We don't simply meet the whole time at Assembly in one big group, we have community working groups and Agency sessions, and we're gathered around tables even when we are in the big group - so there are many opportunities for conversation to explore issues and the proposals that are being put to the meeting.
I appreciated our working group, which discussed some proposals to do with education and discipleship yesterday and Monday. What is great about these spaces is the chance to hear different perspectives on what are often complex issues - how we oversee ministerial education across the church; what does it mean to be a member of the Uniting Church, how is that different from being a baptised member of the whole church, how do we decide who can - and who has a responsibility - to speak and vote on matters concerning the life of our congregations and wider councils of the church?
I appreciated the opportunity for conversation with the groups who oversee and resource the church in worship and education yesterday afternoon. I learnt some more about the way the ministry education commission works, and some of the issues we are facing - having developed a ministry of pastor, how well is this specified ministry serving the church, what is the difference between education and formation, how are we staffing faculties of the college, preparing the next generation of theological educators (to name a few). I learnt some more about the challenges facing the worship working group, including the frustration that we have a fine resource for worship in Uniting in Worship II, but it is not widely employed, or even known about, among other things.
The conversations over coffee and lunch and dinner are also excellent - making new friends among national colleagues, establishing and broadening networks and opportunities to share what I have to offer as a storyteller - if you haven't yet got one, see me for a brochure, and invite me to come to your community to share with you!
Lunch yesterday was with Uniting World, hearing some stories and reflections on the role of women in some of our neighbouring countries, where education, peace and nutrition are not givens, and where women are key to restoration of hope and wellbeing in their families and communities. Kirsteen Kim, who will offer the Cato lecture this evening, offered the reflection that in the Western world, we often assume that feminism is finished, not needed as a movement - for women assume an equal place in society. But for so many of our sisters around the world - and on closer examination, in our own country too - the need for feminism and the empowerment of women is still vital, and we still have much work to do. We, women, are not emancipated until all women are emancipated, from the position of second-class citizens. And as we hear about the challenges facing our Indigenous sisters and brothers through interventions in parts of Australia, in particular, today, it is evident that we, as humans, are not free, are not whole and well, until all are free, whole and have a sense of well-being.