Over a Friday evening and the following Saturday in July, twenty-six people from across the Presbytery participated in the 2022 “Out of the Box” Missional Conference organised by Uniting Mission and Education of the Synod. Most of this number connected in via zoom, while a handful attended in person at the Centre for Ministry in North Parramatta.
The keynote speakers for the conference were Rev Tim Costello, Executive Director of Micah Australia, and Rev Ellie Elia from Glenbrook UC. There were also a series of Master Class electives. Each of our gatherings were bookended with times of worship led by Uniting Creative.
Uniting Creative is a new and exciting initiative from the Uniting Mission and Education Mission Enablement Team that aims to gather, inspire and equip emerging artists to empower local Congregations and Presbyteries across the Synod of NSW and ACT. It is an opportunity to mentor and cultivate the gifts of people from all facets of the Uniting Church: across generations, cultural groups, and diverse stylistic frameworks. The goal is to build capacity and momentum to develop creative leaders as we ‘weave a new sound’ in and through our Churches. You can find out more information about Uniting Creative, and view and download music videos and sheet music of worship, at Uniting Creative Worship Resources - Uniting Mission and Education.
Here are some of the highlights for participants in the conference.
For a person like me who does not venture very far in the Uniting Church away from the local congregation, conferences such as Out-of-the-Box are an opportunity to get to know better the wider Uniting Church. With Zoom it is more observation than participation but even so, from my observations over one evening and a day, I witnessed much that was to like and not a few ideas to follow up. In particular I noticed that there were at least as many women as men in leadership roles at the conference. Moreover, many people with a Pacific or Asian background were attending the conference including in leadership roles while aspects of their culture were the focus of attention and respect at points in proceedings. At the sessions I attended the theological views and convictions of leaders and contributors were not always evident, but I suspect there was a fair range. From what I could see however, for virtually all of them, social justice and especially concern for the environment was at the centre of their faith. This came as reaffirmation rather than a surprise, but it was certainly a message to come away with.
Evan Mann – Woden Valley Uniting Church
Tim Costello was his usual amazing and succinct messenger. Probably the strongest statement for me was that God even saw the image of God in the enemy. If you make your enemy your friend, it’s the same as destroying the enemy. What a reminder to pray for the enemy and to go for those actions which achieve working in friendship despite the differences.
Regarding Dr Bryan Smith’s talk, I think the picture of the people at the fence watching the ball game (equality and equity and why the fence) is worth exploring along with Curiosity, Kindness and Courage in regard to our motivation for action in relation climate issues.
Regarding the Inter-cultural Ministry Master Class, the aspects of Sharing Stories – to build relationships and learning, Changing the Spaces of our buildings to reimagine church and being Intentional to make it happen, gave a good summation of what we heard and were shown.
Also, the image of ‘salad bowl’ (retaining cultural identity) rather than ‘melting pot’ (losing cultural identity) for intercultural church in terms of the points below was pressed home to me.
Leonie Ferber – Tuggeranong Uniting Church
Next week will include even more highlights from the conference. “Out of the Box” is an annual Missional Conference. Hopefully, these highlights inspire you to be part of it in 2023!