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The meet of the matter

About 200 members of the Uniting Church gathered at Box Hill Town Hall last month for Synod 2022.

The three-day meeting, plus Opening Worship on June 30 which saw Denise Liersch hand over the Moderator reins to David Fotheringham, was a hive of activity. Reports were tabled and resolutions were passed, the most significant being the Church’s response to Tasmania’s End-Of-Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Legislation.

The meeting also included working groups, one of which presented feedback divided into four sections: Signs Of Spring, Emerging From Winter, Synod Priorities, and What Do We Take Home?

Some of the “takeaways” included:

  • The need to provide worship in different places other than just on Sundays, fully utilising modern technology.
  • Resolving some of the competing priorities between the needs of property and mission.
  • How we can best support non-geographical and online communities.
  • Leaving behind the idea that the Church’s mission is to preserve and protect – in short, to survive.
  • Providing a central resource for storytelling about initiatives in congregational life and witness.
  • Celebrate “endings”, such as the closing of a congregation, and not make them negative events.

We asked a number of people for their thoughts and reflections as the meeting ended and here’s what some of them had to say:

 Why are you here?

“This is my third Synod and I really enjoy being part of the decision making of the wider church. We’ve got a number of complex issues that we’re dealing with and I enjoy the aspect of working together to discern where God is calling us to be.”

Helen Geard, Tasmania

 “I attended in 2019 and found it an interesting experience so here I am again.”

Bruce Robinson, Murrumbeena UC

 “I’ve been involved in the Church all of my life, but never been to Synod before. I’m doing a period of discernment so I thought now would be the perfect time to come to my first Synod.”

David Armstrong, Port Phillip West Presbytery

 “I’m here because I had the opportunity to come and speak into the future direction of our Church and I value that and the opportunity to be able to shape what the people after me will be inheriting.”

Kelly Skilton, Port Phillip East Presbytery

 “To find out what’s going on in the wider church and meet new people.”
Michele Lees, North East  Presbytery

“This is my first Synod. It was brought to us by our new Reverend and we have decided we’d like to get involved and start to commit ourselves a little bit more into the Church.”

Emma Halafihi, Gippsland Presbytery

“To see friends and to be inspired and to know more about the Church and community so that I will get more involvement for the growth of community.”

Gospel Ralte, Gippsland Presbytery

 “I got roped on to the Synod worship committee and I thought ‘well I’m going to be part of that, I want to be a part of the whole Synod’.”

Malcolm Frazer, Warrnambool UC

“My minister asked a couple of the congregation to come along. We had no preconceived idea of what we were getting into.”

Deborah Martinez, Gippsland Presbytery

Moderator David Fotheringham conducts proceedings on the final day of Synod 2022, which coincided with the start of NAIDOC Week.

What have you most enjoyed?

“I’ve enjoyed all of it. It’s been better than I imagined. I gained a lot from being in a room with people with all different levels of experiences. I’ve learned a lot.”

Deborah Martinez, Gippsland Presbytery

“It’s been really enriching. I feel really empowered to be part of all of these conversations, be involved in some of the big decisions, and am excited to get even more involved in the future.”

David Armstrong, Port Phillip West Presbytery

“We have to make some very important decisions for the wider community. We are not deciding just for ourselves and it’s good to be able to relate to other people and consider their journey. It’s also been good to speak to a variety of people in leadership. I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I wasn’t here.”

Jenny Soakai, Port Phillip West Presbytery

 “I find it a place of deep thought and I like the inclusive nature.”

Bruce Robinson, Murrumbeena UC

 “Meeting with other people that have shared your journey. Someone described it as a reunion the other night and I hadn’t thought of it in those terms.”

Michele Lees, North East  Presbytery

“Walking with the First Peoples.”

Feke Kamitoni, Port Phillip West Presbytery

 “It’s been really good to see some of the discussions that have more longer-term implications around how certain things are planned or and how certain groups are factored into that process.”

Michael Clark, Box Hill North

 “It has been a chance to get to know people from all around Victoria and Tasmania – lay people, ordained people and people from the Synod. It’s a great networking opportunity.”

Andrea Mayes, Port Phillip East Presbytery

“Meeting people I haven’t seen for ages, but also learning about where the Church expects to be going. And there’s just bits of brilliance like the Bible study we had this morning. It was  fantastic.”

Don Needham, Loddon Mallee Presbytery

“The genuine collaboration between people who really love God and love being part of the Church –  and what we’re trying to do within our community and for the world that God loves so much.”

Helen Geard, Tasmania

“The interaction of people from all sorts of areas, the diversity.”

Barrie Robinson, Tasmania

“I found it a very warm, safe space and it’s not just doing business, there are a lot of other good moments.”

Lavingi Tupou, Yarra Yarra Presbytery

“We are here again at the start of NAIDOC week and we made it very clear that we are a covenanting community, we re-covenanted again. It’s important we walk together as First and Second Peoples.”

Kelly Skilton, Port Phillip East Presbytery

 “I’ve been involved in the facilitation team so I’ve been able to listen to the discernment of the whole group and reflect that back. It’s been really interesting to see the whole picture of what people have been reflecting on.”

Nicole Mugford, Port Phillip West Presbytery

Synod 2022 offered an opportunity for Uniting Church members from Victoria and Tasmania to gather as one last month.

What would you like to see at the next Synod?

“I’d love to see more young people involved.”

Feke Kamitoni, Port Phillip West Presbytery

“I would like to not be one of the younger voices in the room. I’d love to hear voices of other people as they come up in the Church, diverse voices. Young people have a lot to say and a  lot to contribute and that needs to be reflected more in how we proceed for the future of the Church.”

Nicole Mugford, Port Phillip West Presbytery

“It is really important to have an effective system to engage with, and support, people from some of these minority groups. We need to explain why it is important for their voices to be heard and also how the Synod meeting works because I’m in the minority as a younger person who actually can understand and work through the bureaucratic structures. A lot of people my age really don’t want to take the time to engage with that.”

Michael Clark, Box Hill North

“Encouraging conversations within congregations.”

Deborah Martinez, Gippsland Presbytery

“I would really like to see is an understanding that our rules and regs are keys and not locks – they’re not supposed to hinder what we’re doing, they’re supposed to enable safety and inclusion for all people. I would implement more of an in-depth understanding to what our rules and regs are rather than how we’ve been using them.”

Kelly Skilton, Port Phillip East Presbytery

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