Following her Unchained session at the 32nd Synod exploring the relationship between congregations and agencies, Rev Linda Hamill outlines some practical ways to strengthen the ties.
Relationships can be an emotional minefield for some, blissfully trouble-free for others. In particular many can relate to parents raising a child to be independent and then negotiating the evolving dynamics as the parent-child relationship moves to an adult-adult relationship.
If we think of congregations and agencies as people navigating the challenges of an adult-adult relationship, my experience has been that in many places there is very little connection between them, and the fault lies with both parties.
Our conversation during the 32nd Synod’s Unchained event allowed people from both sides to imagine what could be done to build that relationship, to rediscover each other and how to work together in the future.
In a constantly changing world, success is often determined by the networks and connections an individual or group has, so we felt this was an important dialogue to be having together.
Agencies and congregations recognised the importance of networking and fostering stronger relationships and came up with some very tangible and practical ways to support each other.
First and foremost, meet each other: if you manage an agency perhaps visit your local church council meeting and worship service.
Similarly, if you are a leader in a congregation, arrange for your members to take a visit to the agency. Build a mature relationship and regularly meet each other.
Other relationship building activities we came up with were that congregations can assist agencies by:
- Prayer (exchanging prayer requests)
- Social capital
- Running ecumenical programs like Shine
- Knitting prayer shawls
- Providing music or choir
- Creating grief/loss/dementia support groups for families of people using agency services.
And likewise agencies can help congregations by:
- Up-skilling congregational leadership in governance
- Recognising those who serve by presentations or thanks giving in a congregational service
- Advertising congregational events.
There was lively discussion in the room despite the session running late into Saturday evening. All were wanting our relationships to be better, which isn’t such a dangerous idea after all. Come on! Give it a go!
Rev Linda Hamill
Rev Linda Hamill is the minister at Trinity Wellington Point Uniting Church.