More than 600 pastors, chaplains and their spouses gathered for the Australian Union Conference (AUC) Ministerial Association convention “Empower” at Avondale University from February 7 to 11.
“After some difficult years of ministry, it was wonderful to have the Ministerial Association come together to be affirmed, challenged and empowered—focusing on Ephesians chapter 3,” said AUC associate ministerial secretary Pastor Lyndelle Peterson.
The 5-day event is run every five years and brings all conference ministerial teams together.
The program started each day with inspiring worship, ministry-focused updates along with professional development plenaries. Each morning included a devotional from General Conference (GC) director of government affairs Dr Bill Knott. Plenary speakers included author and social commentator Melinda Tankard Reist who addressed the challenges of sexualised culture, psychiatrist and GC health ministries director Dr Torben Bergland who presented on mental health and New Zealand Pacific Union Conference president Dr Eddie Tupai who spoke about leadership.
The presentations were surrounded by ministry focus features with experts such as GC family ministries director Dr Willie and Elaine Oliver, exploring pastoral relationships; GC Adventist mission director Dr Gary Krause, overviewing Adventist Mission; and GC associate ministerial secretary Dr Anthony Kent on equipping Elders.
Other topics explored included domestic violence, religious liberty and pastoral health. A series of 5-minute TED talk-style presentations included better meetings, innovation, urban mission, effective Sabbath School, Adventist self-definition and synergising local church and school.
More than 50 workshops, grouped into various pastoral competency streams, were run in the afternoons. Between meetings, the expo was a popular place to catch up, full of booths from various ministries overviewing how they could support pastors. Adventist Technology facilitated the tech hub focusing on helping ministers with IT support and innovations, while ELIA Wellness coordinated the health hub running comprehensive health checks.
The evening plenaries consisted of worship, resource launches and challenging messages from New Testament studies professor Dr Kendra Haloviak Valentine.
“To hear the pastors and chaplains from across Australia worship passionately together and not want to stop singing was powerful,” highlighted Pastor Peterson.
On Sabbath, AUC president Pastor Terry Johnson, preached a challenge from Ephesians to go deeper in connection with God. The afternoon featured activities such as a Bible display, the Tutankhamun roadshow, a visit to Sunnyside—Ellen White’s home in Australia—and a display of art depicting scenes from Australian Adventist history.
The pastors were excited to be the first group to eat at the
new 7@Avondale cafeteria. Volunteers from Avondale University Church, Avondale staff and retired pastors served 8194 nutritious and tasty meals over the course of the event.
“The pastors felt honoured by the way Avondale went about hosting, even in the midst of renovations,” said Pastor Peterson.
According to her, the AUC Ministerial Association leaders—pastors Brendan Pratt, Murray Hunter and herself—were inspired as they saw pastors and chaplains connect, support each other, worship together and be empowered for ministry.
Ballarat Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor Eric Johnson said he left the event feeling energised and recalibrated for ministry this year. “I really appreciate the hundreds and hundreds of hours it would have taken to put together an event like this,” he added.
For Carmel College Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor Pastor Miranda Leijser, it was the attention to detail that made the program special. “I appreciate the little thoughtful elements that all point to the bigger purpose of Empower,” she said.