Being Young and Christian
This story was first published in the Synod of South Australia New Times magazine April and May 2021 edition
Written by Dr Deidre Palmer, President Uniting Church in Australia
From its inauguration the Uniting Church has affirmed the gifts and voices of young people shaping our life and mission.
Young people are members of our decision-making councils; they contribute to local churches; they are part of ministry in schools and universities; they express their Christian faith through the arts; they offer their gifts in worship; they are sharing their faith with their peers; and they are building pastoral networks.
Young people continue to discern the call of God on their lives and seek wisdom on where God is leading them. They are embodying the love and hope of Christ in their families, schools, workplaces and wider community networks; and they are passionate advocates for God’s vision of justice, peace, and reconciliation for our world.
The Uniting Church believes that young people are the church of today (as are our children and older members!) as well as the church of the future.
National Young Adult Leaders Conference (NYALC)
During my time as President, it has been a joy and great source of encouragement to meet with youth and young adults of the Uniting Church. I hosted, along with the Assembly Resourcing Unit, a National Young Adult Leaders Conference (NYALC) in January 2019. 120 leaders from across the life of the Uniting Church met in Adelaide to share their faith, their gifts and their hopes for our Church and its future. It was an inspiring time and those young leaders have continued to connect with each other and the Assembly. When NYALC 2021 was cancelled, because of border restrictions, we went online. Rev Charissa Suli and I hosted four online conversations with young adults.
The President’s Roundtable
I have also hosted ‘The President’s Roundtable’ – conversations with young adults in the Uniting Church. The Roundtable includes listening to the voices of Uniting Church youth and young adults around a series of key areas and questions regarding their journey with Christ and their Christian discipleship, their experience and views of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) and what sustains and encourages them in living the Gospel of Christ in their daily lives.
The Roundtable includes a conversation on their views on how the Church might engage in the public space and their hopes for who we are and are becoming as the UCA. The latest Roundtable was held in Sydney with 30 young adults in attendance.
In each of the Roundtables, young people are invited to respond to the following:
- The thing I value most about the Uniting Church is …
- My best experience of the Uniting Church is …
- The biggest challenge facing the Uniting Church is …
- I wish that the Uniting Church ...
- How do we want the Uniting Church to engage in the public space?
Some of the responses included the following:
Young people value our hospitable, welcoming church and its intergenerational and multicultural nature. One person noted ‘feeling like I come home when I go to church.’ Another valued ‘being comforted by my church community in times of grief and need.’
They value our Covenant relationship with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC). In the public space, they believe we need to respond to mental health issues experienced by them and their peers. They believe it’s important for the Church to be responding to domestic violence.
They are concerned about racism and the treatment of refugees. They are actively engaged in addressing the impacts of Climate Change and believe as the Church we need to be actively and urgently responding to this crisis.
Young people affirmed the ways they are able to contribute to the UCA – leadership in local churches in Synod and Assembly.
They are concerned about being patronised and dismissed, when they have much to contribute; and believe their viewpoints and insights can bring transformation to the Church.
They love connecting with each other online, with others they met at NYALC, National Christian Youth Convention (NCYC), Synod and Presbytery retreats, and National Conference gatherings. They believe it’s important to connect with country, culture and language and they value the wisdom of their elders.
We asked the NYALC Online young leaders, what they have learned during this time of the global pandemic? Some of the responses included: They are grateful to God for their pastoral networks. They are concerned for people around the world, who have been much more significantly affected by the pandemic, than their experience here in Australia.
‘It’s been a good opportunity to have family prayers.’ ‘As a family, we’ve been worshipping at home together and have occasionally checked out other services online – that’s been a good opportunity.’
‘I have learned that the church is not a building. The church is not contained to a building. The church is so adaptable, even with people we didn’t expect it to be. Church is about worshipping God, and it is another way of checking in with family and friends.’
If you are a young person in the Uniting Church, we at the Assembly would like to hear from you about your faith journey, your experience of the Uniting Church and your vision for who we are and are becoming as the church participating in God’s mission in the world. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org