Weipa and Cape York Patrol is still an Anglican and Uniting Co-operating Parish. However most of the congregation is neither – Baptist, AOG, etc with only a couple of Anglicans and sporadic UC people around.
The agreement is that we switch about every 5 years – I don’t think this is the best way to go. I get mail from both the Anglican and UC churches and there is the expectation that the congregation fills in returns (financial etc) for both Anglican and UC – which both have different ways of doing things. Needless to say we don’t do that and just send in what we think is the relevant financials.
Other than that I have very little contact with the Anglican diocese. So from what I can understand for five years the church is Anglican and for the next five years it is Uniting. This is not the best as the new minister usually makes everyone conform to their denominations way of doing things. I am trying to encourage the congregation to set up their own way of doing things like church council etc which makes sense to them rather than to the Anglican or UC. To that end we don’t have elders; the whole congregation is the church council, we don’t have a property committee – we have a chair, secretary and treasurer of church council.
One of the funniest things that happened when I got here was that I rearranged the pews. I decided (since there is a congregation of around 30) that I would put the pews in a semi-circle. Some of the long timers walked in and went “oh we’ve gone back to semi-circles. When the last Anglican minister was here they decided we had to be set up like a ’proper church ’, in pew rows, rather than the semi-circle that the last UC minister had done”. So obviously semi-circles in worship is a doctrinal thing in the UC!!
Given the mix of the congregation they are low church. I like high church worship but don’t feel the need for it to look like high church! So sometimes we have responses, sometimes we do symbolic things but if I explain what we are doing people usually get into it. We also try to do services with the local Catholic Church – Stations of the Cross at Easter and Carols by Candlelight at Christmas.
My next steps are to send an annual report to the Anglican diocese office and ask if there are any diocese newsletters that go out to keep me and the congregation in the Anglican loop.
Added to this mixture of Anglican and UC is Frontier Services. So with the patrol I visit all and sundry on the Cape. This is non-denominational and really people up here don’t care what you are as long as you will listen to them.
It is certainly fun being part of an ecumenical congregation that is nominally UC/Anglican. We can have many discussions on issues like infant baptism etc without it threatening our unity in Christ – because we all come from different backgrounds and these are acknowledged. People try to listen to one another even if they disagree in the end.