Dreams for the future
This is a series of Act2 contributions being offered over the coming weeks.
From Catherine Pepper, 1st May
Something that’s been emerging and something we’ve been talking about is Our Vision for a Just Australia, and how these deep commitments that have defined us as a Church don’t stand alone but are woven together in relationship. As a uniquely Australian church, it is clear that a heart for First Peoples and a First People’s voice needs to be at the centre of that complex vision for a just Australia, now and into our future.
So it’s not only a thing that we advocate for ‘out there’, but it’s something that we need to live ‘in here’. And we need to find ways to make that incarnate. So the question is how do we bring that vision for a just Australia, with First Peoples at the centre, to life in our own individual settings and in our communal settings, and in whatever future we are to have in this country? What shape for our church will be required?
From Ayla Williams, 21st April
What I envision for the future of the Church is for it to be a place that resonates with the core values of being human. For it to continue with the foundations it's built itself on through the many changes and shifts of the ever-evolving journey and voyage of life. To always operate not just from best practice, but transformative practice, being open to new ways of being, sharing and leading.
I hope for full immersion in the idea of not to just "do good" but to be good and to walk a path of honesty and self reflection. To always act from a place of love, respect, bravery and vulnerability. I envision a place that encompasses the beauty of humanity and allows a space for all to relate with their religion, spirituality and faith in a way that is meaningful to them.
From Joshua Harbort, 7th April
But we do also face a lot of challenges. Ministering to the diverse community of the UCA and meeting needs across a wide range of contexts is hard, and some of those needs might not sit easily together. To minister to this diverse range, we have a complex and equally diverse family of organisations that don't always work efficiently together and whose ministries don't always overlap, and this has very real effects for real people. We have a declining Uniting Church population. We have broken 'pipelines' in many of our communities for young people to grow through and become supported as long-term contributors to the church, and we seem to frequently neglect the personal relationship and mentoring mentioned in 1 Corinthians 4:15. We don't always listen to the voices of our diverse membership. All are valuable, and all bring valuable perspectives. We also live in a world, and sometimes an Australia, that does not live up to the promise of life in all its fullness for all, and that continues to challenge us to find ways of bringing justice and compassion.
These are threats to our ability to fulfil our calling to value people and invite them into relationship with us and Christ, and the question is how we address these challenges so we can continue our worthwhile, good work in a sustainable manner. Even though some of these things may seem 'obvious', we clearly need to engage in more deep reflection and listening across the wide diversity of our church, and to engage in relationship to build our church into the future.
From Jessica Morthorpe, 31st March
I dream of a UCA serving God’s end - the reconciliation and renewal of all creation. A community that has embraced its identity as Australia’s most environmentally friendly church and acted to make that really mean something.
I dream of a UCA that lives up to the early promise of the environmental concern in our foundational documents - the Basis of Union (especially para 3) and 1977 Statement to the Nation (protection of the environment for future generations). That lives up to the ongoing history and legacy of that environmental concern, such as our 12 Assembly environmental resolutions, including For the Sake of the Planet and all its People, An Economy of Life, The Rights of Future Generations and The Rights of Nature, and multiple resolutions on climate change. No other Australian church has this long history of concern, action and advocacy on the environment. No other Australian church has so many individuals and congregations who have done such amazing things to care for God’s creation. This is who we are. It is a history to be proud of, and a history to inspire us to go further and deeper.
I dream of deeper discipleship as we hear the call of the Holy Spirit to creation care. I dream of a lived and vibrant expression of faith and ecotheology that inspires our young people. I dream of an integrity in word and determination in action that surprises and intrigues those not of faith and makes them want to know what makes us live differently. I dream of our children and young people seeing how much we love them in the advocacy we take for action on climate change – our determination to give them a future that is more than floods, fires and heatwaves.
I dream of a day when every Uniting Church congregation has earned at least one of my Five Leaf Eco-Awards. I dream of churches with solar panels or greenpower, water tanks and energy efficient lighting and appliances. I dream of all our churches celebrating the Season of Creation and involving the community in our celebrations of Earth Hour, World Environment Day and National Threatened Species Day. I dream of all our congregation members learning how to be sustainable together. If every Uniting Church member in Australia lived sustainably, we could change this country, and the world, for the better. I dream of us becoming sustainability centres within our communities, and inspiring others to action.
I dream of the UCA showing our society true Good News in the context of the ecological crisis (which is, at its heart, a spiritual crisis). I dream of people seeing our community gardens, our cafes, our indigenous food gardens, our worm farms, beehives, chickens and food co-ops; and glimpsing a way forward. Among all the disillusionment and hopelessness our society is feeling right now, beneath the weight of an economic system that has exploited and abused both people and planet until we are at breaking point – I want people to look at us and see the hope of a better way.
Because whatever the future holds, whatever the way forward is, it will have to begin with community, with equality and justice, and with care for the earth. These are already things we do, already things that are part of who we are. It’s time to live that, proclaim it, and stop hiding our light.
From Bethany Broadstock, 24th March
It is likely that the future Uniting Church will not be one thing but many things, and it will be many familiar things, because the raw material for what we are to become is always what we are now. As we discern the future shape of our Church we remember that we are loved by God in the present, even at the same time as God calls us beyond comfort and in new directions.
It has always been core to the identity of the Uniting Church that we are committed to ‘every member ministry’ – the ministry of the whole people of God. No matter the future shape of the Church, this will persist.
But it is my dream that meaningful understandings of the vocations of lay people and the deep value of Christian discipleship expressed in homes, communities, offices, and workplaces, root themselves even deeper in our hearts, minds, and theologies. It is my dream that no hierarchy of ministries persists in our unconscious. I dream of robust theological reflection on the intersection of faith and work. Theologies of discipleship that embrace the whole of life. A community of people called out wherever they may be, and when called in, do not check their life at the door but whose life becomes the very arena for faith and where the rubber of discipleship hits the road – the place where we really must answer, ‘how then shall we live?’
What is your Act2 dream?