Looking to a Positive Future
by Hannes Schaefer
(Published in News First, August 2004 - monthly church newsletter, Warragul Uniting Church)
Recently I was asked to participate with some ministers, some who came from countries like Africa, Pakistan, The Cook Islands, Samoa, New Zealand and others who came from different denominations. Also present were the moderator of the Victorian Synod, the general secretary of Synod, a faculty member of the Theological Hall and the secretary of the Christian Unity Working Group. The discussions were in regard to the “Basis of Union”, and ministry in general. It was a very interesting group, as all came from different cultural and theological backgrounds.
After two days of looking at various issues, in regard to the Basis of Union, but also regarding ministry, I became more and more aware, that the document at hand is a very positive piece of writing. It was written as guidelines for the Uniting Church to bring the three different strands of denominations together as one, but also to bring the three different understandings of ministry together.
Its positiveness was for me the fact that the whole document was pointing to the future, encouraging and learning from each other and helping to develop a deeper faith and mission. It also asks to reach out to awaken faith and to renew the Holy Spirit through the sacraments (Baptism and Holy Communion), the creeds, interpretation of Scripture, Ministers, Elders, Deacons and the Lay Preachers. But the congregation has also a part to perform which is vital.
What became interesting for me is the fact that Warragul congregation is, in my opinion, in a position very similar to the beginning of the Uniting Church.
The congregation has voted for a new beginning. To sell and build for the future. What a challenge that will be for the next few years for the leadership of the church, its ministry to the congregation, but also to the wider community. I could feel, that, if the Basis of Union could be seen as a springboard for the Warragul church as such, it even could have its effect on presbytery and perhaps on Synod. This decision is pointing to the future of the church with all its challenges. What an opportunity and what possibilities!
I don’t believe that everybody was and is happy with the move to the new site, so we all have to care for those who are hurting to help them through this period of transition. Also those who drive the move as a whole have to be cared for, because the demand on those people will be very great.
As the Basis of Union has shown me and highlighted, there is a positive drive for the future within the Uniting Church. I believe that there is a direction for this church that points through the Holy Spirit and by the Grace of God to a positive future for many years to come.