On the weekend, the Tasmanian community of the Uniting Church in Australia gathered around the theme future church. I’ll reflect a little on the gathering over the next few days. This was the ‘gathering statement’ we used as we began our time together:
We have come together from many places.
From the south, from all over Hobart, from the Channel, along the river and in the city, the suburbs and the beaches.
From the centre, from the villages, mountains and farms. From communities that know well the Australian twins of drought and flooding rain.
From the north-east, from communities that are facing enormous challenge, from towns that play host to holidays, while wrestling for their own identity.
From the central north, from Launceston, from hinterland villages, and communities strung along the Tamar
From the north-west, from rural communities living with the seasons, from commercial ports, and beachside communities moving with the moods of Bass straight.
From the far west, frontier land. Land of rain, and rainforest. Land of forestry and mining, of wilderness and peace.
And from further afield, from the islands of hope dotting the strait, and from our brother and sister communities of the north island.
We come to this place. This oasis. This place of quiet conversation. This place on which first nations people lived and through which many travelled on their way to and from the highlands. We acknowledge their presence before ours and their identity as the traditional owners of this land. We acknowledge that our own relationship with our brothers and sisters in Congress Tasmania is not as we would wish it could be.
We come with the challenges of our future all around us. From climate and environmental challenges, to economic difficulty shared the world over. We come as part of the global village that tries and fails to live peacefully and protect those who are most at risk.
We come as people of God. Part of the body of Christ in this place and beyond. We come as people who share in the identity of the Uniting Church in Australia, conscious of its history, its failings and its potential.
We come to this place to listen, and to talk. To receive and to give. To trust and to be trusted. We come to name some of that which we understand as our calling. We come to ponder together the shape of things to come, the possibilities that lie before us, and the ways in which together we might proclaim Jesus, embrace the Spirit, and live out something of the love of God for the people of our communities.
We come as people who know we don’t have all the answers, but for whom the questions and the journey are important. We come to worship God, not only by our words, but by our lives. Not only by our thoughts, but by our actions.