursday 3 December 2020.