12th Assembly 2009

Conversations: 16th July 2009

We've been chatting with people around the Assembly, including members and visitors and we'll continue our coverage of these conversations throughout the Assembly meeting. Conversations today focus on the symptoms of spiritual drought in Australia and how we might quench our thirst for spiritual and religious connection. Our conversationalists come from NSW and Queensland.Today's conversations focus on the symptoms of spiritual drought in Australia, and how we might quench our thirst for spiritual and religious connection. The media team’s Jasmine Edwards talked with Assembly members and visitors.

 

Do what you love

july16_am_voxpop4benweir_jeBen Weir is a lay member from Parramatta and works as a chaplain associate at the University of Western Sydney as well as having four other jobs, including teaching yoga and stacking shelves.

What do you see as the most serious symptoms of spiritual drought in Australia?

I think the most serious symptom of spiritual drought is kind of the opposite of drought — a drought is a lack of water, but I think a spiritual drought happens when we’ve got too much. So there’s too much to do, too many ideas, too many causes, too many outside things to get involved in and not enough time to be still and be silent, be with our bodies.

If Jesus is the Living Water, how should the Uniting Church lead people to it in the 21st century?

I think the church is made up of people, so when people are doing what they love and what gives them joy and makes their life feel abundant, then they’re doing the work of God in their own lives, and I think when people share that with other people then that’s what will share the Living Water of Jesus with others.

In what ways does the Uniting Church help quench your thirst?

The Uniting Church quenches my thirst because it’s where there’s diversity, where there’s people who are exploring what it means to risk new ways of doing things. At its best the Uniting Church is really inclusive and it’s uniquely Australian. It’s grown out of the Australian experience through all of its challenges.

 Take time to stop

july16_am_vozpop1robertbos_jeRobert Bos from Queensland; part of the visitors program and one of the nominated Presidents-elect.

What do you see as the most serious symptom of spiritual drought in Australia?

I think there are many people who are searching for spirituality; not necessarily looking for Christianity so much, but Christianity has a great deal to offer. I think part of it is some people in the church — most of us I guess — are not quite sure what language to use and how to express our faith and what we really feel. I think if we thought more clearly about that then we’d have something very positive to share with Australia. Part of it comes back to working out who we are as a church.

So the main symptom is that we still don’t know who we are?

I think that’s one of the problems. I think there is a general preoccupation in society which we all share of course. We get preoccupied with shopping, with entertainment, with consuming information and we don’t take the time stop and be ourselves and think about who we are and what life is all about.

If Jesus is the living water, how should the Uniting Church lead people to it in the 21st century?

I think again it starts with ourselves, and spiritual renewal within ourselves, and being changed, being so convinced that we can’t help but share it, share the good news of Jesus Christ. And that means being open to different ways of expressing it and being open to different cultural expressions of that. But it certainly means listening twice as hard as speaking.

In what ways does the Uniting Church help quench your thirst?

I think the church has given me an enormous amount; it’s given me a wonderful family of people. It’s given me meaning and direction in life, it’s given me meaning and values to follow. It’s just a fantastic community to belong to for all its weaknesses.

 Model Christ’s teachings

july16_am_voxpop2pearlwhymarra_jePearl Wymarra, Assembly visitor, is the UAICC development and outreach officer in the Synod of New South Wales and the ACT.

What do you see as the most serious symptoms of spiritual drought in Australia?

I think we really have to, in our lives, really model Jesus’ teachings in all that we do, all that we say, and how we interact with each other. It’s hard for us as humans to measure up to Jesus but we have to as Christians make every attempt to be Christ-people. And I see that that’s one of the things we need to work on if we are going to have the Holy Spirit rain more and more on us.

If Jesus is the Living Water, how should the Uniting Church lead people to it in the 21st century?

I think that we should be focusing very much on discipleship training with all people in the Uniting Church. How can we be better disciples in Jesus? And how can we share the message, that it crosses all boundaries, cross-culturally, through the age boundaries, how do we grow new disciples? I think that that’s something we must work on more and more as a church.

Share Jesus in community

july16_am_voxpop3andycorkill_jeAndy Corkill is a lay member from the Synod of New South Wales and the ACT who is moving to Perth to work for the Uniting Church as a mission officer.

What do you see as the most serious symptoms of spiritual drought in Australia?

I think it’s the focusing on the individualistic — the individual nature of people who are really looking for the most for themselves rather than thinking about the wider community and living in communities.

If Jesus is the Living Water, how should the Uniting Church lead people to it in the 21st century?

A lot of it would be sharing not only the gospel message but sharing the things that are important in people’s life. So, we often use the cliché of getting alongside each other, but if we actually do that authentically and live in community with people, sharing their concerns, their hurts, their joys and sorrows, that’s a way to share Jesus in community. 

Trust in Jesus

july16_pm_voxpop6jennytymms_jeJenny Tymms is a presbytery minister from Pilgrim Presbytery and the Northern Synod and President's Chaplain.

What do you see as the symptoms of spiritual drought in Australia today?

Some of the serious symptoms are a preoccupation with materialism and people concentrating on themselves rather than on communities. I see a lack of interest in taking care of environment and of vulnerable people. That only happens when people feel unsure of themselves or spiritually unsatisfied. They feel like there’s not enough of themselves to share or that they are going to feel better if they can grab hold of things. These are symptoms of not feeling full in the true spiritual way. When people feel full of God, they have room not to worry about their own physical wellbeing. They can be open to sharing with others and they can be concerned about other people than themselves.

If Jesus is the Living Water, how should the Uniting Church lead people to it in the 21st century?

I think one way is by attending to where the heart is – the deepest part of people – to hear where that thirst may lie. That means first and foremost listening, listening, listening and being with people in their context. Then developing friendships in order that there can be genuine sharing about what we might find enriching. I think one of the hardest things for people who aren’t Christians is to have people come up and say “what you need is this.” So it is not about feeling like we’ve got the answers. But trusting that Jesus is Living Water and in listening and caring we can find ways of exploring where the living water really is.

We need structures

july16_pm_voxpop5dianelambell_jeDiane Lambell is a visitor from Kimba, South Australia. She is a recently retired disability coordinator and has been a Uniting Church member for many years.

If Jesus is the Living Water, how should the Uniting Church lead people to it in the 21st century?

I think that Jesus is the Living Water. I believe that. I believe that with my whole heart. But people also need ordinary, physical water as well. For people to experience Jesus and for us to do evangelism we need to meet both – the human resources and the spiritual. With the tough weather conditions in South Australia it is hard to keep hope and challenging to witness where people are suffering.

In what ways does the Uniting Church help quench your thirst?

It has nurtured me in my faith. I feel very blessed to be a member of the Uniting Church. It allows each of us to be an individual and explore our creativity and our gifts. It doesn’t put limits on us, but we also need the discipline of the wider church structures to help create community. Otherwise we’re all going to be diving off on our own little tangents.

Assert what we believe

july16_pm_voxpop7stephenrothery_jeStephen Rothery is a member of the Queensland Synod and is working towards becoming a minister.

What do you see as the symptoms of spiritual drought in Australia today?

A lot of my friends (have) a lot of apathy towards what more spiritual people would consider to be the important things in life. These seem to be dismissed as ultimately pointless. It’s not a universal thing. Some secular people are hugely humanitarian but apathy seems to be the case with a lot of my friends and people I’ve worked with.

If Jesus is the Living Water, how should the Uniting Church lead people to it in the 21st century?

I think it is important that we emphasise who Jesus is and why he is significant. There is a tendency in a lot of societies to try not to cause any waves. Whereas I think if we follow the example of Jesus we shouldn’t be afraid to assert what we believe and why. (We should) show that it is important and that we actually believe it. And that it has something to add to people and their life. We need to understand that there’s a difference between respecting the context and the people around us and also trying to seek some common ground. Losing our identity in the process is a concern that I have – that we want to try and blend in too well. Being respectful, but acknowledging that differences exist and that’s life, not trying to explain ourselves away and whittling ourselves down. Make sure in ministry that we retain what is unique about the life and work and death and resurrection of Christ. That’s what makes us Christian.

In what ways does the Uniting Church help quench your thirst?

I work for the church. I’m studying to be a minister, currently a candidate. I think for all the complaints that people make about the diversity that we have in the church, seeing it as compromising a lot, it’s [actually] very helpful to be in a church. You can be free to reflect theologically, to explore, and to ask questions and engage with the minister. Especially be able to come into contact with others whose background, culture, beliefs and understandings are different from your own. And having to reflect what you believe and why you think it’s important and not have to worry that if you put one step wrong you’ll be booted out and excommunicated from the church.