New directions for Uniting Church WA

Building on work done in 2014 and 2015, as well as this year by Rev David de Kock, General Secretary of the Uniting Church WA, members of the Uniting Church Synod of WA will have an  opportunity to engage with the new Synod Strategic Plan at the 41st Annual Meeting of the Synod of Western Australia this September.

In June, a Strategic Advisory Group, including members from Uniting Church WA schools, agencies and congregations, gathered to offer feedback on the plan before it is presented to the Synod meeting for final evaluation.

The Strategic Plan recommends that the church accomodate localised Centres for Mission, which will establish one place as a resourcing centre for several nearby congregations. These Centres for Mission will act like a Uniting Church hub, creating more support and resources for new activities. The plan also incorporates a three-year roll-on budget, which will provide more forward planning than our current one-year budget.

In a recent blog post, Rev David de Kock wrote that this has been a long-time coming.

“The concept is not new, in fact it was the basis of a plan prepared 20 years ago, but never fully put into effect,” he wrote. “While we might regret the loss of the past 20 years, I believe that now is the Kairos (God’s timing) for this plan.”

He noted that this ‘regional centre’ concept has been successfully adopted in other Synods and Presbyteries for several years.

“The approach will require a strategic review of each and all of our congregations and church sites throughout the state, as well as the development of new sites in the areas which have mushroomed in the past decade,” he said.

Funding will be sourced through a new Foundation Trust, which will be presented at the Synod meeting for approval.

“One of our issues,” David de Kock said, “is that we unintentionally lost our connectedness with the heart of the church in congregations when we merged the five Presbyteries into one.

“The Presbytery became synonymous with the Synod and operated administratively and authoratively, losing the relational connection with Church Councils and congregations.

“The recent move to create a clearer distinction between Synod and Presbytery is an attempt to address this.”

Rev David Kriel, Mission Planner for the Uniting Church WA, said the plan will include broad outcomes that focus on the whole Synod and Presbytery. Each congregation, faith community, committee and commission of the church will develop their own three year plan, which he will ensure is connected to the bigger picture.

“We still have a very ‘silo’ culture, and we need to broaden our perspective to embrace the Assembly’s 40th Anniversary slogan that ‘All of this is us,’” David Kriel said.

The plan will continue to focus on the four main strategic directions, including: developing a culture of open communication; promoting a culture of faith formation and faith sharing; developing and promoting relevant education, training and leadership; and increasing the church’s capacity for community engagement.

“The emphasis will be on strengthening the outcomes for each strategic direction, and ensuring that they all point in the same direction,” David Kriel said.

The plan will require a paradigm shift in the thinking of the Uniting Church WA, which David Kriel and David de Kock believe is necessary.

“We need to do it because we’re running out of resources,” David Kriel said. “We can’t go on like this. We’re in decline, a steep decline.

“What we have lacked is a very strong core purpose to pull us all together in one specific direction. It’s always difficult for an organisation like the church; people come with a lot of traditions and ideas. But we need that big core purpose.

“Each member of the church needs to ask this big question – why are we here?

“If we’re serious about God’s mission, we need to do something.”

The Strategic Plan will be presented at the 41st Annual Meeting of the Synod of WA, held on Saturday 9 to Sunday 10 September at Scotch College.

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