In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year both the Synod meeting and the Assembly meeting are being held online. So too will our first Presbytery meeting for 2021—scheduled for Saturday 20 March. There are practical difficulties in drawing together, for an extended period of time, in an appropriately spacious hall, the numbers that would be involved. That’s a challenge for a decent-sized group of 60-80 (in the case of Presbytery); it’s even more of a challenge for the 300+ that comprise the membership of Assembly, or the 400+ that typically attend a Synod meeting.
This year, Canberra Region Presbytery is “sending” Co-Chair Judy McKinlay and Presbytery Minister Andrew Smith to the Assembly meeting—which will be entirely online, in July, over a shortened period of just two days. The theme chosen by the President-Elect for the meeting is Dwelling in Love. We can expect to receive reports on that gathering later in the year. The announcement about changed arrangements for Assembly is at https://uniting.church/16th-assembly-goes-online/
For the NSW.ACT Synod, the theme chosen by the Moderator is Where the wild God is, and that theme invites serious reflection—stay tuned for more on that at the coming March meeting of Presbytery, when Synod Secretary Jane Fry will be meeting with Presbytery members. In contrast to the Assembly decision to hold a short (two-day) online meeting, our Synod has decided to adopt an “extended online” model for the 2021 Synod Meeting.
The Synod has already begun meeting—an Induction session took place on the morning of Saturday 13 February. This was a technical session, to introduce members to the technology being used, with trial runs of asking questions, meeting in small groups for discernment, voting, and so on. Further sessions are scheduled in April, June, and August. No session will be more than four hours in length. Reports and proposals will be circulated early in the process. Members of the Synod will meet in each session for “discernment groups” before joining together for plenary discussions and decision-making.
Membership of Synod this year is limited to 200 in total, and Presbyteries have been asked particularly to seek “new faces” so that a younger and more-diverse membership can be built. There are fourteen members of Synod 2021 from the Canberra Region Presbytery, with a good cross-section of female and male, younger and older, lay and ordained—with a number of CALD members amongst the number. You can anticipate further reports from these members during the course of the year.
Further information about the 2021 Synod meeting can be found at https://nswact.uca.org.au/synod-2021-where-the-wild-god-is/
Rev Dr John Squires
Secretary to the Pastoral Relations Committee
Canberra Region Presbytery
Uniting Church in Australia
0408 024 642