Supporting church partners in a COVID-19 world

Dr Sureka Goringe, National Director of UnitingWorld, gave an update via livestream on the work of the agency at the 45th Synod today, Saturday 11 September. UnitingWorld is an agency of the Uniting Church in Australia, partnering with global churches as they work with marginalised and vulnerable communities in their local contexts.

Sureka began her presentation with a video, highlighting the work of UnitingWorld partners in Africa, Asia and the Pacific in the areas of gender equality, health, education, disability, protecting children and responding to crisis such as drought, disease and poverty.

The video was part of this year’s ‘7 Days of Solidarity’ event, which will be happening again in Lent.

Sureka thanked the Uniting Church WA for its strong support.

“Your passion for engaging with churches in your local region is something that has been a joy for us,” she said.

Sureka explained that UnitingWorld has two major identities, one as an agency of the Uniting Church, and the other as a professional and accredited aid agency.

Reporting on the work of UnitingWorld over the past year, she highlighted the challenges for our 37 partner churches in responding to COVID-19.

“Almost all of our partners have been working with the poorest and marginalised in their communities, working towards fighting misinformation, as well as income generation projects,” Sureka said.

“Because our partners are churches, they have a pastoral role as well, using their influence to encourage people to get vaccinated.”

Sureka gave an example of the Church of North India, who have been holding worship services on rooftops, so that people can come outside, stand on their rooves to sing and praise God together in a socially distanced and safe way.

“The world has been changed by COVID,” Sureka said. “For the first time in 20 years we’re seeing an increase in extreme poverty.

“In our own backyard, we’re looking at a much more fragile environment. In Asia and Southeast Asia we’re going to be more fragile and poorer.

“And of course, there is the question of the vaccine rollout; some countries are still a year or two away.

“This is the global context. We need to keep that in mind when thinking about how best to work with them.

“The work that we do in partnering with other neighbours in their ministry is more important than it ever has been before. We all know stories about the role the church played during the plague where others walked away and the church didn’t.

“The world needs the work of the global church more than ever.”

Questions were raised from the floor about the possibility of UnitingWorld partnering with a church in Myanmar, and also in service learning programs in local schools.

UnitingWorld will continue that conversation with Uniting Church schools and the Social Justice Commission.