We live in hope and expectation, despite challenging times. God’s Church always has a future, always has a role in joining God’s mission in the world – but the Church’s structures and responsibilities continue to adapt to changes and opportunities.
On the 25th anniversary of the inauguration of the Uniting Church, the Synod of Tasmania merged with the Synod of Victoria to form the oversight and governance structure that we are familiar with today.
This month’s Synod meeting provides another opportunity for reporting, strategic discernment and shared direction-setting for the working committees and staff of the Synod.
Through the 1980s and 1990s the reports and minutes of the Synod of Tasmania incorporate a significant number of divisions (commissions and boards), including for mission planning, social responsibility and justice, Christian education, mission support, and communications, and a number of institutions incorporating an educational college, community services including aged care, and three camp sites.
Notably, the number of parishes with ministers was much higher than the present day, and many have since combined or closed. The number of lay leaders and ministers required to fulfil the many structures and boards was also very evident, and a significant challenge to sustain.
After extensive research, reporting and discernment, the Synod of Tasmania recognised a combination of fundamental social changes which led to the sale of the three campsites in the late 1990s, and investment of the proceeds for mission.
Since that time, grants have supported ministry with children, youth and their families, and new or innovative mission and ministry in various ways. Surplus manses, vacant land and closed church buildings were also sold at a regular rate, and a small number of properties bought as new opportunities became evident.
For at least the past 25 years the Church has been selling property surplus to our changing missional needs and developing new ways to follow Christ and walk together in order to serve the world. The historical treasures of the Wesley Museum in Hobart show the same processes have been going on since colonisation of Tasmania and the Church’s early mission to Hobart Town in Van Diemen’s Land.
As our globalised media and social media clearly show us, systemic injustice and self-interest are still entrenched, and the Church has a key role in creating community, expressing compassion and seeking justice.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is both good news and a continuing challenge to the Christian community: expressing the Church’s belief in God’s good creation, in solidarity and safety for all, and the possibility of renewed hope and abundant life, even in the midst of evident chaos and in the face of death.
The Presbytery of Tasmania’s strategic focus is to assist congregations and faith communities to thrive and to utilise their resources well for God’s mission. Our Synod’s strategic framework includes a wider vision statement that seeks community, compassion and justice for all creation.
Each Presbytery and the Synod appoint leaders and employ staff to assist the continuing task of being the Church in the world, through local churches and agencies that express ongoing care in very practical and deeply spiritual ways.
As communities of faith, growing disciples of Jesus and being salt and yeast in our local and global villages, our hearts continue to share the abundant life we have found together, and seek for all.
As we gather, together or online, to build each other up in love and to build faithful community for governance and oversight as the Synod meets, we will be sustained by the Spirit of Wisdom incarnated amongst us, and present still.
Rohan Pryor, Synod Liaison Minister for Tasmania