Fiona and I arrived home from Sydney, on the Thursday evening following the Synod Meeting, to find two ewes standing, quite composed, in the middle of our lawn. They had found their way through the paddock fence and had taken advantage of the garden, which had decidedly more green growth than the paddock from which they had escaped.
At four o’clock in the morning, they escaped again, leaving their lambs behind. The lambs were not happy and made their case. Therefore, we happily rose, caringly ushered the ewes to a reconciliation with their abandoned offspring and returned to bed.
It wasn’t the gentle return for which we had hoped. It was, however, a reminder that events like our Synod Meeting occur in the reality of our lives, and that the decisions we make are in the midst of our congregations and our community.
So much of what happened in the Synod meeting reminded us that we are a church at mission in the world.
Our two guest speakers – Joel and Hannah – placed our lives squarely amongst everything, reminding us of both God’s grace and our response in hope. We crafted poems on the spot to offer a blessing to someone we value, and watched as the foundations of our faith – relationships with God and those we love – were reshaped by the crises and circumstances of our lives, and by God’s mercy.
The gathered Synod affirmed proposals about “Pathways” and “Pulse”, but they will only make sense as we enact them in the life of our Synod. Statements about mission and young people can be motherhood statements, or they can be declarations of intent; attending to the voice of God’s Spirit to reshape the mission priorities of our presbyteries and making decisions – sacrificial, generous, deliberate, but always hopeful decisions – about how we engage and grow our mission with young people.
Once again, we asserted the vital role of the rural life of our church. However, central questions remain. How do we reflect that in our sharing of resources, in our call process, in our formation of ministers both lay and ordained, in our decisions? How is our theology of ministry reflected in a church which has more and more resources harboured in the growing metropolitan areas, which are also in need?
Our worship was bookended by the St. Stephen’s pipe organ and the Terrigal Congregation jazz band, and we were generously served by a gifted team throughout our meeting. New songs were written to amplify our faith in Christ in the world in which we live, and they are available to congregations across our Synod.
We made a hopeful, challenging decision about the ministry in this Synod of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress. We worked hard to listen to each other and resolved a way forward which will take grace and work, prayer and courage – and time.
The reshaping of the Synod Standing Committee may seem to be a mundane piece of news, but we hope it becomes a way of making decisions more effectively. The challenge will be how the prophetic voices will be present alongside those with other gifts of leadership.
We had conversations in Discernment Groups about Same Sex Marriage, asking how we bear witness in our seemingly scattered and somewhat divided communities – caring for those in need, living out justice, healing wounds, speaking prophetically and always offering hospitality.
We gave thanks to God for the gracious, pastoral leadership of Rev. Myung Hwa Park. Myung Hwa presented her final report and the Synod then reflected on what a gift she has been to our church.
A moment later, it seems, we celebrated the appointment of Rev. Jane Fry as Synod General Secretary, inducting Jane in the final worship event, as our Synod creates a new leadership team.
The Uniting Church asserts God’s mission places us in our community. We worship, witness and serve in our world, not immured in our church buildings. The Synod Meeting was hopeful and engaged, and we made decisions in that light. They will only become effective as we discern – together – God’s voice, as we act upon our decisions, and as we seek courage – not safety – for the story which lies ahead.