Uniting Church makes new commitment to remote Australia

18 July 2012

Assembly showing support crop
After 100 years of unbroken service, the Uniting Church in Australia has made a commitment to continue to stand by remote Australia.

Delegates gathered for the 13th Triennial Assembly Meeting of the Uniting Church in Adelaide resolved that the Church would “commit itself anew to the people of remote Australia”, yesterday.

The commitment comes as the Church celebrates 100 years of continuous service in remote Australia, providing both practical and spiritual ministry and vital community services to people living in outback and isolated areas.

Presenting the proposal, Jan Trengove, Chair of the Board of Frontier Services, said the work begun by the Church a century ago was needed more than ever.

“Immigration, mining, communication and the environment bring new opportunities and deep divisions in the bush, to add to the isolation of individuals and remote communities,” she said. “The media focuses on the cities and forgets those away from the coast and the rural farming areas.

More than ever, as we see the social fabric pull, and sometimes rip, there is a call to bring hope, healing and community to the vast and still neglected areas of Australia.”

The Church’s commitment today follows a decision made 100 years ago by the Presbyterian Church to establish the Australian Inland Mission, inspired by the dream of a young Presbyterian minister, the legendary John Flynn, to extend “a mantle of safety” across the outback.

“Flynn’s vision was of fellowship and companionship – for the hand reaching out in friendship, and for nursing services and communication systems which would make it safe for men to bring their women and their families and establish community in far flung places,” Mrs Trengove said.

Flynn gathered support, recruited “padres” and nursing sisters, with the knowledge that people of the outback would recognise the gospel in action through the health and community services he proposed and the unqualified friendship offered by the padres.

“As the needs of remote Australia grew, so did the resolve of the AIM to meet those needs.

The AIM worked closely with the other protestant denominations, ensuring support was provided to as many individuals and communities as possible.”

Following the formation of the Uniting Church in 1977, the inland missions of the Presbyterian, Congregational and Methodist Churches came together under the name Flynn himself had used - “Frontier Services”.

One hundred years on, Frontier Services continues to extend the mantle of safety, working alongside people, families and communities across remote Australia.

Over the century, the Church, through Frontier Services and its predecessors, has provided a constant presence of support in many communities. Mrs Trengove called on the Assembly to renew this commitment to being with the people of remote Australia “as a sign of the presence of Christ in the world”.

“We are called to think, to plan and to prepare for the long term future of remote Australia, and to do that in partnership with all those – churches, agencies, instrumentalities and individuals – who share our belief that those who live in remote and isolated areas have a valuable part to play in the future.”

Frontier Services works alongside other Uniting Church ministries, including the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and UnitingCare agencies, in supporting remote Australia.