As I have travelled around the Synod these past three years many of you have spoken to me about the future of the church, the Uniting Church or of a congregation. Many of you want to know what we can do to ensure the future of the church, often with a focus on numbers and especially on attracting young people on Sunday mornings.
I believe that the best hope for us as a church is to continue to live into the Synod vision of following Christ.
What flows from this is a commitment to living God’s ways in the world, witnessing with fresh words and deeds to God’s good reign. This may not lead to numerical growth, but it will foster continuing faithfulness that grows our discipleship, and makes more visible God’s activity in the world.
What will this look like? I don’t fully know but I have seen glimpses of faithful following of Christ. I’m sure the Spirit is calling us to new ways and new practices that ground us deeply in the ancient renewing story of God’s loving engagement with the world.
I have seen this in the work of our two Congresses, which work so hard to encourage the flourishing of First Peoples and are active partners in the work of reconciliation between First and Second Peoples.
I have also witnessed congregations that engage with local First Peoples’ organisations, that strive to shape ministry so the voices of First Peoples are heard regularly and justice sought.
I have glimpsed hope in the young people who walk on country and open their hearts to the stories of the First Peoples.
I have visited many congregations that are committed to being a loving presence in their community. They offer their gifts, their buildings, their energy and their creativity to serve their neighbours and participate in the reign of God.
I have witnessed our agencies meeting deep human need. The hungry are fed, the lonely find a place to belong, refugees are welcomed and housed.
We are called to continue to be a community whose worship finds expression in serving others.
Vibrant multi-racial, multi-cultural communities of faith show us how to follow Christ as people that welcome a diversity of cultures and believe that God speaks in many languages and accents.
We still have much to do to grow our capacity to be a truly multi-cultural community that appreciates the vibrant way God’s image is in each person. This can be seen in emerging new communities of faith. These meet in cafes and pubs, churches and parks. Some are contemplative, some are noisy, some gather for a season, some seek to be ongoing.
I encourage us to hope and pray for the flourishing of renewed communities. I hope they allow people to find fresh ways to nurture faith and grow in discipleship and welcome questions, doubts and not knowing.
I have seen faithfulness in the deep commitment of so many Uniting Church people to the work of justice and peace-making. From turning up on Palm Sunday, to lobbying politicians, to non-violent protest, to supporting people who seek justice for themselves – you have shown me how to love God by seeking to stand alongside the most vulnerable.
This is my last column as Moderator and I want to thank all of you who have read and responded to my columns.
I also want to thank the Synod for trusting me with the role of Moderator. I have loved it.
My successor, Denise Liersch, will be a wonderful Moderator for our Synod for the next three years.
Please hold her in prayer as you have held me.