On 20 October and 27 October, several members of the Kippax Church Council shared with the congregation some of their thoughts and hopes and dreams for the future of Kippax.
Here are three of them – by Susan Brodersen, Justine Ramsay and Jon Freeman
When I was asked to speak in church about my vision for the Kippax of the future, my first reaction was, that my vision is not all that different from the vision that so many people in the past have had for Kippax.
They foresaw concepts like
- Church in the marketplace
- Community Support
- Place of welcome
- Freedom to think and worship differently
- Activities at the building every day of the week
- Over the past few years Uniting Care Kippax has built on these concepts with a range of new initiatives
These are the people who, I believe, have shown real vision about the Kippax of the future.
However, at the time Gordon contacted me about speaking in church, I was in Denmark, having spent a month there with my husband (Anker) and our children, visiting Anker’s relatives. I had spent a lot of time in and around churches or talking to people about the concept of church. I had also used this time to reflect on the way we do things at Kippax in comparison to what I had experienced in Denmark.
In Denmark the Danish National Church is the state religion as declared by the constitution. 80% of the population are members of this church and a portion of their taxes are used to pay the pastors and support the church.
At first – I had a condescending attitude to church in Denmark. It didn’t have the community involvement of Kippax.
Churchyards – graves, gardeners are the counsellors
Congregation changes – preparing for baptisms, confirmations and weddings.
Every church – even the tiny ones offer hymn singing with babies – a Danish version of Rock, Rhythm and Roll
During the week, churches are quiet on the inside, busy on the outside. People are encouraged to go into the churches to pray in silence and seek closeness to God.
There are many things that are great about Kippax. To name just a few:
Services are interesting and encourage people to think about our world,
They are accepting that people have different ideas and beliefs, but are still welcome
Kippax has a strong social conscience – it is active in promoting a fairer community and a fairer world.
Community service – wide variety of services and activities
Great volunteers – some part of the congregation, some not
What is also great about Kippax is that the way the Church meets and serves people is inspired by how Jesus met and served people. He did not condemn them, he listened to them and treated them with dignity.
People from Kippax are the hands and feet of God in all sorts of ways. Like I discovered in Denmark, the work of some of these people is very obvious – but there are some tasks, like visiting the elderly and the sick, supporting people through small groups, cooking meals for others and so many more acts of kindness, that are not so obvious, but still an important part of who we are as a church.
So where would I hope that Kippax might be in 5-10 years?
- Continue to support the people of Belconnen and provide a voice for those at the margins of our community
- Grow our base of volunteers to continue to offer the wide range of activities and services we provide
- That we can be more welcoming of people from all sorts of backgrounds.
- And that amid all the busyness that is Kippax on any day of the week, we could also offer a place for silence, prayer and contemplation, where people could seek closeness to God.
Just over sixteen and a half years ago, a young family moved from Sydney to Canberra, let’s call them the “Ramsay family”. The Ramsay family moved straight into a community, let’s call it, “Kippax”. Now the story I want to share with you today is about the youngest of the Ramsay family. This character was a very young girl at the age of 3 months by the name of, how about ‘Justine’. Now people tell me Justine was quite small and learned to walk quite early in her life, making many of those in the community at Kippax flinch as she wandered near electrical cords and the like.
Now let’s jump forward around a decade or so to a time when our young character Justine was starting high school and was starting to truly form her view of faith. With the help of her community including a countless amount of close friends, Justine made the step in deciding to confirm her faith through baptism. Some of this help looked like normal everyday conversations. Some of it looked like mentoring, so that Justine could build a relationship that helped explore things that were going on in life and in faith. Some of it looked like… , well it looked just a little like what you might see around you here today.
Over the next few years Justine started to question what she’d grown up believing and the things she had been taught. However, despite the confronting beliefs that were surrounding her in life, the character in our story felt the support of her community at Kippax. This place called kippax was a place that allowed her to question her beliefs without feeling that she was letting the side down. It gave her a place where she realised that her faith might not look exactly the same as the faith of some of the friends at school, or the faith that she read about in papers and on the Internet, but it was still a good faith. In time, this community helped her to hear the guidance of God to accept a nomination to the church council.
Now what would happen if we continued this story on a few more years? The years that followed developed Justine into a member of Kippax that named herself an equal to those around her. In her past, the mere situation of being a teenager somehow held her at bay from discovering what her faith could be.
With those of her age and all ages involved in Kippax, our once very young character strives to ensure that every person has the chance to explore their faith as equals and without barrier due to age.
And if this story continued further, maybe there would be other Justine’s (after all it’s a great name, though too many Justine’s might get a little confusing). Maybe there would be some Justin’s too. A community of Justin’s and Justine’s who were supported by friends, by mentors, by a whole community. All of these Justin’s and Justine’s might be supported enough to find their voice, to discover what their faith looked like.
Just as this story is a true and my history – my hope is that, in time the events that have not happened do so and as a member of council and this amazing community I may work with others towards supporting others no matter what their age, in discovering and exploring what faith can mean to individuals.
Maybe if we were daring enough, everyone here might even end up knowing a Justin or a Justine well enough that they were an active part of making it all happen again.
As you may be aware, the council has been sharing their thoughts on the future of Kippax over the last few Sundays, and you are about to hear from three more Councillors today. The context to these talks is that the Council is currently undertaking a discernment process, to help us determine what God’s direction is for our Church Community. Our thoughts do not represent the outcome of our discernment process, as we are not at that point yet. In fact, we are currently working through who, or what, we are listening to to help the Council discern God’s direction for our community. So please consider our thoughts not as answers, but sharing what is on our hearts as we continue through the discernment process.
The concept of discernment is one that I previously have been unfamiliar with; I have left this high-filuting airy-fairy talk to the people charged with the spiritual leadership of our Congregation. Having begun my time on the Council, I have no longer been able to stay in that state of ignorance. Not only this, but I have realized that discernment is not a dark art, rather it is a practical process that requires setting aside the time, and creating the space for the discernment to occur.
The other important part about discernment is for Councillors to trust what is on their heart. If we make the space and time, shed all the preconceived notions, assumptions and biases, and take the time and space to listen, I’m confident that God will provide us with the direction as the scripture told us last week, it will be written on our hearts. As I am not a big fan of such symbolic bible talk, for me it is more of a collective, considered, gut feel. Perhaps the people who wrote the bible didn’t have a Hebrew word for gut feel? I don’t know. Regardless, this is the process that Council is going through at the moment, and my talk today reflects a little bit of what is on my mind.
I’ve been a member of this church community for many years. This auditorium has seen my son Josh’s thanksgiving, my wife walk down the aisle to me, my errant kicking smashed one of the auditorium lights over there, waved my arms in the air in worship over in that corner, was part of sex-education Sunday school class in the corner over there
Home. Home brings about many connotations. Sue Gore-Philips talked about Home last week. Home is where we belong – it is where we feel connected, loved, accepted. This is how I feel. I do wonder if all the people who walk through our door, either during the week or on a Sunday, feel this as well? I don’t know, but I imagine that it is an environment that we must continue to nurture.
Home is something we have ownership of – At its best, I feel bought in to Kippax. I feel responsible for it. This was one of the reasons that I was happy to be nominated for Council and Chair. At its worst, I feel a sense of entitlement, as though my time at Kippax entitles me to belonging here. In fact, me telling you brief excerpts from my history here is most probably my subconscious way of telling you all how entitled I am to be here. My time away from Kippax made me confront this idea, as I returned to a place that had changed. Other people seemed to ‘own’ it more than me. It was like I had returned to my home and people had moved the furniture. It didn’t last long, but it did give me a brief understanding about what it would be like to walk into our home from the outside. I haven’t fully resolved this idea, but I do know that our sense of belonging is as much about how we should be treating others as it is an indicator of how we are connected to the Church.
Gordon has asked councilors to answer three questions for you today. Those questions are –
What is it about Kippax that makes you excited or energised?
Weekday church – I love the fact that we have a vibrant weekday community. Volunteers and paid staff who have created their own sense of home, their own belonging. Our weekday church are the people that open our doors to our community for 5 or 6 days a week.
I find Garage sales energizing. Not the lifting, moving, packing, climbing and cleaning, but the sense of fellowship that they bring. They are a time that we have conversations with others in our community that we don’t normally get a chance to. They bring us together.
The partnerships that we are developing excite me. Convening a room-ful of people from the Canberra community to talk about how we can respond to inequality as we did the other night with the ‘Lets Make it Fair’;
Buy-in from our community – I reflected before about a brief feeling of being an outsider when our family returned a couple of years ago. While this was a little confronting, the overwhelming feeling was of excitement at people that I didn’t even know felt like they owned ‘my home’.
What is it about Kippax’s future (as you hope for it, or dream of it) that you think is important to share? What would you like Kippax to look like and feel like in 5-10 years?
When I consider this question, I had to reflect on our current vision statements
- – we are called to be an integrated faith community, expressed in many different ways;
- We are called to live out our following of the way of Jesus Christ through relationships;
- We are called to sustain people in their living and be an agent of transformation in our community, and
- We are called to empower and equip people in all aspects of their living.
To me, these statements are as valid now as they have ever been.
What will our environment look like in 10 years?
1. The external need will most likely still be there. There are no indicators to suggest that our community will be less in need of the assistance that we provide. In 10 years time, there will be people living in homes in greater-west Belconnen. The area that we are ministering to is expanding. The question is, how far? What is our reach? How will we sustain ourselves?
2. Our congregation, like the community around us, is ageing. This will have a direct impact on how we are able to do some of the work we do. It will also provide us as a community with an opportunity to show leadership in the way that we care for our senior citizens.
3. Our wider church environment is changing, and parts of it are shrinking. More than ever before, we have a responsibility as part of wider church, we have a responsibility to provide leadership, assistance and collaborate where we are able. We can’t assume that we have the answers, we can’t isolate ourselves, or assume that we are immune to issues that affect the wider church. I think we must engage and be part of what the Church is to become.
4. Our society is interacting increasingly online. The Kippax Facebook page currently has 129 members, and however there is still scope to widen its use in our ministry. The possibilities for creating online communities are real, however we must also consider who these communities exclude. Perhaps there is a role for us in addressing digital divides?
5. As our community has evolved, it has become more than just one community, rather it is a community of communities. This has happened organically, and suggests to me that our community will continue to evolve as a community of communities – a statement that suggests endless scope for enhancing what we do and who we are.
Our discernment has already determined that we have a strong sense of who we are and what we value. While not wanting to pre-empt our council discernment, our vision statements still provide a strong, relevant mandate for the work that we do.
I am guessing that Kippax in 2018 or 2023 will probably have a similar set of core values to that is has now. The challenge for us will be to continue living out our values in an environment that will continue to require us to adapt and evolve. One thing is for sure, we will continue to have to be a people of faith as continue on this wonderful journey that we are on.