Retiring President's Address
Dr Deidre Palmer has used her retiring President’s address at the 16th Assembly meeting to encourage UCA members to remain strong and full of hope, reminding the Church of the many signs of God’s abundant grace.
Dr Palmer reflected on the ways the Church has been changed and challenged during the pandemic, which began in the second year of her presidency. She acknowledged those currently in lockdown, and the loss, grief and isolation people have experienced and continue to experience.
“Globally, progress made in alleviating extreme poverty has been lost, as the most disadvantaged again suffer the greatest impacts of COVID.”
“We also face the climate crisis witnessed in unprecedented bushfires, drought and intense weather patterns. Many of us are exhausted.”
Dr Palmer said she drew hope from Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4, that speak of the extraordinary power that comes from God.
“These last three years have taught me, that we can plan, imagine a way forward and be totally disrupted. But we are a people of Resurrection – we follow a risen, crucified Lord, who is with us always and empowers us to be a people of love, reconciliation, and hope. You are witnesses to this hope as you gather here.”
“As a Church, we have persisted, adapted, and drawn on the Spirit’s creative gifts so that we are empowered to live God’s call to be compassionate followers of the Risen Crucified Christ.”
She paid tribute to the ways the Church has adapted, cared for one another, stayed connected and advocated for the most vulnerable in this difficult time.
Dr Palmer said the theme for the triennium – Abundant Grace and Liberating Hope – had provided a lens for the many conversations she had shared over the past three years with people from across the church.
In particular she highlighted three ways she had seen signs of Christ’s liberating hope, including our covenant relationship walking together as First and Second Peoples, our multicultural and intercultural community in Christ and our participation in God’s renewal and healing of the whole creation.
Dr Palmer spoke about the ways she has interacted with national agencies and ministries in the life of Church and thanked them for the practical care and advocacy they provide to the most vulnerable in Australia and working in relationship with our international partners.
She reflected on the significant and ongoing conversation about who we are as Uniting Church and reflected on key aspects of the UCA identity and highlighted key themes.
“A great strength of the Uniting Church is based in the scriptural call from 1 Corinthians 12 to be the Body of Christ. None of us are spectators. As disciples of Christ, we are each transformed by the radical call of Jesus, to love and work for a more compassionate world in which all people and the whole creation can flourish.”
Further she noted equality of women and men as key to our identity.
“We are part of the Christian tradition that proclaims Jesus’ ministry, teaching, and relationships, as liberating for women.”
A key focus of Dr Palmer’s presidency has been the discipleship and leadership of young people.
“I’ve been privileged to sit with young people across the Uniting Church and listen to their stories of faith, discernment, and their vision of following Christ in a world of challenges, and possibilities,”she noted.
As part of her address Dr Palmer shared a video with three young adults voicing their hopes for the Uniting Church: Susitina Suli, Raúl Sugunananthan and Mark Brisbane. WATCH THE VIDEO.
Dr Palmer commended to the Assembly the significance of bringing young adults together nationally as an important way to continue to nurture their discipleship.
In closing Dr Palmer gave thanks to all those who had supported and upheld her in prayer during her time as President, giving special thanks to her husband Lawrie, and her family.
“Thank you to the Uniting Church – the beloved community of Christ, to which I’m so blessed to belong.”
“I give thanks above all to God, who has equipped and sustained me through this time with hope and joy.
“God is always more than we can imagine – more loving, more inclusive, more creative, more willing to work with our frailties, more able to equip us with gifts and strength than we had thought possible. As the Uniting Church may we continue to be shaped by the abundant grace of God and bear witness to Christ’s liberating hope”
In the Appreciation for the retiring President, Northern Synod Moderator Rev Thresi Mauboy Wohangara gave thanks for Dr Palmer in a video tribute.
“As a national leader in our Church, Deidre has represented us well and is known for her deep love, compassion and care for people in many ways,” she said.
Siosiana Tangi gave thanks for the intentional way Dr Palmer had support young people.
“Thank you for your passionate heart towards the young people of our church – thank you for your drive and commitment to prioritise young people, for hearing our hopes and our passions.”
Finally, Rev Rob Brown offered a formal Minute of Appreication for Dr Palmer, paying tribute to her flexibility and leadership in adapting to a new ways of operating as President in the midst of COVID-19 and other challenges.
“I think resilience is one of the features of her presidency we have come to appreciate.”
"Deidre epitomises what it is to be a passionate member of the Uniting Church."
“The Uniting Church in Australia has been blessed by the ministry and leadership of Dr Deidre Palmer and all she has faithfully achieved on our behalf.”
Instead of acceptance by applause, Minute of Appreciation was received with prayer with President Rev Sharon Hollis offering a blessing.