Minutes UMMN March 2016


Minutes from the formal meeting on Thursday afternoon on 17th March 2016 in the Parramatta Mission board room of the Mission and Ministry Network.

Present:  Convenor – Peter McDonald (Uniting Communities), Les Underwood (UnitingCare Wesley Port Adelaide), Lyn Burden (Wesley Mission Brisbane), David Withers (Lentara UC), John Clarke (Uniting Agewell), Daniel Viljoen (UnitingCare West), Gavin Blakemore (Wesley Mission Victoria), Keith Hamilton (Parramatta Mission), Rick Morrell (UnitingCare NSW), Paul Turley (Spire Community / Clayton Wesley Congregations) and Martin J Cowling (UnitingCare Australia).

Apologies – Heather Allison (Bluecare Qld), and Jenny Tymms (UnitingCare Community)


The members of the group gathered three days prior to tour mission sites, read papers and discuss issues.  This experience informed the meeting discussion.   A background paper was prepared by Lin Hatfield-Dodds and Peter McDonald in preparation for our earlier conversation on Wednesday afternoon at Wesley Mission Sydney.  Wednesday afternoon opened with Lin providing a briefing regarding the new strategic directions of the Uniting Care Australia network (2016-2018) and moved to discussion of the paper.

The paper prepared by Lin and Peter offered five topics. Those same five topics were listed on the white board and an opportunity was provided to see which items we could formally progress at the meeting.

The group offered the following UMMN Venn diagram to describe the differences between our functions with UnitingCare Australia, the functions outside of UnitingCare Australia to be read in conjunction with the following 6 items.

1. Terms of Reference

It was agreed that we amend the Terms of Reference so that it reflects the following membership;  “Any ministry leader in Uniting Church interested in, or involved in Uniting Church community services”

Lyn Burden and Peter McDonald to redraft Terms of Reference and flick back to Martin Cowling for UnitingCare  Australia’s consideration.  We used a Venn Diagram to be clear about what part of our work was in or outside of our relationship with UnitingCare Australia.

Names:  Lyn Burden and Peter McDonald / UMMN Venn Diagram: UnitingCare Australia

2. Ecclesiology

The topic of our language has been part of many of our conversations.  So rather than pretend to write accurate minutes of multiple discussions with multiple people over multiple days I’ve recorded this as a pitch to a publisher for a guide.  What we really need is a guide book called “Uniting Church ecclesiology for Dummies” for our words are multiplying and mystifying.  We heard examples of where being obscure language is now part of the formal conversations in the UCA.  Here is the pitch;

“Church Agency”, “Parish”, “Mission”, “Parish Mission”, “Organisation in Association with the Uniting Church”, ”Small Agencies”, “Faith Community”, “Congregation” “The Four Marks of the Church” “Care” “Uniting” –  A Beginners Guide to the convoluted opaque and loaded language of the Uniting Church.  Sub title with something catchy like “Creating damage or making room in our polity?” or “Language – the fuel that creates mistrust and opportunities inside our identity”

This work sits in the middle of our Venn Diagram.  Members of the UMMN gathering sought to  seek clarity in our language.  We seek to set aside any barriers including language to building understanding and respect in the network.

Names: None / UMMN Venn Diagram: UnitingCare Australia and Collegiate Experience

3 a) Policies and Position Papers

This is the opportunity to respond to UnitingCare Australia position papers and offer our own material back into the UnitingCare Australia network. This topic was important but didn’t rise to the top of our agenda at this point in time. It will be slated as a topic for our conversation in Canberra in August 2016.

Names: None / UMMN Venn Diagram: UnitingCare Australia

3 b)  Sharing of Ideas

The group affirmed the way the 2016 Parramatta experience had provided an opportunity to discuss our ideas through the readings / papers and people we brought in and or visited.  This gave participants a opportunity to discuss current theological and policy issues with peers.  We will continue to provide opportunity with those outside the UnitingCare Australia network.  The sharing of ideas will inform the approach to our next gathering in Brisbane 2017 (Refer item 5)

Name:  Lyn Burden and Peter McDonald / UMMN Venn Diagram: Collegiate Experience

4. Theology for UnitingCare Australia

This item is about preparing theological material for UnitingCare Australia.  The purpose and audience need more conversation and clarity with UnitingCare Australia.

Are we doing a theology of service, a theology of community service or a theology of UnitingCare Australia?  Or are we creating a example of the theologies one can find in Uniting church community services organisations?

The scope of the topic is important here.  A broad scope would pick up the intersection with item 2) Ecclesiology.  One would attempt to describe the theological relationship between the various courts of the church (i.e. Congregations, Parishes, Presbyteries, Assembly) its is relationships with non-congregational expressions of ministry (i.e. Agencies and Parish missions).

But a broad scope would be timely and energy intensive producing a document few would read.  The group had little energy for this at this point in time.   A narrow scope (i.e. a theology for UnitingCare Australia) could be done quickly but would be open to criticism that it did not cover all issues.

Matrin Cowling clarified in the meeting that the scope is a theology of the Uniting Church’s community service and that we are developing something that can be used a) by UnitingCare agencies in their interaction with the church b) by congregations.

People felt there was already enough material to develop a draft

Discussion about the current work in this area (e.g. Bryan Brown, Clive Pearson, Gordon Ramsey and others)  brought polar responses from the current group.

The group will need to work out how to go through the following stages with UnitingCare Australia / Martin Cowling;

  1. clarify goals / purpose and audience of work
  2. collect current material
  3. synthesise
  4. decision
  5. communicate

Other work in this area includes material from our previous meetng in 2015 click here

The group asked Rick, Peter and Les to progress this work and bring a report and discussion to the Canberra meeting in August 2016.

UMMN Venn Diagram: UnitingCare Australia and Collegiate Experience

Names:  Rick Morrell, Peter R McDonald, Les Underwood and Martin J Cowling and on the agenda for Canberra.

5.  Immersion Experience

Brisbane in 28-30th March 2017

and expressed a preference for New Zealand in 2018.

Name:  Lyn Burden and Peter McDonald UMMN Venn Diagram: Collegiate Experience

6. Collegiality, Engagement and Peer Support

This is closely connected to item 5 but not exactly the same.  As this expands immersion to include readings, papers and conversation with local leaders.  It was agreed that this be part of all our meetings.

UMMN Venn Diagram: UnitingCare Australia and Collegiate Experience

7. Leadership of the Network for the Next Gathering

It was agreed that Lyn Burden be responsible for the 2017 gathering in Brisbane. Brisbane in 28-30th March 2017.  Please see the ummn.org website for details of the event.

There was a discussion about who would chair the network.  There were no nominations for the role of chairperson.  In the meantime Peter McDonald will continue to act as contact person/convenor for the network.