This is my Uniting Church
Hamilton Uniting Church
October 3, 2023
"The heart of this community is making time for worship which inspires and informs our engagement in the world."
Tell us a little bit about your church community?
We are a small but growing Congregation with a rich history. We worship and participate in God’s mission on Awabakal land on the edge of the centre of Newcastle NSW, in a building opened in 1928. Over decades the Congregation has enjoyed many seasons of activity, ageing, re-visioning and exploring ‘who God is calling us to be in this time and this place!’
Hamilton Uniting is striving to offer hospitality, to be inclusive and a safe space for questions, and always to follow Jesus in our living. This includes openness to people of all backgrounds, orientations, genders or faiths!
In recent years, the Congregation has worked in partnership with the Synod and other collaborators to create ‘The Hamilton Community Hive.’ These facilities are identified as a project of Hamilton Uniting but operate as a genuine community space.
Hamilton Uniting has for many years been focused on taking action for justice. Joining with others in protests, vigils and marking in worship issues of the day like climate, refugees and peace. This includes advocacy for YES in the ‘The Voice’ Referendum. People at Hamilton Uniting were part of the establishment of ‘Grandmothers for Refugees’ in Newcastle, who still conduct weekly vigils in Civic Park, in support of those in detention.
Our history includes playing a significant role in Lifeline Newcastle, Newcastle Youth Service (youth crisis counselling and street work), and what is now known as Margaret Jurd College which offers a wholistic and alternative approach to mainstream schooling.
What are some of the things happening there that are really exciting for people?
Our many connections with the community.
We participate in The Hunter Community Alliance, working together with community groups, support networks, unions and faith groups ‘for the common good.’ Community organising mirrors our missional task but strengthens our ability to take action and effect real change.
Wesley Mission Newcastle now uses spaces in the Hamilton Community Hive. A recent highlight was the annual project of Wesley’s Queer Support Youth who ran an amazing art exhibition capturing life as they experience it. It was packed with young people, parents and supporters. Another of the congregation’s properties is home to drug and alcohol recovery programs.
We also have Bill’s Place Op Shop and Café. Run by a team of volunteers, the church building is now open to provide hospitality five days a week.
Currently engaged in a ‘time of listening to the community’ we have been holding Mission Workshops to discern new ways to ‘join God in the neighbourhood.’ Only now, beyond Covid lockdowns, we are finding some momentum in this planning. We are engaging with community organisations, networks and small collaborations.
What energises the faith of this community?
The heart of this community is making time for worship which inspires and informs our engagement in the world. We are a diverse group of people from traditional ‘messy middle’ ways of speaking about God to those embracing liberal progressive understandings. We are all seeking ‘unity in our diversity’ and to be people participating in shaping worship which reflects the real world we live in and the issues facing our community.
Our worship reflects tradition, with a growing use of new music, audio visual story sharing, space for questions and looking to learn how ‘the good news always has a context’ and can be shared and heard today! When children and young people are with us we look for ways to hear from them in searching for God’s call in this time and place.
Where do you see God at work at the moment?
We are a small congregation, offering worship, slowly evolving, seeking to embrace music, story and song with an emphasis on lifelong learning for discipleship. In recent months we have been joined by a small but growing number of people over 60. We continue to explore how we might grow younger and be in mission with under 50s.
Building relationship with local organisations, leaders and activities has enriched our Congregation. Many of the Hunter Community Alliance organisations are based in or near Hamilton. ‘Hello Hamilton’ is our local Independent Business Association where we have a good connection and are regarded as supportive and helpful! We know our local MPs and Councillors, who engage in events we hold and invite us into network conversations about Newcastle.
We have recently welcomed an all-age faith community into Sunday mornings at The Hive and have just held our first combined morning, both being guest and host of the other.
Are there any challenges you're facing there?
Our ageing Congregation is challenged by the need to engage in God’s mission, growing younger, but not through those well-known models best suited to a context in which we no longer live. It is a slow process to listen for the ‘hurts and hopes’ present in the community, that we might serve as part of Jesus ministry through us.
How will other new initiatives and ventures give shape to our community of faith? Can we continue to focus on learning, growth, listening and discerning, to take up new ideas? We are learning to collaborate with existing groups, to be open to the community and to enliven our sense of community.
What can the rest of the Church pray for there?
The rest of the Church could pray for continued energy to rediscover who we are in this time and place as followers of Jesus, a pilgrim people on the way. While the Uniting Church more widely and here in this region seeks to transform for mission and ministry to new and younger people, we need God’s guidance about buildings, open to alternative futures, and God’s mission looking towards the city here in Newcastle. What other new possibilities exist to create or transform our faithful presence?
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