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Church thrives in regions

The weekly Bible readings in the lectionary recently included the Matthew 10 story of Jesus calling together a groups of apostles, authorising them and sending them out in mission.

Matthew notes that among them are an Indigenous person, a person who worked for the Romans, a person who would betray Jesus, and more. Like the 72 who are sent out by Jesus in the parallel reading in Luke 10, they are to travel lightly.

Their work is to include proclamation and healing: in UCA terms we could say that they go to worship, to bear witness, and to serve. In the context of the reading the worship is assumed; Jesus commissions them for bearing witness and serving.

On a recent trip around western Victoria I had the opportunity to see many great activities across the breadth of the church.

In Nhill, I saw a congregation in a small community welcoming new children in a space that joined the worship and community spaces together. In Horsham, I saw a regional centre which had been fitted out with technology through which they could engage in active connection with others online.

In Hamilton, I visited a church-connected school where I was able to talk with the students and share in the installation of a new Principal. In Ballarat, I met a number of amazing people working for Uniting and saw something of the breadth of their work, along with members of the congregation’s Local Engagement Group.

These are great examples of the life of the church, and there are so many more: the Korean Church of Melbourne celebrating 50 years this year; networks of smaller congregations sharing resources; and communities of faith who gather regularly online.

The national Act 2 Project has now released a report featuring a review of the ways that local communities of faith are supported, and of the structures of our governance and resourcing, so that our burdens and capacities can be well matched. Ultimately this will help to lighten burdens where they have become challenging to our missional call – where the burdens have become too heavy for the “travelling lightly” that Jesus invites.

The purpose is to look beyond ourselves towards worship, witness and service, and to our response to Jesus’s commissioning for the world God so loves: the peoples, the land, and the whole creation.

The varieties of expression of the church that I’m seeing in my travels include signs of the possibilities for worship, witness and service into the next decade and beyond.

As part of the Faithful Futures project I’m appreciating opportunities to engage with people from across Victoria and Tasmania about what’s happening now, and how we might best resource and support the faithful and prophetic witness of the church into the future.

The church is a community built around faith, with an outwards focus. Across the Synod, the vision of “following Christ, walking together as First and Second Peoples, seeking community, compassion and justice for all creation” reflects the outward focus in the story of Jesus sending out the apostles.

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Rev David Fotheringham


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