It was wonderful to end my year the way it began – in the company of an inspirational group of the UCA’s young adults. They came to the National Young Leaders Conference (NYALC) from every part of Australia, from many different cultural and linguistic communities, from all sorts of different congregations with different styles of Christian faith within the UCA. They’re passionate, smart, deeply committed disciples of Jesus who love God, each other and their neighbours of every kind. I’ve said it before, I want to be part of their Church!
There’s a lot I could say about the experience of spending a week with them, but I’ll just mention one thing here – something they have in common with many other people within the UCA. They desperately need and want to know how to navigate their way through their church’s structures, processes and regulations. They’re young leaders. But they find their leadership limited by the impenetrable way their church is organised. They want to understand the vision, values, polity and practices of the Uniting Church so that they can really get involved.
The same issue has been raised with me by other young adults too – including Aboriginal, Sudanese, Samoan, Tongan, and Korean young leaders. It’s been raised with me by ministers and other church members who’ve come into the UCA from other denominations, or from overseas. It’s been raised with me by people in rural congregations who have found themselves called upon to give leadership in their faith communities and Presbyteries because of the loss of Ministers from their communities. It’s been raised with me by leaders in our community service and educational agencies, where most of the workers have no functional relationship with the UCA.
It’s all well and good for me to say of those inspirational young adults at NCYC or NYALC “I want to be part of their Church”, but they’re saying back to me “I want to be part of my Church too!”
This is quite confronting for me because I’ve spend most of my adult life studying, writing and teaching about the vision, values, history and polity of the Uniting Church. I haven’t been “hiding this lantern under a bushel” but, clearly, I haven’t yet made it “a city on a hill” either. So, here’s some information about a one-week intensive course that I’m teaching on the subject in February http://us8.campaign-archive1.com/?u=3404b1903d5d6aae529a4b6b2&id=de002278cc&e=7e9f9bad92
Or you can find links to my little books about it – Introducing the Uniting Church in Australia, and Where Did The Joy Come From? here
But, really, this is an appeal to all of you who do know about the vision, values, history, polity and processes of the Uniting Church to share that knowledge and to support and encourage our new members and leaders as they navigate their way through the UCA system. First, because the Uniting Church is growing as new people join us (who know nothing about our “system”). And, secondly, because the Uniting Church will grow as the leadership of our new members is exercised among us.
I wonder whether the issue isn’t that we need to teach others about how we work – rather that we need to take the risk of stepping out to where they are at – with our experience and history valued but not the dominant thing – which would make it an idol.
I continually encounter Aboriginal Christians and third people Christian leaders who are extremely alive and moving in the Spirit… and who have almost no resources, no wider support and no denominational backing – if our church was willing to just say we will trust your leadership as you have learnt to do it, we will give you resources – show us the way to move forward together … both of us the UC and the first and third people christian leaders feeling uncertain, confused, lost and worries – yet absolutely certain that God’s Spirit will guide and accompany us into the uncertain future.
We are misled if we think the dominant culture has found the answers that always will apply – at present second people do not seem to have the resources of answers that work in the current setting. The dominant culture leaders in our church need to be willing to step back and allow those who have a profound sense of community, and experience of God and the Holy Spirit that works itself out in different ways than the dominant culture is used to. My dream is that the Uniting Church will be free enough to acknowledge it has been hijacked by the second people up until now – and will dare to release respect, leadership, authority, resources and trust to its First and third people leaders – to dare to let them be themselves in their own expression of they faith – not trained up copy cat second people – but First and third people Jesus followers who dare to be still with the Holy Spirit in their own way, listen to God, to speak out of what their heart and spirit is hearing from God, lead with confidence, respect their elders and their traditions, and call us all forward – not just opportunities but handing over resources and control.
If our church was to come with a repentant and honest attitude of daring to do this – I believe we might see remarkable things happen – as God moves in new and profound ways!
Beautifully expressed Dean. Exactly!
It’s not just a question of explaining the system – the system is far too complex and needs an overhaul to make it more user-friendly!
I think you’re right, Lauren. But where to begin? That’s a conversation I’d really like to be having… and there are a couple of opportunities presenting in the New Year.