Future Directions for the People of God on the Way

22 Sep 2021 by Rev. Jane Fry, General Secretary in: General Secretary

Why are the people of God in the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of NSW and the ACT, on the move?

In 2019, the Synod committed to ‘focus on growth’ and asked all of the councils of the church to ‘re-organise’ themselves for growth in relationship, discipleship, number and impact. The Future Directions resolutions recently approved by Synod 2021 represent some initial efforts towards that reorganisation and continued the surprising eruption of energy, momentum and hope that began in 2019. Surprising, because we’re in the world of the pandemic and yet momentum and enthusiasm continue to characterize the decisions of the recent – admittedly very long – Synod meeting.

There is work for the church to do in the world that’s changing in expected and unexpected ways. Future Directions focuses the work of the church in this Synod towards young people, First People, rural and regional people and – common to the whole creation – the ways that the climate of the planet is changing. All in the context of a global pandemic whose consequences, though still unclear, will doubtless include increased vulnerability for people on various edges, unpredictable and intensified climate events and exacerbate economic disparity. These are chaotic times that call for creativity and hope to imagine our way into a future that looks like kin-dom for everyone. In the Synod Bible studies, Professor Sathi Clark talked about being ‘…born again into the wild relationality of the Spirit that empowers us…’, a phrase that captures something of the rich possibility of kin-dom.

There are some ‘values’ that were re-affirmed through the Synod 2021 deliberations. They included recognition that the gifts of God are given to bless, not to hoard; that those gifts can be shared out of a generosity that’s grounded in God’s grace and mercy; and that we’re all in this together (‘whole of church’) and we all have something to contribute to the Future Directions journey.

As we embark together on the Synod’s Future Directions journey, we do so knowing that that the pandemic has already had an enormous impact on our community and on the church.

Rev. Jane Fry, General Secretary

There’s an argument that says that the journey of the people of God began when Adam & Eve were kicked out of the garden of Eden. That event initiated an experiential learning journey that continues with our own discipleship, wayward and distracted as it so often is. Future Directions is the latest in a long line of Synod mud maps to guide our next steps in the ongoing journey with God.

One of the archetypal stages on the learning journey of the people of God occurs in the Exodus from Egypt lead – for forty years – by the reluctant Moses. In a journey that started with haste as they gathered to flee from immediate danger, they necessarily had to travel light and leave behind the material accumulations of their lives in Egypt. In a journey that lasted for generations, it’s also pretty obvious that not everyone would have reached the river Jordan and crossed over into the long promised land. Moses himself handed over the leadership to the next generation and did not continue the journey.

As we embark together on the Synod’s Future Directions journey, we do so knowing that that the pandemic has already had an enormous impact on our community and on the church. While we don’t yet know what the long-term consequences will be or exactly how the landscape of the church will change, we probably do know (whether we acknowledge it or not!) that change is likely. The use-by date for business as usual and ‘the way we’ve always done things’ is closer than ever.

As disciples, and as faith communities and congregations, there are some important questions to ponder as we get organised for the next part of the journey.

  • As a disciple, what is God asking of me now – in courage, generosity, sacrifice, imagination and hope?
  • As a congregation, what does Future Directions mean for us in terms of courage, generosity, sacrifice, imagination and hope?