The 44th Annual Meeting of the Synod of WA opened this morning at Wesley College with welcomes and devotions.
The new Moderator of the Uniting Church WA, Susy Thomas, shared her hopes for the weekend.
“We are a pilgrim people; it’s a journey to the promised land,” she said. “God has promised to feed us with Word and sacraments. Our job is to discern together what is coming for the year and the future.
“We are here to build community, to share stories, listen to each other and together we praise and worship our God.
“I hope and pray that we will be able to worship God in every aspect of our thoughts and plans.”
While she couldn’t be present due to COVID-19 restrictions, Dr Deidre Palmer, President of the Uniting Church in Australia, shared a video message welcoming the new Moderator and members of the synod to the meeting.
Rev Mark Illingworth, Minister at South Perth Uniting Church, led opening devotions. He shared a fun story on Lego building, relating it to his own commitment to faith and the role of the Synod.
Mark’s love of Lego arose after his adult son asked him to join his team in auditioning for the Lego Masters TV show. His appreciation for the art form grew, as during COVID-19 restrictions he started an online Builders’ Club, sharing stories of Jesus through Lego building with young people over Zoom.
For a personal challenge, Mark and his wife, Deborah, took on a project to replicate one of Lego’s biggest building sets, the Assembly Square.
“We built the first floor! It was lots of fun we really enjoyed doing it together,” Mark said.
“We didn’t necessarily have the right pieces or the colour and we discovered there were specialty pieces.
“I persevered though, and I managed to do the second floor. As the number of pieces I had available became smaller and smaller, the redesign had to become cleverer and cleverer.
“By the third floor, I really did start to sweat. At that point I was starting to think maybe I shouldn’t have started. Maybe it was too big a project.
“I was desperately trying to find: what was the purpose for doing this? What will my kids thing of me if I give up?”
Mark then related his story to Luke 14: 28-30, 33.
“Don’t begin until you count the cost,” he said.
“As the Uniting Church, we have so much resources, we have so much available to us. We need to be wise stewards to that. But we also have to make the commitment to actually have a go.
“My prayer as we start this weekend is that we might wisely count the cost, that we might also have the courage going forward doing all we can to help build the church of Jesus where all followers of Jesus are one,” Mark said.
Following devotions, Mitchell Garlett, member of the WA Regional Committee of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, welcomed Synod members to Country. Mitchell spoke in his traditional Nyungar language, as well as in English, saying he feels privileged to know his language.
“It gives me an identity and a connection to this place,” he said. “To my great grandparents, they lived and they camped up in Kings Park; that’s how deep our connection goes. Our connection runs deeper than the concrete that is poured on the land.
“I want to thank God that our culture and language is still strong in our community.
“For generations, our young people have been able to learn from our old people. Old people have passed on their knowledge and culture to us.
“Our friends and family came a long way from across the water. They came to this old place with our children and families and made a home here on this land among my people.
“As we walk together – your children and my children – we walk together not only listening with our ears, but with our hearts to make our journey better for tomorrow.”
Ross Barron, Headmaster of Wesley College, where members are meeting, welcomed everyone present to the school site, noting how great it is to see Mitchel, an old boy of Wesley, sharing a Welcome to Country at the school.
Ross spoke of the hope and joy present in Uniting Church schools.
“The voice of God is alive and well in our schools,” he said. “Contrary to the narrative we hear day in and day out in the media, I am full of hope for our young people.
“Young people today are far gentler than I was at a young age. They have a strong sense of social justice.
“I have huge faith and positivity in our future.”