Friday, 14 June 2019

Past to Present – Finding a Home in the UCA

Written by Christine Gordon, Assembly Archivist

The Uniting Church National History Society Biennial Conference took place at the Centre for Theology and Ministry in Melbourne from 7 – 10 June with the theme, “Finding a home in the Uniting Church”.

The Conference opened up the question, “What does it mean to belong to the Uniting Church?”

While many UCA members grew up Congregationalist, Methodist or Presbyterian, some have only ever known the Uniting Church as their spiritual home. Others have transferred in from other denominations.

Participant were invited to reflect on what it means to find a home in a church that describes itself as Evangelical and Reformed and is at the same time committed to theological diversity.

There were 20 papers presented over the two days delivered by members of the Society and other interested historians.

They covered an array of topics, from local congregational, Synod and Assembly agency histories, histories of interesting and faithful servants of the Church, recollections of the antecedent denominations and their relevance for the Uniting Church today and even a talk about Ned Kelly’s religious dimensions!

One of three keynote speakers was Dr Meredith Lake. Speaking to the topic, “Why religious history belongs in secular society,” Meredith gave an engaging and stimulating lecture on the cultural history of the Bible in Australia and how that impacts on our contemporary civic imagination.

Dr Joanna Cruikshank spoke about the relationship between Aboriginal missions and the Government and what it meant it for Aboriginal people who lived on or engaged with the missions.

Professor Graeme Davison spoke on Australia’s ‘religious unconscious’, the liminal zone where religion continues to shape our collective life.

The weekend also saw a plenary session on UCA Archives and the digital future, a sing-a-long with D’Arcy Wood, worship and lunch at the Church of All Nations in Carlton, field trips around some of Melbourne’s iconic Churches and a ‘show and tell’ time of photographs and artefacts from the various Synod and Assembly archives.

The meeting concluded with the UC National History Society Annual General Meeting and election of members of the Board of the Society.

It was an extremely well-run Conference and thanks go to the organisers William Emilsen, Judith Raftery, Rob Renton and the team at the Centre for Theology and Ministry for a thought-provoking and inspiring look at our history and its continuing relevance for us today.