Where is the Uniting Church heading, and how will we find our way?

Deidre-Palmer
ROHAN PRYOR

“I see growing faith and abundant hope all over the place,” Dr Deidre Palmer, president-elect of the Uniting Church Assembly said.

“I see Uniting Church worship that impassions people to go out, emboldened to live God’s good news in the world. And I see the Uniting Church in many diverse ways forming disciples of Jesus Christ who are passionately joining God’s mission in the world”.

Deidre will join Rev Dr Geoff Thompson to address the question of where the Uniting Church is heading at a public forum as part of the 40th anniversary celebrations on Sunday 16 July in Melbourne.

Both leaders carry a strong sense of hope for the future of the Uniting Church. This is based not only on their connections to the growing world church as the Uniting Church actively participates in international relationships, but also on their personal experiences of local Uniting Church congregations forming faith and growing disciples of Jesus.

The Christian church is growing strongly in many parts of the world.

This is demonstrated by the growth of the Methodist movement in South America, Africa and Asia – the World Methodist Council is but one of the Uniting Church’s family connections to the universal Church.

In Australia, and in particular in the Uniting Church, it is easy to feel a sense of decline, and even crisis. Recent articles reflecting on the 40th anniversary of the Church, and drawing from the recent National Church Life Survey, continue this narrative.

Perhaps the Uniting Church has been in decline as part of the western world’s generations-long slide into pluralism and diversity, consumerism and individual choice. However, these large-scale narratives overlook changes happening in local communities of faith, and the vibrant life in many smaller congregations that persists despite the challenges that pervasive change brings.

At a recent one-day Living Leadership workshop on leadership for an intercultural church – with a focus on generations growing in faith together – Matthew Julius raised the question of hope.

“Anyone who has no sense of hope for the future of the Uniting Church clearly hasn’t been talking to anyone under 40, or anyone with brown skin,” Matthew said.

Matthew is a private theology student at Pilgrim Theological College and a member of the SPACE community with the Banyule Network of Uniting Churches.

He also recently contributed to Crosslight’s online conversations.

Geoff and Deidre each engage with the younger generation in the Uniting Church. Deidre was a mentor at the National Young Adult Leaders Conference (NYALC) last year at which 130 young leaders gathered for six days of inspiration, empowerment and equipping. Geoff teaches theology classes peppered with astute and passionate young leaders.

The Uniting Church is growing, although not everywhere and not evenly. It still has good news to share in a world hurting and hungering for the inspiration and transformation that God-with-us can bring.

Where and how will we find our way?

Together, as disciples of Jesus, and with the gifts of the Spirit who brings new life to share God’s eternal love and build community and justice in the world.

Rohan Pryor is a lay leadership educator at CTM

A People of God on the Way is a public forum on Sunday 16 July 2017, from 2:00-5:00pm at the CTM, Parkville. Registration: https://ucavt.goregister.com.au/ucapathways2017

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