By Andrew Humphries
If you happen to bump into Kelly Skilton at a Uniting Church service or function somewhere, she is bound to make an instant impression on you.
Her bright green hair is an immediate attention grabber, but there is much more of substance happening beneath all of that.
The Murrumbeena UC member has a deep commitment to her faith and to ensuring young voices continue to be heard within the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, and within the UC in general.
And, as part of the generation that has grown up with ease in the digital world, Kelly has all of the skills to bring those young voices to the fore.
That’s why equipping Leadership for Mission Director of Priorities, Focus and Advocacy, Rev Nigel Hanscamp, believes she is perfect for the role she began at eLM last month.
As part of the younger generations team, Kelly’s role will involve developing discipleship, networks and leadership, with a particular focus on growing younger generations’ digital and new communities.
“Kelly brings a delightful mix of experience and energy to the younger generations team and the Synod,” Nigel says.
“Working with many other people, Kelly will be nurturing new forms of being church that may look and feel different to our traditional ways, with different places, faces, and times, as well as some challenges to our current structures.
“Vibrant churches need all generations to work, worship and serve together, and Kelly brings practical understanding and passion for engaging the life of the Church across generations.
“Her energy comes out of her deep faith in Christ, and a commitment to mentor and disciple young people into deeper faith.
“The best response of the Church to this would be a resounding ‘yes’, to welcome people and groups exploring faith in ways we may not recognise.”
Kelly’s role, says Nigel, will focus on four key themes:
*Encouraging digital and new communities of people who will grow in faith, following Christ and service in their communities;
*Developing networks of younger people (children and their families, youth and young adults) who are exploring digital and new ways of being church;
*Growing leadership in younger people who are serving in these and other communities; and
*Working alongside other eLM staff to help discipleship, service and leadership to flourish in communities of younger people.
Kelly is excited about what she can bring to the new role, which she began last month.
“It’s something new, but not unfamiliar, and I’m really excited to jump into the space and serve the Church in a different way,” she says.
“It’s going to be good, and it will look at things like discipleship and leadership, and what does it mean for our Church to start viewing or seeing different forms of ministry as part of that, and what that might actually look like.
“There is a recruiting and equipping element to it, and I suppose also recognising there is so much that we do, particularly with younger generations, from Monday through to Saturday that is still an expression of Sunday morning worship.”
As a child of the digital and social media generation, Kelly says there is a growing opportunity to make use of this technology within the Uniting Church.
“It’s not a brand new space, but we’re asking the question of what does it mean to do discipleship and community this way, and to have friends and connections made through digital media or spaces,” she says.
“I’m excited to see the different ways in which people can engage with it, because it’s laying the foundations for how our Church pivots and moves over the next so many years.
“Even before COVID arrived, a few of us had already started thinking about the theology behind digital ministry and so rather than jumping into digital ministry as a necessity, it was more about thinking as a person who is a digital native about what is my lived experience and how do I live out my calling in this space?
“I think it’s about promoting the view that this is ministry outside of the building, but still very much inside as well.”
As a member since the age of four, Kelly says it’s the Uniting Church’s strong commitment towards many social justice issues, and solid theological foundation, that have inspired her own faith journey.
“For me, it’s about considering who I am to God and who is God to me,” Kelly says.
“That’s something I have spent a lot of my life exploring, and really it comes down to exploring what that means in my day-to-day life.
“I’m part of the Uniting Church because of its theology, and the fact that it’s active in the social justice sphere, and those foundations are what keep me connected to it.
“Other churches have elements of this, but the Uniting Church has the pivotal things that reflect how my day-to-day faith is lived out.
“I find the Uniting Church allows us to hold what’s sacred as sacred, while including our lived reality around issues concerning First Nations and LGBTQ people, social justice and climate action.”
Kelly comes to the eLM position with a wealth of experience, as youth and young adults pastor at Murrumbeena UC and chaplain at Monash University.
While she won’t be able to continue in those roles, she will remain as director of The Sonder Collective, an ecumenical youth and young adults community which Kelly started in 2015 to connect individuals from smaller congregations across Victoria.
As for her trademark bright green hair, Kelly has no plans to change that any time soon.