Greetings UMMN folk
University Sector – Neoliberalism, Civil Society and the Uniting Church
I had the pleasure of attending a conference hosted by Chris Budden at UTC. This gathering had a number of academics, two practitioners presenters (Doug Taylor from Uniting and myself) and one Moderator from Queensland!
It included a robust discussion about church agencies and how much we are captured by neoliberalism. I went because I wanted to offer a stirring defence. The previous “Soulless Agencies” conference run in Melbourne was a free kick against the agencies which I wasn’t going to stand by and watch this happen again so I did some preparation and engaged. At the event I met with Doug Taylor. Doug and I offered a very similar papers except Doug’s paper was very considered and thoughtful, where as I went for a narrative and colourful approach. Doug, Chris, Rick Morrell all agreed that there needs to be ongoing space for critical and constructive discussion about Agency work. There needs to be some regular space to raise and discuss the critical questions in a learning approach that moves to opportunities for improvement.
There are a few traps we want to avoid.
- That the conference topic / question to frame a topic up into a dualistic debate. Most of the complex issues I know have some positives and negatives within it… and we balance and trade things off and the discussion is have we gone too far or have we not yet gone far enough? This leads toward what can we change and improve. I think addressing the improvement question is a challenge for our academics / theologians.
- Stonewalling – I’ve seen people ask genuine questions but the in the answer they are stone walled. I think we need to accept criticism and dig behind it and ask is there anything we should consider improving. Avoiding the stone walling approach is the challenge for UnitingCare Agencies.
Being in agreement about this approach and finding a good facilitator are key for this. Chris, Doug, Rick, I, and others are keen to get something moving!
Ji Zhang’s Paper
As you may remember Ji attended our gathering in Adelaide and there was some discussion about his paper. Ji has subsequently done a redraft and is seeking comment. I’ve attached it into the website if you wish to follow this up. I wish to express our thanks to Ji for his work. Please follow him up if you wish to do so.
Assembly and UnitingCare Australia
Some of the members of UMMN were at the Assembly in Melbourne. We had lunch together with Chris Budden, Ji Zhang and lyn Burden where we discussed our recent experiences of conferences and how Assembly was travelling. At the same time UnitingCare Australia was finding it a bit of a challenge to get their proposal through the Assembly meeting. Members were raising concerns, some of the reasonable about how Uniting would handle the topic.
So our group is keen for an ongoing forum /conference /discussion to keep open the critical dialogue between all parts of the church around the social issues and concerns around our work. There was a sense of urgency in the room – it wasn’t something we want to wait for a year to occur. When we spoke to Claerwen on the side of the Assembly and she indicated she had already thought about something in this format and wanted UnitingCare Australia to take the lead on hosting this topic. Claerwen indicated that she understood that it needs to hold and hear criticism (not stone wall) and respond in a ‘improvement or change’ approach. It also needs a diversity of participants, not just ourselves from the Agencies. So with this new information I’ve indicated to Claerwen that UMMN looks forward to UnitingCare Australia’s contribution to this space over the next quarter / end of October-ish.
We will try and land a Zoom conference which you can all log in to if you wish where Assembly members can share their stories and provide you with a face2face online update.
Hobart Gathering 28-30th May 2019
This is our annual gathering involving current issues, theology and visits across community services including aged care. For any interested practitoner. Networking with your colleagues from across Australia.
Please block out the dates as they are now confirmed.
Details Tues 28th lunch time to 30th May 2019 Thu lunch1pm
Venue: tbc in next 8 weeks