Reflection 2: Rev Linda Hanson
November 15, 2022
This reflection is part of a series offered by the Assembly's Growing in Faith Circle to continue reflection and engagement on the Uniting Church's founding document, the Basis of Union, 50 years after it was first published.
The series was inspired by and is a response to "The Basis of Union at 50 - It's Present and Future" - an online conference hosted late in 2021 by Pilgrim Theological College, which brought together more than 70 people nationally across the Church.
The intention in sharing these reflections is to continue and expand the conversation. These responses are looking for threads, themes, questions and possibilities weaving between, hiding amidst, and hoping across several of the initial reflections offered at the Conference.
Reflection 2: Rev Linda Hanson, Associate Director of Mission - Mission Integration, UnitingCare Queensland, and Chairperson, Moreton Rivers Presbytery.
Linda lives on the land of the Turrbal people
How does the Basis enable and/or limit the UCA’s capacity to develop forms of church, ministry and mission which engage the contemporary context?
At UnitingCare our purpose, as enshrined in our constitution, taken from the words of Jesus Christ in John 10: 10, is “life in all its fullness” for the people we serve. This has been our DNA since the early 1900s when our forbearers first cared for prisoners, hospital patients, children without homes and those in need of food and blankets.
A cursory scroll through the Basis reveals that there is nothing in it that curtails such activity, just as there is nothing in the Basis that limits UCA’s capacity to develop forms of church, ministry and mission which engage the contemporary context. It even says in paragraph 18: “The Uniting Church prays that, through the gift of the Spirit, God will constantly correct that which is erroneous in its life.” This provides a theological framework and permission for “reflective action,” one of UnitingCare’s mission practices.
The Basis recognises the various agencies which were in existence in the uniting Churches, and the invitation made at union continues today as agencies consider afresh their commitment to the Church’s mission. At UnitingCare, strategy is aligned with the mission of the Uniting Church and reflects the priorities of the Queensland Synod’s “Plenty Program” of work. Our mission statement reflects this connection. As part of the Uniting Church, "the mission of UnitingCare is to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities as we reach out to people in need, speak out for fairness and justice and care with compassion, innovation and wisdom. A recent initiative of UnitingCare, Connect 100, is aimed at building stronger relationships with local Uniting Church congregations to both pastorally support our staff and teams, as well as look for opportunities for closer collaboration. The Basis invites us to continue exploring new ways of ministry as a demonstration of the church’s unity.
The Basis also reminds us that “the Uniting Church enters into the inheritance of literary, historical and scientific enquiry and the Uniting Church lives within a world-wide fellowship of Churches in which it will learn to sharpen its understanding of the will and purpose of God by contact with contemporary thought” (para 10). The 1977 Statement to the Nation, the 1994 Covenant between the UCA and the UAICC and all such statements since, build on the Basis and add to our inheritance as we live out our faith. Care for creation is an inherent part of our faith. Through action for climate change and walking with First Nations Peoples we give life to this idea that we refine our understanding of the purpose of God by engaging with current thinking and enquiry. UnitingCare’s Reconciliation Action Plan and environmental sustainability goals, which includes sourcing 100% of our electricity from renewable energy by 2025, give life to this part of our heritage.
Although the Basis does not specifically mandate disciple making, it is there in essence as in our worship, witness and service we are called to participation in the mission of Christ in the world, and that we will order our life in response to God’s call to enter more fully into mission. So in the Presbytery of Moreton Rivers and the Queensland Synod we want to prioritise disciple making and church planting. The Basis enables us to do this as we develop contemporary forms of church. Synods indeed have this responsibility for direction of the Church’s worship, witness and service.
Our Church was always intended to be a growing church. The Church is a pilgrim people, always on the way towards a promised goal. It was in the DNA of our Methodist and Presbyterian Churches as all congregations were originally church plants themselves. However with union there was less growing and planting of more churches, unless in new suburbs and housing estates. The emphasis shifted to more combining, as unity and working together was seen of prime importance. Shrinkage became common. This begs the question: did this lead to our culture of decline? Did union in some way provide an unintended back drop for closing churches to be our cultural norm? But this is a cultural question, not a question of the Basis. The Church’s perennial call, as the Basis reminds us, “is to be a fellowship of reconciliation, a body within which the diverse gifts of its members are used for the building up of the whole, an instrument through which Christ may work and bear witness to himself” (para 3). The Basis doesn’t limit the UCA’s capacity to develop forms of church, ministry and mission which engage the contemporary context – only we do.
The Basis doesn’t limit the UCA’s capacity to develop forms of church, ministry and mission which engage the contemporary context. We might, but the Basis doesn’t.
Rev Linda Hanson
Associate Director of Mission - Mission Integration, UnitingCare Queensland, and Chairperson, Moreton Rivers Presbytery.
Linda lives on the land of the Turrbal people