You know that feeling when your partner, or employer, or doctor, says “We need to talk”? There is that sense of trepidation, even if they declare that there is nothing to worry about. The relationship moves, suddenly, to a new level. Some folk avoid these conversations at all costs. Sometimes it seems too hard, or we would rather be left in the dark. Sometimes the news is not easy to hear. And sometimes our conversation heralds a new beginning.
I’ve been trundling around worship and other gatherings since October last year, talking about our life together, as disciples in the Uniting Church. I have heard and seen how we are serving God and our communities across our Synod. I am challenged and thankful by how much God is doing – and inviting us to experience – in the ministry we offer. In these last few months our sense of urgency, about needing to talk, has grown.
The question, resolved by the majority of our community, and legally by our parliament, is before us as a community of faith. The Uniting Church has elected to engage deliberately, while our friends in other faith traditions watch us and wonder, knowing that people in every congregation across every church and beyond, are seeking to understand what same gender marriage means for our community. So, I have invited people across our Synod to talk, from congregations and presbyteries, ordained and lay, of every age and background.
Two questions guide the conversations: How will we bear witness to Jesus Christ, within our community, as we have this conversation? How will we find a way forward, together, with Christ?
Some people arrive with their minds made up, some come with the certainty of what God intends, while many come ready to hear – and discuss – how we can be the church, while we seek to understand and resolve an issue which appears difficult and costly. Some people will not come through fear, or cynicism, or woundedness. All of these return us to our guiding questions.
As I have mentioned in our Conversations so far, have you talked with your hairdresser, or your barista, or your mechanic, about marriage? Or have you simply kept your own counsel and talked with the folk with whom you agree? How might the Spirit whisper a new word to us about our witness in the world? Are we brave enough to pray honestly that God will bring us to resurrection on this (and other) challenges? Resurrection is not what we expect, nor does it always appear as we hoped. We are in the hands of the risen, crucified Lord.
Let us commit ourselves to finding our way, together. Please, pray for our church and for each other; please, pray for all those who lead our church.
The Church’s call is to serve that end: to be a fellowship of reconciliation, a body within which the diverse gifts of its members are used for the building up of the whole, an instrument through which Christ may work and bear witness to himself.
Rev. Simon Hansford