Act2 reflects back: So what are we hearing?
Act2 Project Lead Andrew Johnson reflects back on what the team is hearing from across the UCA as they support people to engage with its latest report
September 13, 2023
By Andrew Johnson, Act2 Project Lead
"I am no longer my own, but yours."
Those eight words commenced the final prayer of Uniting in Prayer, the beginning of the Collective Discernment phase of the Act2 Project. Since then, we have been connecting with councils, boards, committees and communities across Australia, listening and assisting communities to engage with Act2: In Response to God’s Call, the project’s latest report.
So, what are we hearing?
“People feel the picture that is painted of the Church in the report is honest, at times confronting, but is true to their own experience."
We are hearing people are appreciating the work, the effort to reach out across the breadth of the Church. People feel the picture that is painted of the Church in the report is honest, at times confronting, but is true to their own experience. People say they feel heard. That we have genuinely tried to listen and reflect that lived experience to the Church.
The publication of the report has coincided with a vast amount of thought and creativity amongst people across the Church reflecting on our theological culture. We are now publishing papers and reflections from theologians across our Church with insight, wisdom and provocation about our life.
As people turn to the Directions for local communities of faith, we find that there is resonance with many issues and alignment with things already happening across the life of the Church. Local communities are looking for how this will impact them, as are the councils that oversee them.
Some feel like we have not gone far enough. They are looking for more guidance on how to focus on making and growing disciples. This phase of Collective Discernment is the time to explore how we go further and deeper to truly find the systemic levers that will make the most difference for local communities of faith.
As people turn to the Options for governance and resourcing, they tend to be intrigued. As we explore them together, we find people exploring implications, pulling apart options, offering variations, alternatives and implications. People see that our current system is not working as designed so they tend more towards being bold and courageous. However, many also fear we have lost the culture and energy to be courageous.
People recognise that changing how we order our lives alone will not be enough. Culture change - changing how we behave with one another - will be essential. While some people pose structure vs culture as competing solutions to the same problem, many people recognise that both are essential.
We've had many questions and many requests for more tools to help people unpack the work. We've responded to over 50 FAQs on the website along with a livestream event. We've also created videos (now with voiceover) along with some additional diagrams, tables and other tools. These are not substitutes for reading the whole report, rather they are aids to unpacking the report.
Some people are reading the report back to front. We believe it is best read from front to back. It helps in laying the context, building an understanding of the issues out of which the Directions and the Options arise. Unfortunately, in reading back to front we are finding a few people are missing big themes and priorities.
We've also heard the sceptics and at times the cynics asking important questions. Is hope for the Uniting Church lost? Have we focused enough on discipleship and evangelism? Have we listened to enough people? Have we relied too much on structural solutions? Are there other systemic levers we should be considering? Have we been bold enough?
We want to be courageous and open to all feedback. We cannot solve everyone’s specific issues. We cannot solve problems beyond the scope of our brief. However, we want to welcome constructive critique of the work which helps the process and reshapes the ideas so that we can better respond to God's call.
We continue to have new people join us on the journey of Act2 in emails, online meetings or in person gatherings. It is still common to have someone come up and say, 'this is the first I've heard of Act2'. So, while we haven't been hiding, we know communicating across the breadth of our Church is hard. We want to say a warm 'welcome'. It is not too late to get involved and share your insights.
Finally, while people want to engage, they are also still considering their response. Few people have a straightforward response like "I think you should do Option X" or "I don't like Direction Y". People are still seeking to understand, while praying and reflecting on where God is leading us.
We are coming to a moment of decision, a moment where we do need to not only pray and reflect, both vital tasks, but also respond. Before 30 November, we want and need to hear from across the Church, so that the work we do can be the work of Church, discerning our response to God's call to enter more fully into mission.
Photo: Act2 Project Lead Andrew Johnson, with thanks to the Social Economy Group.
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