The Uniting Church is a strange place sometimes. Much like me, it’s one of those funny institutions that consistently confounds any attempt to put a label on it. You could call it ‘liberal,’ but there are plenty of fundamentalists doing just fine within the organisation. Like me for example. You could call it ‘modern,’ but you might not be able to do that with a straight face after spending a morning in my congregation. And our core scriptures are almost two thousand years old at least. You could probably call it “Australian,”, but these days there’s enough going on in other countries to call that into question as well.
Just like me, the only label you could really give the Uniting Church with any confidence would be “Christian”.
Although there is another one that probably applies more to the church than to me (hopefully): Freaking huge.
I was at the UC’s National Young Adult Leaders’ Conference last week in Sydney. It was great fun meeting with other young Christians from Uniting Churches all over the place. I enjoyed hearing about what people in other parts of the country are up to, and sharing some of the stuff we‘re doing here in Darwin.
But the biggest eye opener for me was our away mission to Uniting Care headquarters on Pitt Street. Uniting Care is the community service and welfare arm of the Uniting Church. I always knew it was involved in nursing homes and clinics and things, but I hadn’t fully grasped the extent of service that it provides for the country.
Uniting Care, it turns out, is the second biggest employer in Australia. Only the Government employs more people. There are service centres of various types across the whole country, and there’s an annual throughput budget of nearly two and a half billion dollars. It’s several times the size of the Salvos, Anglicare, St. Vinnies or any other community service organisation you might care to name.
All this isn’t meant to be boasted about, but the next time you hear someone whining about how they wish religious people would just mind their own business and leave them alone, spare a thought for the giant serviceless hole the community would fall into if we did leave it alone.
Anyway, that’s not the point. The point of the story was how cool it was to be among young Christians from a whole range of backgrounds, all getting along and talking about the big ideas we had for ways to serve our communities. It made a nice change from other conferences I’ve been to that have been all about whipping everyone up into a frenzied maniacal hype, or providing instructions on the only possible interpretation of whatever psalm happens to be the flavour of the month.
I’m still not prepared to accept any label other than “Christian,” “Australian” and (under certain circumstances) “Worship Musician,” but for the first time since I left Sydney I feel like I’m part of a church I can really get behind, rather than one I’ve got to walk alongside rolling my eyes. It’s a strange feeling. I don’t really know what to make of it.
I guess I’ll make of it what I will. You should too.
Garry with 2 Rs