Friday 30 August promised to be stormy and yet, the evening was remarkably clear given a week of passing rainfalls.
After much activity in terms of advertising via radio, social media, the Uniting church WA website, posters in the windows at St Andrew’s Uniting Church, the Uniting Church WA Ministry Expo was set up and ready to go.
Some local congregation members arrived first, and slowly the building filled with 42 adults and 12 children.
At 6.00pm, we began. I was MC for the evening, Mitchell Garlett, Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress Ministry Candidate, gave a Welcome to Country.
Rev Steve Francis, Moderator of the Uniting Church WA, opened the evening with a statement about ministry, call, character, commitment, and discernment.
One by one people got up to represent different parts of the journey in ministry: from enrolling in a Period of Discernment, completion of the same, candidates for ministry, Ministry of Pastor, Ministry of Deacon, Word and Sacrament, Lay Preacher, Chaplaincy, and admission from another denomination. Without specifically intending to, the range of speakers were both men and women, a variety of ethnicity backgrounds and ages.
The evening took on the tone of a testimonial and the excitement was palpable. At the end, Rev Steve Francis again took the podium and spoke about the work in his congregational ministry at Nedlands Uniting Church. We did not shirk from saying ministry was hard work.
The crowd included a significant share of culturally diverse people: the word is out now that they can apply to become ministry agents and that the education delivered will be tailored to their English ability and appropriate to their ministry and skill development. Multiple pathways to ordination in the Uniting Church WA is becoming a reality.
The other key group showing interest is from young adults who have completed their first degree, gone out to find work and discovered that something else was taking their passion. They are now exploring the possibilities of ministry.
When I gave a five minute break from all the talking heads, the room quickly filled with conversation and it was hard to get them back. By the end of the evening all the Period of Discernment (POD) forms were taken, along with copies of our renewed ‘Called by Name‘ booklet, outlining ministry in the Uniting Church WA.
There is a lot of interest and some very determined looks on faces. As a team, the Commission for Education for Discipleship and Leadership (CEDAL) is very excited about the success of the event. We hope to see more applicants for undertaking a Period of Discernment, and a much larger group in formation in the coming years.
Next year I will remember to bring some children’s activities!
Rev Dr Anne Wright, Director of Education and Formation at the Uniting Church WA