Belmont Uniting Church

Devotion last Day 5 of Synod:

Isaiah 43:18-19

Challenge to go out to the world to these words: Dare to care, share, and dare to love

But who do we share these? Homelessness? Often the nearest person – how do we sustain in the midst of spent, tired bodies – where do you draw energy from, find rest and restoration.

Bible Study: Ikani’s notes from Dr Liz Boase’s bible study

Directions?

Church no longer occupies influence – move from centre to the margin. Place of church is less secure than we have known. How can imagine our way into the future? We had looked at three signposts: backwards – Looking back – in order that we know where we have come from. Not as a controlling factor for we will miss what God is future.Inwards– temptation is to look inwards to protect ourselves – as world passes us by. Third – Upwards, are we heavenly minded or earthly focused? Final signpost- Outwards –

Facing outwards from position of knowing our past and living out what it means to be an outpost of heaven. How can we be a community of Christ in the future?

Ephesians 3:14-21

When we are open to the power of God – he will accomplish abundantly more that we could on our own. This is a prayer addressed of people who need hope for the future, a prayer for the church today. Prayer calls for people to be rooted in love as building with foundation. For our roots planted in God, firm ground of who God is in Jesus Christ.

This prayer is about LOVE – Christ love that flows through and from Christ. We therefore are called to relationship with God as LOVE. When we are rooted in this love, than God will achieve abundantly more than we could imagine.

Looking Outwards: What does looks like in the context of the prayer. Call to remain church, knowing that community may not come to us, but we need to go to them. Rowan Williams defines mission as joining in on what God is already at work in the world. How can we allow the Holy Spirit to empower us to be present in love in the life of the community.

Our place in the community - Not to take over, not get people on pews but to be Christ in the world within our community. Can we imagine being church in new ways.

Where is God already at work? Communities already at work in community – Men’s Shed, clubs? What about our mission strategies what if it is less about bringing people to church but rather being the Christ’s body in the community.

Synod Day 4: Devotion

Are you a risk taker?

It depends – a very UCA answer! Climbing is low risk but with high consequence.

Is it the new way on following Christ involves risk?

I am about to do a new thing. Part of our response involves risking the way of Jesus.

Words from Craig Mitchell’s song

Like an Angel walking lightly

On this fragile earth of clay

Touching folk with raw compassion

Laughing, playing on the way

 

Freely living every moment

In the mystery of grace

Giving, dying, living, rising

See the beauty of God’s face

See the hope that burns in darkness

Show compassion, strong and kind

Bind the hurt and broken-hands

Be God’s hands and voice and eyes

Sing a new song every sunrise

Climb to places out of reach

Walk in freedom of God’s Spirit

As we die, so we shall live.

Report from Uniting: People are important. Change is possible.

Working together between Uniting and Uniting housing – seeking to:

  1. Become one of the largest faith-based Community Housing agencies in Australia
  2. Become an influential Community Housing player in innovation and collaboration
  3. Grow from 800 to around 1400 tenancies over 5-10 years
  4. Secure Housing Association

Just a thought for Belmont UCA: Given the rich history of support and advocacy provided by the Belmont UCA through the ministry exercised by the Accommodation Committee for now over 27 years-

  1. To explore partnership between Uniting Housing and Belmont in dedicating the use of one of the Manse for a community/social housing.
  2. Explore the use of the tennis courts for social housing.

Report from National Assembly – Dr Dietre Palmer

This year 120 young leaders met in Adelaide – NYALC – hear from First Peoples leaders on

Theme for her three-year term - Abundant grace, liberating hope.

Some priorities:  Attending to the kind of community we have

  • Meet with communities cross the breadth of the Church community
  • Affirmed sovereignty of First Peoples
  • Domestic and family violence – within and through Church partners gender justice and theology
  • Issue around Climate Church especially for Pacific partners affected by rising sea waters.
  • Participating in national conferences of CALD community
  • Commitment to working in collaboration with all partners.
  • Live out the joyful faith – working with and resourcing next gen youth.
  • Growing with God and developing leaders for ministry.
  • Justice – offering a prophetic voice for a Just Australia
  • Institutional response to child abuse – redress scheme – response
  • Living out the covenant with the First Peoples

Some hopes for our Uniting Church:

  • Evangelism – in culturally appropriate ways
  • Intentional formation and growth of Christian discipleship – all age groups
  • Developing young leaders
  • Intergenerational Christian community
  • Acting for justice in the world
  • Alleviating poverty at home and overseas
  • The Uniting Church – part of a global communion of Christ

Report from Uniting Agewell – Andrew Kinnersly CEO

Royal commission hearing currently underway.

  • Themes emerging around quality and safety, access and inclusion, interface with health system, future challenges and opportunities, management, end of life care, workforce, innovation, remote and regional issues.

Opportunity for a wholesale change – as some difficult stories told.

Many ways, system is broken and has to be fixed.

Growth in services in a positive way in a very short amount of time.

Emerging and urging reality

Opportunity and challenge – current resources making it hard to meet mission in the context. We are failing to fully utilised resources – properties etc.

Imagined use of release of properties for mission – release capital tied to properties to be made available for mission. To shift us to missional sustainability into the future.

Belmont Scenario – merged congregation with two manses. Selling the property - IOMF

Day 3 - Devotion & Bible Study

Devotion:

Bible Study – Jeremiah 29:1,4-11.  - Ikani's notes from Dr Liz Boase lecture

Letter sent to the exiled. Asking the Church the question around the future direction of the Church as it seeks to understand its current context and God’s futures for HIS church and the world.

Challenges people against Ghetto mentality- people living in foreign land, around alien resident, no desire to change or adapt. Jeremiah confronts this mentality how would you live when you are in exile? How they should settle down and live in exile – his intention. Strategies to survive and hope in difficult situation. Asked them to open their minds not to rely on their past – temple as sign of God’s presence, to look outward, to pray for their city, play for the welfare of the city, a call to engage, perhaps a call to mission, a call to prayer and engagement, even prayers for their enemies. In the crisis they encounter, God is at work.  Even when God is experienced as absent! Jeremiah calls for them to build new life, pray, work within, God is present. Jeremiah is calling them - Not to employ this facing inwards posture! Risk operation out of old model and understanding, the same rituals, people to walking the door, worshipping community using the building, we worry about who puts the rubbish, kitchen are in order.

Challenge – stop longing for the past, find God in the place where we are, find God in the foreign places, not just in church building but in the world, to think differently about our rituals and practices, to love those who don’t love us. Even if they see us as their enemies. Especially for those who sees church as the enemy – hat do we do with that? Ask us to think how we would live when we live in the margin, to live to our community, in the welfare of the community we will find our well- being. To hope in an uncertain future. Challenges us to accept the reality we are living and begin to make decision based on where we are not where we have been. Challenges the church to build, to birth new life, plant new things, in generating new life, hope of God is made present. All of this in the context of looking outwards.

(Table conversation) What are some of the false securities we need to let go off. Where are the foreign places in the community we need to be a part of concern us and we may join in.

We have the false sense of security that we need to run programs, we are the initiator, we need to invite people. We need to join in with what God is doing in the community.

A false sense of believing that the Church depend on getting bums on seats. A sense of security based on buildings and what works in the past.

Calls us in time of change, not to hark back to what was, but to what God is doing in our time, even to the uncomfortable, to the margin, God is calling the church to love, calls out of the church and into the community, seek the well- being of the community, to hope and trust that God has plans for the future, and trusting God plans for us in the welfare of the community, plans that we must take seriously as we work towards and live into the future.

Day 3 of Synod: Sunday 7

Devotion:

Bible Study – Jeremiah 29:1,4-11

Letter sent to the exiled. Asking the Church the question around the future direction of the Church as it seeks to understand its current context and God’s futures for HIS church and the world.

Challenges people against Ghetto mentality- people living in foreign land, around alien resident, no desire to change or adapt. Jeremiah confronts this mentality how would you live when you are in exile? How they should settle down and live in exile – his intention. Strategies to survive and hope in difficult situation. Asked them to open their minds not to rely on their past – temple as sign of God’s presence, to look outward, to pray for their city, play for the welfare of the city, a call to engage, perhaps a call to mission, a call to prayer and engagement, even prayers for their enemies. In the crisis they encounter, God is at work.  Even when God is experienced as absent! Jeremiah calls for them to build new life, pray, work within, God is present. Jeremiah is calling them - Not to employ this facing inwards posture! Risk operation out of old model and understanding, the same rituals, people to walking the door, worshipping community using the building, we worry about who puts the rubbish, kitchen are in order.

Challenge – stop longing for the past, find God in the place where we are, find God in the foreign places, not just in church building but in the world, to think differently about our rituals and practices, to love those who don’t love us. Even if they see us as their enemies. Especially for those who sees church as the enemy – hat do we do with that? Ask us to think how we would live when we live in the margin, to live to our community, in the welfare of the community we will find our well- being. To hope in an uncertain future. Challenges us to accept the reality we are living and begin to make decision based on where we are not where we have been. Challenges the church to build, to birth new life, plant new things, in generating new life, hope of God is made present. All of this in the context of looking outwards.

What are some of the false securities we need to let go off. Where are the foreign places in the community we need to be a part of concern us and we may join in.

We need to run programs, we are the initiator, we need to invite people. We need to join in with what God is doing in the community.

Calls us in time of change, not to hark back to what was, but to what God is doing in our time, even to the uncomfortable, to the margin, to love, calls out of the church and into the community, seek the well- being of the community, to hope and trust that God has plans for the future, and trusting what God plans for us as we work towards and live into the future.

Narana Presentation: UAICC Victoria

Length of video presentation – pictures at the start could have been shortened.

Challenges the first people and the commitment to walk alongside and seeking justice and reconciliation.

Moderator has asked churches to support the Narana community in any way possible.

Tasmania Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress – Tasmania

To walk together, to be present with each other, with each other’s story of spirituality. To live out our covenanting commitments as people together. – Very great report

Walking together report:

Ethics Committee – Public conversations on areas of ethical standards, matter of public discussions.

Proposal 8: Safeguarding for People with Disabilities

  • Relates directly to National Disability Insurance scheme receive with consensus

Proposal 9:  

Facilitation group – Report back on Assisted Dying Report

  • Pressure of people having to make decision.
  • Need clarity for members of the church as to where we stand
  • Leave hospitals with no clear direction which will have an impact on their operation.
  • Why is it that we are having to make a decision now?

New Moderator Installed

By Stephen Acott

The Synod of Victoria and Tasmania’s new Moderator, Rev Denise Liersch, used her installation address to call on the Church to open itself to new ways of worship and not “cling to the status quo” or “yearn for the way things used to be”.

Speaking at a packed St Michael’s church in Collins St, Melbourne, Denise said she had been asked many times in the past few months what hopes she had for the Church in her three-year term.

Rather than answer that question, she instead posed one of her own to the 300-strong gathering: “What do you hope for?”

“What do you hope for yourself personally, in your family life, friendships or other significant relationships, in your work life, for our church, for our world?” she asked.

“What do you long for? Really long for. Yearn for, ache for?

She referenced poet WH Auden, who spoke of “the wild prayer of longing”.

“Auden talks about the element of yearning which can be there in anyone’s life, the refusing to settle for what is simply so at the moment.

“In what ways do you hope for things to go back to an earlier time when things seemed to be better – to the way things used to be before?

“As a church, don’t we want that at times? If you’re over, say, 60, you’ll remember when every second person belonged to a church, when the Sunday Schools were full of kids, when people’s social lives revolved around the church.

“You’ll remember when politicians and general society looked to the church for guidance on important social issues and listened to what the church had to say.

“You’ll remember when the church was important in the lives of ordinary people and a church in every postcode was full.

“If we’ve known these times, do we work hard at trying to retrieve those times because it would be good to feel successful again?”

Denise reminded the audience that in the gospel stories, God kept doing new things in unexpected ways.

“Yes he did things in the temple and the synagogue, but also at weddings and dinner parties, in small villages,” she said.

“In the poor and lowly, in women and children, amongst slaves, foreigners and enemies, in the diseased and those cursed by evil, amongst those suffering, sick and dying.

“We may want to return to times and ways where things feel more familiar and we feel more successful, but Jesus keeps inviting us into new things, into God’s work, often in small ways, often at the margins.

“This is an invitation to us, to open up our imaginations, to see that God is all around us, among us, with us.

“This is an invitation to see where new things are springing up, where God is at work and inviting us to join in.”

Denise then listed a number of examples she had witnessed of people coming together in different ways and “being part of something bigger”.

Some of those examples included:

  • The Boroondara Community Outreach choir and lunches, “where people living with mental illness find community and many would say, this is church for me”.
  • Eighty five prisoners walking the stations of the cross on Good Friday around the prison recreation yard.
  • Rural ministers going out to regional farms to lead worship for Pacific Islander seasonal workers.
  • Congregations hosting playgroups for vulnerable children and parents, “creating communities of non-judgmental care, support and friendship”.

“None of these look quite like the familiar congregation, but there’s no doubt that God is at work here,” Denise said.

“So my hope for the next three years, my wild prayer of longing, is for us as a church to attend to our wild prayer of longing, to not settle for the status quo.

“Instead, look for where the Spirit of God is at work, yes in the familiar, but also in unexpected places and ways and open ourselves to join in.”

The installation service on 5 July was opening of the four-day Synod meeting, which began the following morning at Box Hill Town Hall.

Held every 18 months, Synod members meet to worship, enjoy fellowship, receive reports and make decisions regarding the general oversight, direction and administration of the Church’s worship, witness and service.

The 90-minute service began with a Welcome to Country by Wurundjeri Elder Aunty Georgina Nicholson.

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities were acknowledged with readings in languages ranging from Dinka (South Sudanese) to Tongan and Korean.

Denise succeeded Rev Sharon Hollis, who had been Moderator since 2016.

Day 2 Synod 2019

Day one of Synod kicked off with a welcome by new Moderator Rev Denise Liersch. What followed was a mix of reports, proposals, Bible study, reflections and other activities, such as Choose Your Own Adventure.

Reports tabled were from the following committees:

  • Synod Business
  • Synod Standing
  • Ministry & Mission
  • Property & Operations
  • Placements

In between the reports Synod members enjoyed a morning tea repast of homemade goodies courtesy of the PWMU Cookbook Committee.

The greatest amount of time during the day was allocated to working groups discussing the Synod’s report into Voluntary Assisted Dying. This document explored and explained the proposed responses by the UCA in Victoria to the legalisation of Voluntary Assisted Dying.

The report was introduced at by its chief author Dr Jessica Hateley-Browne at 3pm and received by agreement. After a break for afternoon tea, two hours were set aside to allow members to discuss in detail their response to the theological aspects of the Voluntary Assisted Dying proposals.

Another highlight of the afternoon session was the launch of the Synod’s Disability Action Plan.

Synod Disability Inclusion Advocate Rev (Deacon) Andy Calder introduced the proposal, which was followed by Meredith Allan, who gave a personal perspective.

Meredith, who has a communication disability and uses a computer to give voice to the words she types, said “communication access” was her passion.

“I want to be able to go into a shop or request a service and not have my intelligence questioned,” she said.

“If we live long enough, disability is the one identity we have in common. The changes we make now to our physical property and our own awareness of many other strategies to help people with disabilities feel included, will help many more people than we think.”

Victoria’s Public Advocate, Dr Colleen Pearce, then officially launched the plan.

Earlier in the day, the gathering heard from General Secretary Mark Lawrence and ex-Moderator Sharon Hollis.

Mark noted that in the past decade there had been a “marked shift” in all churches’ “social licence’” to engage positively with the wider community.

“This shift has impacted the Uniting Church (and) has appropriately produced expectations within the wider community for all institutions to enhance policies and processes, including safety, compliance (and) governance … that demonstrate personal and organisational integrity,” he said.

“These are also expectations we should have within the Church community as we undertake ministry and mission in safe and responsible environments. It is within this context that today’s and tomorrow’s Church is called to be at mission.

“Part of our call to worship, witness, and serve as an Australian Church, seeking to positively and credibly engage with the world around us, is to embrace wider community expectations and understand these as part of our mission context.”

Sharon said the church needed to think “carefully and critically” about how it engaged in the “public square and political debate” in the next few years.

“Recent meetings with politicians from all sides of politics leads me to think there is a real danger that more than ever politicians are looking to use faith and people of faith to serve their own ends,” she said.

“There is an increased risk that we will be used for ends that do not serve the gospel and find ourself in difficult relationships with other Christians because of this.

“If we continue to be committed to advocacy for and with the poorest, the marginalised and creation and to stand with people of many faiths then there is a real risk that we will find ourselves out of step with much of contemporary society and unwelcome in the corridors of government.

“I believe we must remain true to our calling to be a church who learns from contemporary society, and who speaks and acts for social justice, even if it affects our capacity to grow numerically.

“We should also continue to want to engage in the public square even when it is complex, difficult and risky.”

Sharon also echoed the sentiments expressed the previous night by new Moderator Denise Liersch, imploring congregations to “have the courage to rethink” the way they conduct worship so “more people might feel drawn to worship and experience the presence of God in the company of other Christians and people seeking meaning, belonging and belief”.

“Investing in the renewal of our communities of faith, including worship and seeking to birth new communities is a key priority of the Synod,” she said.

“Being willing to rethink how some of us worship, and committing to equip people for this, is important, not primarily for the sake of those of us already in the church, but for the sake of those who might be seeking God and who are struggling to find a community to belong to in ways that nourish them in hope, build them up in love and enable them to encounter the living God.

“New and renewed communities need new and renewed worship, to be sustained for renewed witness and service.”

Sharon called on the church to listen to its young members and make space for them.

“They are in the church because they are convicted by the gospel. They are gifted for ministry, are already engaged in ministry and many would like to the opportunity to serve in new ways,” she said.

“Will we let them serve, teach and lead even if they do it differently to how we would, trusting that just as God gifted us, God has gifted them and is calling them to use their gifts?

“Will we make space for new leaders and new ways, all the while trusting that God’s Spirit guides and leads?”

After dinner, which members were invited to share with the Hanbit Korean Church in Box Hill, the evening session opened with a theological reflection prepared by five young adults.

The reflection was delivered by Kelly Skilton, Cameron Shields and Sione Hehepoto.

After recapping what had happened during the day the group focused on questions of property that had been raised.

Sione said the Church should heed the words of Isiah and forget things in the past if it was to move into what God wanted, which was not to rely on stones.

“We don’t want to inherit a church whose public presence and systems are defined by property,” he said.

With this challenge ringing in their ears members were invited to participate in Choose Your Own Adventure, where they could attend information and discussion sessions on various topics hosted by different Synod and UCA agencies.

The eLM unit ran sessions on  family/domestic violence and digital media ethics while there were also sessions run by Bethel, Culture of Safety, Congregational Business Services, the Ethics Committee, OH&S, Property Services, the Placements Committee and Uniting.

Synod day one – recap