See you in Charleville (or Sydney or Jerusalem)

If you’re a UCA minister or pastor (or a lay person in an appointment that would be a placement if a minister was in it) I hope you’re giving some thought to joining me at one of the three National Ministers’ Conferences that are being held over the next few months. There are still places left, but time is running out.

Personally, I’m really looking forward to the experience.

One reason I’m looking forward to the three National Ministers’ Conferences is that it will give me an opportunity to reflect with colleagues from every Synod and every part of Australia on the report of the Census of UCA Congregations and Ministers. This is the UCA today. Here’s the data. How can we be the best, most faithful and effective participant in God’s mission in Australia in the 21st century? All around Australia ministers have been wrestling with this in their own lives and placements. There’ll be important lessons to share and significant stories to tell. The ministers’ conferences are an excellent opportunity to do that together.

Another reason I’m looking forward to the three National Ministers’ Conferences is the input that we’ll be receiving from Steve Taylor and Rosemary Dewerse – two outstanding missiologists, communicators and educators. They’re planning a series of interactive, multi-sensory, reflective processes that will help a bunch of UCA ministers to imagine what the commitment made in the Basis of Union might mean for us today: “The Uniting Church thanks God for the continuing witness and service of evangelist, of scholar, of prophet and of martyr. She prays that she may be ready when occasion demands to confess her Lord in fresh words and deeds.” (Paragraph 11)

And then there are the opportunities provided by the location of the conferences: Charleville, Sydney and Jerusalem.

The Charleville conference is something of a pilgrimage for me. I was born there and lived there until my family moved to Brisbane, when I was seven. And you know the saying, “Give me the boy until he is seven and I’ll show you the man” (St Francis Xavier). That landscape, that climate, that light, that community made me the person I am. I realise that more and more as I get older. This will be my first trip home to Charleville since I was a boy. I’m very glad to be able to do it with my colleagues in ministry. But then, of course, there’s also a program that will enable participants to experience and reflect on the realities of life in remote Australia together. We’ll be resourced by our own Frontier Services – with insights gained through a century of innovative, effective ministry “beyond the furthest fence”. We’ll be trying to discern what “fresh words and deeds” are demanded of a church committed to confessing and serving Christ in remote Australia today.

The Sydney conference will include a unique experience of multicultural, multi-faith Australia. There will be three “contextual immersion” opportunities planned and arranged by a team from the Assembly’s Multicultural and Cross-cultural Ministry (MCM) and Relations with Other Faiths (ROF) units and the Parramatta-Nepean Presbytery. After breakfast, ministers will be transported in small groups to one of several regions in Western Sydney that exemplify the multicultural, multi-faith character of Australian society. We will see, hear, smell and taste the reality of life in those communities and have opportunities to meet ministry agents and congregations – hearing about the joys and challenges of their discipleship and witness. There’ll also be opportunities to meet with representatives of communities of other faiths. Using a reflective tool prepared for cultural immersion we will have the opportunity to learn and grow from the experience. In the evenings Steve Taylor and Rosemary Dewerse will build on the contextual immersion experience of the day, helping us to debrief and offering further input to deepen our personal learning and growth.

And do I really need to say why I might be excited about being with a whole lot of UCA ministers in Jerusalem for a week? What a wonderful place to share experiences, insights and gifts with each other, and to be refreshed in our vocation as ministers of the Gospel.

So, see you in Charleville, eh?


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