Opening worship was led by Rev. Vinnie Ravetali, which included the Induction of Rev. Jenny Ducker as Presbytery Pastoral Relations Minister. Jenny spoke about her vision of her role as an opportunity to serve those who serve Christ. The Presbytery shared in the Eucharist and Rev. Graham Long shared a homely themed around leadership.
THE LIFE & MISSION OF TONGA PARISH:
In the 32-year history of the Tonga Parish, this was the first time they had hosted the Presbytery. The warmth of spirit and hospitality was felt by all.
This session was led by Valamotu Palu, who remarked that hosting the meeting was representative of the strengthening partnership and relationship with the Presbytery.
The Tonga Parish is made up of 11 congregations and has a strong and vibrant youth contingent who are a vital part of the community and ministry. One great example of this is the fact that the 3rd Sunday of every month is led by the youth and young adults.
To build capacity, the Parish has held a number of training opportunities for youth, stewards, elders - as well as an annual retreat that includes workshops. Further to this, the Parish have developed music and Sunday School resources.
The session was brought to a close by showing a great video, in which a number of leaders shared their work in the areas of public outreach, women’s fellowship, youth engagement and music ministry.
Prayer is needed as the Parish seek the use of a large space for their quarterly meeting, which is expected to have over 800 people in attendance.
Liuanga Palu was first up and spoke about Choice. Choice is a 10-week leadership program that works with young adults from the Pacific Islander community. The purpose of the program is to help participants understand how they may live out the Gospel in their personal and professional lives.
In 2017, 16 youth attended the program. In 2018, Choice will see a solid increase in participant numbers with 3 planned cohorts. Liu encouraged members of Presbytery to attend one of the 3 graduations to join the celebrations and show support. 2018 Graduation dates are: May 11th, August 31st and December 7th.
CHURCH PLANTING & FRUITFUL CONGREGATIONS.
The next session was led by Glen Powell as he updated the Presbytery on his work around Church Planting and Fruitful Congregations, both of which are Strategic initiatives of the Presbytery and areas for future growth.
In regard to Church Planting, there are two key areas of focus, in Greenfields - which is a newly developed area and Brownfield - where there is much opportunity around church and community engagement.
Glen spoke about present opportunities for growth, which include utilizing current properties that could host a new congregation, stronger intercultural and migrant community connections as well as Tertiary Ministry.
As much opportunity as there is, Glen spoke about certain constraints, such as; limited resources, limited leaders, and limited capacity. Glen also explained that our current oversight and regulatory framework may prove to be a constraint.
By way of next steps, Glen pointed to the need for deeper networking to build advocacy, shared resourcing and collaboration. Glen is currently building two networks to facilitate some of this work. For more info on these networks, click ‘HERE’. There is also movement in the areas of mission planning, a need for repositioning to welcome in new arrivals, and strong leadership training.
TERTIARY MINISTRY & CHRISTIAN STUDENTS UNITING (CSU).
Adrian Sukumar-White took the last future growth session on Tertiary Ministry and Christian Students Uniting (CSU).
Adrian explained that Tertiary Ministry, within the Presbytery of Sydney, has been working on Uni campuses for over 20 years. Many lay leaders, as well as 10 ministers, have come through this ministry.
The core areas of strategic focus sit around raising the visibility of the program and increasing investment. Synod cut Tertiary Ministry funding at the end of 2017, however, the Presbytery has committed to providing these vital operational funds until the end of 2018. This points to the fact that Tertiary Ministry needs to increase investment from within the wider church.
A significant amount of work has gone into a Communications and Fundraising Strategy, as well as training for Mission Workers and Chaplains. This is all about increasing capacity and visibility, which will set the scene for an increase in fundraising and recruitment activities.
As part of the visibility strategy, a physical and digital ‘Invitational’ mail-out was completed that reached over 300 congregations outside Sydney Presbytery and 1000s of people from the wider Church.
Visibility is also being pursued online, with a focus on a new web and social media presence. The team recently launched a new website, which you can view ‘HERE’. The website will focus on telling stories and sharing resources. To magnify this good work, and facilitate discussion, Facebook is being used more and more effectively.
A lot of the work that is going on is applicable on a congregational level, and Adrian encouraged any congregations who might be interested in resources or training to contact him with expressions of interest: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ian Goff, the Presbytery’s Business Manager, shared further on the Contributions System. Synod has asked that Sydney Presbytery ensure the target amount is raise. Core to the Synod's updated contribution scheme is the concept of 'Covenant'. This Covenant Agreement will be returned to the Presbytery by May and rolled out to congregations thereafter.
Ian also updated the Presbytery on Synod’s Resources Plan, which, includes a website to house resources such as video content, a six-session Bible Study (by Rev Rebecca Lindsay), devotionals for Councils and promo collateral (such as posters).
Ian wrapped this session with a look at the AFRs (Annual Financial Returns). He explained that after an internal review, it has become evident that significant resources are being given outside of the Church, and therefore Church Councils are being asked to re-prioritize their mission spending to include the wider Church. The Living is Giving Program will conclude at the end of June 2018.
MISSION & RESOURCE UPDATE.
Rev. Kent Crawford brought an update on progress under our Presbytery’s Mission and Resource Strategy in response to the Synod Standing Committee’s call for assistance. The summary included updates on Rose Bay, South Strathfield and the sale of Redfern. Due to a further urgent call for assistance from Uniting Resources with respect to remedial work needing to be done at Lismore Parish Mission post-flooding in 2017 and the subsequent opportunity to ensure the buildings onsite are fit for purpose for mission and ministry for the next 50 years. Our Presbytery Business Manager has visited the site in the Far North Coast Presbytery to evaluate the concept and recommended that our Standing Committee commit the funds received above our independent valuation (i.e. the gain on sale, which disproportionately benefits sales of property in our Presbytery as compared with rural and regional Presbyteries) from the Redfern site to this urgent appeal.
A letter from the Ministers at Lismore, and Chair of the FNC Presbytery, Rev. Robert Griffith was received which said in part:
The vision embodied in our Synod Sales Proceeds Policy may still be philosophical to many congregations. However, our Lismore congregation, the other eight congregations under the LRM banner, and our whole Presbytery, will now be experiencing first-hand what it means when the Lord’s resources are applied to the areas of greatest need and greatest potential for the mission of Christ. Together with a contribution from our own Presbytery, we have now secured most of the funding to cover the projected cost for the entire building project. We are confident the Lord will supply the remaining funds when they are needed. This now means that repair and refurbishment works can commence on all our Lismore buildings, commencing with the main Worship Centre today. The building issues facing us in Lismore have been growing over the years and have been beyond the resources at our disposal. This contribution from the Sydney Presbytery will now be put to immediate use to address the needs in our Worship Centre, Red Dove Ministry Complex, Woodlark street Indigenous Ministry Centre and also some essential external repairs at our manse. When this entire project is complete, all our buildings will be well equipped to serve the mission of Christ in the 21st century. So your contribution will certainly be ‘the gift which keeps on giving’ for many years.
Please pass on our sincere appreciation to all the members of the Sydney Presbytery for your commitment to the wider body of Christ and your fellow UCA pilgrims. We believe this is the beginning of a really important partnership between the Sydney Presbytery and the Far North Coast Presbytery and we are really looking forward to the Governance Workshop your team will be hosting here next month. Until then, may the Lord continue to bless the extensive work you are doing in your part of the Kingdom and thanks for sharing your Business Manager with us so freely over the past few months. Ian has been a tremendous resource already and I know there is more to come.”