GET TO KNOW THE ASSEMBLY THEME
An introduction from President-Elect Rev Sharon Hollis
Jesus loves me this I know
And the bible tells me so
-Anna Bartlett Warner
Love is central to both our understanding of God and Jesus, and of our practice of Christian discipleship – Geoff Thompson
The theme for the 16th Assembly invites the Assembly to reflect on how God’s love dwells with us shaping us as followers of Jesus and inviting us to dwell lovingly with each other as the household of God.
It reminds us that when we gather as the body of Christ we bear each other’s burdens and share each other’s joy. It calls us as an Assembly to become a loving community of prayer, discernment and decision making, noticing where the Spirit of Jesus is abiding with us.
This theme invites the Assembly to reflect on the nature of God as love and the call for us as Christians to live lovingly in the world. It echoes the prophet’s instruction, even while in exile, to pray for the city.
As community, the people of God seek the city’s welfare because their welfare is caught up in the wellbeing of the other (Jeremiah 29:7). It recalls the new covenant where God gives God’s people a heart of flesh even as they been unfaithful (Ezekiel 11:19-20). It echoes the great commandment to love God and love our neighbour. It reflects John’s metaphor of abiding in Jesus as the branches belong to the vine (John 15: 1-17) and speaks of Paul’s witness that faith, hope and love abide and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).
In 1 John we read that those who live in God live in love. As individual disciples and as the church we are loved. Knowing ourselves loved allows us to choose to dwell in God’s love rather than in destructive systems that invite us to dwell in them. To remain in God’s love is to make a choice to live for God’s way and to notice God’s reign.
At times gentle as when Hannah is gifted a child by Love or a mother hen gathering her chicks, Love also speaks with the ferociousness of the mother hen protecting her chicks or the voice of the prophet judging our faithlessness and calling us to love the world as God does through acts of justice and mercy.
God’s love is revealed in Jesus Christ pitching his tent to live amongst us.
Love is willing to suffer for the way and purpose of God, dying on the cross for love of humanity and the redemption of creation and rising to life so that we might continue to know we are held in love and called to live lovingly in the world as followers of Jesus Christ.
Because God dwells with us we are assured that, no matter where we dwell, God is there with solace and a call to transformation. Because God remains with us we are equipped for mission in the world bearing witness to God’s love and inviting others to participate in God’s love.
Inviting the Assembly to dwell in Love provides a lens to view several key callings on our life as a church.
The Preamble to the constitution reminds us that the Creator Spirit dwelt with the First Peoples of this land long before missionaries brought the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In love, the Creator gave the First Peoples customs, culture and spirituality that guided them to dwell in this land with deep care for the earth and each other. The theme invites Second Peoples to continually reflect about the ways Second Peoples have failed First Peoples and into deep relationship with First Peoples. In particular, Second Peoples within the Uniting Church are called to remain alongside Congress seeking to walk together in ways that allow us to be attentive to the deep wisdom God has given to the First Peoples and support their sovereignty and self-determination.
It is now 35 years since the Uniting Church declared we are a multicultural Church.
To grow into this declaration is at times joyful, at times painful. Many people of colour in the Uniting Church know the pain of racism in the Church. To abide with each other in love across racial and cultural difference is to recognise the indwelling of the Spirit in the other and to be willing to do the hard work of confronting our own prejudice so that we might dwell together in love. If we are willing to continue to do this hard work then the quality of our life together will witness to the abundant love of God in our midst and of our abiding with God.
The theme invites local communities of faith to be loving neighbours,
seeking to really get to know the people and communities where they are in ministry and to discern prayerfully how to live lovingly with our neighbours for the sake of the gospel. It calls us to strive to be communities of justice and mercy remaining with those most in need of God’s liberating love and embodying God’s love in our worship witness and service.
 Geoff Thompson In His Own Strange Way: A Post-Christendom Sort-of-Commentary on the Basis of Union. Adelaide: Mediacom 2019.