Shaping a future not our own

“Instead of asking what the church can offer young people,” Dr Alec O’Connell, headmaster of Scotch College said, “we should be asking, what the young people can offer the church. “They are walking and living theologians, but we need to give them the structure,” Alec added.

Thus began Summer Spirit, WA’s annual event which this year revolved around the theme ‘Shaping our future’. Rather than exchanging  scenarios based on future studies, the  conversations revolved around identity and relationship building, meaning making, and the realisation that the church’s task is to lay the foundations of “a future not our own.”

Rev Dr Ian Price, newly appointed convenor of the Assembly Faith and Discipleship Working Group and CEO of MediaCom, described the  situation as “everything old is new again.”  He said that the church in Australia finds itself in another turning point in history, when it needs to align itself in the face of a hostile world and the explosion of knowledge. On the  other hand, he said the church is declining, financially strapped, struggling to know what to do with staff. It is guilty and anxious, knowing  that people, particularly the youth, think of  it as hypocritical, focused on conversion, homophobic, sheltered, too political and judgemental.

Citing Robert Schnase’s Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, he encouraged “radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk taking mission and  service, and extravagant generosity.”

The world needs what church can offer: open, healing communities where people see meaning and purpose into the fabric of daily living, pointed out Sharonne Price, author of The  Pastoral Partners.

Speaking about what she would take away from the weekend, Coral Richards, a Summer Spirit attendee, said, “A person is a person because of people.” Hers was a response to Gary van Heerden, chaplain of the Presbyterian Ladies College, who in a reflection stressed how “personhood evolves in an interconnected community.”

The event was held at Scotch College and All Saints Floreat from 14 –16 February. For a copy of Ian Price’s talk on DVD contact Marie Yuncken at

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