As churches go, it’s very church yet not church
I was dragged up on the second front pew of Dubbo Uniting Church, and have been connected to this movement my entire life.
I’ve seen its ups and downs, and I’ve carried others and been carried through some of the more challenging moments that make the UCA unique. I’ve seen congregations grow and diminish; participated in some incredible national, statewide, regional and local youth events that have powered me up and challenged me to hear God’s call on my life; and I’ve become an old person working with young people to encourage and inspire them to pour themselves into whatever it is God is revealing to them.
To be fair I could be involved in almost any church or denomination. My focus is always on God and trying to live a life more like Jesus. So why do I hang around? What do I love about the Uniting Church in Australia?
When we are at our best, we know who we are, we embody the generous welcome of God, and we know that prayer changes us to change the world.
Some days our founding document the Basis of Union feels like an aspirational document – something to aim at, but somehow just out of reach. When we know who we are we accept our and the world’s need for Jesus Christ as Saviour, and we together travel on the way to see God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. Part of this recognition is that this journey isn’t about me; rather, it’s about all of us – those in the tent/movement with us, as well as those in our wider communities. What I love about the Uniting Church in Australia is that we know we are dependent on the Holy Spirit as we participate in the mission of God to see the world reconciled to its Creator.
The very nature of the UCA in our theological breadth and depth, while challenging at times to navigate, is reflective of our understanding of the generous inclusion that Jesus preached about and showed us on the cross. Everyone is welcome in the Uniting Church in Australia. Sometimes we do a real good job of showing people that, and sometimes we could do a lot better. Always I am drawn back to the notion that we are a beggar showing another beggar where to find the food–an ideal that can be tested when we hide behind our differences rather than our unity in Jesus Christ. Today, more than ever, we as a movement are uniquely placed to reflect the generosity and abundance of God’s love for all people as we invite them, welcome them, encourage them to make a decision to follow Jesus, and then nurture and grow them as disciples. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn it; but, rather, to save it through him. (John 3:16-17)
Also: we would be a much better witness to the generous love of God if we lived and offered that toward each other inside the tent more often.
I have been deeply affected by our movement’s passion for justice in our community and our world. Supporting those in need, advocating for those without a voice, and calling on our Government to take climate change seriously. Working with the Government on drug reform and facilitating safe injecting rooms. Petitioning for change as gambling continues to ruin families and lives. Standing with women as they seek to have control and agency over their body and their medical care. Offering significant aid and support to countries overseas devastated by natural or man-made disasters. Standing firm and protesting about our responsibility as a nation to welcome and support refugees and asylum seekers.
While we have many agencies that do a lot of this work on our behalf, what I love about the Uniting Church in Australia is that we know that prayer is not a magical wish list of things we’d love to see God do–it’s a recognition that God enables us to be the change agents in each of these situations (and) more as we engage in the life of our communities. We know that prayer changes us, with God’s help, to change the world for God’s glory.
One more thing I love about the UCA: I love that we talk a big game when it comes to ministry with young people (either out of realism, desperation, or a unique mix of both). We’re calling that in–the time has come for that talk to become a reality. Pray for the young people in your area, support them in their challenges and passions, and invite them and welcome them into your communities. Yes, they are noisy, and yes, they will break things. They will also transform your relationship with God if you let them.
Molk is the Senior Field Officer (North) and Young Adult ministry lead as a part of the PULSE team.