“Out of the Box” Missional Conference Highlights 4

4 Sep 2022 by Rev Andrew Smith in: Letters, Thoughts, News

Last of the highlights from the 2022 “Out of the Box” Missional Conference

From Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures

Over a Friday evening and the following Saturday in July, twenty-six people from across the Presbytery participated in the 2022 “Out of the Box” Missional Conference organised by Uniting Mission and Education of the Synod. Most of this number connected in via zoom, while a handful attended in person at the Centre for Ministry in North Parramatta.

The keynote speakers for the conference were Rev Tim Costello, Executive Director of Micah Australia, and Rev Ellie Elia from Glenbrook UC. There were also a series of Master Class electives. Each of our gatherings were bookended with times of worship led by Uniting Creative.

The Saturday morning began early with lighting the Umu (an earth oven of hot rocks – like the Māori hungi) and an introduction around the fire to Umu Spirituality (see the photo above). Between the master class electives, the food from the Umu was part of lunch followed by a presentation panel exploring more of Umu Spirituality.

The lunch included sharing in Holy Communion led by Rev Dr Matagi Vilitama and Rev Sisilia Tupou-Thomas. The elements for communion were taro and coconut water. The pouring of the coconut water used powerful liturgical actions as Matagi chopped the coconut three times with a machete to cut off its top and then poured the coconut water from height into a large bowl. The violence of the chopping and the gushing of the coconut water conveyed dramatic symbolism.

Here are some other highlights for participants in the conference.

Something that’s remained with me since Out of the Box 2022 was Rev. Ellie Elia’s (St Andrews UC, Glenbrook) passionate declaration: “I won’t give up on preparing the way!” Rev. Elia was quoting from a poem ‘Advocating for Home’ by Rev. Sarah Speed. In talking of the church as a visible representation and manifestation of God, Rev. Ellie encouraged us to think about what our churches are saying in and to our communities. What does our community see? What does our community hear? What does our community experience as we rub shoulders with those outside our walls? As people of the way, who have found love, peace and hope in a fragile world, are we laying accessible and attractive paths for others? Will we step out to walk alongside people where they are, modifying what we do, so others can join us? Let’s just do a quick check to make sure that we are showing the way, not obscuring or standing in the way. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “The church is only the church when it exists for others.”

Tracey Austwick – Tathra Uniting Church
The key message for me was about having/developing a relationship with your community and reaching out to work with other organisations

  • this can take the form of advocacy - telling a different story (like the OT prophets)
  • as part of this the church congregation needs to be clear what it is about, what it stands for, what it is passionate about
  • hospitality is an important element
  • the church needs to be prepared to share (ie not necessarily be the leader), to be vulnerable, and to experiment
  • ours is an embodied faith; our call is to embody God's love in the world, in our doing we are sharing our faith

A quote from Richard Rohr: 'we don't think ourselves into a new way of living, we live our way into a new way of thinking'.

Janet Kay, Woden Valley Uniting Church

That completes these series of articles about highlights from the conference. “Out of the Box” is an annual Missional Conference. Hopefully, these highlights inspire you to be part of it in 2023!