Much of the business of Synod 2016 concerned the future of the Church based on proposals relating to Major Strategic Review. Discussion was at times emotional, as Synod members grappled with changes that would decide the future of the Church. Then one young woman, Karen Sooaemalelagi, stood up to remind the Synod that the future of the church was actually in the room. As the young members of Synod stood beside her, Karen read a speech on their behalf.
“I speak on behalf of the collective voice of the younger generation standing around me.
We acknowledge that each and every person is unique and valuable.
Every age of life, culture, gender, race, sexuality and belief are the diverse groups that make up parts of our communities and the world in which we all reside.
Each of these groups can find themselves on the edges.
Homeless, poor, widowed, orphaned, sick, victimised, disabled, marginalised, vulnerable, tokenised and forgotten.
How do we prioritise ministries, when our communal call is to go to, and love, every person wherever they are?
The challenge is between ‘maintaining’ and new initiatives.
We stand before you as a group of diverse opinions, race, gender, sexuality and circumstance that we are the younger generation of the church.
There are times we feel unseen and unheard. We want to be visible. We are all from CALD in a sense we are all from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, because we are all different. But what makes us the same is God’s love for us and we are part of the church together.
All we would ask the Synod, and the MSR, is to allow us to remain a focus, only so that we could continue to be the church.
We are not here to take, we are here to serve. To be, to live …wrestling what that means as a people of faith.
So if we as the young people are the future of the Church, the future is now. It is not another 20 years because WE ARE HERE! We are the seeds that God has planted in this Church and we yearn to be nurtured by you.
Journey with us, guide us, resource us, share your faith and experience with us, so that we can begin to grow and take up the call of the church we might inherit.”
Reflections of Synod
Some of the Church’s younger members shared their thoughts of Synod 2016 with Crosslight.
Reflecting on how meetings and proposals are heard and discussed, it can be quite intimidating at times. The use of vocabulary in reports and using acronyms for groups who aren’t regularly involved in meetings (PCG – what’s that?) can make you feel like you, as a member of the church, aren’t necessarily in-the-know of what these committees are or what they do.
I like how decisions or proposals are questioned, discussed and consensus is reached. Time for questions is important and it’s good people can be heard.
Looking around the room, the leaders of the church are much older. Which is fine. Their wisdom and longevity in the roles they hold is fundamentally very important and valuable.
But still, the lack of younger people and people from different backgrounds is a concern. This tells me there is not enough wider representation in the leadership of the church in committees where their influence and thoughts can be heard. Especially considering that some of the bigger congregations in the Uniting Churches here in Victoria and Tasmania are congregations from CALD backgrounds.
I would like to see at future Synods a more accurate representation of what the church looks like in Vic/Tas. If the church wants to continue to have a bright future it needs to encourage, mentor and include younger generations and help them step into and be a part of leadership in the church today, right now. So they know how the church works, or how it does things. Before it’s too late.
The theme of Synod this year was for us to be the letters of recommendation of not just our own lives but of Christ. It was a great way to meet together as a Church and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us with the decisions that needed to be made.
Proposals from different parts of our Church brought seas of orange and blue cards, where warmth and coolness shook a lot of different opinions. Yellow cards flew up tough questions and concerns as the future of our Church was discussed with new ideas bringing a lot of risks.
Although, with new ideas coming in, it was hard for some to let go of the old ones. It was interesting to sit, see and hear how everyone was wrestling with the idea of change, the idea of sacrifice and the idea of taking a chance or just leaving things as they are.
A possibility of what happened with Acacia College, with hope and faith being lost, brought a lot of concerns – certain members questioned why they should trust these new ideas.
Thankfully, bible studies about a new way of seeing Jesus brought some light into the room with Woman Wisdom, as well as poetry bringing passion and ease into the meeting.
I struggled as I sat and listened, not knowing who everyone was. I even struggled to understand – why celebrate and say we are a multicultural church when we are just tokenising the idea of being a multicultural church?
Along with watching young people being separated on different tables so we can just be heard and not seen. How long do we have to sit and be heard yet only to be ignored again? Then feeling patronised by saying “What do you young ones think?”
If we are the Letters of Recommendation, then I pray that we as a church can recommend the idea of actually acting as a church of unity. So that all walks of life from different parts of our Church can be heard equally, can be acknowledged and can understand how we can, together, unite and move forward.
Why do the majority of the church attendants in the Uniting Church have grey hair? Where are the young people? Where are the young families with children? What happened to the youth group on a Friday or Saturday night? What is going on, UCA?
It was an honour to be invited to attend Synod this year. I came to Synod with the purpose of finding out why there are significantly low numbers of youth and young adults in some churches. And why some young people are struggling in their ministry at church today? This has been a particular challenge in my local congregation.
I was really eager and excited to see and hear what is going on in the higher levels of the church. I believe whatever is decided and how things are structured, both in terms of an organisational and operational level at Synod, filters down to congregational level.
Not surprisingly, only a few young people took part in Synod this year. This made me wonder if the decision made at Synod reflect the diversity of the church? Perhaps not. The breadth of the church was not adequately represented, not only in terms of age but culturally as well.
Nevertheless, it was encouraging to see young people were given freedom to speak at Synod. I would like to express my gratitude toward Synod for organising a dinner with the moderator Sharon Hollis and president Stuart McMillan. Their initiative to engage and to hear from the young people was very much appreciated.
I pray that such space and freedom for young people remains and will continue to expand. I pray for revival in this church, a place where we are all in it together.
For the first time, I had decided to take my first steps into learning more about an organisation that I have always been a part of. Growing up in the Uniting Church I have always been aware of the overarching committee, however, never seemed to understand the structure or how decisions were made. Synod 2016 has been a huge eye opener of what it’s like to have a voice with the wider church. It was interesting to see the number of people who attended, but even more interesting to see low numbers of young people. I found it rather difficult to understand the language used in proposals, but later found out it was a common barrier with a lot of the other attendees.
As a young person I was brought to tears when a representative from Next Gen spoke for the first time on behalf of all young people. We stood united to share our vision with Synod, that we are the future of our church and we care about what happens, as it too affects the Next generations. This was my highlight and the only time I saw a group stand united. I commend the standing committee, our moderator, working groups and synod attendees for making this experience an eye opener. I remain hopeful for the future of our church and pray for congregations across this nation.