Growing Up Uniting
By Christine Gordon, Assembly Archivist
Ecumenically, theologically, spiritually, proudly, liturgically, multiculturally, hopefully and joyfully.
These were some of the perspectives explored under the “Growing Up Uniting” theme of the Uniting Church National History Society Biennial Conference which was held over the long weekend of 11- 13 June at the Centre for Ministry in Sydney.
The Conference opened with an address by UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer, speaking on ‘Creating Christian communities of welcome, hope and liberation’. Deidre spoke with passion about the ‘roundtable’ discussions she has hosted with young adults across the breadth and depth of the UCA, reflecting on their voices and actions shaping the present and future UCA.
It was with great delight that we welcomed a number of young adults who participated in some or all of the conference.
Keynote speaker Dr Ruth Powell, Executive Director of the National Church Life Survey (NCLS) shared on ‘Growing up Uniting: an inside out perspective’. She spoke about growing up in the Uniting Church and presented data from the NCLS about the positive and negative findings of young people in the Uniting Church.
A highlight of the weekend was the launch of the book Growing Up Uniting: insights to ponder; lessons to heed. Editors Rev Dr William Emilsen and Dr Elizabeth Watson presented the findings from their research of interviews and essays from young people across the Uniting Church in Australia.
In launching the book, Assembly National Consultant Rev Charissa Suli said: "This book challenges every member of the Uniting Church to rethink how we be the church today in a world that looks so vastly different to the world in 1977."
"The authors call us to listen to the voice of God who is leading us into uncharted waters that require risk, change and deep trust in God to create new spaces, new life, new opportunities and give permission to a rising generation who are willing to stand on the shoulders of those who have come before and lead the church forward."
In addition to the keynote speakers there were 13 papers presented over two days which were delivered mostly by members of the Society and other interested historians. The papers varied from individual experiences of growing up in the Uniting Church, conversations with LGBTIQA+ and CALD community members about their experiences growing up in the Uniting Church, stories of UCA agencies and their impact on young people both in Australia and overseas. A session led by John Cox and Sarah Lim from the National Safe Church Unit and UCA Redress was entitled “Growing up safe in the Uniting Church”.
The weekend also saw an inspirational service of worship on the Sunday morning, a talanoa session, a multicultural panel discussion of young people growing up in the Uniting Church, wonderful musical items by Douglas Simper, the Mascot Wesleyan Uniting Church Choir and singer and songwriters of the Uniting Church and a round-up from the various Synod and Assembly archives.
The meeting concluded with the Uniting Church National History Society Annual General Meeting and election of members of the Board of the Society.
It was an extremely well-run Conference and thanks go to the planning committee and the team at the Centre for Ministry for a thought-provoking and inspiring look at our history predominately through the eyes of our youth and young adults and what that means for the future of the UCA.