Where to from here – Moving to congregational ministry exploring what it means to be the UCA locally

I sit writing this with 2 weeks left in my PULSE job.

I have been here for 4 years. When I came 4 years ago it was Joyce and I trying to figure out what we will do and how will we do it. We went to every Presbytery and met with anyone who would talk to us about what they dreamt for the Uniting Church in the area of First Third ministry: Childrens & Family, Youth, and Young adults. What we met was a lot of very tired, warn out and hope-less people.

They had big dreams, but the modern reality of our culture makes ministry with the First Third hard work. The reality was at this point very few Presbyteries knew if there was any ministry happening with First Third, and a lot of congregations didn’t really care.

To be honest I wasn’t sure how much longer some of these people were going to hang on for.

The call from Bradon at our Synod two years earlier that we needed to invest in this before time ran out was actually an understatement. So our team took to work to encourage, resource and support communities who were already engaged in First Third ministry.

We had and still have limited resources so we planned ways that everyone could benefit from the work we did. We have come along way since then.

Presbyteries are trying to organise themselves to work more effectively with people in their first third of life and congregations are starting to realise things could be different. We now have a suite of camps set up so that we can all work together to give our children and young people mountain-top experiences that connect people with God. We have developed UCA-specific leadership development and tertiary subjects with UTC on Children’s & Family ministry and Youth ministry. There are a number of places now online you can hear about what is happening in ministry and you can discover resources.

I have big hopes for the Uniting Church in Australia. I believe that no church is too old to grow young if they truly want to, but this requires us to be willing to do things a bit differently and try something new…including maybe listening to or singing music we do not like. It requires us to want to have a relationship with young people. Real, honest relationships.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the desire to be a welcoming church; a place where new people can come and belong. I don’t think we are called to be a welcoming church, but a loving church. A loving church/community person takes the time to get to know you, to listen to what matters to you, and sit with you in your sufferings and celebrate with you in your joys. A Jesus-loving community.

If we are following the ways of Jesus we love people no matter if they are stranger of friend, old or young, male or female or other, physically abled or not. We show we are a forgiving community by accepting people no matter how much we or others have stuffed up (do you remember the story of the woman at the well? Or the woman accused of adultery, or the tax collector?). When we see the best in people even when they let us down (Do you remember the words of Jesus to Peter after he denied him? or how many times we are called to forgive?).

I don’t know what you have taken out of the last couple of years but for me it has all been a reminder of what it means to be truly a Jesus shaped community – it is all about love. The time has come for us to move out of the silos of our churches and realise how blessed we are to have each other. How blessed we are to live in this Christian community. Do you know how many people do not have this? Who are longing for this? You hold the keys to the kingdom, people.

So as I finish at PULSE I am exceptionally grateful for the saints I have met along the way. All the amazing young people and people who are passionately trying to live a Jesus-shaped life.

Thank you for your wisdom, passion, enthusiasm, hospitality and companionship, I have been so blessed by every single one of you.

I move now into Gordon Pymble Uniting Church, working with the people there and exploring what it means to be a Uniting Church where God has planted us. I am looking forward to having two Uniting Church schools beside us that we can journey with, and all of the amazing people in the wider community whom I can’t wait to meet.

I pray for the work of ULSE which I still passionately advocate for, like Bradon before me. I leave passionately reminding the Church if you do not invest in young people there will not be a Uniting Church in the future and that this is going to be costly, one way or another. Realistically, the time is now to make this happen and it requires everyone to choose to be part of this transformation.

We are all blessed with each other so let’s work together and make the most of what God has given us.

Remember you can keep in touch with PULSE by signing up for our monthly newsletter, or for further information contact our team via email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok.

Karen Mitchell-Lambert is ordained in the ministry of Deacon and has been the team leader of PULSE.

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