Finding hope in Adelaide

uniting women conferenceOver the weekend in Adelaide 400 women and one ‘token male’ gathered to hear stories of hope, along with a bit of ‘Dancing Queen’.

Sharing Stories of Hope was the theme of the four-day UnitingWomen conference that wrapped up on Sunday.

Clarence Uniting Church minister Rev Ann Perrin left from Tasmania to make the first day of the conference last week. She said the event was well worth the 3.30am alarm to make her travel connections.

“It was great,” she said on Thursday.

“It was a way for women to feel safe and be willing to be vulnerable to share stories. It was very powerful to have women gathered in a safe place to find those stories. We gain strength from vulnerability and having the hope of God moving in lives to build a better future.”

Ms Perrin said she was particularly inspired by the stories of the First People’s and Pacific women.

“It was very moving to hear a litany of all that has happened and is still happening and how they are trying to rebuild those lives,” Ms Perrin said.

“Hope definitely came out of lament.”

She has come away from the conference with “…a commitment to engage more fruitfully with the Indigenous population”.

Ms Perrin nominated the Saturday night Q&A session, ‘Where there is life there is hope’–hosted by former broadcaster Julie McCrossin and including Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Senator Penny Wong among those on stage – as a highlight.

The closing Sunday worship session was led by moderator for South Australia and event organizer Deidre Palmer and Uniting Church President Stuart McMillan (the event’s self-declared ‘token male’).

Dr Palmer said the speakers and workshop leaders inspired and challenged all who attended.

“The conference affirmed the Uniting Church conviction that every member is engaged in ministry,” Dr Palmer said.

“This was demonstrated in the body of Christ working together as one, the 50 volunteers, 29 speakers and 22 workshop leaders. The conference brought together different age groups, from 18 year olds through to 80 year olds and also brought together different cultural groups, including our Sisters from partner churches in the Pacific Islands.”

Ms Perrin said the closing session imparted a strong message of hope for the Church.

The liveliest session, however, was undoubtedly Saturday night when the choir, which Ms Perrin sang in, ‘rocked’ the Kent House Wesley Uniting Church.

A selection of songs from, appropriately enough, Hollywood feel-good flick Sister Act along with a medley of Abba hits had everyone on their feet and dancing beside the pews.

Ms Perrin said the UnitingWomen conference has a very important role.

“It is about consolidating women’s voices and encouraging women to speak into the life of the church,” Ms Perrin said.

“It’s about creating solidarity for anyone who has felt marginalised, without the courage to speak up. If you know others are speaking up, you might be able to.”

The conference was only the second of its type in recent years. A group of determined Uniting Church women got it going in 2014 after noting that the last women’s conference was in 1996.

At this stage there is no definite venue for the 2018 UnitingWomen, but Victoria and Melbourne have expressed interest.

Ms Perrin, for one, intends to go even, if it means another rude awakening.

“We’re all waiting.”

Photo from UnitingWomen via Facebook.

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