Friday, 04 August 2017

Farewell Craig Mitchell

Craig Mitchell (centre) with his wife Yvonne - (L-R) Rev Dr Ian Price, President-elect Dr Deidre Palmer, Assembly Associate General Secretary Rob Floyd Craig Mitchell (centre) with his wife Yvonne - (L-R) Rev Dr Ian Price, President-elect Dr Deidre Palmer, Assembly Associate General Secretary Rob Floyd

The Assembly has marked the closure of ministry of Craig Mitchell as National Director of Formation, Education and Discipleship at Pilgrim Uniting Church in Adelaide. 

Rohan Pryor worked alongside Craig in the Formation, Education and Discipleship Working Group and delivered the record of Craig's ministry over the years.

Craig Mitchell has faithfully and creatively served the Uniting Church over many years, in a wide range of roles and contexts.

We are here tonight to honour his service in his most recent role – as National Director for Formation, Education and Discipleship, which he began in January 2014.

This new role was established by the Assembly Standing Committee in 2013 to provide a fresh focus on a significant priority of the Assembly – forming lifelong disciples within learning communities of faith.

Craig undertook a national research project for the Assembly in 2011 and 2012 which led to the emphasis on how congregations form and educate people in faith, ministry and mission.

Craig’s research offered the church a vision for congregations as learning communities for the 21st century. It encouraged a collaboration between the Assembly and other sectors of the church to resource this.

Craig conducted training events and workshops across Australia, in synods and presbyteries. He resourced the Formation, Education and Discipleship Working Group (the FEDs), the national lay & leadership educators’ networks, the national presbytery ministers gathering, and other ecumenical contexts.

Craig has experimented with a range of online and digital communication methods, particularly in building communities of shared interest around forming disciples.

Craig conducted FED Stories events, a kind of “TED Talks”, in Canberra, Sydney, and Brisbane, where congregational leaders told stories about how they form faith across generations.

Craig has initiated national events including

  • a national colloquium on Forming Disciples in Mission with a broad focus including multiculturalism, evangelism, spiritual practices, formation, and lay education
  • a national conference and learning intensive on 21st-century faith formation in partnership with the NSW-ACT Synod.

A key part of Craig’s role has been about collaboration.

Craig contributed to and helped coordinate the gatherings of the:

  • National Lay & Leadership Educators Network
  • Assembly Mission and Evangelism Network
  • National Schools Consultative Group
  • National Youth & Children’s Ministry Coalition meetings

Craig has been an advisor to the Education for Ministry Working Group, particularly about the ministry of Lay Preacher and the ministry of Pastor – and has coordinated development the new national training and assessment frameworks and standards for Lay Preachers.

Craig has been a Member of the Assembly Worship Working Group. He has been part of the Planning Team for the national Songwrite gathering in 2015, and the SA Synod Songwrite event in 2016. He co-facilitated the national Worship Colloquium in 2014 and was a member of the planning team for the national Transforming Worship Conference 2017 held in July this year.

Along with his colleague Tom Kerr, Craig has provided support and oversight for national youth events including NCYC, NYALC and About FACE. He worked with Tom on running FED Events consultations and improving policies for national youth events.

Craig developed the series of short videos “We are the Uniting Church”, exploring who we are as a church and what we believe. He oversaw the development of the “Walking Together” multi media education resource on the revised Preamble to the Uniting Church Constitution.

Collaborating with the FED Working Group and synods’ lay education staff, Craig has developed the UnitingLearning Project – a national initiative for an online portal & virtual learning environment for resourcing, collaboration and learning for faith development, leadership, ministry and mission.

Craig has been working with the FED Working Group on new resources for baptism and confirmation in the Uniting Church.

He represented the UCA at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand in October 2016.

Craig presented a paper on the impact of digital technology on the authoring and curating of worship at the conference of the International Society of Media, Culture and Religion in Canterbury, England in 2014. He has contributed articles to the US journal “Lifelong Faith”, curated by John Roberto.

Craig continues to work on a PhD studying congregations as lifelong learning communities of missional discipleship.

Craig’s passionate commitment to Christian formation, education and discipleship has shaped his ministry and contributions to the Uniting Church.

Craig embodies the Uniting Church values of collaborative, shared learning and decision making, affirmation of diversity and the use of gifts in ministry and mission. His commitment to encouraging young people to fulfil their potential and offer leadership has been significant in the lives of many people across the nation.

His knowledge of resources in education is exemplary – ‘resource junkie’ is a badge of honour some of us aspire to, but Craig is streets ahead of most of us in several fields – and the church looks forward to the new initiatives he will continue to create and collaborate on.

As members of the Uniting Church gathered here, we thank you, Craig, for your faithful service to Christ in encouraging people of all ages to grow in faith and actively live out their discipleship – participating in God’s mission of justice, reconciliation and love in our world.