Installation of our new President
The Uniting Church in Australia has joyfully installed Rev Sharon Hollis as President of the Uniting Church in Australia.
Rev Hollis is the third woman to be President, and the first ordained woman in the role. She will offer the Church spiritual leadership for the next three years.
UCA members in locations across the country tuned into the livestreamed service to offer their prayerful support for the new President.
In comments shared on social media, members warmly welcomed the installation and expressed their appreciation for Sharon as the new President. Tributes also flowed for Dr Deidre Palmer giving thanks for the gift of her faithful leadership as the retiring President.
The Service of Worship was also the official opening of the 16th Assembly meeting.
The service was led by Dr Palmer, Rev Hollis and Assembly General Secretary Colleen Geyer.
The first Bible reading from Ezekiel (36:24-28) was read by Sharon’s daughter Ingrid. The reading of 1 Corinthians 13 followed, read by students from Nungalinya College in 11 different First Nation languages. The final reading was from John 1: 14, 16-18.
The new President delivered a powerful sermon on God’s love for us, and our call to live lovingly in the world.
“God loves, we see and know God’s love in God’s refusal to give up on us, even when we deeply disappoint them. We see and know God’s love in Jesus Christ among us, in his rising and dying in love. We see and know God’s love in her ongoing gifting of the Christian community for loving engagement in the world.”
“So beloved of God, let all you are and all you do be with love and for love.”
Rev Hollis said although love was an “over-hackneyed” word in our society, in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he does not speak of sentimental love.
“The love Paul talks about is active, tough, resilient and long suffering. This love risks the fragility of human flesh in the incarnation. It crosses boundaries. It raises up those who religion and society have excluded. It endures the cross. It rises again.”
Sharon reflected that Paul’s letter was addressed to a community that was divided over who had the better spiritual gifts and the greater standing in the community.
“What Paul reminds us is that God’s love is a reversing love. A love that upends the social order, disrupts our attempts to make certain ideologies or groups more powerful simply because they have the better gifts.”
“Love means we must ask ourselves whose voices are we marginalising, who have I turned away from, who have I shouted at, who have I preventing from hearing the good news of God’s enduring unquenchable love.”
“The love Paul is talking about is not superficial polite niceness – it is an attempt to draw us more deeply into God’s radically inclusive difference-honouring love. It requires courageous strong action.”
Rev Hollis acknowledged the women who had gone before her and paved the way for her to stand as President today.
“We must continue to speak love in truth about the idol of patriarchy and the way it claims a place at the top of the hierarchy, it has no place to claim.”
Rev Hollis says God’s love calls all of us to the work of change and transforming.
“A love that bears all things will keep speaking this truth until it becomes a reality in all places for all people – love that will give up and make space and create new communities where the image of God in each human being and all creation is honoured.”
During the service, members of the 16th Assembly made a commitment to prayerfully discern God’s will and model behaviour that embodies Christ’s love through respectful conversation and reflection throughout the meeting, both this weekend and at the reconvened Assembly in 2022.
Ms Geyer led a pray of blessing and releasing of ministry for Dr Palmer, acknowledging her witness and service, but particularly her passion to encourage every-member ministry, pastoral leadership and the leadership of young people throughout the triennium and particularly during the anxiety and grief of 2020.
The Service of Worship included pre-recorded music performed by Rev Radhika Sukumar-White and the School of Discipleship. UCA songwriter Phil Newton, who wrote one of the songs, has shared a songsheet for the song In God's Love forUCA members to use.