We gathered at El Rancho, near Waikanae Beach, for the 14th UCANZ Biennial Forum: “Hear what the CVs are saying to the Churches”. We gathered with April rainclouds, and departed with sunshine and joy!
We were 65 people from 35 parishes: although less than one third of the Uniting Congregations, yet a good range (in the North Island, at least) of urban and rural, large and small churches, with ethnic diversity increased from previous Forums. Accommodation was good, with a holiday camp atmosphere and good spaces to meet in.
Friday night was noisy with the chatter of speed-dating, once the CV cats had been herded. After hearty porridge on the morrow, Rev Mary Petersen set the scene, recalling earliest origins in 1943 (Raglan), 1947 (Tata), and 1951 (Marchwiel – the oldest to survive), but emphasising that where we’re going is more important than where we’ve been.
Hutt City Uniting Congregations (HCUC) ministers, Anna Gilkison and Les Solomona, gave some insights multi-ethnic and multi-denominational church. The challenge to be multicultural is more than having multiple ethnicities. Indeed, there are many other cultures to be aware of: generational, theological, socio-economic, LGBTI, urban/rural, and regional.
Rev Tony Franklin-Ross explored ecumenism in the wider context with a scholarly survey of Receptive ecumenism, Empathetic ecumenism (“a lifestyle, not a task”), Differentiated ecumenism (unity requires more than ‘being nice’), and Ecumenical catholicity (we can experience catholicity deficit if we do not accept each other). Are we prepared, as uniting congregations, to go beyond the boundaries we already work within?
Trudy Downes, the Care Taker of the Methodist Church, explored the scary side of compliance issues but provided some reassuring strategies – and chocolate! Theatre maker and social justice provocateur, Jo Randerson, was absent due to illness, so we had to “give voice to it” in different ways.
We elected nine local churches representatives to Standing Committee by acclamation, including three first-timers. The open floor of the business session became quite heated with different voices seeming to ask for (a) sight of the annual report from UCANZ to Partner Churches, (b) a report from Standing Committee to the Forum, and (c) a report/summary of the event we were attending.
Methodist President Andrew Doubleday, Presbyterian Moderator Fakaofo Kaio, and Jenny Chalmers (standing in for absent Anglican bishops) were in the hot seat for Question Time, tackling such questions as: What is making the denominations retreat behind the barricades? Do you believe in the viability of the Cooperative Venture? How can bureaucracy be simplified for property issues? What aspects of your denomination are unique to your particular brand?
A final presentation on Sunday morning reminded us of ecological readings of the Bible. Dr Emily Colgin explored the Principle of Interconnectedness with specific reference to Genesis 2 and Jeremiah 31. 35-37 and work with the Anglican Indigenous Network and Anglican Communion Environmental Network. Worship from HCUC brought proceedings to a ‘Uniquely Uniting’ close.