It repeatedly amazes me how the Synod’s Vision and Mission Principles come to life around me: not because of my effort, but rather because I notice something or hear a story. Of course, these things are on my mind a lot nowadays, so that’s maybe why. I’ll share some examples with you …
At a recent education day in my presbytery, I approached an older lady at morning tea who was unfamiliar to me and we introduced ourselves. She started by saying she had never been to “something like this before”. So I began by asking the obvious question: “Why did you come?” It turns out that she was very happy with her congregational life, her minister and her home and community situation. So why did she come to this session by a visiting speaker on the theme of “Practising the way of Jesus”? She hesitated and then said: “I just wish to be able to share Jesus’ message in real ways”. I felt she had shared something very special to her. She had a heart for the Gospel and an emerging desire to share that Good News. I think that by the word ‘real’ she was trying to express ideas related to genuineness and integrity in Christian life. She was an inspiring person stepping out in faith in her community and I was blessed by her faith.
Another woman was so keen to explore the new booklet on the Vision and Mission Principles that we arranged an ‘unofficial preview’ copy for her. With her leadership group, she used one page of the booklet which invited an engagement with the Vision Statement. Her feedback was an excited story of their group reflections. One participant commented on the Vision saying: “It spoke wonderfully of what our Church stands for and what being Church means to me”. Just the one page was enough for them – sitting with the Statement, giving time and space for personal and group reflection. The sharing was lively, honest and a little challenging. It helped energise their community – in their own way and their own context. It was both affirming and challenging.
On a recent visit to Warragul Uniting Church, I noticed their vision statement displayed in large print on the wall: ‘Living God’s Love Without Borders’. This is seen as a response to God’s love. It is not simply a statement of belief but, as Rev Bruce Wood was quick to tell me: “It’s an action statement – an action to be lived out.” Below the statement on the wall was a story of the church’s growing connection with Vanuatu. This connection emerged from relationships developed with seasonal migrant workers who had become part of the congregation. The presence of these men enriched communal life and offered new possibilities in mission. Adjacent to the Vanuatu stories was a design for a proposed community garden project. The congregation is determined to live out this hope and to be a connected presence of God’s love. Their vision interplays creatively with the hopes of the Vision and Mission Principles adopted by the Synod.
Chris Machar also has an inspiring story. He has been called to lead a new initiative of church in Armstrong Creek – a new housing area near Geelong planned to grow to 60,000 residents. How does one begin? Chris explained they are simply making connections, building relationships, following up opportunities and learning the heartbeat of the community. In some sense, they are learning and listening for what God might be saying to them. It’s not easy, but it’s never dull. Together with a team that has come on board, they have run kids’ activities at local markets, pop-up family events in the local park, and meditation and discussion groups in fledgling community facilities. Messy Church and Mainly Music are in the planning in co-operation with neighbouring congregations. Now the team sees the need for a ‘hub’ of some sort, and is trying raise funds to rent a house for a couple of years. May God continue to bless their faithful persistence and courage.
As I write, a new booklet, Introducing the Vision and Mission Principles, is finally ready for release and distribution. The booklet attempts to explore the invitation and focus that is embodied in the Vision and Mission Principles, explain how and why the Vision and Mission Principles have been created and reflect upon our common call to be open to the renewing work of the Spirit in our life as church.
Interwoven throughout the booklet are simple exercises that invite discussion and seek to provoke faithful questioning. These exercises could be used for personal reflection, in small groups and in various community contexts. I hope you find them engaging and helpful, and I invite you to use them by adding your own creative ideas to the processes suggested.
As you may already be aware, the Vision and Mission Principles comprise the heart of a broader Strategic Framework adopted by the June 2016 Synod. Additional booklets, addressing other elements of the Strategic Framework, will be released in due course. This current booklet is designed to explore how the Vision and Mission Principles sit alongside and aid your community’s response to the call of the Holy Spirit to participation in God’s Mission.
Ultimately, I pray that the booklet is an informative and helpful resource in the diversity of ministry and mission contexts across our synod. I hope that the booklet affirms and celebrates what is already happening among us (like the stories above) while also calling us to be communities who are:
walking together as First and Second Peoples,
seeking community, compassion, and justice for all creation.
Strategic Framework Minister
Hard copies of Introducing the Vision and Mission Principles can be obtained by emailing a request to the Implementation Team at Strategic.ReviewImplementation@victas.uca.org.au. Or they can be downloaded from the Synod website at https://www.victas.uca.org.au/aboutus/Pages/Vision-Mission.aspx. You will also find a short video of the Moderator introducing the booklet on this link which you may wish to share with your gathered community. Any feedback is invited and would be gratefully received.