Act2 Advent reflection
Act2 Project Lead Andrew Johnson reflects on the beginning of Advent and the end of the Collective Discernment phase
November 29, 2023
by Andrew Johnson, Act2 Project Lead
There are 24 hours to go before we end the Collective Discernment Phase of the Act2 Project. Over the last six months we have received 98,500 words on our theological culture, engaged directly with over 2,500 people across our councils and received hundreds of written responses to the report, Act2: In Response to God’s Call.
Our Church is pregnant with possibility as we move into Advent.
"Many fears and anxieties have given way to joy in this Project too as we have seen both the new things God is doing and the courage people have had to embrace the possibility of significant change."
Throughout this year we have explored many different images of the church – body of Christ, fellowship of the Spirit and a pilgrim people. Advent is a time for us to look at another – “an instrument through which Christ may work and bear witness to himself” (Basis of Union, paragraph 3).
The stories of Advent are filled with instruments through which God works. I want to reflect on two – John the Baptist and Mary the mother of Jesus.
John the Baptist comes in the mode of the prophet to prepare the way for the One who is coming after him. He calls the people to repentance and the creation of straight paths. As we have travelled around the Church we have sometimes thought we were heralds of something new God was doing. We have also been seeking ways to straighten some of the long and winding paths we have created for ourselves.
However, we have also been aware – like John the Baptist – that we are not the One but rather seek to point to the call of God on our lives. We have been joined by many different people, including from unexpected places, pointing us to see the new thing God is doing in our life.
Mary too was visited by God through an angel telling her, ‘The Lord is with you’. A perplexed Mary is nevertheless faithful to God’s call and gives birth to God entering our world in a decisive new way.
Anxiety and fear give way to joy as Mary bubbles over with the words of the Magnificat. Many fears and anxieties have given way to joy in this Project too as we have seen both the new things God is doing and the courage people have had to embrace the possibility of significant change to the shape of our lives.
However, after this outburst of joy, Mary still needed to follow the challenging path of obedience to Bethlehem. Luke records that after the shepherds visited and the angels burst into song, “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).
There was a lot for her to ‘process’ (as we would now call it); a lot for her to think about and make sense of in being an instrument of God through which Christ could bear witness to himself.
We too as a Church have a lot to ‘process’ about our life, about what we have heard and shared about the state of our life, our hopes for the future and the potentially precarious path ahead.
Over the next few months, you may hear a little less from the Act2 Project as we work through all you have shared with us. This does not mean the project has stopped. We will be carefully bringing together all the work done over the past year and preparing an integrated set of recommendations for the 17th Assembly next year.
We would ask you all to keep the Church and the team in prayer as we ponder all these things in our hearts.
What are the words or actions you will treasure from the past 12 months? How will you remember and reflect on this time of exploring and discerning our life together?
We will also pray for you this Advent and Christmas season, that your community of faith will be filled with joy and abundance at God incarnate amongst you. We pray you will be filled with so much joy that it cannot help but cascade out into a song to which you invite your community to join in singing.
Related Act2 news
Act2 Advent reflection
Act2 Advent reflection Act2 Project Lead Andrew Johnson reflects on the beginning of Advent and the end of the Collective Discernment phaseby Andrew Johnson, Act2 Project LeadThere are 24 hours to go before we end the Collective Discernment Phase of the Act2 Project. Over the last six months we have received 98,500 words on our…
Two weeks to go! Make your Act2 response
Two weeks to go!Make your response to the Act2 ProjectPeople across the Uniting Church have only two weeks to make a response to the Act2 Project in the current major phase of engagement. The Collective Discernment phase, which launched in June with the release of a major Act2 report, will close on 30 November after…
One month to go! Make your Act2 response
Less than a month to go!Make your response to the Act2 ProjectPeople across the Uniting Church have less than a month to make a response to the Act2 Project in the current major phase of engagement. The Collective Discernment phase, which launched in June with the release of a major Act2 report, will close on…
All the highlights: Act2 theological culture series
Act2 Theological Culture papers We’re wrapping up the series. Get all the highlights!In April 2023, the Act2 Project issued a Call for Papers to hear from people across the Uniting Church about our theological culture. The intention was to cultivate a vibrant and honest conversation across the whole life of the Church about the shape…
Reflecting back: Act2 Focus Groups
Reflecting back: Act2 Focus Groupswritten by Rev Cyrus Kung, Act2 Administration and Engagement Officer As a part of the Act2 Project’s ‘Collective Discernment’ phase, 12 Focus Groups explored conversations around Workstream 1, Local Communities of Faith and Discipleship, and the Directions offered in Section 5 the latest report Act2: In Response to God’s Call. This…
Act2 National Online Prayer Gathering
Act2 National Online Prayer Gathering The Act2 Project team with Assembly leaders will host a national time of prayer on 30 November to close the Collective Discernment phaseOn Thursday 30 November, the Act2 Project team along with Assembly leaders will be hosting a national online prayer gathering to give thanks to God and pray for…
"This big, bold experiment called the Uniting Church"
“This big, bold experiment called the Uniting Church” Act2 Project Lead Andrew Johnson reflects on how anniversaries can invite us to see anewImage: The Sydney Opera House is officially opened on 20 October 1973. (Fairfax Archives) written by Andrew Johnson, Act2 Project Lead Earlier this year I read an article in the Sydney Morning Herald…
8 key takeaways from the Act2 report
8 key takeaways from the Act2 report The Act2 Project released a major new report in June 2023. What have we learned?In June 2023, the Assembly’s Act2 Project released a major report, Act2: In Response to God’s Call. It is the product of seven months of intensive and personal engagement across the whole Uniting Church…