At the 15th Assembly this year the cohort of young adults makes up 10% of the delegates.
During the meeting the President Dr Deidre Palmer took the opportunity to have dinner with the young adult group and discuss the things that matter to them. Of course they had questions for Dr Palmer as well, particularly how she saw her term as President being defined, in the same way that immediate past President Stuart McMillan’s had a passion and heart for First Peoples.
As a former youth worker and Christian educator, Dr Palmer explained that she is passionate about empowering every member of the Uniting Church, whether ordained or lay, in “every-member ministry.”
“I would like the Uniting Church to continue to be focused on discipleship and what it means to be a follower of Jesus in the social context we are living in,” said Dr Palmer. “I would like us to continue to explore every-member ministry and that members could feel, whether they consider ordination or not, that it is not just one kind of track [in ministry]. A great strength of the Uniting Church is its focus on every-member ministry.”
“Young adults are leaders now, it’s not about being leaders in the future. It’s about the Church you are contributing to now. I am also committed to living with our diversity and how we respect that, because when you look at the global scene, why are there civil wars and violence? Because we find it difficult to live with the 'other', and I think as a Church we need to continue to explore how can we embody living with difference respectfully.”
When asked what she believed to be the biggest barriers for the Uniting Church, she replied that sometimes there was a reluctance to witness to the Gospel. Dr Palmer talked about the need for confidence and authenticity in a time when Christianity is counter-cultural.
“I think we need to have deep theological conversations so that we can grow in the confidence of what we are sharing. Where are those liberated spaces where we can be authentic and test those ideas? How do we have those authentic in-depth conversations?”
Throughout the conversation it was evident that the young adult group were passionate about what the Uniting Church is known for in the public space and how they are encouraged, formed and discipled as the Moderators and Presidents of the future.
The lack of resources, both human and otherwise in the public space for issues like refugees and mental health also presents an opportunity for the Uniting Church to step up, it was heard.
But at the core of the discussion was our call to Christ as a Church.
Even when discussion moved to the current state of decline of the Church, the conversation moved to the core of the Gospel: “for the longest time we’ve made it all about this institution that’s selling a product that needs more members to fill seats, and when its not about Jesus it doesn’t work,” said one young adult.
“I think this is an exciting time for us as a Church because we really need to look hard at ourselves and what it means to be a Body of Christ.”