Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Being a church of radical welcome

Written by By Rev. Charissa Suli and Rev. Dr Apwee Ting, Assembly National Consultants

The Uniting Church seeks to be an intercultural and intergenerational church, with people of different cultures and ages living out their faith as God’s people together.

But what does this look like in practice?

What are the challenges?

More importantly – how do we meet those challenges together as the body of Christ?

These questions were at the heart of a three-day workshop which we led at the Beenleigh Uniting Church in the southeast of Brisbane from 14-16 November.

It was a joy to join church leaders from diverse cultural communities - Fijian, Samoan, Tongan, South Sudanese, Zimbabwean, Lebanese Armenian, Indonesian, New Zealander and Anglo-Australian.

For some, this was the first-time they'd met with a different cultural group in the Church.

The workshop was organised by the South Moreton Presbytery under the leadership of Multicultural Project Officer Levon Kardashian and Presbytery Minister David Busch.

It is wonderful to witness how the Presbytery is investing and building up its ministers, lay leaders and young people.

The aim of the workshop is to resource these leaders to better understand what it means to be a multicultural church.

In a Church that is increasingly diverse, how do we love God and love one another?

What are important values that hold us together?

It is our hope that by exploring our own personal stories and learning more about each other, we can identify the barriers that exist and become more aware of the racism in our own communities.

We believe that living together as a multicultural, cross cultural, intercultural and intergenerational church is about more than just inclusion.

It’s about a radical welcome that calls all of us to change and have the space for grace to truly be the body of Christ.

In the workshop, we explored this radical welcome in the Bible, we considered how we can bridge the gap between different generations and how can we support diverse groups to respond to God’s mission, particularly though property sharing.

We looked at different communication approaches, responses to conflict and our identity as individuals and as a whole church.

It was a creative, supportive and imaginative time. We listened, shared and worked together with great interest and respect. We experienced what it means to live together with those who are different from us.

One participant, Peggy Chigeza from the Zimbabwean Group in West End Uniting Church in Brisbane, said the workshop had given her the confidence to use or speak her own Shona language in worship.

We thank all the participants for such an enriching time.

By taking the time to invest in programs like this, we create spaces for healing and justice and build communities that celebrate our diversity in Christ.