Opening worship was led by Rev. Jenny Ducker and Rev. Dr. Rick Dacey took the preaching duties. Rick shared a sermon on the theme, "How to Love People You Know Who Are Wrong". Reflecting on the story of Jesus' calling of Matthew and eating with tax collectors, Rick explored the centrality of love in Jesus' ministry, and how we are invited to not just view others by how we disagree with them, but to see them as Jesus would.
LIFE AND MISSION OF ST STEPHENS.
Alan Harper presented on the life and mission of St. Stephen’s Uniting and highlighted that there is much and more to celebrate at St. Stephen’s.
St. Stephen’s has a long history, which brings with it a set of unique challenges and rewards.
Music continues to be a key focus of the ministry – for more info on all the musical goodness going on, please click HERE.
Due to St Stephen’s unique location, the church is has numerous exciting opportunities to contribute to God’s work in and around the CBD.
There are four services each week (Sunday at 10am, Tuesday at 1pm, Wednesday 8am and the Behind the Green Door – Jazz Service (monthly on the second Wednesday). These services have seen people sharing their gifts of service. There is also a regular Bible Study. The focus is on the local community including the weekday community.
Tertiary Ministry is a priority of the congregation with connection to the Christian Students Uniting group at the Conservatorium of Music. supported as well as Newtown Mission being a focus. There is also a connection with Narromine Uniting Church. Being reminded of the relationship with the stolen land that we are on has been an ongoing conversation at St. Stephen’s, which has led to a focus on Indigenous history.
St. Stephen’s is also looking to the future – thinking through stewardship and finance reformation as they relate to the sustainability of ministry and congregation.
SYNOD GENERAL SECRETARY ADDRESS.
Rev. Jane Fry, the General Secretary of the NSW.ACT Synod, addressed the Presbytery. Jane has been in the General Secretary position for 12 months, after 10 months of being the Acting General Secretary.
Jane discussed the need for a strategic plan, huge budgetary constraints and safety concerns brought to us in light of the Royal Commission.
The Executive Directors and Moderator with the General Secretary constitute the leadership team, including the latest member, Albert Olley who was named recently as Chief Operating Office.
A key focus for future work is the area of focus entrusted to Uniting Mission and Education. A process has been engaged to ensure the strong focus on the work of mission, including growing healthy congregations and supporting and growing healthy leaders. A refocus must include growing the diversity of leadership needed for the whole of the church so to be transformative.
The Synod’s role is to support the mission of the Church, which includes ensuring that the property assets of the church are taken care of. Jane noted that there is a lack of trust across the varying Councils (Jane offered the image of different horses pulling in different directions). Jane noted that is it hard for Presbyteries to challenge congregations as to where they still have vitality. Jane finished with the following question: we have to decide as to whether we are a dying church or a living church?
Jane noted that the Synod of NSW and ACT is the only Synod that has not gone through a major re-organization. Jane shared, after being asked about some of the challenges, that many ministers are not going to the rural areas. A key focus will be on building trust and renewing the culture so as to support the whole Church. In regard to the Royal Commission Report, the creation of a Safe Church Unit, which will reside with the Assembly, will be a likely addition.
PERIOD OF DISCERNMENT.
Rev. Jenny Ducker led a session updating the Presbytery on those going through a Period of Discernment (POD). There are ten people in the POD process with another three inquiring. This is exciting as people seek to ask and discern how God is wanting them to be in ministry. A certificate celebrating the time of discernment was presented to Fiona ‘Longi. The discernment continues for Fiona. Jenny spoke also spoke of the need for more mentors.
PRESBYTERY BUDGET & OTHER FINANCIAL MATTERS.
Ian Goff, the Presbytery Business Manager took the group through an update of budgetary review. Ian indicated that the budget is driven by the Sydney Presbytery Strategic Plan and was approved by Standing Committee after Initial review by the Treasurer and Executive Minister and then a further review by the Standing Committee Executive.
Ian explained that there is no planned increase to the Presbytery Contributions due to supporting Synod's Seeds of Growth Program. There are also no property sales budgeted for in 2018-19.
Ian reminded members that the AFR (Annual Financial Returns) are due by October 31.
Finally, Ian highlighted that a suite of policies have been created and congregations may find them a helpful resource as they consider improving governance and oversight in their congregations.
STRATEGIC PLAN EVALUATION.
Rev. Kent Crawford spoke to the Presbytery about the Strategic Plan evaluation. Kent noted that we are in the final year of the current strategic plan. He explained that all Presbytery staff report against the plan and the varying committees work to align their focus with the Strategy.
Moreover, the Presbytery Standing Committee (PSC) oversees the Strategy with committees reporting at each PSC Meeting and the Executive Minister reporting at four key times of the year. As part of evaluating the current plan and preparing for the next iteration, all congregational councils will be visited by a Committee member and staff representative.
The focus will be threefold:
- Strengthen relationships
- Evaluation of the strategic plan
- And providing a connection to the wider church including collecting data that may be helpful to the Pathways Project.
Kent led the Presbytery members in a time of table group discussions, centred on the preliminary vision of Synod: We long to see vibrant Christian communities that are connected to our communities, serving in ways that bring hope, light and life to the world we inhabit.
GOOD NEWS STORY – MANY CULTURES, ONE IN CHRIST.
After lunch, Dr. Glen Powell and Liuanga Palu led a fantastic session on the Many Cultures, One in Christ youth celebration that took place at Wesley Mission on June 9th.
A great video recap featuring the One Heart Band, the Tongan and Fijian Parishes, and Wesley Agape Indonesian Congregation was featured. All reports suggest that the event was a huge success and represents the start of something new and exciting.
REPORT FROM ASSEMBLY.
Reporting was facilitated by Rev. Lindsay Cullen, Rev. Margaret Mayman, Rev. Ben Gilmore and Rev. Kent Crawford.
Lindsay explained the responsibilities and purpose of the Assembly as the council of the UCA responsible for matters of doctrine, worship, government and discipline. As well as, the promotion of the Church’s mission, the establishment standards of theological training and reception of ministers and other measures towards wider union of the Church. The Assembly meets every three years and is composed of representatives to the Assembly from Synods and Presbyteries as well as the UAICC (Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress). The theme for this year was Abundant Grace and Liberating Hope.
Areas of focus at Assembly included; Sovereignty -- wherein the following was affirmed:
To affirm that the First Peoples of Australia, the Aboriginal and Islander Peoples, are sovereign peoples of this land.
Margaret informed the Presbytery about the way decision making was upheld with care and respectful listening. The Same Gendered Marriage discussions were a central part of Assembly and much listening was engendered. The Assembly affirmed two statements regarding marriage and this is accessible on the website.
Other areas discussed included Domestic Violence, Climate Change, Disability Access Guidelines, Assisted Dying, Membership and marking a Day of Mourning (following Australia Day, drawing attention that colonization was experienced quite differently for First Peoples).
MISSION + RESOURCE UPDATE.
Rev. Kent Crawford updated the Presbytery on the Mission and Resource area of work. Kent explained that a local planning panel has been called for Rose Bay and therefore, an appeal may not be needed for Rose Bay Development. If the issue does indeed go to Land and Environment Court, it will be considered by March 2019. Kent also mentioned that the South Strathfield development application has been lodged – further updates to come.