Walk and Talk: Ingredients in the Mix
Thank you for the opportunity to share in your city ministry at Scots over the past four months. I have appreciated the systems of support you have in place and the way leaders, members and staff have all worked together. Since my formal retirement some ten years ago I have been involved in extensive discussion and research about the challenges facing city congregations in Australia and I hope some of the insights I have shared will help you plan for the future. Some of these thoughts and ideas are included in my June series of articles and during Sunday morning services. These thoughts and the minister’s page in Talk are now accessible on the web site at scotschurch.org.
I have discovered again that while it is easy to make generalisations about congregations as an outsider, there is no substitute to being on site, observing and learning from the day to day experience of ministry. I hope these four months have been an important learning opportunity for you as it has been for me.
One of the foundational insights from our cooperative work across the city and through the Urban Mission Network is summed up in the affirmation, “building on strengths” and the technical phrase for this discipline is, Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). Scots Church has many strengths and assets for city ministry and like many other Uniting churches these gifts can be taken for granted or assumed.
Some of these “assets” include the commitment Scots brings to the denomination. Scots continues to be an important venue for events and both regular and special programmes and its visibility and city presence is often the public face of the church to the wider community. Members and leaders of Scots are committed and have demonstrated that they are willing to take risks and have a great deal of experience to draw on when it comes to experimental ministry.
Scots week day ministry continues to develop by being a church of the open door. This ministry of welcome is based on of theology of hospitality and this is expressed by providing a home for Big Issue and other city based groups and agencies. The “office” is more than an administrative centre but is a meeting place, a listening post, where staff and volunteers keep in touch and by responding to the challenges facing members and the wider city community.
Scots has a heart for neighbourhood ministry and its immediate surrounds continues to be a focus for its commitment and future planning. Here the global and multi faith character of cities around the world is local! The renewed focus on the city of Adelaide as a venue and gathering place for the wider metropolitan population is significant for city ministry. This has implications for the way the Uniting Church in the city communicates and engages with social networks and other media outlets.
You will, I am sure, be able to identify other great gifts Scots brings to ministry and it is important for all those involved to work together, be moving in one direction having a clear and consistent aim and purpose in mind. We all have a responsibility to develop a vision for the future and this can be both hard yet exciting work. However some of our more inspirational moments arrive when we experience the unexpected, when we are there to welcome the stranger and those looking for a place to belong. When those who walk in through the front door are no longer lost, adrift or looking for someone to talk to!
May you walk the talk and talk the walk as you are led by the Spirit and into the future that God has for you.
Rev Dr Dean Eland, Interim Minister June - September 2014
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