Each day participants drove about 20km out of Alice Springs to our spectacular Conference location at Honeymoon Gap nestled in the shade of the MacDonnell Ranges.
From the Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony at the beginning of the gathering to our final blessing song, “For You Deep Stillness of the Silent Inland”, the beautiful and iconic location was a constant reminder of the UCA’s heart for First Peoples and our Covenant with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.
A key part of the Conference was input on Teams and Teamwork by Rev. Dr Jenny Byrnes, Executive Officer of the eLM Unit in Vic/Tas Synod and Craig Bailey, Director of Leadership at Uniting College, SA.
This excellent input over several sessions allowed participants to consider the strengths and growth areas of the various teams that they are involved in.
A number of Presbytery and other teams were in attendance together and were able to engage in very helpful discussions on the spot.
As a practical example of teamwork, we had the opportunity to build and then race a ‘boat’ on the dry riverbed of Roe Creek nearby.
A number of sessions were devoted to discussing issues raised by the Presbytery Ministers in attendance.
As with many Conferences of this type, an important aspect of the event was the opportunity to hear stories, of both hard times and of hope and blessing, from those engaged in similar Ministries and working in similar mission and ministry contexts across Australia. Participants took time to listen deeply to and then pray for one another.
One clear message I took away from the conference is that every one of us involved in ministry and mission within the Uniting Church needs to be working as one big team.
This was nicely symbolised by the presence throughout the Conference of our President, Dr Deidre Palmer, who also gave the Conference Address over a sumptuous Saturday evening Conference Dinner.
Additionally, a significant item on the agenda raised many times in the various discussions was the need to collaborate and to share resources across Presbytery boundaries, between Synods and across the whole Assembly.
However this was not just an aspiration — we heard many stories of collaboration and sharing already enacted, and left with commitments by various participants including the Assembly Resourcing Unit, to support the continuation and growth of such resource sharing through a number of practical digital and social media platforms.
The President’s Address on Saturday Evening was an inspiring reminder of some of the particular emphases and values of the Uniting Church. I left the Conference, encouraged by the variety of ways in which those values are being lived out in Presbyteries across Australia.
Photos: Craig Mitchell and Lindsay Cullen