1. NATIONAL UAICC
The UAICC vision is to strengthen Indigenous Christian ministry throughout Australia and to provide leadership in issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on behalf of the Uniting Church. This vision is supported by Congress’ faith in God’s reconciling and transforming salvation for all creation, and understanding our calling to be lived through holistic evangelism bearing witness to the gospel of Christ through our languages and cultures. National Congress is governed by our National Conference and between its meetings, by the National Committee which comprises National officers, Region Chairpersons and Elders. For some years, because of funding constraints, the National Executive (National officers and Region Chairpersons) have fulfilled this role, but in recent times the Executive and Elders have met together more often.
2. NATIONAL ELDERS
The role of the National Elders Council includes setting the tone for ministry, giving encouragement and counsel, exercising discipline, fostering Aboriginal theology. Pastor Bill Hollingsworth has been Chairperson of the Elders Council for some years and recently decided to retire from this role. He was given a gift in appreciation of his ‘many years of faithful, wise and inspiring leadership’. Pastor Bill has been ably supported by Alan Randell for as well. The National Elders Council have appointed Vince Ross (Victoria Region) as their new Chairperson.
3. NATIONAL YOUTH
The National Youth Committee continue to be active in promoting leadership capabilities of young people in Congress. The National Aboriginal and Islander Youth Gathering was held in July 2010 at Shalom College, Townsville with over 120 young people attending. National Youth were actively involved in the National Christian Youth Convention 2011, leading an evening worship and other parts of the daily program. Three Congress youth participated in the National Young Leaders Conference in February 2012.
The adoption of the new Preamble to the UCA Constitution marked a further step in the Covenant relationship that the UAICC invited the rest of the church into at the 1988 Assembly meeting. This may be part of the contribution we can make to the national discussion about recognition of Aboriginal and Islander people in the Australian Constitution. Since the 2009 Assembly meeting there have been requests forwarded to the Assembly Standing Committee for clarification of certain statements in the preamble and of Congress’ status in the UCA. These continue to be before the Assembly Standing Committee. The UAICC – Assembly Covenant Support Group has met several times.
Congress has continued to be involved in the ‘About Face’ program, mostly recently in January 2012 with several communities in South Australia. This is a worthwhile program of faith and cultural exchange for people of all ages. In some UAICC Regions and Synods smaller scale ‘stepping stone’ events and activities have been held to encourage local expressions of the Covenant.
A major focus of National Congress ministry is the Leadership Training program through the Yalga-binbi Institute. This program provides culturally appropriate training for Congress candidates for the ordained and specified ministries as well as local lay leadership training, and in some cases training for Indigenous people from ecumenical partner churches. It includes courses at Diploma and Certificate 4 level in Christian Ministry, Community Development and Youth Worker training. The introduction of the Certificate 3 in Christian Ministry and the development of more regional delivery of these courses in SA and NT has seen an increase in enrolments.
Rev Dr Richard Wallace retired as Leadership Training Co-ordinator in March 2012 after many years involvement in education and training with UAICC and Nungalinya College. The National Committee expressed its appreciation to Richard for his ministry and is hoping to appoint a new person to this position in the near future.
6. INDIGENOUS THEOLOGY FORUM
Since 2007 UAICC has held an Indigenous Theology Forum in each year when the National Conference has not met. The purpose is to be a forum for discussion of Indigenous theology and ministry practice. In 2010 the ITF met in Jabiru (NT) with the focus on Holy Communion and Funerals, and in 2011 at Evan’s Head (NSW) where we discussed Baptism. On both occasions we were ably led by Rev Dr Garry Deverell (Vic). The primary purpose of these gatherings is to share the practices currently occurring in Congress ministries, and to reflect on and discuss the interaction of culture, theology and practices in our various contexts. The growing body of stories, practices and reflections from these ITFs is becoming a very useful resource for training and continuing education.
8. NEW STRUCTURES AND REGULATIONS
We have been acutely aware for some years of the need to update Congress’ Regulations and national structures. Further discussion will be occurring at the National Conference in July 2012, as much as possible in first languages, and including proposals from the National Committee. Part of the vision is for Congress Regions to develop structures that express more local and regional Indigenous ways of gathering and doing ministry.
Rev Shayne Blackman