“The church does not need inventors; rather, we need innovators.” This was the heart of the message delivered by the Director of Education and Principal of United Theological College, the Rev. Dr Peter Walker, at a joyful celebratory service last Sunday evening in the Tuggeranong Uniting Church in the ACT.
Dr Walker was speaking at a service to ordain Sharon Jacobs as a Minister of the Word and to induct her into placement in the Tuggeranong Congregation as the Relationships and Growth Minister, a newly-created position funded substantially by the Synod Growth Fund. The ordination was presided over by the recently-elected Co-Chairperson of the Canberra Region Presbytery, Ms Janet Kay.
Dr Walker was addressing a capacity congregation in the building, with more people connecting online, from Canberra, as well as Melbourne, Aotearoa—New Zealand, and Scotland—the places where the Rev. Jacobs has lived in the past. Speaking under the title of “saltiness restored”, derived from Matthew 5, Dr Walker noted that “whilst inventors create new things, innovators know what they have to offer, and work to ensure that others can appreciate this”.
We have the Gospel, he said; we know what we have to offer others; and we need to work to find ways in which this good news comes alive in the lives of others. Our charge is to be “salt of the earth”; the church in our time is to discover how to be “saltiness restored”.
His words were particularly appropriate for the Tuggeranong Congregation, which has been innovating its life and witness in recent years, under the energetic leadership of the Rev. Elizabeth Raine and a strong team of lay leaders. The Congregation has refreshed its worship life, and continues its online worship alongside the in-person gathering each week. The Rev. Raine has developed the Congregation into an intentional learning community, providing leadership in three weekly online BIble Studies throughout the pandemic lockdowns. These studies are also continuing, as they draw participants from across the Presbytery and beyond, even interstate and overseas!!
The Church Council has charted a deliberate course to make a difference in the wider Tuggeranong community—to be the “salt of the earth” in southern Canberra. Deliberate connections have been fostered with a number of community groups; the Congregation has participated in Floriade Reimagined, reinvigorated its Red Dove pop-up Op Shop, continued providing its weekly Emergency Food and Lunchtime Conversation group, and offered the wider community innovative events such as Christmas Reimagined and SpringFest. A partnership with SeeChange Tuggeranong has seen regular events with a focus on sustainability.
The monthly Rainbow Christian Alliance now meets in the church and has broadened its membership beyond LGB people to include growing numbers of TIQ members. A monthly Messy Church under the name of Fam@4 now meets at 4pm on the 4th Sunday of the month. Regular intergenerational worship services are scheduled for key moments on Sunday mornings, and inevitably the church is filled with people of all ages, craft activities, vibrant music, with lots of colour, energy, and caring relationships growing.
Sharon will focus her 50% role on developing the Congregation’s work with families and children, as well as supporting and growing the leadership and membership of the Rainbow Christian Alliance. She brings experience and giftedness in pastoral care, working creatively with children, and generating enthusiasm—qualities that fit her well for this role.
During the service, Sharon was welcomed as she joins the team of the Rev. Elizabeth Raine, Minister in placement, and the Rev. Margaret Middleton, the Tuggeranong Minister-in-Association. She was charged for her life as an ordained minister by her former minister, the Rev. David Thiem, and presented with a colourful rainbow stole by the congregation.
Also participating in the service were Canberra Region Presbytery Ministers, the Rev. Andrew Smith, and the Rev. Liz McMillan, recently arrived from Melbourne. Many members of the Presbytery greeted Sharon after her induction, and members of the Tuggeranong Congregation offered their trademark hospitality of a generous supper, as friendships were rekindled amongst those present after the service concluded.
Keep watching Tuggeranong, as innovation continues, its salty contribution to the local community in southern Canberra develops, and the vibrant life of the Congregation grows!