For the Anniversary of the Uniting Church

21 Jun 2020 by Rev Dr John Squires in: Formation and Discipleship Resources

From Rev Dr John Squires
Presbytery Minister - Wellbeing


On 22 June every year, across this continent, people usually gather to celebrate the formation of the Uniting Church in Australia. This year, we celebrate 43 years as this church. We may not be able to gather in person, but we still have much to be grateful for, as we mark that anniversary this coming weekend.

Recently, one of my Facebook friends posed an interesting—although challenging—question. “As we re-emerge from the Covid-19 lockdown,” he wrote, “I find myself asking, ‘Why seek to re-open The Uniting Church in Australia?’ Or a more positive question ‘What is God’s specific mission for The Uniting Church in Australia today?’”

I thought much about that provocative question. How would you answer it? What is our distinct ok experience mission? How would I answer it? What are we aiming to do as this particular church?

I think that I want to respond in terms of gratitude. Gratitude for what makes us distinctive, as a particular denomination in our nation. Gratitude for some important and distinctive elements which our church offers to Australian society.

I am grateful that in this church, we have leadership speaking into the national discourse from a lay female person (President of the Assembly, Dr Deidre Palmer) alongside an indigenous pastor (President of the Congress, Pastor Mark Kickett). We have much to offer because of this leadership.

I am grateful that in this church I am able to protest the restrictive and unjust government policies about refugees and asylum seekers, on the basis of my conscientious commitment to justice for such people, and even be arrested, and still not be disciplined by my church. That is a provision written into our Code of Ethics and Ministry Practice, a fine legacy from the decades of social activism in each of our three founding denominations (Methodist, Presbyterian, and Congregational—each of which has a strong record in this area).

I am grateful that in this church I can sit each week under the teaching of an ordained woman leading worship and preaching. That is a distinctive contribution from our church. That is an important offering to Australian society.

I am grateful that in this church (when we are meeting in person) I am able to attend worship in the morning with a very faithful, very caring, utterly committed, Bible-believing, creationist; and then go back in the evening to share in fellowship with trans, intersex, and same-gender attracted people who are equally caring, equally committed. That may not be unique to the Uniting Church; but it is something that is deeply embedded in our UCA ethos.

I am grateful that in this church I am encouraged to celebrate the faithfulness of every member, each inspired and gifted by the spirit, in congregations and on committees where lay people exercise dedicated, effective leadership. What a wonderful gift that is!

I am grateful that in this church I am encouraged to work diligently and wholeheartedly in common cause with friends in the neighbourhood, seeking the common good with people of other denominations, of other faiths, and of no faith, working to inform people and politicians of the importance of addressing climate change?

I am grateful that in this church I can engage in honest, open, robust conversation with people of other faiths, sharing my faith as I learn from their faith—and, in the process, learning more about God. Certainly, other denominations engage in such interfaith conversations, but I am proud that the Uniting Church has taken the lead on this over many years, in our multicultural, multifaith society.

I am grateful, especially, that I am encouraged to acknowledge that the Creator Spirit was active and at work on this continent long before my white forebears arrived, and that I can participate in worship that affirms and celebrates that God, known to us in Jesus Christ, has also, so long ago, reached out in compassionate love to the First Peoples of Australia.

I am grateful that I can live out my discipleship by helping to dish out the free meals each Wednesday, visiting the nursing home each Thursday (when restrictions end!), joining in with the youth group on Friday evening, and counting all of these as equally varied contributions to the mission of God in the world.

I am grateful for the Uniting Church in Australia.

The above reflection is written drawing on my experience of the Uniting Church across multiple locations over many years.

To read more on the distinctive contributions of the Uniting Church to Australian society, you may wish to read my blogs at 

https://johntsquires.com/2019/06/18/the-dna-of-the-uca-part-i/
and
https://johntsquires.com/2019/06/18/the-dna-of-the-uca-part-ii/

See also https://johntsquires.com/2018/08/15/what-i-really-like-about-the-basis-of-union/

https://johntsquires.com/2018/08/20/alongside-the-basis-of-union-there-was-the-statement-to-the-nation/