1. THE UCAF NATIONAL COMMITTEE 2012 – 2015
The National Committee for this period was located in Western Australia. In 2015, after a Commissioning Service at the Noranda Uniting Church, the responsibility moved to the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania.
I wish to acknowledge the sacrifice and commitment shown by those Committee members over a long period of time – almost six years as the National Committee Elect and then as the National Committee. This is no small thing and their creativity and supportive nature has been able to partially address two issues we were not totally cognisant of when WA took on the role:
1. the tyranny of distance; and
2. the limitations of having a Chairperson who was in full-time employment.
Both meant the pastoral care and visiting, done so well by our predecessors, was limited.
2. THEME – WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR?
One of the requirements, but also joys, for the fledgling National Committee Elect is the discernment of the theme for the next triennium. After much consideration we determined that it would be „Who is my neighbour?‟ drawing on the words of the expert in the law and Jesus‟ response in the parable of the Good Samaritan. This proved to be an inspired decision for our bible studies at the Celebration and later Consultation. It also provided the framework for the NeighbourConnect project with its foci of local, national and international neighbours over the three years.
Many groups across Australia embraced the opportunities this theme opened up, some of which were reported on in a booklet presented at the Consultation.
3. THE CELEBRATION
The National Celebration was held at the Esplanade River Suites in South Perth from the 16 – 20 October 2013. Eighty people attended the Celebration. The original dream was that two women from Dian Kristawati, as part of GKPB (Christian Protestant Church of Bali) might attend. However to our sheer joy, four women joined us. Their attendance was a highlight and they added a whole new dimension to the Celebration. It was a major experience for them and for us.
This was at the instigation of the WA Synod Committee who organised and fundraised so that this could occur. The National Committee wishes to recognise this initiative of the WA Synod Committee and all those who financially supported it. We are pleased to report that the Celebration ran at a profit and these funds will be able to be utilised by the UCAF in the future.
4. WFMUCW – SOUTH PACIFIC AREA SEMINAR
Very early in the National Committee’s tenure, we became aware that planning was under way for The World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women‟s South Pacific Area Seminar to be held in Australia in 2014 and that the National Committee was responsible for this.
Fortunately, the folk in Queensland had this well in hand – I could not imagine how we were going to run a four day seminar, with two hundred and forty women attending from seven countries, in Brisbane from Perth. With the work of Lynne Scott (President of the South Pacific Area of the WFMUCW) and in particular Fran Moss and the Local Arrangements Committee located in Queensland, a potential disaster was turned into an outstanding success. The National Committee wishes to place on record its overwhelming thanks to Fran and her team.
5. JOAN STOTT BURSARY
This continued to provide support for of students doing theological studies. The people who received a grant during this triennium are as follows:
2013 Hanna Rate (NSW/ACT)
2014 Danielle Hemsworth-Smith and Scott Mudd (NSW/ACT)
2015 Caryn Rogers (SA)
6. ADULT FELLOWSHIP MEMBERSHIP NUMBERS
Alistair Christie, the previous National Committee Chairperson, in his report to the 2012 Consultation made these remarks: “When I took up the responsibility within the National Committee, the information about membership indicated that there were 18,000 affiliated members of UCAF across Australia. More recently I have discovered that in 2009 information from synod bodies indicated membership of 16,500. From returns last year (2011) the figure is closer to 12,200.”
Notification of numbers for purposes of assessing NC levies, as at 16 March 2015, indicate a membership of approximately 8,300 people. The information has been the same generally – the age of members, a fall in numbers and the closure of some groups. This has led to the inevitable question, “What is the future of UCAF?” Synod Committees asked that this be the central question to wrestle with at the 2015 Perth Consultation. A significant period of time was allocated to this discussion.
Clearly stated, within the Working Procedures, the UCAF National Committee is an agency of the Assembly promoting the work of Adult Fellowships. Its Mission Statement is to facilitate the network of Adult Fellowships nationally in order to promote the mission and witness of the Uniting Church in Australia.
A lively discussion took place over several days at the Consultation, as we discerned our reason for being – now some 35 years on from our establishment – and how we might develop a more effective interface with aboriginal and multi-cultural congregations. These themes will be further developed at the Celebration in Geelong next year.
Our reality is that most of our members are of retirement age or older. But let us not succumb to the creeping ageism of our culture that increasingly sees people only as economic beings – producers and/or consumers – because there is a role for older people. John Smith, in an article entitled The Church: A Tree and its Rings makes the following point:
“In one sense, the life of the tree is simply the last half inch thickness of bark … The majority of the tree is what people would call „dead wood‟. So it is with the church … but without that trunk, without the rings of its history … all that has happened, its tradition, the fragile life out on the edge could not stand without that core.”
The accounts are yet to be audited but the National Committee has improved its financial situation even more over the last three years.
8. CLOSING REMARKS
I wish to say a very respectful thank you to the wonderful work of our Synod Committees, who I believe are the backbone of Adult Fellowship across Australia.
Welcome is such a common word. It adorns floor mats outside all sorts of entryways. It is often seen on road signs. It is often said by a staff member as you enter a large chain hardware store or a restaurant. It is also the all embracing feeling I have experienced as I have enjoyed the hospitality of many of our members. And so, at a personal level I wish to, in some small way, acknowledge the amazing people I have met over the last three years. From Mossman to Orroroo, from Pinjarra to Sydney, and one should not forget our guests from the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, they have challenged and inspired both myself, the National Committee and all of us.
In all things – Thanks be to God!
APPENDIX A UNITING CHURCH ADULT FELLOWSHIP NATIONAL COMMITTEE
Responsible to: The Assembly
Reporting arrangements: The Assembly and the Standing Committee
Mission Statement: To facilitate the network of Adult Fellowships nationally in order to promote the mission and witness of the Uniting Church In Australia.
1. To foster and develop links with Synod committees of adult fellowships.
2. To appoint representatives, as agreed with the General Secretary, to various ecumenical bodies such as Australian Church Women and international bodies such as World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches‟ Department of Partnership of Women and Men, and Bridgebuilders International.
3. To organise and facilitate conferences and meetings of adult fellowships as appropriate.
4. To consult and co-ordinate with other Assembly agencies on ways adult fellowships may participate and assist in the ongoing life and witness of the Uniting Church in Australia.
General: The responsibilities of every agency include:
- focusing the activities of the agency on the vision of the Assembly as a whole;
- advising the Assembly and/or the Standing Committee on policy matters within their area of responsibility;
- making policy decisions where the Assembly or the Standing Committee has delegated authority for certain policy areas, either through the agency mandate or by resolution;
- participating in cross-agency projects and teams established by the Assembly or the Standing Committee.
Power to appoint:
To establish working groups for special tasks related specifically to the mandate.
To make recommendations to the Standing Committee to establish other working groups for special tasks related to but not part of the mandate.
Membership of the Reference Committee:
President and up to eleven members from one synod for each three year term (the Synod base to rotate each triennium), appointed by the triennial UCAF Consultation and noted by the Assembly or the Standing Committee;
power to co-opt to ensure appropriate competencies, representation and development of new leadership.
Approved by Assembly Standing Committee, August 2006