"This big, bold experiment called the Uniting Church"
Act2 Project Lead Andrew Johnson reflects on how anniversaries can invite us to see anew
October 25, 2023
Image: 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 entitled “Could Sydney build something as bold as the Opera House today?” written by Louise Herron, CEO of the Sydney Opera House. It was a preview of the 50th anniversary of the Opera House which we celebrated last Friday 20 October.
"Have we become like the city workers on the Manly ferry, ignoring the wonder before us as we go about our daily grind? Do we value the gift God has given us and continued to renew in us through the past 50 years?"
The Opera House was a controversial piece of architecture coming out of the mind of an unknown architect from Denmark. It stretched both the boundaries of what an opera house looked like and the limits of engineering and political will. There were time and cost blowouts, and ultimately, architect Jørn Utzon resigned prior to completion.
It is now a World Heritage listed site and recognised globally as one of the most remarkable pieces of architecture. Despite all the challenges, no one today would question the value of that enterprise.
It has not always worked as designed. Anyone who has seen those awful looking Perspex rings in the Concert Hall knows the acoustic limitations only recent rectified close to the 50th anniversary. However, those limitations are not often remembered when we see soaring shots of the Opera House on occasions of great national significance.
It got me thinking about our life as a Uniting Church. We are between the 50th anniversary of the Basis of Union which we marked in late 2021 and the 50th anniversary of our inauguration in 2027. This period is an important time for us to reflect on our life. We have not been World Heritage listed but both the vision of our life as described in the Basis of Union and the reality of bringing it to fruition are remarkable.
Have we become like the city workers on the Manly ferry, ignoring the wonder before us as we go about our daily grind? Do we value the gift God has given us and continued to renew in us through the past 50 years?
Not everything has worked out as designed for us either. We have a few of our own ‘Perspex rings’ and we continue to deal with issues we haven’t quite worked out how to address.
Louise Herron does ask a provocative question, one which we could ask ourselves also – [do we have] the capacity, the imagination and the courage to repeat such a bold, adventurous experiment?
This is the question before us in the Act2 Project. However we shape and order our life, at its heart is an invitation to reimagine our life together. Structures like the Opera House do more than simply contain a space to hold a concert. They inspire our imagination and invite us to think differently. I believe in Act2 we are being invited by God to think differently about ourselves and our life together. Now is the time for you to contribute to that imaginative task.
Between now and the end of November is a critical opportunity to ensure we are able to think again about our life and explore what God is asking us to be and do with this bold, adventurous experiment called the Uniting Church.