Why Fellowship Matters To Us

Written by Grace McAllister

On walking into the room for Cheryl Lawrie's talk, each person was confronted with a sheet of paper divided into sixteen blank sections. Our task was to give sixteen reasons why the UCAF mattered to us. Next, we had to write why does the UCAF matter to the church, and thirdly to write why it matters to the world. Overnight, Cheryl summarised the findings to demonstrate how the living water is flowing through us.

Responses to the first task included important items such as making friends, enjoying fellowship, having fun together, learning, helping to make us better Christians, caring for and helping others, building our confidence, fund-raising to help needy causes, making things and baking for the Opportunity Table, listening to interesting speakers, working for particular projects, gaining a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging, and a sense of bonding, looking beyond ourselves, growing in faith, and all these things were on-going in a non-threatening environment.

The topic of how the UCAF matters to the church brought some different angles.

Some see the UCAF as the "engine room" of the church. It offers hospitality, care, contact with a wider group of people, is a vehicle for evangelism and outreach, provides a listening ear, offers opportunities to develop leadership skills, offers support during crises, and affirms world- wide contacts.

The UCAF's importance in the world is through its affiliation with worldwide bodies e.g. World Day of Prayer, Fair Trade, World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women, basic connections and solidarity, tours, action on social issues, help for refugees and for those in the Outback. It becomes involved in projects such as the water projects as detailed to us later .

Living water was powerfully expounded by Reverend David Withers in the three ninety- minute studies centred on what happened at Jacob's Well at Sychar, Samaria, between Judea and Galilee (John 4 1-42).

"I will give you living water."

"Are you greater than our father Jacob who built this well?"

"Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst."

"I know the Messiah is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us."

Jesus declared, "I, the one speaking to you - I am He."

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him.

"We know that this man really is the Saviour of the world."

The living water continued to flow through all the presentations and the devotional sessions. We were even reminded of it at dinner with cascading waterfalls pictured on special place mats.  Now it is for the UCAF members from all States of Australia and one from New Zealand to keep it flowing as we return to everyday settings.

Celebrating in Geelong

Set in extensive parkland, within walking distance of the Geelong Botanic Gardens and Geelong waterfront, the modern Geelong Conference Centre proved to be the perfect venue for the Celebration held from 13-17 April 2016.

The UCAF National Committee’s Chairperson, Margaret Pedler, Chaplain, Rev Ross Stanford and members of the UCAF National Committee were delighted to welcome UCAF members from all States and to give a special welcome to Lynne Scott from New Zealand who is President of the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women, South Pacific Area.

The Conference Centre included a large auditorium, meeting rooms, a dining area and a spacious carpeted area for the meals buffet, morning/afternoon tea and just for relaxing. Everyone, including those on special diets, was thoroughly spoilt by the chef and wait staff who provided absolutely fabulous food and service. The accommodation was very comfortable, the beds in particular. Complimentary Wi-Fi was available throughout the centre.

The Celebration Opening included a ‘Welcome to Country’ by Kerry Black from the Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative and greetings from our UCA Assembly President, Stuart McMillan

Rev Malcolm Frazer taught us to sing ‘Draw Deeply’, the water-themed song he composed for the UCAF National Committee and launched at the Celebration. He joyfully accompanied our singing on his guitar.

After dinner on the first and second nights, Cheryl Lawrie, Commission for Mission’s Associate Executive Director, conducted ‘Future of UCAF’ workshops in which we all participated enthusiastically and positively.

Rev Ross Stanford led us in meaningful worship each morning.

Three inspiring bible studies focusing on the meeting of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well were conducted by Rev David Withers.

The UCAF National Committee selected three water-themed projects worthy of support and invited speakers closely associated with the projects to describe them. Dan McAloon spoke about Frontier Services’ Outback Links Bottled Water project. Rob Latimer of Medical Sailing Ministries outlined the Fresh Water and Toilet Facility for the village of Paunangisu on the main island of Efate, Vanuatu; a project of North Ringwood Uniting Church and the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu. Rev Paul Bartlett showed an informative video to present UnitingWorld’s Clean Water – Papua New Guinea project.

A free afternoon on Thursday provided the opportunity to explore Geelong, check out the Wing and a Prayer bookstall and the cards and other merchandise for sale featuring the work of Traralgon Uniting Church’s Fabric Art Group, have a nap or chat with friends.

On Friday after worship, we boarded the Hutchinson Bus Lines coach driven by UCAF Coach Tour driver, John Alexander, for a much-anticipated outing to seaside Queenscliff, at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay. The outing included a visit to Leopold Uniting Church for a delicious morning tea followed by the chance to patronise its Op Shop. Next stop was the Queenscliff/Point Nepean UC where we watched a video showcasing the Sacrededge festival of arts music & spirituality, now in its third year and hosted by the church. The church’s Op Shop also proved popular for purchases.

Money was provided to buy our own lunch after which we wandered around Queenscliff on a balmy afternoon. Before our return for the Celebration dinner, John took us on a short coach tour of some of the Queenscliff sights.

The Celebration Dinner tables were decorated with beautiful handmade place mats and markers, which included a bible verse. The grace was said by Rev Dr Mark Lawrence, Vic/Tas Synod’s General Secretary before a delicious main course. We were then privileged to hear Colleen Pearce, a proud Yuin Nation woman from southern NSW and Victoria’s first female Public Advocate, speak about her work protecting the rights of people with a disability.

To conclude a lovely evening, the UCAF National Committee’s secretary, Pam Grant, presented Mary Dunnachie OAM with a special award arranged by members from QLD, as she had postponed attending her OAM award ceremony at Government House to attend the Celebration.

Electives were enjoyed on Saturday. These included an introduction to Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre by Rev Ken Sumner; Messy Church led by Rev Sandy Brodine; craft (butterfly gift cards); a walk to the Geelong Botanic Gardens; Community Singing and Internet Worship Resources.

The Saturday night entertainment with Mary Dunnachie, as compere, was a most enjoyable evening with a number of UCAF members demonstrating their many and varied talents.

We had our final worship & Communion on Sunday morning led by Rev Ross Stanford and Rev Malcolm Frazer, followed by lunch and then said goodbye to our UCAF friends until we meet again.