Over the weekend 24-27 June 2011, the annual meeting of the Uniting Church Northern Synod was held at Kormilda College in Darwin. The Synod commenced with an outdoor worship and communion service, a great way to open our meeting under the stars. Moderator Stuart McMillan preached on how might we in the Northern Synod be good news and the worship team from Casuarina Uniting led our praise singing.
One of special events over the weekend was the Pilgrim Presbytery service at Nightcliff Uniting on Saturday night, when Paul Turley was Ordained to be a Minister of the Word. The Indonesian Missionary Congregation provided a multi-star evening meal – it was a wonderful time of thanksgiving and celebration.
Synod was blessed by Rev Elenie Poulos, National Director of UnitingJustice with the UCA Assembly, who led our three Bible studies, based on the Assembly document The Economy of Life. Elenie challenged us to think about how we are going about living our lives, especially in regard to a sustainable lifestyle that was good for our others, our environment and ourselves.
Another highlight was the 9 minute video on the about to be born again Pitjantjatara Bible Translation project. The video showed Pitjantjatara people speaking with real dedication about the project to complete the Old Testament in their language.
Synod members also shared in Presbytery time, ie Pilgrim Presbytery and NRCC to deal with Presbytery issues of importance.
Resolutions were made concerning alcohol, the NT Intervention, Gambling and the CBD Plaza. There was also a resolution from the Pilgrim Presbytery calling on the Commonwealth to resume the live cattle export trade to Indonesia, but only to licensed abattoirs.
In relation to alcohol, Synod expressed its thanks to Coles, Woolworths and the other liquor stores in Alice Springs for their action regarding takeaway sales. Synod also expressed concern about ongoing alcohol problems in Alice Springs and the refusal of the NT Government to commit to an alcohol floor price as has been requested by the Alice Springs Peoples Alcohol Action Coalition. While the Enough is Enough new liquor takeaway laws are welcomed, Enough is Enough does not go far enough and other measures, such as an alcohol floor price, should be enacted.
The NT Intervention caused further frustration, especially to the Indigenous members of Synod. While the Commonwealth Government acknowledgement that the Intervention needs to be “examined” is welcomed, the way the Commonwealth is going about this examination is not. Minister Macklin’s Stronger Futures in the NT discussion paper also says that “we must work in partnership” but it was noted this has not been the approach used to date.
The Synod Intervention resolution also addressed the Commonwealth’s intention to conduct “consultations” from late June to mid August, an approach that does not speak of partnership. Our Indigenous members strongly expressed the view that the Commonwealth should stop telling us and doing things to us and start to work alongside us in partnership.
Gambling issues raised focused on the barriers to accessing counselling sessions encountered by different cultural groups. The resolution noted that Somerville has culturally aware counselors and that joining a GA/12 Step mutual support group would be a positive step.
The CBD Plaza resolution was unanimously supported, with the basis for profit distribution from the Plaza to be changed from a percentage basis (the 45/45/10 formula) to a needs basis, with the needs to be determined by a committee comprising representatives from Darwin Memorial, PPNA, NRCC and the Synod.
Synod members have now returned home, with the exception of NRCC National Elder Peter from Ernabella, who luckily was in Darwin when he had a mild heart condition. Peter is now in Adelaide where he will receive medical attention very different to that he would have received in the APY Lands.
God is good.