The future of how church agencies and congregations work together will be discussed in an open forum for the first time in April.
People from across the Uniting Church are invited to register for the â€˜Engaging in Godâ€™s Mission Togetherâ€™ forum on 20-21 April.
The forum will explore the 21st Century reality that across the synod and Australia, many congregations are getting smaller and older while some UnitingCare agencies are getting larger and stronger.
â€œDuring recent consultations across the sector, the CFM board became aware of an emerging sense of dis-ease as congregations, agencies and associated councils come to grips with the new relationship,â€ Commission For Mission (CFM) executive director Rev David Pargeter said.
â€œThis new dynamic is altering the landscape. Small agencies that were once closely integrated with congregationsâ€™ engagement in local community have become multi-million dollar enterprises delivering significant services that require very different forms of governance and infrastructure.
â€œHow are we to move together into this new reality so that we donâ€™t end up with congregations, who have a deep sense of social engagement, feeling increasingly disenfranchised from the community service life of the UCA? Or agencies, that have grown out of congregational life â€“ are they feeling disconnected from the local faith community?â€
He says it is understandable that congregations might be tempted to look for and accept apparent attractive economic arrangements with agencies during times of vulnerability.
â€œBut what if these lead to even greater vulnerability and even less capacity for self determination or direction setting for ministry and mission? Some of these perceptions and questions are like the elephants in the room that no one wants to name.â€
He said this forum will provide the church with an opportunity to converse, name the issues and uncover ways of working together to serve the community with integrity and faith.
Also being discussed will be effective participation in Godâ€™s mission in the world.
â€œThere are some huge changes going on and the forum will serve to ask what it will mean to be faithful together in the next 10 years,â€ said UnitingCare Agency congregations relations manager Andrew Philips.
â€œIt asks questions like, could we have church facilities without the congregations?â€
â€œIt will be an open debate designed to clarify the issues. It is the intention that this prompts further discussions, bringing the people passionate about these issues together,â€ said UnitingCare interim director Charles Gibson.
â€œItâ€™s following through on a strong commitment to facilitate stronger and effective relationships.â€
It is hoped attendees will include congregational, presbytery, agency and wider synod members and staff.
Registrations close on Friday, 19 March.