More than 100 young leaders across the Uniting Church in Australia will gather this January to explore their vision for the church and to be encouraged and empowered in their leadership.
The National Young Adult Leaders Conference (NYALC) – LEAD, hosted by Dr Deidre Palmer, President of the Uniting Church in Australia, will take place from Thursday 17 to Sunday 20 January at Nunyara Conference Centre in the foothills of Adelaide.
Past participant Naomi Haslam, from the Uniting Church WA, described NYALC as a key stepping stone in her faith and in finding her place in the church.
“I found NYALC amazing,” Naomi said. “No other word.”
“Through that experience, I’ve grown in my own understanding of where I want to be and what I want to do, and how I want to develop myself as a Christian. I can’t emphasise how massive it was for my journey as a Christian.”
The theme for the 2019 Conference is LEAD – Live. Embrace. Act. Disciple.
Rob Floyd, Associate General Secretary at the Uniting Church in Australia, said LEAD would give young leaders a platform to share their vision for the church, but also to realise their own leadership potential.
The four-day program will challenge participants to think about their core purpose, their strengths and passions and to look at where God is calling them.
“The Uniting Church is seeking to hear new voices and fresh ideas,” said Rob. “We want to give our young people the opportunity to lead.”
“What is God calling the Uniting Church to be for the next generation? In many ways, it is the current generation of young adult leaders in UCA who will shape that vision.”
Over the weekend, leadership formation will take place among experiences of worship, Bible studies and small group conversation. The program includes plenty of opportunities for participation and practical engagement.
“Every participant will have at least one opportunity over the weekend to put their leadership skills into practice,” said Rob.
Another key element is the opportunity for the young adults to engage with the leadership of the Uniting Church. Dr Deidre Palmer will be joined by Moderators and other senior leaders of the Uniting Church in accompanying the young adults throughout the weekend.
Dr Palmer said LEAD would give participants greater insight into how the Uniting Church works.
“It is our hope that LEAD will be an opportunity for young adult leaders to reflect deeply on their faith and their place in shaping the life and mission of the Uniting Church,” she said.
“NYALC is a space where we ask questions together, test ideas and develop Christian community that encourages us in our discipleship of Jesus.”
Past NYALC participant Reuben Edmonds, from the Uniting Church WA, said spending time one-on-one with Uniting Church leaders had been a highlight.
“To find out how our current leaders are meeting the challenges of our church and for them to hear what we were thinking, to hear what we were concerned about and to see how we could contribute, was a really an amazing opportunity.”
A key aspect of NYALC is the diversity of the participants with an emphasis placed on making space for young leaders from culturally diverse communities as well as Indigenous young people.
Hayden Charles, the National Youth Committee Chairperson of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress said NYALC had given him a true picture of the multicultural church.
“It was an eye opener, because it showed all these young people from all around Australia and from all different cultures come to one place and work together to show the face of Uniting Church.”
A formative experience for LEAD participants will be a visit to Colebrook Blackwood Reconciliation Park, once the site of Colebrook Children’s Home, now a memorial for members of the Stolen Generations and their families.
Bradon French has been involved in the past four NYALCs, as attendee, co-ordinator, mentor and support person.
“By drawing people together from across the geographical and theological landscape of our church, NYALC forces us to grapple with issues and to say, ‘Who are we and where are we going?’ And then you layer upon that the opportunity of those attending to lead us there,” he said.
“I’m yet to experience a NYALC that isn’t transformational. Each gathering, simply by creating space for young Christians, First and Second Peoples, to express themselves, we find a glimpse of the church we were always called to be.”
NYALC will be held from Thursday 17 to Sunday 20 January 2019 at Nunyara Conference Centre in Adelaide. For more info, visit https://nyalc.org.au/ or contact Janine McDonald, Uniting Generations Officer for the Uniting Church WA, to find out how to attend.