Presbytery AGM - 14 November, 2017


We began the meeting by sharing in worship, which was themed around ‘reconciliation’ and the ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’. The worship commenced with a video featuring stunning imagery of Uluru and the Northern Territory, accompanied by a remixed Yothu Yindi track.

Once centred on the theme, we heard from Rev. Ben Gilmour, the Minister at Paddington Uniting Church, who delivered a fantastic homily.


Embracing faith, inclusiveness, justice and creativity.

Leonard Chin, the Chair of Paddington’s Church Council, walked us through a quick history of the church, as it was the 140th year of the site’s witness and community engagement.

We learned that there are two congregations sharing the worship space at Paddington, the Sunday morning service, which is kid-friendly, relaxed and social. And the evening service, which sits within a more “contemporary liturgical and musical setting.”

We also heard an overview of Paddington’s programs, which include, Paddington Markets and the Children’s Centre. We were given a snapshot of the recent development adjacent to the church in what was previously an empty lot, now featuring high-end apartments, a multi-level car park and a grocery store; all of which deliver significant revenue and opportunities for engagement to the church.

As a result of this influx of revenue, Paddington UCA is currently involved in a mission-planning phase. The Presbytery eagerly awaits more information on how Paddington will approach this next chapter of its journey.

For more information on the life and work of Paddington Uniting, please visit:


The Presbytery happily received the 2017 Annual Report, which was produced in-house and featured reports from the Chair and Executive Minister, each Committee and two new inclusions from the Director of Mission and the School of Discipleship.

Rev. Graham Long, the out-going Chair of the Presbytery, affirmed the work of each Committee and highlighted how far we have come in the last 12-months, exemplified in the Annual Report. Graham also took a moment to acknowledge the tremendous leadership provided by Kent and the Presbytery Staff.

Rev. Ben Gilmour spoke of the incredible work of the Pastoral Relations Committee (PRC). He noted the expertise and great dedication of Nadine Newell in this work, the Presbytery’s Acting Pastoral Relations Manager. The work of the PRC is at times, very complex and challenging and conducted with the hope of moving towards wholeness and the strengthening of congregational vitality. Ben invited Presbytery members to strongly considering serving on the PRC in order to strengthen the Committee for its vital work.


Kent energetically introduced (now Dr.) Glen Powell as the newly appointed Director of Mission within the Presbytery team. Kent remarked that this is not Glen’s first role within the Uniting Church, as Glen previously fulfilled a role for 10 years with our Synod’s former Board of Mission.

Glen then spoke about his work with Sydney Alliance as a community organiser, with particular reference to his work on the Take the Time campaign (, and shared a few thoughts about his view of the Church. Glen explained that to him, the Church is the organisation Jesus built in the world ‘as it is’ to work toward the world ‘as it should be’ – the reconciled and renewed world that God is bringing through Christ. That worldview guided Glen to his recently completed doctoral research, which explored the way not-for-profits can enable social inclusion through collective leadership development.

Glen finished by telling the attendees that he was drawn to this position because of the people involved in the Presbytery and because of our focus on a common vision to lead the Church to life.


Following this, Glen took us through the results of the 2016 ‘National Church Life Survey’ with a particular focus on the Sydney Presbytery snapshot.

In the Presbytery of Sydney, there were 988 respondents with 54 children from 23 churches that took part. It is important to note that Wesley Mission currently represented 40% of the surveyed respondents and encouraged all Congregations to participate by ordering their forms before the end of 2017. Glen then highlighted a few interesting pieces of intel about our Presbytery, such as:

  1. We are more highly educated and younger than the wider UCA (60% of our participants have completed a university degrees and on average we are 10 years younger).

  2. We are extremely multicultural with 46% born overseas (and this stat does not include the Tonga Parish and Fiji Parish and other CALC communities as yet).

  3. We see a high turnover - a third of our congregants have joined their current church in the past 5 years.

  4. Our members want their church’s priorities for the next 12 months to be: Spiritual growth, worship & building community, with encouraging people’s gifts, supporting social action and including newcomers.

  5. We are gifted and skilled in communication, hospitality, relationship building & education, leadership/management and music.

  6. We invite newcomers more consistently to musical events, opportunities for hospitality, or events organised around public issues.


Uniting Earth began in 2017 as a part of the UME team, following three years as a special project.  The programs focus is on resourcing the church to be agents of reconciliation and renewal – to encourage the ecological movement within the UCA and to ultimately make the Uniting Church, Australia’s greenest church.

Jessica Morthorpe, Uniting Earth Ministry Consultant, told the group about the Five Leaf Eco Awards, which works to highlight and celebrate those moving towards this purpose.

The Presbytery was thrilled to learn that there is great progress being made by a number of UCA congregations, such as solar panels at O’Connor Uniting Church in ACT and Uniting Church in the City, Perth. Further to this, community gardens are a popular initiative, with numerous sprouting up at South Sydney UCA, Hope, St David’s, Neutral Bay and Leichhardt. And in some cases, produce is shared with the wider community.


Ian Goff, the Presbytery’s Business Manager, addressed the meeting to discuss the developments around a renewable energy project, the ‘Energy Forum’.

Ian explained that the initial impetus of the project was on reducing the cost of energy, however, the project grew to also focus on renewable energy alternatives.

The project has involved 15 stakeholders thus far, however, to move this project forward, Ian is looking for a congregationally led team to champion the renewable energy agenda.


Ian informed the group that 23 AFR’s have been completed, which is a 70% return rate. There are also another 7 waiting for external verification. Ian was happy to report that this is a great improvement since 2016. The remaining congregations should endeavour to get their reports in ASAP.

If anyone needs assistance, please contact Ian: [email protected]

What is currently happening in the renewal energy space?

  • The Church in the Market Place saved a significant amount of resources by undertaking a lighting and energy efficiency project with an attractive payback period.

  • Concord has solar panels operating already.

  • Pitt St has a process to undertake Energy Audits, which can be self-conducted.

  • The Synod has created the Uniting Earth Ministry team.

  • And AGL is the UCA’s supplier of choice.


  • The following members of Presbytery were elected:

  • Rev Graeme Tutt and Taniela (Dan) Bolabiu to Business and Property Committee.

  • Rev Robin Davies and Vera Ryan to Pastoral Relations Committee.

  • Dr. Jonathan Freeston and Sydney Hirt to Tertiary Resource and Oversight Committee.

  • Craig Corby to Standing Committee.

  • Rev Vinnie Ravetali as Chairperson of Presbytery.


Joy Steele-Perkins is an Intermediate Candidate and spoke about her formation journey. She just completed a placement at Kogarah Uniting with Rev. Robyn Lyons. Joy is currently providing supply at Balmain and thoroughly enjoying the journey.

Ian Forest-Jones noted his striving to engage fully in the formation program as he enters the Intermediate Stage of formation. Ian is currently in placement at Croydon Park-Belfield. He explained that the diversity of those at UTC has been enriching and challenging and he remains open to the program and the ongoing opportunity for reshaping and relearning it provides.

Amanda Hay is entering the Intermediate Stage of formation in 2018. She is currently at Burwood morning congregation in her field placement.  She noted that she has been involved in opportunities that have challenged and stretched her, taking her out of her comfort zone. She has also had the pleasure of fulfilling a variety of roles at UTC and has had numerous preaching opportunities.  Learning to use her voice has allowed her to be strengthened in her spirituality.


Kent then led an update session briefly outlining the information included in the Standing Committee report. Regarding the development of Rose Bay, Kent explained that after a raft of unsolicited offers, it became apparent that a sale might prove to be a better and less risky option than redevelopment. This arrangement, if pursued, would involve a buy-back clause on the ground floor for missional deployment in the future.

We then heard about the exciting undertaking at South Strathfield, which is planned to be affordable housing project featuring 60 micro-apartments and a church plant. This is an area of focus that has garnered interest from Uniting.

Further updates included: 

The Redfern site was sold for $3.725m, above our reserve price, (settlement will be completed by January 16th, 2018), and the vast majority of proceeds, after costs, will be directed towards the Synod loan repayment.

The Hepisipa Congregation’s move to Marrickville has gone well and renovations are underway. After a period of adjustment, the former Marrickville members are contributing to the life of this new congregation. 

And finally, the Presbytery should feel confident that we are positioning ourselves to meet our Synod commitment in due course.


Stephen Matthews, our Presbytery Secretary, noted that the Synod Standing Committee has approved a new Contributions Program that will replace Living is Giving.

The new focus is to encourage all entities within our Church to contribute to the wider work, which is something we hold as a common responsibility. The Presbyteries will implement a process for their respective areas.

For the first time, Uniting and the UCA Schools, alongside Wesley Community Services, are being asked to contribute as well. Uniting has already indicated their willingness to contribute while confirmation from Wesley Community Services and the Schools has not yet been received. 

Sydney Presbytery Standing Committee has approved the following principles for the implementation of the Contributions Program in our area:

  1. Congregations are made aware this is a separate giving to the NSW/ACT Synod.

  2. Sydney Presbytery will continue to ask for their own contribution.

  3. Both contributions will be invoiced each Quarter.

  4. A Covenant Contribution Commitment will be requested of Congregations and remain confidential.

  5. Both Contributions to be determined by May 2018 to allow for effective budgeting.

The Presbytery Standing Committee has approved the following timeframe and what lays ahead for implementation:

  1. The November Presbytery Meeting (AGM) will involve an explanation of the Contributions Program to Presbytery Members. Further communications with members not present at this meeting will be conducted.

  2. February 2018: A mail-out to Congregational/Council Secretaries providing additional information including the rationale for the Contributions Covenant.

  3. Late April/early May: The Contributions Covenant will be forwarded to Councils for their discernment regarding how they will financially contribute to the work of the wider Church, holding the Presbytery’s noted financial amount as part of their discernment. This will help with budgeting for the congregations in 2018-19.