With more and more Uniting Church WA congregations finding themselves without an ordained minister minister, lay ministry is continuously recognised as an important part of the life of the church.
In rural areas, lay ministry has become especially vital. In WA there are currently only three ordained Uniting Church ministers in inland rural placements; Northam, Wagin and Merredin.
Rev Alistair Melville, a member of the Rural Ministry Team for the Uniting Church WA, recently supported a group of people to enrol in Certificate IV in Ministry and Theology with the Australian College of Ministry (ACOM). There are currently eight Uniting Church members enrolled in the course, and three recently graduated in July. Students are supported financially by their congregations and, through an arrangement between the Uniting Church WA and ACOM, receive a reduced course fee.
Jenny Pollard from Narrogin Uniting Church recently completed Certificate IV in Ministry and Theology. Designed as a three-year course, Jenny managed to complete it in two. Working as a YouthCARE chaplain at Narrogin Senior High School, she earned credits towards the coursework through her employment experience.
When Narrogin Uniting Church found themselves without a minister around nine years ago, its members needed to step up so that they could continue to meet and worship. Jenny said the lay ministry course has helped to give her a better understanding of theology and her faith, meaning she is better prepared in leading worship.
“You learn so much doing the course and you get more understanding about yourself, but also, you understand the Scriptures a lot more. It transfers into your faith and the way you look into things,” said Jenny.
“As we move through church in our Christian walks we get certain ideas of ways of doing things and the course challenged some of those areas.”
Alistair said that the course has been of benefit to rural congregations.
“The outcome has been extremely positive, producing people with a diversity of skills, confident, aware of their gifts and enabled to lead their congregations into the future,” he said.
“Jenny began the course in 2014 and completed it at the end of 2015. I am so pleased with her progress and her journey. She has grown in her faith and every other way possible and has far exceeded my original expectations in terms of outcome.”
For more information on this course for people living in rural WA, contact Rev Alistair Melville at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rev Stephen Larkin is offering a similar course for people in the Perth metropolitan area, beginning in September. For more information contact Stephen on 0417 930 257.