A holiday break often brings much needed perspective. To be removed from the daily demands and placed into a different context can bring with it rest and renewal. Sometimes that ability to break from routine leads to new insights. Perhaps that is one reason people make New Year’s resolutions. They stop to reflect on the past, and desire to make changes for the future.
This Synod has navigated a difficult year. The special circumstances resolution that was passed at the May 2013 Synod meeting which led to the divestment of 29 properties throughout our community has been a difficult process. Some congregations have felt betrayed. Others were caught unawares as they had not necessarily followed the decisions of Synod and so did not understand the resolution.
Some congregations went through grief and surrender to then find that their property did not need to be sold.
Now, in 2014, as we seek to support those parting with properties which have been central to their community life for many years; who are packing up their congregational lives and letting go of worship centres; we need to ask ourselves who are we? Are we different? Has Uniting our future changed us? Has it changed our trust in our institutions? What needs to be done to restore what might be broken?
Angry words have been spoken and written. Were they written in the heat of the moment or are those words still deeply felt? How do we heal? How do we trust each other again and return to a place of grace and love?
In the holiday period I travelled to Brazil. This took me well out of my normal daily routine. There are some extraordinary natural wonders in this very large South American country, including the breathtaking Iguazu Falls (pictured above). My daughter and I experienced the Falls from every angle – the Brazilian and Argentinian sides, from a helicopter, from a boat; at sunrise and sunset and in between.
Listening to the roar of water cascading over rocks and plummeting down to the river below; gazing at vultures circling overhead, thermalling in the lifts produced by the volumes of water; being startled by a rainbow sparkling as the sun strikes the sprays of water; how can one not marvel at the Creator behind this handiwork.
Such natural wonders remind us anew of our own mortality and insignificance. Those waters have been flowing and cascading and feeding and nourishing an entire ecosystem for millennia. My time on this same planet is much more transitory. And yet, the Creator of Iguazu Falls also created me, for a time and a purpose.
In 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul makes clear that no matter how much we might want to try and separate ourselves, in the end we are still part of the one body. “If the foot would say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body … If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.” (1 Cor 12: 12-26)
The Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, as one body, is continuing to work through the property divestment program. We are also undertaking a strategic review, with an interim report being prepared for the September Synod meeting. And this year the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will begin public hearings in Melbourne in July.
As we embrace these and other challenges and opportunities which come our way, we need to seek to tread lightly, so we can respond to God’s call with new vigour and hope.
By Penny Mulvey