We worshipped together, listened and shared stories, started conversations about key issues for the church and participated in workshops on everything from well-being and women in scripture to learning songs of our First Peoples.
The keynote speaker was Australian Olympic runner Eloise Wellings. She shared her story of pitfalls, perseverance, dreams and hope in God. Through her love for running, Eloise realised God had a bigger dream for her. She began the Love Mercy Foundation which empowers rural communities in northern Uganda.
Brooke Prentis from Common Grace and Aunty Jean Phillips also gave a powerful closing address. We in the Uniting Church often talk about being in covenant with our First Peoples but how many indigenous people are we in relationship with ourselves? Brooke and Aunty Jean invited us to journey with First Peoples by getting to know the indigenous people in our own communities. They urged us to own our history and build a better nation founded in the love and grace of Christ.
The inaugural UnitingWomen conference was in NSW/ACT Synod in 2014. It began as a dream for three Uniting Church women, Rev Ellie Elia, Dr Sureka Goringe and Dayan Mcleod. Never did these women imagine that UnitingWomen would continue to inspire so many women. This was our third UnitingWomen with the second in Adelaide in 2016. I am excited that UnitingWomen 2020 will be hosted by the Northern Synod in Darwin.
By the end of the conference my empty cup was filled, fully aware that there is still so much work to do in the Church in how we encourage and empower the voices of women.
We want to equip the next generation of women leaders in our church, but how much space do we give them to share their deep stories of faith? One of the themes of the conference was passing the microphone to let women tell their stories of struggle, pain, blessing and joy.
I’ve attended all three UnitingWomen conferences and it’s been great to be part of a diverse event for women of all ages to learn and encourage one another in the faith.
The journey continues as we go out into the world witnessing to the good news of the crucified risen Christ.
UnitingWomen also got me thinking about how we help our next generation of women and men to realise they can make a difference in this world and proclaim the love of Christ in whatever vocation or area of interest they are passionate about.
You do not have to become an ordained minister to be the hands and feet of Christ. God is in the business of doing more in us regardless of our cultural background, gender, position in the church, sexuality and more. God’s love for humanity through Jesus Christ ensures that we are more than enough.
May we all find our voice to share the story of Jesus Christ so that others are invited into the wonder of the deep love of God.
Rev. Charissa Suli is a National Consultant for the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly. She was the 2nd Gen Convenor of the UCA’s Tongan National Conference from 2009-2017.