The Uniting Church’s triennial Assembly meeting will take place online for the first time, due to continuing risk factors around the COVID-19 pandemic.
Members of the Assembly Standing Committee (ASC) took the historic decision at an extraordinary meeting on Saturday 30 January 2021.
“Putting the safety and wellbeing of members of the 16th Assembly first was the key driver in this decision,” said Assembly General Secretary Colleen Geyer.
“ASC members believed that a face-to-face meeting simply could not be planned with sufficient certainty.”
“Despite a drop in community transmissions, the emergence of new, more contagious strains of the virus in Australia is concerning. There are also many other risks to consider that are out of our control.
“So less than six months out from the triennial meeting, we are putting the safety of Assembly members and staff first.”
A shortened 16th Assembly will take place online from 17-18 July 2021 with a view to reconvening the Assembly meeting in 2022 when a face-to-face meeting is possible.
“More details will be provided in the coming weeks in a timely and transparent manner, in particular to Assembly members,” said Colleen.
“Work is already well advanced to ensure that the 16th Assembly meeting will be an accessible, joyful and hope-filled event that addresses the necessary church business and governance requirements.”
The 16th Assembly meeting was originally scheduled to take place at the Queensland Synod’s Alexandra Park Conference Centre on the Sunshine Coast from 15-19 July 2021.
”The Queensland Synod has been very supportive in our initial planning, even as we have lived in this time of uncertainty,” said Colleen.
Assembly President, Dr Deidre Palmer reflected on the loss some Assembly members may feel at not meeting in person.
“It will be different not being in the same room together. We will miss the community that grows when we worship and pray together in person . We will miss those wonderful conversations that happen informally. I think many will feel a sense of loss,” said Deidre.
“As the church, we have all been adapting to the impacts of the global pandemic, and guided by the Spirit we have responded with creativity and care. Our online Assembly meeting in July will gather in worship, give thanks for God’s blessings, build community and discern the wisdom of the Holy Spirit in guiding our life and mission.”
Assembly General Secretary Colleen Geyer reassured Uniting Church members that the 16th Assembly meeting would still be a high point in the life of the Uniting Church.
“We will still be incorporating program elements that showcase the breadth of our achievement as a church deeply engaged in transforming lives and the communities we live in.”
“Most of us are a lot more familiar with video conferencing than we were at the start of the pandemic, to the point that a number of UCA Church Synods have moved their meetings online.”
“As a pilgrim people on the way we will be resilient and make the best of the current circumstances.
“Please keep us in your prayers as we work through the remaining planning and preparations,” said Colleen.
More details on the 16th Assembly meeting arrangements will be published on the Assembly website as they become available.
Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash