Uniting Faith and Discipleship

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

1.         ORGANIZATIONAL AND TEAM RELATIONSHIPS

The Assembly Standing Committee approved the establishment of the staff team under the Uniting Faith and Justice mandate in September 2004. There were new organizational relationships at the Assembly at that time. Some agencies became the units of Christian Education (CE), Uniting Justice Australia (UJA), Theology and Discipleship (TandD); and Relationships with other Faiths (RoF) became a Working Group. The work associated with Covenanting and Gospel and Gender, became work areas  shared within the mandate of Uniting Faith and Justice.

After a period of working together the mandate was reviewed by the Assembly Standing Committee (ASC) and strengthened under the development of the new mandate Uniting Faith and Discipleship. This was developed by an ASC review group with the Team Leader, the staff team, the reference committees and working groups.  It was approved by the Assembly Standing Committee (ASC) in March 2009. This team now includes Multicultural and Cross -Cultural Ministry (MCCM) as well as the work of the National Youth Activities Reference Committee (NYARC). This committee (NYARC) reports to the Assembly Standing Committee (ASC) and is guided by its own Terms of Reference.  This committee has a support worker, the National Faith Development Consultant (Youth and Young Adults). The Working Group on Relations with other Faiths (RoF) is given oversight by the Associate General Secretary. 

Uniting Faith and Discipleship still maintains various reference committees, working groups, task groups and networks for specialist advisory purposes, to support the work of the staff, within a broad mandate. The reference committees’ Chairpersons are appointed by the Assembly. All units of Uniting Faith and Discipleship have Operational Guidelines for the specific operations of the units, reference committees and working groups. The work of covenanting and gender issues is shared across the team. The Uniting Faith and Discipleship mandate strengthens the collaborative endeavors of the team whilst giving the opportunity to retain specific work as related to the Operational Guidelines of each unit and work area of the team.

The operating principle of remaining an internally organized and collaborative team with opportunities for diversity in branding allows each unit to maintain its image in the church and into the public space. For instance, Multicultural and Cross-Cultural Ministry (MCCM) is still known to the church by that name. As is Uniting Justice Australia, who work with areas of the federal government, non- government organizations and other advocacy agencies. This model is taken from some secular educational consultancies and smaller not for profit organizations, who seek to brand diversely in order to support vision, whilst retaining an internal operational identity.  The key motifs are the supporting and sharing of vision, collaboration and flexibility.

The Uniting Faith and Discipleship staff team led by the Associate General Secretary meets throughout the year for purposes of mutual accountability, building team relationships, collaborating on joint projects and the strengthening of individual work that can be resourced by other members of the team.

2.         COLLABORATION ACROSS UNITING FAITH AND DISCIPLESHIP

2.1        Covenanting and Reconciliation

Key Directions.

The work of covenanting and reconciliation has been carried out in the following ways over the last triennium and is has been guided by

Key Direction (a)

(iii) to seek ways that enable the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander spirituality to be received in the life of the church.

(iv) to encourage individual members of the UnitingChurch to develop long term working relationships alongside indigenous people.

  • Continuing the establishment of networks within synods and reestablishing links with Synod and Presbytery groups
  • Continuing with the About F.A.C. E. (Faith and Cultural Exchange) project in consultation with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Congress under the auspices of the National Activities Youth Reference Committee (NYARC)
  • Research Officer for Uniting Justice went to the launch of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner’s 2010 Social Justice and Native Title reports and used these to redevelop an issues paper based on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and opportunities for advocacy.
  • Resources for Reconciliation Week and Sorry Day were produced and include topics such as ‘What is    reconciliation?’, ‘What is Sorry Day?’, and ‘What can you do?’, and include worship resources. These are available on the Uniting Justice Australia website

2.2        Gender Relationships

The work of gender relationships has been carried out in the following ways reflecting Assembly Key Direction (b)

engage in Jesus’ ministry of peacemaking within the world and the church by fostering equity and reconciliation within the Australian Community.

  • A research project on the status and extent of women and leadership and their contribution to the UnitingChurch, its ministry and mission has been developed. Due to a range of operational challenges this project has not yet been implemented. The aim is to conduct research into the experience of women in leadership in the UnitingChurch, both lay and ordained.
  • The project names as its aims: to gain statistical data on women in specified leadership in the Uniting Church in Australia; to identify areas of concern and/or difficulty for women in specified leadership in the Uniting Church in Australia; to identify particular areas of concern and/or difficulty for women in specified leadership roles in culturally and linguistically diverse and cross-cultural contexts in the Uniting Church in Australia; to identify particular areas of concern and/or difficulty for women in specified leadership in the Uniting Church in Australia who have children; to identify areas of encouragement and positive experiences of women in specified leadership in the Uniting Church in Australia; to identify programs / resources / initiatives that the National Assembly can develop in order to support women in specified leadership within the Uniting Church in Australia. . This work will be progressed in the coming year.

International Women’s Day

The Assembly website has publicised a suite of resources developed for International Women’s Day, held on 8th March each year. Included in this suite are introductory information on IWD, Women and the UCA, interviews with some women of the UCA, sermon starters and prayers (kindly prepared by the Rev. Dr Chris Walker), and some ideas of what an individual or church group might do on International Women’s Day.

Additionally, interviews appeared on The Transit Lounge in 2011, and in 2012 based around the theme of International Women’s Day. This directed readers to the resources on the Assembly site.

2.3.       Peacemaking

Assembly Key direction (b) Peacemaking to engage in Jesus’ ministry of peacemaking within the world and the church

  • working with people of other faiths to promote mutual respect and understanding helping our members learn to live and act as peacemakers, as taught and modeled by Jesus.

The work has been carried out in the following ways:

The development of a study book in the area of peacemaking and discipleship in collaboration with Education for Life Ministries (ELM) of the NSW Synod was launched as a suite of resources on peacemaking for the International day of Peace in September 2009.

2.4        Supporting the work of Pace en Bene Australia

Throughout 2009, 2010 and 2011, the UF&D Educational Administrative Assistant has worked in conjunction with Pace en Bene on projects of mutual interest and benefit. This has included participating in, and coordinating workshops for, the Pace en Bene National Conference. The workshops have focused on areas such as interfaith relations, peace in community and peace in the world. A variety of workshops on the same or similar topics have been run at other Pace en Bene events, run in conjunction with the Columban Institute and Pax Christi.

The Uniting Faith and Discipleship Education Resource Worker has also assisted in the re-writing of Pace en Bene’s main text Engage. The re-written version of Engage features more prominently the Australian context, with the inclusion of recent, Australian stories of nonviolence and peacemaking.

Assistance has also been given to translates the content of the Presbyterian Church of the USA DVD ‘Living the Vision’ into an Australian context. That is, the themes explored in the DVD will be used, with Australian examples to accompany ppeacemaking resources

Resources were developed for the UnitingJusticeAustralia website in 2008 (that is the previous triennium) for the International Day of Peace. These “fact sheet” style resources were developed around the topics ‘International Day of Peace’, ‘UCA Uniting for Peace & Decade to Overcome Violence’, ‘The Bible and Peace’, ‘Jesus and Non-Violence’, ‘Peace and Nuclear Disarmament’, ‘Peace and Climate Change’.

During the current triennium these resources were updated. Further, the addition of a fact sheet entitled ‘Peace in Community’ was produced. (www.unitingjustice.org.au)

2.5        Collaborative work with Multicultural and Cross-cultural Ministry (MCCM)

Multicultural & Cross-Cultural Ministry currently have a DVD in production. This project aims to provide case study examples of Multicultural & Cross-Cultural Ministry across Australia. It is to be used in conjunction with the revised Multicultural Workshop ‘Living Together As God’s People in this Place’ but also aims to provide more in-depth interviews in a similar style to a DVD produced by the Presbyterian Church of the USA entitled ‘Living the Vision’.

The objectives of this project are: to provide an accompanying resource for the MCM Workshops in their revised forms, and as such contain general ‘case studies’ (that is, a general picture of a particular multicultural / cross-cultural church).

2.6        Collaborative Work with Relations with Other Faiths (RoF)

Light Eternal

July 2009 saw the Twelfth triennial Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia adopt 'Jews & Judaism: A Statement by the Uniting Church in Australia'. The Statement had been brought by the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania Working Group on Christian / Jewish Relations, and was a culmination of years of work by the group members.

The Assembly went on to develop a DVD and accompanying study booklet, entitled Light Eternal, to help members of the Uniting Church in Australia, as well as interested people from a wider audience, to engage fully with the Statement.  An example chapter from the booklet appears in this page. Copies of Light Eternal can be obtained from the Assembly office by contacting the Working Group on Relations with Other Faiths at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Prayer for Peace

In July 2011, the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly Standing Committee resolved to take peaceful action intended to add the voice of the UCA to the many churches and church organizations around the world who would encourage the governments of Israel and Palestine to intensify effort towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict between them.  On behalf of the Assembly, the ASC resolved to resource the Church with information on the current situation in the Holy Land, and to provide a number of suggested actions individuals and churches might choose to take. The ASC also included a resolution to join, on behalf of the Assembly, the boycott of products produced in the illegal Israeli settlements within the Palestinian Territory of the West Bank. The suite of resources produced included a Letter of Invitation from the President and General Secretary, an A4 flyer, Information Paper, Q&A Paper, NCCA Minutes relating to the Middle East, the Kairos Palestine document, Jews and Judaism: A Statement by the Uniting Church in Australia, Prayers for Palestine, and a Response form. This suite can be found on the Assembly website.

These resources were supplied to all councils of the church in hard copy / CD-ROM.

Staffing arrangements

There are shared staffing arrangements across the life of Uniting Faith and Discipleship. This includes two team assistants and an Education/ Projects Officer.  Uniting Faith and Discipleship would like to thank the committed and enthusiastic efforts of the professional and support staff in resourcing the shared work of Uniting Faith and Discipleship. Uniting Justice Australia has policy and administrative staff in order to fulfil its operations.

3.         NATIONAL YOUTH ACTIVITIES REFERENCE COMMITTEE (NYARC) 

3.1        The National Youth Activities Reference Committee (NYARC) sits within the mandate of Uniting Faith and Discipleship and collaborates with other work areas and units. It has its own terms of reference

Terms of Reference

The National Youth Activities Reference Committee reports directly to the Assembly Standing Committee (ASC) and has as its terms of reference the following.

  • Provide advice to the designated Assembly staff person with responsibility for oversight of national events: National Christian Youth Convention, About FACE (Faith and Cultural Exchange) and the Order of St Stephen (OOSS);
  • Provide a context in which the church may reflect upon and develop policy and supervision and accountability mechanisms, that are appropriate for the current national youth events and experiences;
  • Think strategically and theologically about ways in which the Assembly, through current opportunities along with links to overseas partners and international ecumenical groups can co-operate with synods in the faith formation of young adults; 
  • To have responsibility to recommend to the Assembly Standing Committee (ASC) policies, requirements and guidelines for national youth events so that those proposing to operate a national event e.g.  the National Christian Youth Convention (NCYC) can reasonably cost and prepare the event proposal for consideration by the Committee;
  • Publish these decisions as Requirements and Guidelines;
  • Consider proposals submitted to operate or provide lead synod support for a national event and /or experience focused on faith formation of young adults. After due consideration, including a due diligence financial process, appoint the host operator of a national event;
  • Monitor the preparation and delivery of the national events in accordance with the Requirements and Guidelines established;
  • Have responsibility to review in consultation with Synod wardens, coordinators and committees, and recommend to the Assembly Standing Committee (ASC) policies, guidelines and conditions of service for the Order of St Stephen (OOSS); and to maintain the national register of members of the Order of St Stephen(OOSS) and ensure the distribution of certificates and badges of service as required;
  • Provide a forum in which Synods and the Assembly can discuss and create together initiatives that will provide significant faith education and discipleship opportunities for young people aged 15 years and older;
  • Explore possible sources of funding for its areas of responsibility and bring recommendations as required to the Assembly Standing Committee (ASC);
  • Report to the Assembly Standing Committee (ASC) once per year.

The National Youth Activities Reference Committee (NYARC) has particular responsibility for oversight of national events for senior youth and young adults including About FACE (Faith and Culture Exchange), National Christian Youth Convention (NCYC), Order of St Stephen (OOSS) and the National Children’s Youth and Family Workers’ In-Service education and from January of 2012, the National Young Adult Leaders Conference.  

3.2        About FACE, (Faith and Culture Exchange) (www.aboutface.org.au)

The Synod of Victoria and Tasmania has hosted the most recent About FACE in January of 2012, with placements in indigenous communities in cooperation with Congress. The wider church thanks UAICC (Congress) and this Synod for their commitment to facilitate this program. We particularly acknowledge the work of Jill Ruzbacky and Tess Keam from the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania (JIM) and thank them for their passionate support of this project.

The program was well received and certainly achieved its goals in people’s lives. Given the value of the program and the amount of work it takes to coordinate it, the number of participants was disappointing however. There were 12 participants. This is in spite of having enthusiastic promotional cooperation across much of the country; opening up the age group to include adults of any age; of holding Stepping Stone events in three states as introductory experiences that would hopefully ease people towards readiness for About FACE; and of having a national Consultation on the future of About FACE with 30 people attending from across Australia.

This program has been valued by the Church, and is without doubt a transformative experience in developing people’s discipleship. An About Face project in 2011 was cancelled due to the lack of participation.

 About FACE will need to change shape in order to be accessible for more young adults to participate. The current design of the program excludes many young adults who might otherwise attend. This is due in part to the three week commitment required, the expense, the travel beyond participants own states and the difficulty of effectively inviting people to attend across Australia.

NYARC is working with several networks on ways to reinvent About FACE.  The UAICC (Congress), the J.I.M. Unit, (Vic -Tas Synod) the National Young Adult Leaders’ Network, and other Youth Work networks (CNYC) will discuss possibilities for the future.

Stepping Stone events have been an excellent addition to building relationships and understanding between indigenous and non-indigenous people. These are short events which could be as simple as a barbeque or touch footy game, to a week end away visiting and being educated about indigenous faith and culture. Stepping Stone events were held in South Australia, Victoria and Queensland Synods. These are our first experiments in expanding About FACE projects and the results have been heartening.

While Stepping Stone events are introductory experiences, and a new form of About FACE is yet to emerge, there is also a place for developing pathways for young adults in to service opportunities in indigenous communities where they can fulfill their vocations for longer terms. NYARC will be exploring a range of ways to help indigenous and non-indigenous people share life and faith together.

3.3        National Christian Youth Convention, (NCYC)

The latest National Christian Youth Convention (NCYC) was held on the Gold Coast, from the 29th of December to the 4th of January, 2011.  It was hosted by the Queensland Synod, who navigated their way through some difficult circumstances, to hold a great event. There were around 600 participants and 250 volunteers and support people. At the end of NCYC 2011 there was no promotion for the next NCYC; and no approved bids to host the event in the future at that stage. This uncertainty about the future of NCYC’s sat uncomfortably for many people in Youth and Young Adult ministry.

The N.Y.A.R.C. convened a national consultation in 2009 to ask the necessarily hard questions about the future of NCYC’s: Should they continue?  How could they be reshaped in the light of diminishing Youth Ministry resources across Synods in the Uniting Church? The NYARC will continue to explore how NCYC’s can be either “future proofed”, reinvented or substituted with other forms of National discipleship development, including consideration of new models to enable the event to achieve the best outcomes for the host Synod while still meeting the s goals of nurturing faith and Christian discipleship in young people. While that visioning work continues to be on NYARC’s agenda, thankfully we can now report that there are great plans underway for an NCYC in 2014.

The next N.C.Y.C. will be hosted by the Parramatta -Nepean Presbytery (NSW/ACT Synod) in 2014. Their team has been diligently at work on this event since the 2011 NCYC and they have many exciting plans for the event, shaping it to support both their own presbytery’s vision for growth and discipleship development as well as reflecting the character of a National event in the life of the Uniting Church. The NYARC has accepted this enthusiastic and well organized bid to host the event with gratitude and excitement. It will be a discipleship event that is truly representative of the diversity of our Church. The National Youth Activities Reference Committee (NYARC) will continue to provide support and monitoring of the work of the new NCYC 2014 host team.

3.4        Order of St Stephen, (OOSS) (http://ctm.uca.edu.au/ctm/order-of-st-stephen)

The Synod of Victoria and Tasmania has been acting informally as the lead synod in the Order of St Stephen. The take up of the program has slowed across Australia over the last decade. There are very few participants now in the program and very few Synods actively promoting and offering the program.

The NYARC is continuing to consider the future of this program. Considerably more work needs to be done in this area to either revive or reinvent the Order, if the Uniting Church in Australia, (through its Synods), believes there is a need for such a program.

3.5        National In-Service

‘Nationals’ was previously a function of the Ministerial Education Commission, the Working Group for the Specified Ministry of Youth Worker, and now is a responsibility of National Youth Activities Reference Committee (NYARC), under its terms of Reference.

It is open to workers with children, young people and young adults, and/or families, including Ministers.  The National Youth Activities Reference Committee (NYARC) worked with the South Australian Synod and Presbytery as they held the last ‘Nationals’ in August, 2009. This was a productive training event thanks to the South Australian team.

Since then, finding a Synod Youth Unit to host the event has been difficult. In fact there were concerns that finding any Youth Units in existence would be difficult as several Synods either down sized their staffing in ministry to young people and families, or dismantled their Youth Units.

For 2012 there is hope that a ministry to young people and families training event will be held through the collaboration of the N.S.W. Theological College, N.S.W. and Canberra Presbytery Youth Workers, NYARC and The Christian Education Reference Committee.

3.6        The National Young Adult Leaders Conference 2012

The Assembly’s Children’s, Youth and Families Ministry Task group proposed that another President’s Young Leaders Conference be held. It has been 10 years since the last one.

This was agreed to and it became an example of cooperation across UAICC (Congress), Assembly staff, the N.Y.A.R.C. the Uniting Faith and Discipleship team, Assembly Agencies; Synod Moderators, General Secretaries and Young Adult ministry workers across Australia.

The president of the Assembly Rev Alistair McCrae co-hosted the event with the Chairperson of the UAICC (Congress) Rev Ken Sumner.  The event was intentional about including indigenous, 2nd Generational Cross- cultural and Anglo young adult leaders. This became a faith and cultural exchange in itself, with many people experiencing some “About F.A.C.E.” style moments and walking along some Stepping Stones towards harmony, and reconciliation within a national Uniting Church context.

There were around 63 participants and 10 facilitators from places as far afield as Arnhem Land, Weipa, country areas, coastal areas and the major capital cities. This was a life transforming, discipleship developing event. The sense of community, of pride in their own church, of reinvigorated commitment to Christ was so powerful that we believe the event needs to be held more regularly. Plans are under way for another NYALC to be held in January 2013.

We expect that the 2012 National Young Adult Leaders’ Conference will continue to bear fruit long after the event as we see the young adults engaging in their own local churches, in the wider Uniting Church and in their own local communities, with renewed vigor. Other potential outcomes to watch out for will be a young adults version of the Statement to the Nation, a guide to the church on how to minister effectively to young adults, a range of projects that young adults have decided to collaborate on, a viral spread of discussion groups on leadership using “Following Jesus and Leading People”, the development of mentoring pairs or discipleship groups around spiritual disciplines using the Skey 3, and a productive network that is available to our church to refer to and to harness for movements of the Spirit and of social justice; this is to name just a few.

3.7        Related Networks

The National Youth Activities Reference Committee (NYARC) was able to give some support to Rebekah Christiansen and Aimee Kent who served in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program  in Palestine and Israel in 2010 (EAPPI)

A South East Queensland F.A.C.E.s group was established in 2010 and was  active in 2011 as a pioneer group to explore how reconciliation events might develop in various forms, that could then also be referred to as we explore the reinvention of About FACE.

Networking Support was also given to The Australian Youth Climate Change Coalition as they prepared for their national conference in Queensland in 2010, as a way to help our young adults engage in this environmental protection work.

3.8        Staffing arrangements

The National Faith Development Consultant (Youth and Young Adults) supports the work of this committee and reports to the Team Leader of Uniting Faith and Discipleship. The Rev. Sandy Boyce served in this position as a full time ministry agent. We are grateful for her passionate and effective ministry in this role. Sandy finished in this role at the end of 2009. The National Faith Development Consultant role (Youth and Young Adults) then became a half- time placement from 2010 onwards. The Rev Tom Kerr has been appointed to the role and is currently serving in this position.

Membership of the NYARC up until the beginning of 2010

Drew Hanna; Mark Hillis (Christian Education National Director); Michael Jeffrey; Rick Morrell (Chairperson, National Youth Activities Reference Committee); Caitlin O’Reilly; Chris Shaw; Lauren Sheen; Ernest Sorensen; Robin Yang; Sandy Boyce (National Consultant); Glenda Blakefield (ex -officio)

Membership of the NYARC 2010 to 2012

Drew Hanna; Rick Morrell (Chairperson, National Youth Activities Reference Committee); Jeff Savage, Nicole Fleming, Jennifer Davies, Lauren Sheen, Chris Shaw; Robin Yang; Tom Kerr (National Consultant); Glenda Blakefield (ex -officio)

Conclusion

The NYARC has been considering various developments that may serve as a resource for the UCA in other councils of the Church. It has given consideration to the Growing Apostles Approach that came out of The Youth and Children’s Ministry Unit of the Synod of Queensland (YACMU)

Already the NYARC has networked with the application of this approach with the 1st Third Ministry Unit in the Synod of Western Australia. The National Faith Development Consultant has also participated in the Queensland Synod’s Grow Faith Project. This is work which will continue over the next year or two and will be influenced and resourced by the findings of the Assembly’s Christian Education Research Project. The Assembly wishes to thank the Chairperson Rick Morell for his leadership, experience and commitment to the role and also to the members of the NYARC for their committed and enthusiastic contributions to the ministry of Youth and Young Adults at the Assembly. We give special thanks to Nicole Fleming for the insightful leadership and the experience that she has brought to the work of the committee. Nicole has recently retired from the NYARC.

Glenda Blakefield
Team Leader Uniting Faith and Discipleship 
Associate General Secretary