There were more than thirty deacons from around Australia gathering at Centre for Theology and Ministry in Melbourne in the mid of January 2017.
This biennial Deacons National Conference provides opportunities for diaconal ministry agents and candidates to gather for learning experiences and field trips and enjoy time together for mutual encouragement, prayer, worship and fun.
The theme of this year conference was ‘Different Shoes: Diaconal Ministry in an inter-cultural and inter-faith context’. Revs. Michelle Cook and Gavin Blakemore as the Co-ordinators of the conference have asked Rev. Dr. Sef Carroll and myself to explore inter-faith and inter-cultural ministry.
Sef started the conference with a Bible Study on the theme of “Honouring identity; broadening partnership: The story of the Syrophoenican/Canaanite woman as a paradigm for crossing over cultural boundaries (Mark 7: 24-29)”.
“In order to read the Bible and engage inter culturally /cross culturally and inter-religiously, we need to be prepared and willing to cross the borders of the text, culture and religion.”
I was looking at the more practical aspect of engaging with a cultural diversity within our community/society: How do we find our shoes/our calling/our ministry in the world that is so different from our own? And how is possible for us to stand in someone else shoes/life experience?
For me, the theology of space of grace is the foundation of embracing those who are different from us. It encourages us creatively and willingly to create a space for conversation, negotiation and transformation for everyone as God already invited us into God’s space of grace.
Under the leadership of Rev. Peter Batten, the congregation at Northcote UC in Melbourne’s North East inclusively embraces those who want to make a different in the community and in the world.
The congregation uses the principle of Chalice. The central component of the theology of Chalice is to build relationship and work collaboratively with those who share a common vision. The ways they use the church building, and relationship with their tenants (Enviroshop, Green Horse and Yuni’s Kitchen) is guided by this principle.
This is one of the diaconal ministries that reflected the true meaning of living in a space of grace.