More than 100 lay and ordained members from our congregations and faith communities gathered for the 16th Annual Meeting of the Presbytery of Western Australia, last Saturday 19 June at The Billabong Uniting Church in Canning Vale.
They came together for worship, fellowship and to seek the will of God for the Presbytery.
Presbytery members in attendance at the meeting are asked to fill in this feedback survey.
Cam Harries, Presbytery member from The Billabong Uniting Church, commenced worship reading 1Corinthians 1: 18-21.
Rev Luke Williams, Minister at The Billabong Uniting Church, reflected on this “fascinating” letter dealing with the same kinds of human issues and disputes we deal with today.
“Christians are supposed to use their brains, but never is our intellect, oratory skills, rationalising or even what we might call ‘wisdom’ supposed to take the place of God,” said Luke.
“We’re here as the church today to discern God’s leading. Maybe, I humbly suggest, that sometimes our mindset is that if we simply talk, share, debate or put forth our wisdom, that somehow God will mysteriously reveal his will in that.
“Yet, the scriptures point to God’s people discerning the leading of the spirit of God when in prayer, waiting on God, in worship and repentance.”
Our host congregation was asked to lead a short time of worship that was a ‘taste of The Billabong’.
“We’ve been doing our services this way recently, beginning with the reading, the sermon and responding in worship. We’ve also been on a challenging journey of being more open to letting God speak. Waiting, listening and allowing Jesus to take the floor,” said Luke.
In the lead-up to Presbytery, Luke asked The Billabong congregation to pray for the Presbytery and to ask God to give a scripture, a message, a picture or a word of encouragement to build-up, encourage or bless the Presbytery and receive God’s love afresh.
Luke asked each member of the Presbytery to close their eyes, listen and allow these words given in prayer to encourage, fill and be reminded of the deeply personal, real love of God for each of us:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The Father will honour and reward anyone who serves me. (John 12: 26)
For this reason, since we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. (Colossians 1:9)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. (Philippians 2: 1-2)
“My prayer is that God will fill you up again today. In this posture of prayer and worship, in that place, we hear God and the Holy Spirit leads and guides us as the people of God,” said Luke.
Our new chairperson
The Presbytery agreed to elect Alison Xamon as Presbytery of Western Australia Chairperson for a term of two years.
Alison brings many gifts and skills to the role as a lifelong member of the Uniting Church and daughter of Rev Alan Miller.
Currently, Alison serves as an Elder at Uniting Church in the City (UCIC), Wesley Perth and is secretary of the UCIC Church Council. She’s a member of both the Synod and Presbytery of Western Australia, as well as Synod Standing Committee (SSC) and its Legal Sub-committee.
Alison established and runs the monthly Social Justice Church held at UCIC and is a former member of the Social Justice Commission.
“I am very conscious that I have no agenda for Presbytery other than a passion to ensure transparency, honesty, collaboration and respectful relationships within the Presbytery, with our congregations, and with the Synod,” said Alison.
“I believe the future of our church will depend on a commitment to bring us forward together and to embrace our diversity, intergenerationally, multiculturally and theologically.”
Michelle Bunn, Presbytery Standing Committee (PSC) member gave a verbal report with feedback from the recent consultation request about the Working Together paper.
On behalf of PSC, Michelle thanked the many congregations, faith communities and individuals who took the time to answer three questions about the oversight role of the Presbytery.
All the contributions were very helpful. They ranged from the immediately practical such as keeping Presbytery up-to-date with contact details of our leaders and representatives, to a detailed historical and contextual analysis.
The major themes were:
Question 1 – What is your understanding of the oversight between Presbytery, its committees, and congregations?
There is a feeling of disconnection and a lack of understanding about the links between these groups. Congregations are busy with being church in their local communities and the wider liaison with Presbytery seen almost as irrelevant and even a distraction to their daily walk.
Question 2 – How can Presbytery do this work better?
Responses overwhelmingly indicated a desire for Presbytery to get to know individual congregations by being more physically present at the many local activities, including worship services and Council meetings. Respondents also wanted more support from Presbytery, from technical IT input to pastoral and strategic support, especially for those communities without a minister in placement.
Question 3 – What can you do to help Presbytery in this work?
This question seemed much harder to answer. People want to help, but are not sure how. They’re already very committed to their local group.
“I think the key word in all of this is relationships. The general understanding seemed to be that this relationship is a two-tier model between congregations and something else,” said Michelle.
“The relationship is actually more like a web. Today, you are the Presbytery and you share that oversight responsibility. When you leave here today and go back to your congregation and tell them about today, you are representing Presbytery.
“Presbytery is very much a network where everyone is supporting each other.”
PSC will continue to look at the responses and do what it can to take on board the ideas and advice.
Uniting Church WA Strategic Planning
Rev Hannes Halgryn, Uniting Church WA Associate General Secretary (Strategy), outlined the Strategic Planning process he is undertaking for the Uniting Church WA.
To explain the purpose of the Strategic Plan, Hannes quoted from the Basis of Union, paragraph 3.
“Strategic planning is intended to be a mechanism towards maintaining our focus as “a pilgrim people, always on the way towards a promised goal,” said Hannes.
“Strategic planning moves beyond our reliance on cognition and intellectual hard work to a place of deep listening and response to the Spirit. It also moves us beyond relying only on our own ability to hear God’s voice to practicing corporate discernment as a way to affirm God’s will and direction.”
The process of developing a strategic plan for the whole of the Uniting Church WA requires awareness and sensitivity as we join together with congregations, Presbytery, Synod, agencies and schools. Each has a unique vision and call with existing strategic plans that are already in place.
“The objective of this strategic process is to collectively discern where we believe we should go from here and what we need to focus on that will get us there. Although the various parts of the church may have their own unique visions, it’s important to also have a shared vision for the whole of the Uniting Church WA,” said Hannes.
“A clear picture will assist each part of the church to see how they can contribute to the larger whole and be able to articulate how this is to be done. A shared vision will also enable the larger church to prioritise our limited resources.”
Hannes invited each of us to help prayerfully discern the Core Values that we would like to embrace as a church to help guide us on our journey by completing this survey.
Beyond 10 years extension
The Presbytery agreed to extend Rev Toby Keva’s placement at Rockingham Uniting Church beyond ten years by a further two years, from 1 January 2022. The Presbytery also commended Toby, the Rockingham congregation and their Church Council for their ministry.
Rev Marie Wilson and Sandy Scott from Spearwood Uniting Church have undertaken an extensive consultation with Rockingham congregation, their Church Council and Toby. Congregation members completed a survey. Overall, the feedback was positive with a desire that Toby’s placement be extended.
Appreciation for Toby’s ministry and the developments that had taken place were expressed. The consultation team were impressed with the energy of the congregation, the involvement of people in the leadership of worship and development of gifts of young people. The Church Council also spoke positively of Toby’s ministry.
It was clear to the Consultation Team that Toby continues to develop himself as a Minister at Rockingham, works well with the congregation’s leadership and the congregation is vibrant.
Toby is also currently working toward accreditation as a Reserve Navy Chaplain.
Closure of Nannup Uniting Church
With heavy hearts, the Presbytery agreed to dissolve Nannup Uniting Church because they can no longer fulfill the purpose, functions and responsibilities required of a congregation under the Uniting Church in Australia Regulations.
Nannup Uniting Church is part of the Bay Life Uniting Church, Busselton community. This request to the Presbytery came from Bay Life Church Council due to a decline in membership and the cessation of worship at Nannup.
Presbytery gave thanks, with deep gratitude for the faithful worship, mission and service of the people of the Nannup congregation. A service of worship to celebrate the life and witness of Nannup Uniting Church will be held to mark its dissolution.
Following this decision, the Pastoral Relations Committee (PRC) will work with the congregation to ensure that each member and adherent is transferred to a roll of another congregation; pastoral care is provided; and that future use of the church, hall and manse buildings are determined.
Reports were received from the Presbytery Standing Committee (PSC), Presbytery Treasurer, Candidates for the Ministries Committee (CMC), Commission for Education for Discipleship and Leadership (CEDAL), Intergenerational Ministry Network (IMN), Multicultural Network, Pastoral Relations Committee (PRC), Rural Ministry Network and Thrive Mission Committee.
Following presentation of the reports, members of the Presbytery worked in table groups to discuss and answer four questions:
What arose from the reports that we need to discuss further or consider?
- What do congregations need from the Presbytery?
- What can we do about it?
- Presbyteries are called to exhort their congregations to fulfill their high calling in Jesus Christ. What are the key characteristics congregations show when they are doing this?
At the end of 40 minutes, each group was asked to share one point with the Presbytery.
All responses were recorded and will be used by PSC to help with further work or to prepare for future meetings.
Recognition of CALD Pastors
The Presbytery agreed by consensus that the Presbytery Standing Committee (PSC) prepare and submit a proposal to the 45th Annual Meeting of the Synod of Western Australia aimed at approving formal recognition of unremunerated Pastors in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) congregations and faith communities within the Presbytery of Western Australia.
The learnings will help to inform how other unremunerated Pastors can be recognised.
The Presbytery agreed by consensus that the Presbytery Standing Committee (PSC) write to its congregations and faith communities to ask them to consider whether they’re called to explore intentional relationships for mutual support with another Uniting Church congregation or worshipping community.
The Presbytery agreed to elect as chairpersons of Presbytery Committees:
- Candidates for the Ministries Committee (CMC) – Rev Bev Fabb
- Pastoral Relations Committee (PRC) – Rev Ivan Clark
The Presbytery agreed to elect as members of Presbytery Committees:
- Presbytery Standing Committee (PSC) – Rev Claire Pickering and Yuko Tonai-Moore
- Pastoral Relations Committee (PRC) – Rev Dr Sonny Rajomoney and Sue Strutt
Lay representatives of the Presbytery were elected as members of the 45th Annual Meeting of the Synod of Western Australia to be held from Friday 10 to Sunday 12 September.
The Presbytery Standing Committee (PSC) will consider and determine further nominations for any committee or body where the full complement of members hasn’t been achieved.
The final session of Presbytery was a service to install Alison Xamon as the Presbytery of Western Australia chairperson. Alison then commissioned those who had offered themselves for service as convenors of the committees in the life of our Presbytery:
- Candidates for the Ministries Committee (CMC) – Rev Bev Fabb
- Commission for Education for Discipleship and Leadership (CEDAL) – Rev David Kriel
- Pastoral Relations Committee (PRC) – Rev Ivan Clark
- Thrive Mission Committee – Rev Greg Ross.
To read the reports and proposals in full, visit the Uniting Church WA website.