The 2016 Synod meeting convenes in just over two months. All are welcome to attend the opening service at Wesley Church Lonsdale Street on Friday 3 June beginning at 7.30pm. Rev Sharon Hollis will be installed during worship before the business proper begins the following day at Box Hill Town Hall.
The theme for the forthcoming Synod is Letters of Recommendation. It draws its inspiration from 2 Corinthians 3 where Paul talks of members of the church being recommended not because of their own competence but because the Spirit of God has written on their hearts.
The concept of letters of recommendation resonates with Ms Hollis.
“It reminds us that we bear witness to God and the gospel of Jesus in our bodies, in how we live and what we do with our time, our gifts, our money,” she said.
“We bear witness to what God has written in our hearts by showing up in love, humility and grace wherever there is need for a word or act of justice, truth, mercy or peace.”
Presbyteries are finalising their lay and ministerial members for the 2016 Synod over the next couple of weeks. According to the regulations of the Uniting Church, the membership of the Synod should not exceed 500, ensuring that the total number of lay members is not fewer than the total number of ministerial members. It is expected that up to 350 people will be in attendance for the five days of business, scheduled from Saturday 4 June until Wednesday 8 June.
The Synod meets as a community of discernment for that time, and therefore the Synod will be in session on Sunday 5 June. The Centre for Theology and Ministry has prepared worship materials for congregations whose ministers will be in attendance at Box Hill Town Hall.
Members will consider how the Church can become lighter and simpler as it responds to a changing world. This is a challenge for an institution which, because of its commitment to consensus and a governance model of four inter-related councils can, at times, seem unwieldy and unresponsive.
However, what can be a weakness is also a strength, as the Basis of Union highlights in paragraph 15: “Each council will recognise the limits of its own authority and give heed to other councils of the Church, so that the whole body of believers may be united by mutual submission in the service of the Gospel.”
Ms Hollis said that when God writes on our hearts we are given all we need for a life of faithful discipleship.
“Being written by God calls us to trust that God has given us all we need and to notice God’s presence and activity at work in creation and each person we meet.
“It is my prayer that during the forthcoming Synod we see each other as blessed sent gifts of God and that together we discern what God might be writing into the life of our Synod.”