At the Opening Worship of the 47th Annual Meeting of the Uniting Church Synod of Western Australia, Rev Dr Ian Tozer was Installed as Moderator of the Uniting Church in Western Australia for the triennium 2023 to 2026. The theme for his triennium is ‘Being with Jesus in Ministry’.
The Opening Worship constitutes the Annual Synod meeting which took place over the weekend of 8 to 10 September 2023. Uniting Church community gathered in the worship centre at All Saints Floreat Uniting Church, and others watched online, to witness and celebrate this important moment in the life of the church.
The service began with Moderator Susy Thomas lighting the Christ candle. Rev Mitchell Garlett led the Welcome to Country in language, welcoming the gathered people to Wadjuk Nyungar land. In his Welcome Mitchell said, “As we journey together as first and second peoples may we listen, and continue to listen not only with our ears, but with our hearts for a better journey for today and for the generations to come, for tomorrow.”
Following the Service of Installation, Ian was presented with the Moderator’s symbols of office by Ex-Moderator Susy Thomas. He was given the Scarf, as a sign of the office, the Staff which has been passed from Moderator to Moderator since 1993 as a reminder of the pastoral dimension of the role, and the Pendant, a silver stylised UCA emblem worn as a symbol of the role. Finally the Bible was signed, as previous Moderators have done.
Susy was then thanked for her service as Moderator and presented with the ex-Moderators scarf by the General Secretary of the Synod. This moment was met with warm applause in thanks and appreciation of her time serving the church.
We heard from scripture, readings from Habakkuk, and New Testament readings from 2 Corinthians 4, and Mark 3:13-19.
In his first sermon as Moderator, Ian reflected on his triennium theme ‘Being With Jesus in Ministry’. He began with a quote from John Dominic Crossan who wrote, “In the beginning was the performance, not the word alone, not the deed alone, but both, each indelibly marked with the other forever.” Ian reflected on the meaning of the idea of ministry as performance, saying “the original sense of perform is to bring something to form, to completion.” He went on to say, “Jesus came to bring something to completion. One element was to establish a community which continued to perform God’s work in the world.”
In the Mark reading he gives us a list of names. Ian said, “This list shows Jesus chose a mixed bunch. Jesus challenged them to make gifts of diversity and disagreement, and to work with others they may have naturally thought of as opponents. This is the kind of community Jesus called to be with him.”
Ian said that in the Habakkuk readings we see that “through a series of changes, of acts – in his life and in the history of his people – Habukkuk is called towards greater faithfulness.” In the writings of Paul, Ian notes that “Paul doesn’t flinch at challenges that may overwhelm, or avoid disagreement and opposition. He also affirms that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God.”
He goes on to say that “Life with God does not mean guaranteed protection from lament, trouble, shattered expectations, and catastrophe . . . [w]e may imagine that God’s way is to take us out of life . . . God’s way is to allow us to immerse ourselves in life, while giving us a unique gift: faith and faithfulness.”
With the Act2 Project being an important focus for the national church at this time, and our Synod in session, Ian noted that the project “. . . reflects on our past performance, preparing for what comes next. . . . Constantly preparing for the new things, God’s doing never ends.”
In conclusion, Ian said, “Jesus called the 12 to follow and be with him; to be understudies, companions, learners, and apprentices, joining Jesus in the on-going creative acts of God. Like the 12, we are called to be ready for whatever stage we are on where we are. We are called to be doers, actors – to perform our faith, not simply to know the story or learn the script.
By all means pray that Christ will be with us where we are. However, here is the greatest challenge: to be in ministry with Jesus wherever he is, to go where he goes and meet all those Christ has already gone to meet.”
You can watch the service in full at the Floreat Uniting Church Youtube channel here.
Article by Wendy Hendry.