The day began with a Bible study led by Dr Liz Boase, which was followed by reports from Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress Victoria, UAICC Tasmania, Walking Together Group and Synod Ethics Committee.
Narana Senior Manager Mel Osborne said the centre, situated at Geelong, provided high-quality Aboriginal cultural education to visitors from overseas, local schools, community groups and businesses and looked forward to sustained growth and success in 2020 and beyond.
Alison Overeem, centre manager at Leprena, Tasmania, said UAICC Tasmania had experienced a period of change, growth, increased engagement, increased networking, and relationship building across the Synod.
She said Leprena aimed to be the “cultural heart” of the UCA and grow Indigenous spiritual leadership in Tasmania.
Sharon Hollis, chairperson of the Walking Together Group, said a highlight of the past 18 months had been walking on country with members of Leprena staff and First Peoples from the South West of Tasmania.
“We heard the stories of the land that tell the way the First Peoples lived in harmony with creation, the suffering of colonisation and the resilience of the First Peoples in maintaining culture and connection,” Sharon said.
Claire Dawe, convenor of the Synod Ethics Committee, said the group’s main focus had been the Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation.
After morning tea, members were invited to participate in various Choose Your Own Adventures, which were information and discussion sessions hosted by different Synod and UCA agencies. Subjects ranged from education (Pilgrim, Lay, Continuing), chaplaincy, property services, intercultural worship, Uniting Housing, congregational business support, plus a number of justice matters.
After lunch Synod members and numerous guests were welcomed by Moderator Denise Liersch to the Tributes Service.
“Today we are giving thanks for those who served God as ordained ministers,” Denise said.
General Secretary Mark Lawrence read out the names of ministers who had passed away since the previous Synod while family members and friends lit candles in their memory.
Mark also read out the names of people who had celebrated significant anniversaries of ordination or commissioning since the last Synod, including those who had 50, 60, 65 and even 75 years of being ministers.
William Morgan, the only person to have reached the 75 mark, wasn’t in attendance but he was given an enthusiastic round of applause in his absence.
At the other end of the spectrum those who have been ordained or commissioned into ministry since the last Synod were acknowledged and those present stood for congratulation.
The response was given by Rev Coralie Ling, whose name was earlier read out as one of those celebrating 50 years since ordination.
Coralie was also the first woman ordained as a Methodist minister ordained in Victoria, and only the second in Australia.
She said there was a photo from the time of her ordination with the other candidates, which showed “10 Anglo men in suits and collars and one woman in a dress”.
She said the photo and the instructions for ministry at the time reflected the state of the church, which was rapidly getting out of step with the social change in Australia at the end of the 1960s.
“This was a white Anglo male model of ministry, where as an individual leader with the answers the minister would pass down what arguments, exhortations and rebukes were needed both for the church and society,” she said.
“But in the last 50 years women have more and more become equal through the journey continues, our society and church has become more and more multicultural, more and more we recognise sexual diversity, more and more we recognise that difference brings important gifts and insight.”
Following the Tributes Service it was back to the work of Synod with two proposals presented by the Ministry and Mission Committee.
The first was to urge the Federal Government to safeguard people with disabilities during and after the rollout of the National Disabilities Insurance Scheme and this proposal was adopted by consensus.
The second was to call on the Federal Government to work with First Peoples to reform the Community Development Program, which Synod Senior Social Justice Advocate Mark Zirnsak said was more punitive than similar employment programs for non-Indigenous people.
Synod adopted the proposal by consensus.
Following that was a report back by the facilitation group, which had helped draft wording changes to the proposal on voluntary assisted dying based on feedback by the working groups.
After some more questions on the modified proposal working groups resumed discussion on it until dinnertime.
The evening program began with table groups being invited to get plates of “nibbles” – fruit, biscuits and cheese.
Co-Director, Relationships & Connections Rev Sue Withers said the reports from presbyteries would be considered in a different fashion this year and introduced a panel of five speakers to offer a few thoughts on presbytery life as conversation starters.
The five panellists who each spoke for about three minutes were Rev Dr Sunny Chen, Rohan Pryor, Rev Ian Turnidge, Rev Rose Broadstock and Anna Harrison.
After some discussion at tables there was a lively session of questions and comments from the floor that covered issues such as rural stress, presbyteries’ relationship to UCA agencies and how churches can network digitally.
A theme that resonated with the room was that it was the job of presbyteries to know and love congregations.
The day ended with young adult theological reflectors Melanie Morris, Joy Han and Cameron Shields who talked about the importance of stewarding leadership.
“To steward our leadership means not to focus solely on those who fit a demographic criteria but rather we look towards the service that corresponds to their gifts where they have been anointed, discerned and called to serve,” Cameron said.
To find out what happened on day one of Synod click here.
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