12th Assembly 2009

Conversations: 17th July 2009

We continued our conversations today with Assembly members and visitors, talking about youth, what's holding the Uniting Church back, and what sets us apart as a church. Conversationalists talked with the media team's Amy Goodhew.

 

The Rev. John Mavor – Past President of the Uniting Church

01How would you describe the Assembly to a child?

A great gathering of the members of a church who come together to talk a lot. Some of it’s hot air but some it’s very good. It’s where we try to get big visions for the church.

What is youthful? It there an upper limit?

Well, they like to set a date, like 25, but sometimes there are some people who are a bit older than that but their passion is youth and young people. And I believe that it’s fair to let people work that out rather than set a deliberate date.

What do you think is the single biggest thing, if any, holding back the Uniting Church from achieving its full potential?

I’m not sure if the Uniting Church is holding back. It’s going forward in a lot of places.

What is the main thing that sets us apart as a church?

We are a truly Australian church. We’ve not been frightened to take on hard issues. We have a huge diversity in our membership in terms of our different styles of leadership. We’re like other churches — we are all struggling with the same questions. The thing I like about us is we can hold the diversity of worship styles and what people believe but still have the great vision of trying to bring Christ to this nation.

 

Jim Mein – Assembly Volunteer

02How would you describe the Assembly to a child?

Assembly is a gathering of the leaders of the church to make decisions about its future direction. They do other business items that would bore most people. I certainly would recommend anyone to come and see the Assembly at work.

What is youthful? It there an upper limit?

Well, for some, youth is an age that moves with their own age. But youthful in my mind is anyone under 25.

What do you think is the single biggest thing, if any, holding back the Uniting Church from achieving its full potential?

Itself. I say itself because things like the regulations are holding back the church. People hold onto the regulations to stop the church from changing. If we want to be a church of the 21st century we need to be passionate faith seekers not hiding behind brick walls.

What is the main thing that sets us apart as a church?

We actually have the answers to what is a balanced way of living and the strength of faith; but we’re also the worst people at saying what faith means and telling people who Jesus Christ is.

 

Kathy Pereira – Associate Director, Experience Programs, UnitingWorld.

04How would you describe the Assembly to a child?

A whole lot of friendly people who want to hear about different things that are happening in your church.

What is youthful? It there an upper limit?

Yeah, I actually do think there is. We all like to think we are youthful but I think we are specifically looking at the Gen Y and down.

What do you think is the single biggest thing, if any, holding back the Uniting Church from achieving its full potential?

Everyone needs to go on a global mission trip to find out who they are in a global context!

I think the Uniting Church is going somewhere, I think everyone has potential for more growth and moving forward more. I think there is a sense that we’re going somewhere so, in terms of holding back, I suppose the engagement with the youthful people is one key issue for us. I think the stuff with Congress I found really interesting and challenging for the everyday people on the street. What does it mean in terms of engagement at a grassroots, gut level — for overseas guests as well?

What is the main thing that sets us apart as a church?

I actually think we are a church that’s willing to grapple with things that aren’t easy to grapple with, rather than just sweep them under the carpet. The challenges of people on the margins is a really important part of being Uniting Church.

Here at the Assembly I see people touching, speaking; there’s camaraderie, a warmth and relational feel about the discussion. They’re not distanced discussions that you see in the street. Looking down from the visitors’ platform before a session last night, I saw the same thing, people in discussion. I find it really interesting to stop and look at what’s happening because this [the crowds] says a lot about who Assembly is.

 

Kerry Enright – National Director, UnitingWorld

03How would you describe the Assembly to a child?

The family of God comes together to talk about what’s happening in the world to work out how we could live better.

What is youthful? It there an upper limit?

That’s a question that has cultural dimensions. I understand that in the Samoan Church the Youth Group are likely to regard all single people as youthful. For us, I think there is a cut off which perhaps is the Contiki tour cut-off age — which could be somewhere around 35. By youthful, if we mean young people, I would say we mean 25.

What do you think is the single biggest thing, if any, holding back the Uniting Church from achieving its full potential?

The struggle of people in congregations and across the breadth of the Uniting Church to see some compelling vision.

What is the main thing that sets us apart as a church?

I guess that it’s sought to unite different theological strands and heritages in an intentional way, unlike any other denominations.

 

Robert Key – Assembly Impresario

05How would you describe the Assembly to a child?

I think it would be very hard for a child to understand what Assembly is as it’s mainly adults who are doing the work. I think I’ve got to keep that question in the context that I am an administrator looking after logistics so I’m not a member of Assembly.

I think it’s a hard thing to do but important that we keep explaining to children some of the fundamentals of the Basis of Union, which is about the inter-conciliatory relationships between the councils of the church.

What is youthful? It there an upper limit?

Life begins at 60!

It’s very important that we engage with young people, particularly in the range of mid-teens to around the 30s and 40s for their involvement because that is the life and future of our church.

What do you think is the single biggest thing, if any, holding back the Uniting Church from achieving its full potential?

Because those whose life begins at 60 are not willing to change and listen to what can happen if younger people try to bring forward the way they wish to worship our Lord.

What is the main thing that sets us apart as a church?

I believe we are a church that is prepared to face the social issues, which has been evidenced by the sexuality debate in the past. The work the church does is why I love being a member of the Uniting Church.

 

Curtis Dickson from Sydney and an official ‘youthful person’

06How would you describe the Assembly to a child?

It’s a very big meeting where a lot of grownups come and sit around and listen to people’s presentations and have discussion and make decisions about all the things that happen in the church.

What is youthful? It there an upper limit?

I guess for me I’d be more inclined to keep it lower — maybe under 25. Maybe when I’m 30 I’ll change my mind on that!

What do you think is the single biggest thing, if any, holding back the Uniting Church from achieving its full potential?

I don’t think there is a lot that’s holding the church back. The Uniting Church seems to be so willing to engage in debate and discussion and openness with its members that I see quite a positive future for the Uniting Church. I guess maybe the only thing might be the aging and diminishing of members. I think it’s great to have the knowledge and wisdom of older people in the church but that also needs to be passed on.

How did you come to Uniting Church?

I came here through tertiary ministry and university Bible studies. I’m not originally a member of the Uniting Church and came to it through that ministry. I think that’s one way — engaging with young people at universities is a great way of developing future leaders of the church and other investment in youth programs is a great way of going forward.

What is the main thing that sets us apart as a church?

I think that the democratic nature of the church and the ability for regular lay people to have a say in the life of the church and the decisions that get made. It’s a nice grassroots thing, not top down or hierarchical; but it comes from the people and I think that’s a beautiful thing.

 

Swee-Ann Koh from Fairview Uniting Church in Melbourne

07How would you describe the Assembly to a child?

We have meeting after meeting but fortunately it’s fun too (laughs). Meeting after meeting after meeting — but that’s a necessary evil for us in the Assembly.

It’s also important because this is where we gather as a church to talk about what we’ve done and think about what we need to do over the next few years.

What is youthful? It there an upper limit?

In some cultures as long as you’re not married you’re still young. But I think you can’t have a “young person” at 50 years of age just because they’re not married. I think 25 would be a good cut off age.

What do you think is the single biggest thing, if any, holding back the Uniting Church from achieving its full potential?

To truly embrace diversity. We always keep on saying we are diverse but in fact we are not yet a diverse church at every level — in our councils and leadership. We need to truly embrace that; it’s holding us back. The potential of accepting that and then really using the diverse views we’ve got would be phenomenal for the church

What is the main thing that sets us apart as a church?

I think first that fact we are uniting — it means we seek to be inclusive. We are not there yet, we’re on a journey in seeking to be uniting. And because of diversity. Even though we’re not there yet, I think as a church we compare much better than some other denominations. We are actually trying to be inclusive and further down the road than other others.