July 26, 2022
Written by Rev Lindsay Cullen, Assembly National Consultant
When I speak to people about the need for, or reasons for innovation, there are two themes which predominate. The first is practicality — we need to innovate in order to be relevant, or to connect with our communities or with current cultures and sub–cultures.
We’ve seen wonderful examples of this type of connection in our series on Innovation — the work of Community Chaplain Rev Karen Paull, or Community Minister Rev Christine Palmer, in the quirkiness of Sci-Fi Church or the plethora of wonderful podcasts coming out of Uniting Church sources. To put it bluntly — we innovate because it ‘works and we need to explore things which might work in engaging with Australians in the 21st Century.
A second reason for innovation comes from the idea of building on our strengths. Instead of assuming that we need to do mission and ministry in the ways we always have, we evaluate the assets and strengths we have, including the people, skills and talents at our disposal, and then we imagine what God might be calling us to do with those strengths and assets.
We see this in the creative thinking of the Coffee Cup challenge raising funds for people in crisis, the unique approach to teaching and theology at Nungalinya College or the story Rev Matt Harry tells about Hampton Park Uniting Church and their community connections. This kind of use of the gifts given to us is a deeply biblical reason to innovate — just think of Jesus’ “Parable of the Talents” (Luke 19: 11–27).
But I want to explore one further reason to innovate — which for me may be the most compelling. In short, we innovate because God is an innovator! The scriptures regularly describe God as doing new things, previously unimagined — freeing a slave people, caring for the poor, touching lepers, inspiring miracles and giving different languages to disciples.
The Uniting Church holds strongly to the value that God delights in the diversity of people. We should also recognise that the infinite creativity of God is seen in God’s constant re-imagination and re-invention of human structures, approaches and institutions on the way to the Kin-dom. Innovation is a way for us to praise God, as we explore the myriad ways in which God may be worshipped, witnessed to, and served, and the multiplicity of activities, organisations and projects which can be used to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8)