Lay people living faith

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Lay people have been providing leadership in mission and ministry within local congregations and their wider communities in South Australia since 1836. Each of the Uniting Church’s preceding denominations – the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational Churches – nurtured their members in sharing their Christian faith and building caring communities around them.

The progress of this development, including the post World War II period to the present, is described in By Word and By Deed, a new book written by Rev David Houston and others and recently published by MediaCom. The book was launched at Uniting College for Leadership & Theology on 16 October 2017.

The release of By Word and By Deed has been particularly timely as the Church celebrates its 40th anniversary. The book helps church members and history buffs to reflect on the patterns of lay education and lay ministry training across the 40 years since inauguration.

“I have enjoyed researching and shaping the story, drawing on earlier written histories and more than 40 contributions from ministers, members and congregations,” says author Rev David Houston.

“Some of our recent leaders in Christian education have also brought important emphases to it. Dr Deidre Palmer has described how authentic Christian education studies lead to a faith that always looks for a ‘whole of life’ education and readiness for mission.

“Craig Mitchell reminds readers that the settings for mission and ministry do change and we need to be ready to use all the formats for discipling we can provide.

“Rev Tim Hein points to the importance of leadership and mission ‘beyond the congregation’, and how it can be undertaken. He suggests it will be the mark of effective local congregations in the future.”

The book’s appendices also provide valuable insight, particularly Rev Ian Tanner’s description of 1980s lay education strategies, and Rev Vern Cracknell’s description of VET (Vocational Education Training) principles as they apply to faith-based education and ministry studies.

“Some of us become aware of our call to leadership and ministry quite quickly, others take time and need encouragement from others to recognise it,” says David.

David believes Paul’s words in Colossians 3:12-17 provide encouragement to help nurture people in this experience (emphasis added):

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

“The notions of learning, becoming and being Christian, of encouraging each other in the faith, and building compassionate communities is a primary objective. Part of their learning together involved recognising and valuing the diversity within their congregations,” says David.

He believes that our commitment to Paul’s words is today shown in conducting education and training courses in local and regional congregations

“In our time, conducting education and training courses in pastoral leadership and ministry within local and regional congregations will reflect our commitment to Paul’s injunction, particularly as we continue to recognise and value our diversity. Lay ministry teams will be a key part of our formal and informal mission structures in the future.”

By Word and By Deed provides an opportunity for congregations to be affirmed in their local mission and ministries. It offers encouragement to members of all ages, urging each person to discover their gifts for mission and leadership, and to explore these gifts further through available training and education opportunities.

Rev Prof Andrew Dutney wrote a preface for By Word and By Deed, and this is available to read online here. For more information, or to purchase the book, please visit MediaCom.

Pictured (left to right): Rev Tim Hein, Dr Deidre Palmer, Rev David Houston, Rev Prof Andrew Dutney, Rev Dr Ian Price and Craig Mitchell.

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